It's Murderous in the Bahamas: Homicides Expected to Exceed 2013 Rate

The headlines in the Nassau, Bahamas newspapers over the last 24 hours are ominous -  Man Shot Dead in Home InvasionShot Dead Defending Parents and Fatal Shooting in Fox Hill

These murders take the number of homicides in the Bahamas to 96 and 97 for the year.  

The Nassau newspapers read like a war correspondent's daily account of mayhem and misery.  In the last week, the Tribune has blasted headlines like Shootings on the IncreaseTwo Murders in Six Hours, and Latest Armed Robberies Bring Month’s Total To 30. The Nassau Guardian's recent Crime Nassau Bahamasgruesome headlines include Two Killed in Weekend Violence and Man Gunned Down Protecting Family

Last year there were 111 murders in the Bahamas in 2013. The country is averaging 10 murders a month in 2014. The 2013 rate will be exceeded sometime in December.

Defenders of the Bahamas point out that the Bahamas consists of some 700 islands. But there's no question that the vast majority of these violent crimes occur in New Providence (Nassau) where the majority of the cruise passengers disembark.

Miami-Dade County (population over 2,500,000) has ten times the population of New Providence (250,000) but fewer homicides (86 in Miami to over 100 in New Providence) last year.  The police force is ineffective, the legal system is broken and the tourism officials try to cover the violence up.

Many cruise tourists have an image of Miami as being high in crime, but they don't understand that disembarking in Nassau is far more dangerous.

Both the U.S. and Canada have issued crime warnings for the Bahamas because of the violence.

More and more cruise passengers tell me that they stay on the ship when they reach port in Nassau. They say that they're bored with the straw market and run-down Bay Street. They don't want to risk walking off the ship into a shabby port and becoming a victim of armed robbery by a young man with a gun. 

 

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Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune

Department of Transportation Creates Cruise Ship Information Site

In July of 2013, Senator Rockefeller introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013. The bill was designed to provide the Department of Transportation (DOT) with greater authority to protect consumers and investigate complaints of unsafe conditions and ill-treatment on cruise ships.

The cruise industry opposed the proposed cruise legislation because it was designed to provide greater consumer awareness to the public and required the cruise lines to provide consumers with clearer summaries of their rights and limitations while aboard cruise ships. The cruise lines also fought against the bills because it requires more accurate reporting of crimes on cruise ships.

The DOT just announced the launch of a new DOT website that will provide cruise consumers with a "reliable one-stop resource" where they can find information on important consumer protection issues Senator Rockefeller Cruise Linesrelated to cruise vacations.

Senator Rockefeller issued the following statement:

“I am so pleased to see Secretary Foxx take this important and extraordinary step to help protect passengers on cruise ships. Passengers desperately need access to accurate and updated information, which is why Secretary Foxx’s leadership on this issue is a game changer. As Chairman of the Commerce Committee, I’ve repeatedly urged the cruise industry to strengthen their consumer protections and disclosures, but they have very disappointingly failed to act. It is far past time that we step up to help American citizens when something goes wrong on a cruise ship, and I commend the Department of Transportation for this first step toward providing consumer protections for passengers.”

The DOT site is rather modest at this time. It primarily contains links to the Coast Guard, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), three federal agencies with a history of doing little to assist consumers. But it is a good start.  

In July 2014, Rockefeller chaired his most recent hearing to examine the cruise industry’s poor consumer protection practices.

You can watch the hearing here and listen to the testimony of our former client and friend Laurie Dishman (photo above, with her father) as well as other victims of cruise line's negligence. 

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Can a Canadian Porn King and the Cruise Lines Keep Cruise Passengers Safe in the Banana Coast in Honduras?

This week the "Banana Coast" cruise port in Honduras opens for mega-cruise ship business.

The travel publications all appear to have written essentially the the same article announcing with great fanfare that large cruise ships will begin calling at the port in the Bay of Trujillo, Honduras. Billed as the newest cruise port in the western Caribbean, the facility in Trujillo (mainland Honduras) will host the arrival of Norwegian Cruise Line's (NCL) Norwegian Jewel on October 15th.  

Ships from Holland America, Silversea, Oceania and P&O Cruises will follow. 

Banana Coast Travel Agent Central and TravelPulse each describe the new port as including a jewelry shop, a shop selling organic frozen coconut drinks, a duty-free liquor, a gift shop, and kiosks offering refreshments and souvenirs crafted by local artisans. Sounds like every other cruise port in the Caribbean designed to separate cruise visitors from their cash as soon as possible. 

The official website of the Banana Coast says that the Bay of Trujillo was the first mainland landing spot of Christopher Columbus in 1502 during his fourth voyage to the New World. It also says that this part of Honduras has a rich cultural heritage and visitors will experience the culture of the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna, an indigenous group who have lived in the area for centuries. 

What the developer and travel publications aren't saying is that there has been considerable controversy surrounding the development of the Honduran port and condominium projects. 

One of the principal developers of the mega-tourism project in Trujillo is Randy Jorgensen, general manager of Grande Trujillo Authoridad. He's a Canadian multi-millionaire who reportedly became wealthy in the pornographic video business. Several publications call him the "Canadian Porn King" (photo below with former Honduran President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa). He created Adults Only Video (warning XXX). Canada's Macleans magazine reported in 2001 that Jorgensen had been "accused of making X-rated films with underage girls in his vacation home in Honduras," according to Media Lens organization.

Jorgensen and others are accused of converting the beautiful Honduran coast into a large scale tourism project that includes vacation condominiums and the cruise ship facility, which have displaced and destroyed the indigenous Garífuna communities. The developers are accused of illegally obtaining the land and expelling the Garífuna people from the Bay of Trujillo.

Travel Pulse says that cruise tourists will be "welcomed by local Garifuna performers . . .  and dancers in colorful attire." Sounds to me like a faux Disney World recreation of the displaced local inhabitants for the amusement of the arriving U.S. cruise passengers.

In related news, Cruise Critic reports that the airstrip at the Mayan site of Copan in Honduras will open in December and will provide flights for cruise passengers to travel to Copan as a shore excursion. Cruise Critic says that this will "allow passengers, for the first time, to make an excursion off the island (from Roatan) to the country's interior."

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been working with the cruise lines and representatives of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) to market Copan as a cruise Randy Jorgensen "Porn King"attraction

There's no mention in any of the travel publication hullabaloo of the fact that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, or that it is subject to critical crime warnings from the U.S. State Department.

Real estate developers and agents, resort owners, dive and water-sport companies, and land-owners in the Honduran cruise port of Roatan have touted Roatan as a crime-free paradise, even though cruise passengers and crew members have been victims of violent crime and one NCL crew member was killed there this year. The U.S. expatriates claim that as an island, Roatan is much safer than the mainland of Honduras. 

So what's going to happen when the cruise lines embark passengers in the Honduran mainland or fly passengers to the country's interior? The murder rate in Honduras has ranged between 70 and 90 per 100,000 in the last several years compared to 4 to 5 per 100,000 in the U.S. What safeguards do the cruise lines, the Honduran president, and the Caninadian porn businessman have in mind, if any, for those cruise tourists arriving in Trujillo?

 

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Photo Credit: Top - Banana Coast via Travel Agent Central; Bottom - Honduras Living The Top 10 Reasons to Invest in Trujillo Honduras  

 

Canada Issues Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas

On Wednesday, Canada began advising its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution, especially in Nassau, due to high rates of crime.”

On its government website Canada urged Canadian travelers to be vigilant and raised the alert status from normal. The warning effective September 17 2014 states:

"There is no nationwide advisory in effect for the Bahamas. However, you should exercise a Canada Crime Warning Nassau Bahamashigh degree of caution, especially in Nassau, due to high rates of crime." 

The headline of the Tribune newspaper in Nassau is Crime alert for Nassau Tourists - Canada Urges Visitors to be Vigilant.

We have written frequently about the high incidents of murder and armed robbery in Nassau (New Providence). About half of the Bahamians who read our articles acknowledge the issue of crime and are frustrated that the government can't do more to address the problem of armed robberies and murder. The other half of our readers are in denial and have a false sense of patriotism. This leads to to threats and accusations that crime is higher in the U.S. with references to the high crime rate in Detroit, for example.

My response is to simply state that everyone knows that its dangerous in Detroit. But most visitors to Nassau naively think that Nassau is some type of idyllic paradise. They need to be warned.

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas.  You can read a few of our articles here and here.

According to the Tribune, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said he was worried about the effect of the warning on tourism because there are lots of tourists from Canada who visit the Bahamian islands.

 

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Cruise Safety: Be Prepared Before Things Go Wrong (Via Travel Channel)

The Travel Channel just posted a cruise safety video as part of it's Travel 911 series (be prepared before things go wrong on a cruise ship).

Its a very friendly sounding video that says that there's nothing better than a cruise, but bad things can happen on cruise ships.  

Here are some tips:

  • Bring anti-bacterial wipes and avoid public bathrooms. And check out which ships have high scores on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
  • Attend muster station drills. They are mandatory before the ship sails and can be a life-saver.
  • Limit your drinks. The number one reported crime during cruises is sexual assault. The victims are usually intoxicated.
  • Don't flaunt your jewelry, handbags, or money. Yes, there are thefts during cruises.
  • Be extra-safe during shore excursions. Keep your cash and jewelry in the cabin safe and wear a traveler's pouch.   

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

 

A Bahamian's View of Cruising to the Bahamas

This morning I read an interesting letter to the editor while reading the Nassau Guardian

It was from a Bahamian woman who cruised on a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship with her extended family on a Caribbean cruise to St. Maarten, St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Nassau.

She and her family were distressed to see several safety warnings about Nassau in the NCL daily brochures. They also observed a sign on a deck on the cruise ship about the topic of passenger safety and the danger of Nassau Bahamasbringing valuables ashore in the Bahamas.  

There were no warning signs or brochures about the other ports of call, in St. Maarten or St. Thomas.

She complained about other issues, such as the port being dirty and disorganized, as well as the abuse of a horse carrying a surrey and passengers. She was disgusted and commented "how can we claim it's better in the Bahamas?"

She summed up her feeling by saying: "I can tell you it's not a pretty sight for passengers stepping off the ship, if they dare to do so after the safety warning about Nassau!" 

I have written extensively about the problem of violent crime in Nassau. Most U.S. passengers mistakenly think that Nassau is some type of tropical paradise immune from crime.  They don't even begin to understand that the place is a far cry from the glossy images portrayed by the cruise lines until they disembark and it is too late.  

Most of my information in my prior articles comes from the local press in the Bahamas, with my favorite sources being the Tribune or the Nassau Guardian, as well as U.S. passengers returning from the islands with a horror story to tell. 

It's a change to see to a Bahamian provide an insight into the Bahamas while traveling in the Caribbean and arriving at the port in Nassau,

 

Photo Credit: Wikitravel Creative Commons

Nassau, Bahamas Crime Watch: Time For Another State Department Warning?

Latore Mackey, the press secretary to the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, was shot in the neck and killed early Monday morning.

Mr. Mackey's death was the fifth in less than 36 hours according to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau. 

Violent crime in out of control in Nassau. 

Young gun-totting men are on the rampage. The Tribune reports that four men, 18, 20, 22 and 24 Nassau Bahamas Crimeyears old, were arrested for the murder. 

In March, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau last issued a crime warning, advising U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on "heightened alert" to avoid being a victim of crime. The warning referred to a number of armed robberies which occurred in the last two weeks.

That was the third critical crime warning for the Bahamas since December 2013.

The most recent warning stated, in part:

"Armed robbery and violent crime remain major threats facing both U.S. citizens and residents of the Bahamas, including in areas frequented by tourists on New Providence and Grand Bahamas Islands. In the past year, a number of U.S. citizens have fallen victim to armed robbery."

The vast majority of the armed crimes are by local citizens against local citizens in the Bahamas. But these crimes are rarely solved and that's especially true when the victims are tourists.

I remain of the opinion that the tourism dependent islands are "one gunshot away" from the cruise lines concluding that it too dangerous to unload boatloads of cruise passengers in Nassau. Many cruise passenger tell me that they stay on the ship when the cruise calls on Nassau.

I don't blame them. 

When government employees are gunned down while driving on Market Street, it's time for the U.S. State Department to issue another warning to tourists traveling to Nassau.  

Have a thought? Please leave a message below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Image Credit: The Tribune

Another Murder in Roatan

In less than three days after Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández declared that guns are prohibited in Roatan and the Bay Islands, a young man was gunned down early on Sunday morning. 

Teledifusora Insular reports that Henry Alexander Almendarez Orellana was shot by two men in the early morning hours of July 13th.

The crime reportedly took place where the young man lived in Barrio La Punta of Coxen Hole. 

Roatan HondurasThe online source says that police are trying to figure out the identity and whereabouts of the perpetrators of this killing. The murder occurs just when the Government of Juan Orlando Hernández has declared a general disarmament of Roatan to safeguard this main tourist destination. 

Last Friday we reported what we predicted would be a futile policy, Roatan: Gun Free Zones.  

President Hernández blamed U.S. drug policy for sparking violence in Central American countries and driving a surge of migration to the United States, according to an interview published today in a Mexican newspaper.

The U.S. State Department updated Honduras travel warning in June mentioned Coxen Hole as a place to avoid after dark.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. 

Murders against local residents in Roatan, like this or this, are rarely solved. 

Roatan: Gun Free Zone?

Roatan HondurasThe La Prensa newspaper in Honduras reports that President Juan Orlando Hernández approved legislation last night at a cabinet session to declare that guns are prohibited in Roatan and the Bay Islands.

The article is entitled Gobierno de Honduras declara desarme en Islas de la Bahía.

The newspaper says that the initiative is part of a program to free tourist areas of violence in the country to encourage tourism.

The president declared the Bay Islands as a zone free of weapons with the objective of substantially improving security and promoting the island as paradise. 

Emilio Silvestri, head of the Institute of Tourism, said that it is urgent to remove firearms from the tourist sites.

Seems like it a desperate policy to me.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, with some of its police and national soldiers corrupt. The islands are supposedly safer than the mainland although a crew member was shot and killed this year and cruise passenger and tourists were robbed at gunpoint. 

What the saying?  When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

 

Photo Credit:  La Prensa

U.S. State Department: Crime and Violence in Honduras Remain Critically High

The Department of State in the United States issued another warning about the high crime rate in Honduras, saying that "the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high." You can read the June 24 2014 warning here.

The last warning from the U.S. state Department was issued on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013. 

A lot has happened since last December. As far as tourists, cruise passengers and crew members are concerned, there have been several armed robberies and one death. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) temporarily pulled its cruise ships out of the island port of Roatan after a NCL crew Roatan Honduras Crime Cruisemember was shot and killed near the port in Coxen Hole.

The report states that "crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country, and the Government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues." Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. The homicide rate for last year (2013) was 75.6 to 79 per 100,000 people in 2013.  

Crime is also significant in tourist areas. The report states:

"Although Roatan/Bay Islands, Copan Mayan ruins, and other tourist destinations and resorts have a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur and are still high by international standards."

Crimes against U.S. visitors and residents are rarely solved. As we mentioned before, of the last 50 U.S. citizens killed in Honduras, only 2 cases have been solved.

We have reported on several armed robberies against cruise passengers in Roatan this year like this, and the murder of the NCL crew member last April.

This year, to the howl of protests from expatriate resort owners and tour and dive operators in Roatan, we selected Honduras as the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world

Another Crime Report Rocks Nassau

The Latin America Monitor published an article about the high crime rate in the Bahamas entitled "Business Environment Analysis - Rising Murder Rate Poses Risk To Tourism Sector - JUNE 2014." the publication reports, in part:

". . . rising murder rates in the Bahamas, including some recent killings of foreign tourists, could weigh on the islands' business environment. If the trend continues unabated, or if there were to be particularly high profile incidents that gained coverage in foreign press, the attractiveness of the Bahamas as a tourist destination could deteriorate, threatening the islands' medium-term growth outlook.

The Bahamas has seen a rise in murder rates in recent years and several high profile killings of foreign tourists in recent months, trends that present downside risks to the country's medium-term growth prospects due to its heavy reliance on the tourism industry as a driver of economic activity. The Nassau Guardian reported early this year that the total number of murders in the Bahamas increased to 120 in 2013 from 111 in 2012, an increase in the murder rate from 29.8 to 34.1 per Crime Nassau Bahamas100,000. Additionally, there have been well-publicised armed robberies and murders of both UK and US citizens in recent months.

Compounding this rise in homicides is that the Bahamas has seen its murder rate increase relative to other Caribbean islands. Whereas the Bahamas reported the fifth highest murder rate in 2010 amongst the countries reviewed by the Nassau Guardian, it has since risen to third highest, behind only Jamaica, where the murder rate was 44.1 per 100,000 in 2013, and St. Kitts and Nevis, which reported a murder rate of 45.5 per 100,000."

The Tribune newspaper in the Bahamas discusses this report in its article "Crime Warning Is Latest Blow."  The newspaper says: "A SECOND report in a month by an international agency has warned that 'rising murder rates,' specifically recent killings of tourists, in The Bahamas could affect the country’s business environment."

We went on record a long time ago with our opinion that the murder of a cruise passenger could result in the cruise lines avoiding Nassau: "Bahamas One Gunshot Away From Cruise Line Exit."

 

Image:  The Tribune

Sexual Assault on Cruise Ship in St. Kitts? No One's Talking

Today the SKNVibes newspaper in St. Kitts reports that a crew member aboard a cruise ship docked in St. Kitts (Port Zante) sexually assaulted a cruise passenger.

You can read the article below.

It's a strange article.  The newspaper decided not to name the cruise line or the cruise ship, which is something we see in a few other countries where the local press prefer not to embarrass the cruise lines.

Carnival Valor Cruise ShipThe newspaper also contacted the police department which would not comment whether a rape occurred on the unidentified cruise ship or not.

Earlier this year we named St. Kitts as one of the top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world.  We also reported on a sexual assault of a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger during an excursion in St. Kitts two years ago,

The article is below:

" . . .  the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force is making investigations into an incident of assault that occurred on a cruise vessel which was berthed at Porte Zante yesterday (Jun. 6).

Unconfirmed reports suggest that an act of sexual assault may have been perpetrated against one of the cruise passengers by one of the vessel’s crew members.

SKNVibes understands that the authorities on St. Kitts were made aware of the situation and investigations had begun.

The Police Force’s Press and Public Relations Officer Inspector Lyndon David - when contacted by this publication and questioned about this issue - declared that he could not confirm or deny at that moment.

And he promised to look into the matter."

June 8 2014 Update: A reader pointed out that the Carnival Valor was in port at St. Kitts on June 6 2014.

June 10 2014: The St. Kitts and Nevis Observer reports "Cruise Ship Employee Charged With Rape." This newspaper states that the Carnival Valor was in fact the cruise ship in port (Port Zante). It says that St. Kitts police took a crew member into custody the day of the report of the sexual assault and that the Valor left port later than its scheduled time due to the incident.

The Observer understands the individual was charged with the offense over the weekend following the arrest on a Friday.

Upon questioning the local police would say nothing other than “someone has been charged for an incident.”

The newspaper also says that it is "not known if the alleged offence was committed while the vessel was docked, however the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force has jurisdiction to investigate and/or arrest once a crime has been reported in sovereign waters or airspace."   

June 15 2014 Update: A radio station in St. Kitts states that the local police in St. Kitts has finally acknowledged that a crew member from the Carnival Valor was arrested on charges of raping a cruise passenger while the cruise ship was in territorial waters of the island. However, the police still refuses to release the alleged assailant's name.  The radio station says: 

"In St. Kitts and Nevis, the names of persons accused of sexual offenses against minors are not released, however WINN FM is not aware that those charged with offences against adults are withheld by the authorities."

 

 

Photo Credit: sknclt.com

Love Letters from Roatan

This year I have written a dozen articles about the high crime rate in Roatan Honduras. 

The purpose of my blog is to report on "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."

So if there is a destination which the cruise line and tourism officials market (for profit) as a "tranquil" and "peaceful" paradise, but it is really a dangerous place, I will tell you about it. 

If cruise passengers and crew members are robbed, raped and killed in a cruise destination touted as Roatan Hondurassafe, I will tell you about it.

So far this year, I have told you about a family of five with three young kids from a Carnival cruise ship whose rental car was shot up during an armed robbery; a Royal Caribbean family robbed at machete point and a tourist interested in diving the reefs who was violently assaulted; a NCL crew member shot in the head, dead; and several local residents of Roatan killed and left in the streets. 

All of this violent crime occurred in Roatan, Honduras. Yes the Roatan marketed by Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean as the idyllic, tropical get-a-way, the paradise island of Roatan.

I have written about other dangerous cruise destinations: the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize. But the residents of these countries have never come close to voicing the level of animosity and threats which I receive from the residents of Roatan when I write about crime.

I received a half-dozen emails yesterday from Roatan. Here are two good ones. Judge for yourself:

From Doug in Roatan: 

You are a fucking piece of shit im sure its real safe where you live which I assume is miami which is a complete shit hole how many people die there every night do you tell cruise ship passengers how fucking dangerous the departure ports are of course not ie: miami, new orleans, houston all shit hole cities if you want to write about violence try san pedro sula you fucking moron I will take my chaces in both roatan and san pedro sula before visiting any one of the cities in america mentioned all you are doing is praying on a bunch of people who are afraid of there own shadow you cant hold everybodys hand when they travel but shit happens in colorado at the resorts but you dont make a big deal out of that senseless crime happens everywhere you fucking idiot whatever your deal is with roatan all your doing is making it harder in aplace where life is already hatd enough fuck you

From Michelle in Roatan:

Interesting stats you're choosing to post about Roatan. I live here and am NOT afraid for my safety. You mention that the expatriate community downplays the crime issue and where are your stats about crime regarding them? The truth of the matter is ANYWHERE you go in the world there is crime, except perhaps, Iceland. The crime that we're witnessing here on Roatan is mostly what others would consider, drug related, revenge related or motivated as well as "Indian on Indian". Which is why the deaths of the man by mud hole or by la colonia belfate were featured but aren't causing a stir.
They have nothing to do with the general public. My safety is not jeopardized by the death of either of those men and neither is anyone else's; unless they were associated with them in whatever business or crime they were previously involved in.

People die violent deaths in US cities every single day and the reason people still feel safe in their homes is because they don't hear about them due to the fact that it isn't considered news. "A woman was found shot/strangled or beaten to death in her apartment" could be a news title on just about any newspaper in just about any city or town in the US but once officials realize that she was murdered by her drug dealer boyfriend, that she herself was a drug user and that she is a woman of color, she no longer is classified as news. And her death does not change or influence anyone else's safety. The same goes here. So I urge you to stop focusing your interest in stories that are not being shared and worry about your own interests. It is unfortunate that many people have had negative experiences while traveling here. It really truly is but it doesn't represent the island as a whole. People are safe, just like anywhere else in the world; again, except for Iceland, one must ALWAYS be mindful of what they are doing, where and with whom. Bad choices and bad decisions usually have bad results.

Murder in Roatan: A Peaceful, Tranquil Paradise?

Roatan Honduras came onto the radar of Cruise Law News in January of this year when a U.S. family who took a Carnival cruise to the island was robbed at gun point while driving in a rental car. The bandito shot the car up, terrifying the three children in the car as well as their parents, who had no idea that they had taken the kids to such a violent place for a family vacation. 

The mother subsequently left us a message saying:

"My Husband, 8, 14, 15 year old daughters and I were shot at, robbed and almost killed after returning Roatan Honduras Crimefrom one of the Roatan Beaches. I find it hard to believe that cruise lines would be wanting to increase tourism to Honduras. People innocently go there to enjoy it's beauty unaware of the danger lurking. My heart goes out to the family of the Norwegian cruise line crew member that was just killed there in broad daylight."

We subsequently reported about several other tourists robbed or assaulted at gun point this year. We were also the first in the U.S. to report on the murder of a NCL crew member in Coxen Hole.

What struck me most about Roatan when I began speaking to local residents and people who fled the island was not just the crime and sense of lawlessness. I was surprised by the extraordinary efforts of the expatriate U.S. citizens who live in Roatan to create the false and misleading impression that the place was a safe, tropical paradise.

Today in reading the local Insular Teledifusora Facebook page, I see that a local man identified as Rodrigo Mendoza Nelson was shot multiple times. His body was dumped along a road from Coxen Hole to Sandy Bay near an entrance to a place called "Mud Hole" late last night.

The images of the lifeless body on the Teledifusora Insular page are graphic.

Roatan Honduras Crime The web page also shows several crude images of men who were quickly arrested for the murder. 

A week ago I wrote about another murder of a local man who was bludgeoned to death near the  Balfate colony area.

None of these images or stories will be seen by tourists to Roatan.

Nor will the expatriate citizens running the tour or dive shops, or the restaurants or bars, or the resorts or realty companies mention these incidents to cruise ship passengers. 

 

Image Credit: Teledifusora Insular

U.S. Report on Crime in Nassau Worries Atlantis Resort

The owners of the Atlantis mega-resort in Nassau are worried about the U.S. report on the high rate of crime there, according to the Nassau Guardian

The U.S. report from Department of State states that armed robbery and sexual assault are all on the increase in Nassau and these crimes are affecting tourists and cruise passengers, including around the hotels, resorts and casinos. 

Over the years, Atlantis has experienced significant problems with crime. Tourists have been robbed at Atlantis Resort Bahamasgunpoint and the resort's own employees have attempted to rob the casino. You can read about the crime here:

Official: Security foils robbery at Bahamas resort

Tourists robbed outside Atlantis

Last September, the Nassau Tribune reported that Atlantis was “very concerned” about a crime warning issued to cruise passengers by Carnival cruise line.  Atlantis seemed afraid that the cruise line might scare off the resort's potential customers by warning its passengers of the crime problems ashore before the passengers disembark.

You can read our article: Atlantis Discourages Carnival from Warning Cruise Passengers of Crime in Nassau.

Nassau needs to get a grip on crime and its effect on tourists and cruise passengers.

Atlantis has to reassure its lenders that the situation is under control as it tries to refinances its debt. But the cat is out of the bag. Few rational people can dispute that the island has a problem. The cruise lines are seeing fewer and fewer people actually get off the cruise ships.  

It's a house built of cards. They could all fall down. Atlantis, the cruise lines, and the Bahamas tourism people are all hoping, and praying, that a tourist doesn't get shot. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / WPPilot

 

Nassau Newspapers Cover U.S. Crime Report on Bahamas - A Tropical Paradise?

A day after we summarized the U.S. report on the high level of crime which is affecting U.S. tourists and cruise passengers in the Bahamas, the major newspapers in Nassau published articles about the report. 

The Nassau Tribune published U.S. Warns Again Over Crime In The Bahamas. The Tribune also published several other articles about murders which routinely plague the capital of the islands.

The Nassau Guardian published U.S. Embassy See Jump in Assault Reports - State Department Highlights Bahamas' Crime Problem. The article was positioned next to another article about a murder Nassau Tribune with a large photo of a body in a bag being taken away a medical examiner's team.

When we published our article yesterday - 2014 Bahamas Crime Report: Armed Violent Crime Escalates - we received a great deal of hate emails. The criticism fell into general categories. The local Bahamians didn't like a U.S. citizen discussing crime in the Bahamas. Many wanted to discuss crime in the U.S. and talk about mass murders in U.S. schools. And many people in the Bahamas claim that it is perfectly safe in Nassau. 

In response to all of that I say this: of course there are crime problems in the U.S. But there are a few salient point to keep in mind. There are around 304,000,000 (million) people in the U.S. There are a little over 350,000 people in all of the Bahamas with 70% of them living on New Providence island (Nassau).

The Bahamas unemployment rate is staggering. Almost 16% of people in New Providence and almost 20% of people in Grand Bahama have no job. There are too many people with no money and nothing to do.

Not surprisingly, the per capital murder rate in the Bahamas is substantially higher than the U.S rate. The per capita homicide rate in the Bahamas is seven or eight times higher than the U.S. rate. There are around 4.5 murders per 100,000 in the U.S. but between 29 and 35 murders per 100,000 in the Bahamas.

The biggest point to keep in mind is that no one pretends that the USA is a tropical paradise. If you are coming to America, I won't bullshit you. Compared to the UK or the European countries which have few guns and little armed violence, the U.S is the wild west.  But many U.S. tourists who jump on a cruise ship for a vacation to the Caribbean mistakenly believe that the Bahamas is a tranquil, idyllic and peaceful place. It's clearly not. 

Many people who rail against our publication own businesses in Nassau, like bars, restaurants, resorts, excursions companies, jet-ski shops and so forth. They can't afford to lose business. They are characterizing Nassau like a magical safe location.  

But the 2014 crime report bears out what we have been discussing frequently here. That tourists and cruise passengers are being targeted for robbery by criminals armed with guns, knives and machetes. There are too many young men not employed who can make a month's wages with a single grab of a purse or gold chain.

Yes, Nassau has assigned more police officers to the ports and the officers are working longer shifts (which the report acknowledges). But crime in general and crime against cruise passengers has still increased. That speaks poorly for the future of Nassau and its fanciful notion that it is a tropical paradise.

 

Image Credit: Nassau Tribune

2014 Bahamas Crime Report: Armed Violent Crime Escalates

Crime Cruise Nassau BahamasThe  U.S. Department of State recently published  the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) crime report for the Bahamas for 2014.

It is a grim report.

It reflects the considerable problems with violent crimes against tourists and cruise visitors over the past year which we have been discussing.

We copied the relevant portions of the report below, but here are the highlights:

  • Population of the Bahamas' 700 islands is 353,000.
  • 70% of population is on New Providence Island (Nassau).
  • 15% of population is on Grand Bahama Island.
  • 15% of population is on the remaining "family islands."
  • Since July 2013, the government has not published national crime statistics.
  • Bahamas continues to have high crime rate, particularly on New Providence Island (Nassau), which continues to experience escalated levels of violent crime.
  • Bahamas experiences a wave of armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and residences.
  • Despite anti-crime initiatives, there is a significant increase in violent crimes in locations frequented by U.S. citizen tourists in New Providence (Nassau), with some incidents resulting in death.
  • Violent crimes occurs in in well-established tourist locations, close to cruise ship port and Cable Beach resort areas.
  • Armed robberies and purse snatchings remain most common crimes against tourists.
  • Criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives.
  • Sexual assault has increased, with many victims drugged.
  • Crime has also increased on Grand Bahama island (Freeport) notably crimes involving use of machetes.  

Crime in Nassau Bahamas. We have written many articles about the high crime rate against cruise passengers and tourists in Nassau. We listed the Bahamas as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world.

Cruise lines are finally warning the passengers about the problem.

Here's a portion of the the official report:

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

"The Bahamas is a prominent tourist destination with cruise ship ports of call for Nassau and Freeport as well as an abundance of luxury resorts, including the world famous Atlantis and the soon to be developed Baha Mar. Over five million U.S. citizens visit or reside in the country each year. Approximately 80 percent of the tourists visiting The Bahamas are U.S. citizens.

The Bahamas is an archipelagic nation of more than 700 islands that cover a geographic region roughly comparable in magnitude to California. At the closest points - Bimini and Grand Bahama - the country is only 50 miles from the United States. As a result, the country is sometimes referred to as the “third border” of the United States. According to the 2010 census, the Bahamas has a population of 353,000. Seventy percent of the population lives on the island of New Providence where the capital, Nassau, is situated. Another 15 percent live on Grand Bahama, which has the country’s second largest city, Freeport. The rest of the population is dispersed over two dozen outer islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”).

Crime Threats

While there has been a slight reduction in 2013 in some crime categories as reported by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), violent crime remains above the 2012 level. Since July 2013, the government has not published national crime statistics. The Bahamas continues to have a high crime rate, particularly on New Providence Island, which has continued to experience escalated levels of violent crime. Home break-ins, theft, and robbery are not confined to any specific part of the island. Generally, most reported crimes were perpetrated against local Bahamians in areas of saturated criminality not typically frequented by tourists.

The Bahamas has experienced a wave of armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and residences. Perpetrators of these types of crimes typically conduct pre-attack surveillance. There were several reports of victims being followed home after closing the business in an attempt to steal the nightly deposit. Several victims were severely injured.

The RBPF enacted a particularly forceful presence on New Providence Island in 2013, which included 12-hour police shifts, random armed police checkpoints, and a crime reduction plan in tourist areas. However, despite formidable anti-crime initiatives enacted by the government and specifically executed by the RBPF, during the past several months New Providence has witnessed a significant increase in violent crimes in locations frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents have resulted in fatalities. In 2013, the police reported several incidents that either involved tourists or occurred in well-established tourist locations. Specifically, crimes were reported close to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas. Of particular note, in May 2013, a U.S. citizen was shot and killed in New Providence during a violent altercation; in June 2013 a U.S. Embassy employee was robbed and suffered minor injuries while on the way to a Sunday worship service; in October 2013, the brother of a local political leader was shot and killed in a deliberate act of murder; and in December 2013 four locals were killed and 10 wounded in a hasty drive-by shooting using an automatic weapon. The upsurge in criminal activity has also led to incidents that could place innocent bystanders at risk.

Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, and general theft of personal property remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists. Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives. Unless provoked, criminals engaged in property crimes do not generally engage in gratuitous violence. There have been several reported armed robberies using a knife where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim fought back and resisted. Many of these armed robberies were snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, and gold necklaces.

Residential security also remains a great concern, with the police reporting a large number of home burglaries and break-ins, including the December 2013 robbery of the Acting Prime Minister at his residence. A number of armed home invasions that occurred in both New Providence and Grand Bahama in 2013 occurred very close to U.S. Embassy residential housing.

Criminal activity in the Family Islands occurs less frequently. The Embassy has received reports of burglaries and thefts, especially thefts of boats and other watercraft. Grand Bahama is somewhat of an exception, in that criminality has increased on that island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes (large blades).

The U.S. Embassy has received an increase of reports of assaults, including sexual assaults at residences, hotel rooms, casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships. In some sexual assault incidents, the victim had reportedly been drugged."

 

Photo Credit: Top - Nassau Bahamas Press

Roatan, Honduras - Update on Crime

We've received a fair share of hate e-mail this year after we reported on several crimes against cruise tourists in Roatan during the first three months of this year. Many expatriate property owners and business operators became highly agitated when we were the first in the U.S. to report on the murder of a NCL crew member shot near the port in April.

Two men were arrested regarding the crew member murder. The first man arrested was quickly arrested but apparently had nothing to do with the murder. The second man, who apparently killed the NCL employee, was shot in the leg by his friends and turned over to the police for a modest little Roatan Murder Suspectranson. He remains in jail.

A U.S. citizen, Cory Lee Beckner, who lives in Roatan was arrested for allegedly being involved in an armed robbery of a family visiting the island on a cruise ship. His sister recently posted, on our Facebook Page, an affidavit from a local police department suggesting that her brother is innocent. If this is true, then whoever robbed the several cruise tourists has not been apprehended.

In the last two months, there have been several break-ins of homes and businesses run by expatriate U.S. citizens and local residents of roatan. Many people have expressed frustration with the crimes and the absence of any follow-up by the understaffed and ill-equipped local police.

Just last Sunday, a local resident was found murdered, apparently killed with a concrete block which was found bloodied upon discovery of the dead body. The incident reportedly occurred near the impoverished Balfate colony area.  

The arrests of two gunmen who allegedly killed two residents in separate incidents over the course of the last year or so was recently a topic of discussions in Roatan among expatriates. Some people are calling for the alleged gunmen to be publicly hanged to deter other murderers. 

The president of Honduras and tourism officials have announced meetings with the cruise lines to deal with the reports of crime in Roatan. There have been no details released of what has been discussed.

The expatriate community in Roatan is an interesting lot. Half of the people there spend considerate effort trying to convince you how safe and peaceful the island is. But they have a different conversation amongst themselves. There are others who are interesting in exposing the crime problem in the hope that the problem will be addressed and improved.

Roatan Crime Watch: Honduran Officials & Tourism Representatives Meet With Cruise Line Security Executives

Radio Honduras reports today that security managers of Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and Carnival Corporation recently met with governmental officials and tourism representative of Honduras in a "workshop" to discuss the safety of passengers and crew members in Roatan.

The news account indicates that the Director the Honduran Institute of Tourism, Emilio Silvestri, said that the meeting with the security executives of the cruise lines "is the result of a request from President Juan Orlando Hernández during his recent trip to Miami . . . "

A week ago we reported that President Hernández announced that he has traveled to Miami to meet Roatan Honduraswith cruise line officials regarding the violence this year against cruise ship passengers and crew members. 

This year we have reported on the murder of a NCL crew member, the armed robbery of Carnival passengers, and the armed assault of tourists and Royal Caribbean cruise passengers.

NCL pulled its cruise ships from Roatan for one week but quickly returned. Travel writers, travel agents, and expatriate owned or operated dive shops, resorts, bars and real estate businesses still promote the island as a tropical paradise.

The Honduran tourism representative Silvestri mentioned security measures allegedly implemented in Roatan by the Honduran government but didn't specify the nature of such measures.  The cruise line security executives apparently discussed the security measures during the workshop. 

The report identifies those attending the security workshop as Matthew Lewis from Norwegian Cruise Line; Dwight Morris and Alvaro Duron from from Royal Caribbean Cruises; Robert Williams and Jose Negron of Carnival Cruise Line; Luis Colon from Mahogany Bay; Security Minister Arturo Corrales; Research Director Julian Pacheco; as well as municipal authorities and the tourism representatives of Roatan and the Bay Islands. 

The report stressed the importance of the revenue generated by cruise passengers to Roatan. Each cruise passenger spends around $80 in "ground transportation, buying souvenirs, gratuities" and other expenditures during an eight-hour stay on the island.

In April. we placed Honduras on the list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World

Roatan Crime Watch: Honduran Politicians Travel to Miami to Meet Cruise Lines

The President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, has updated his Facebook page, indicating that he has traveled to Miami to meet with cruise line officials.  He posted:

"Este día ha sido muy productivo, después de una reunión con 2 empresas de Cruceros en Miami, donde definimos incrementar el número de turistas a Honduras."

Translated, he says that he had a productive day in Miami after meeting with two cruise lines in an effort to increase the number of tourists cruising to Honduras.

Roatan Honduras CruiseHe reportedly traveled with Honduran Congressman Jerry Hynds who represents the Bay Islands. Several cruise ships (Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean) cruise regularly to Honduras (Roatan).

President Hernandez is seen in the Facebook photo with Honduran and Carnival officials. 

Roatan has been in the cruise-news after a rash of violent crimes against Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise passengers this year who were attacked by armed robbers. A NCL crew member was murdered by a criminal from Coxen Hole, near Roatan's port. Roatan is on our list of the top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations this year. You can read some of recent articles about Roatan below:

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers

Bahamas Responds to Making the List of Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations: "The Bahamas Is Safe"

Nassau Bahamas Crime Cruise ShipOur article listing the top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world hit a raw nerve in the Bahamas. 

The Nassau Guardian published two articles quoting government leaders's responses to making the list. The Guardian first published Bahamas' Spot on Crime List Causes Skepticism, Concern." Later, the Guardian published  "Official: Most Dangerous Cruise Port Claim Not Accurate." 

In a blog article entitled "Crime Levels Continue to Be Major Problem for Destination Bahamas," the Journal of the Business of Caribbean Tourism, Travel & Hospitality writes: 

"In the NB12 report (below) Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe does well in showing his clear understanding of the situation and the potential damage that can be inflicted on the country’s number one industry. Conversely, Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell - also interviewed in the NB12 report and one of the primary figures leading the fight against crime - appears to be in denial and suggests that the country is being painted unfairly. While both Ministers have different portfolios of responsibility, the Government of The Bahamas would do well to send a more unified and coherent message about their specific plans to address crime, making the city safe for visitors and locals alike." 

No one wants to make a "top 10" list for something like this. But unlike other countries which made the list, the Bahamas has shown a respectful and polite tone and demeanor in responding to the criticism. 

After a one minute commercial, the news story starts at the 1:02 mark:

WKMG Local 6 (Orlando): "A Former Disney Cruise Officer Speaks Out"

Tonight an Orlando television station is airing an interview with a former Disney Cruise Line security officer about her experiences working aboard Disney cruise ships.

WKMG (Orlando) has released a short preview of the interview on a Facebook page. The program tonight is entitled "Exposed - Crimes Going Unreported."

The interview was conducted by WKMG reporter Mike DeForest. The Facebook page states:

"I speak exclusively with a former Disney Cruise Line Security Officer. She'll expose the Disney Cruise - Sexual Assaultcrime she saw while working on the inside, and share info you and your family need to know before sailing."

WKMG has been the leader in reporting on cases where Disney cruise line employees have sexually molested girls during cruises. 

Last year, WKMG reported on a 33 year old Disney waiter sexually assaulted an 11 year old girl. Even though the crime occurred at the port in Cape Canaveral in Florida waters, Disney refused to report it to U.S. law enforcement and sailed the cruise ship to the Bahamas where Disney flew the sexual predator back to India.

This year, a 36 year old Disney cabin attendant sexually molested a 13 year old girl aboard the Disney Dream.

Hopefully this former Disney security officer can shed some insight into the case where Disney refused to report the child molester to the police in the U.S. 

I will be posting the interviews when they become public. Update: Watch the complete video here: Disney Dream Child Molestation Case: Staff Captain Instructed Security Officer Not to Contact U.S. Law Authorities.

 

 

U.S. Girl Strangled, Sexually Assaulted in the Bahamas

Bahamas Sexual AssaultThe day after we listed the Bahamas as the number one most dangerous cruise destination in the world, a newspaper reports that a "17 year old American girl was left traumatised after she was strangled to near unconsciousness and forced to perform a sexual act" on a 41 year old Bahamian man on San Salvador island. 

San Salvador is one of the out islands of the Bahamas. 

The Tribune newspaper says that the girl was riding her bicycle in the dock area of Cockburn Town Monday morning when the man emerged from the bushes, forcing her to perform oral sex on him. 

Cockburn Town is the capital of San Salvador Island.  

The newspaper also says that the girl's parents recently purchased a vacation home on the island.

The man reportedly has a mental disability and was accused of a similar act when he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman tourist at a Club Med resort.  

The man is in police custody in Nassau.  

The newspapers in the Bahamas are not bashful in reporting crimes like this.  Unlike many countries in the Caribbean which have a tendency to avoid or under-report crimes against U.S. citizens out of fear of affecting adversely affecting tourism, the Bahamas has a reputation of having a diligent and transparent press (like the Tribune below).

Bahamas Sexual Assault

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World

Caribbean Crime Cruise ShipThe last thing that a family going on vacation wants to think of is being victims of crime. Cruise lines spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year creating idyllic illusions of tropical vacations on beautiful Caribbean beaches.  But behind that slick marketing facade lies danger.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently released a Global Study on Homicide 2013. The Huffington Post posted an article based on the study entitled the 10 Countries With The World's Highest Murder Rates

The most dangerous countries mentioned in the study read like a cruise line itinerary: Honduras (No. 1), Venezuela (No. 2), Belize (No. 3),  El Salvador (No. 4), Guatemala (No. 5),  Jamaica (no. 6),  St. Kitts - Nevis (no. 8), and Colombia (no. 10).  The UN executive summary says that Caribbean countries are home to to 8.5% of the world's population, but they account for about 27% of world crime. 

I made my own list of the most dangerous countries you can cruise to.  No, its not scientific in nature based on empirical evidence. It's anecdotal in nature based on information we receive from cruise passengers who contact us and complain about being a victim of crime in a port of call. 

99% of the people who contact us, both passengers and crew, are victims of crime in the Caribbean countries. A few people complained of being pick-pocketed in Italy. But we have received no reports of guns or knives from people visiting European or African ports ever. Of course, ports in Australia and New Zealand are fabulously safe. We have also never received a complaint about crime in the Asian ports.

We know what people will think when they read the list. "Crime occurs everywhere. Just use common sense. Stay with the cruise line excursions ashore." I say nonsense to that. The fact is that crime occurs in certain places far more than others. No one has ever contacted us about crime during a Seattle / Vancouver / Alaska cruise.

"Common sense" is no help when a port advertised as a peaceful getaway has a murder rate 25 times more dangerous than where you live and no one has bothered to tell you that. Some of the Caribbean countries have high homicide rates, one as high as around 90 murders per 100,000 people, whereas the average city in the U.S. is a little over 4 homicides per 100,000. 

The tourism officials in the islands? Worthless. They'd just as soon sell you a straw hat as a wooden box to transport your body back home.  And don't think that being on an official cruise tour is safer than exploring on your own. A busload of U.S. tourists may look like Fort Knox to a gang of armed banditos in an impoverished country, as you can read below.

Many people living in these Caribbean countries will be insulted and say how can you point the finger at us when you have cities like Detroit or Newark? But who on earth would ever vacation in one of these U.S. cities? Everyone knows Newark is dangerous. But few people who just bought a St.Lucia Cruise Ship Crimecruise realize that Nassau is also dangerous. 

The other problem facing cruise tourists in the Caribbean is that once you are victimized, the crooks are rarely apprehended. There is little justice. Of the last 50 U.S. citizens killed in Honduras, for example, the local police have solved just 2 cases.

Here's my list:

10. St. Lucia: This island is a good case study on what can go wrong during a cruise excursion. 69 cruise passengers were robbed at gun point on just two excursions. There were no warnings by the cruise lines or the local tourism officials, even though there had been prior crimes against tourists. The St. Lucia tourism officials lied to the victimized passengers, telling them that nothing like this had ever happened before.

55 Celebrity Cruise Passengers & 2 Crew Members Robbed at Gun Point in St. Lucia.

14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia.

Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia.

U.K. Couple Attacked on Yacht in St. Lucia, Husband Killed.

Liar, Liar Pants On Fire? St. Lucia Tourism Board Denies Prior Armed Robbery of Cruise Passengers

9. El Salvador: El Salvador is one of a few countries which is subject to a "critical" crime warning from the U.S. State Department. It has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. In Carnival Cruise Passenger Robbed2012, it suffered from a murder rate of 69 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the murder rate in Massachusetts, with a similar geographical area and population, was 2.6 per 100,000. Murders and crimes against U.S. citizens are rarely solved. 

8.  United States Virgin Islands (USVI):  The cruise industry already abandoned one of the major islands in USVI, St. Croix, after tourists were murdered over a decade ago. Cruise ships are still sailing to the other major island, St. Thomas, after a 14 year old girl from a cruise ship visiting St. Thomas was murdered.

There are way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI are a place for a family to vacation. The leading maritime case involving a cruise line's duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves St. Thomas.

Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call.

Antigua Crime Cruise Ship7. Antigua: Like other beautiful but impoverished islands in the Caribbean, Antigua seems like paradise but it has seen more than its share of tragedies. The murder of a young woman during a cruise for her sister's wedding led to the cruise company dropping the island as a port of call, but it quickly returned. Travel writers and cruise bloggers tend to hide the ugly side of ports of call in exchange for free perks.

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet.

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

Murder in Antigua: Store Employee Shot in Cruise Tourism Zone Heritage Quay.

6. St. Kitts - Nevis:  Another pretty but poor island where cruise passengers have been robbed "in bulk." The disparity in wealth between the locals and the affluent cruise passengers often leads to armed robberies.

17 Cruise Passengers Robbed in St. Kitts.

Visitors Warned About Safety in St. Kitts After Tourist Robbery.

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Sexual Assault During Sailing Excursion in St. Kitts & Nevis.

Mexico Cruise Ship Murder5. Mexico: This country has suffered some of the worst crime stories over the years. Drugs and be-headings are usually not in the tourists areas, but the tourist spots suffer from the nation's poor image. Places like Acapulco are literally defended by army soldiers.   

Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico.

Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas - Is It Safe to Cruise to Mexico?

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Gang Rape in Cozumel.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico.

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

Mexico Vacation Awareness.

4. Guatemala:  Guatemala is not a place where you should think of renting a car and driving in remote areas, as ambushes of tourists and armed robberies are not uncommon. Many people consider El Salvador equally dangerous to cruise tourists.

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala.

3. Venezuela:  Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates. Crime has increased substantially over the last few years.

Cruise Passenger Murdered in Venezuela's Margarita Island.

Roatan Crime 2. Honduras:

Roatan Honduras has been in the news lately following the murder of a NCL crew member who was gunned down in a gruesome crime for his cell phone. The expatriate land and business owners are campaigning that crime is rare, but they are suffering violence and many break-ins and burglaries of their homes and businesses.

We have chronicled several armed robberies of cruise passengers and the sexual assault of a U.S. tourist this year. Like many other Caribbean islands, the police are either indifferent or corrupt. The legal system is somewhere between barbaric and non-existent. 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras.

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers.

U.S. Department of State Critical Crime warning.

Cruise Ship Armed Robbery1. Bahamas: We have been warning about crime in Nassau ever since we started this blog in September 2009. In October 2009, two "vicious robbers" robbed a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship by gunpoint in Nassau. In November 2009, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during excursions from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships.

Crime has gotten worse in Nassau. We receive more complaints about crime in Nassau than all of the other ports in the Caribbean combined. Armed robberies, sexual assault of teenagers and young women, and the murder of tourist makes this port a dangerous place to take your family. The second you step off the cruise ship you're likely to be offered drugs.

The U.S. State Department has issued multiple critical crime warning for the Bahamas.

The Bahamian archaic legal system is indifferent to the plight of U.S. crime victims and the country is inept at solving crimes in port or on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships.  

Warning: U.S. Citizen Murdered in Nassau - Cruise Passengers Urged to Avoid Travel to the Bahamas!

Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau.

U.S. Attorney Raises Alarm Over Crime - Bahamas "One Shot Away" From Cruise Line Exit.

U.S. Embassy in Nassau Issues Critical Crime Warning.

 

Additional Reading: The New York Times publishes an story called "When Crime Comes to Barbados Cruise CrimeParadise." Written by Michelle Higgins in the Times' "Practical Traveler" section, the article suggests that crime is rising in the Caribbean islands such as Belize, Dominican Republic, and St. Lucia.

Dis-Honorable Mentions:

Barbados: Two British Cruise Passengers Shot in Barbados During P&O World Cruise.

Caymans: Police in Cayman Islands Investigating Sexual Assault of Cruise Ship Passenger.

St. Marteen: Crew Member Shot in St. Marteen.

 

April 23 2014 Update:  St Lucia OnLine: St. Lucia ranked in top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world (read comments to article).

St. Maarten Island Time: Port of St. Maarten Not Listed in Cruise Law News Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World - Destination must remain safe, secure and hospitable.

Barbados Nation News: US Blogger Takes a Swipe at Barbados.

Nassau Guardian: U.S. Based Attorney Lists Bahamas As "Most Dangerous" Cruise Port

The website Cruise Line Fans released its Top 5 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations a couple of years ago, as follows: 1. Antigua,  2. Jamaica,  3. Brazil,  4. Nassau Bahamas,  and 5. cruise ships.

The website Crew Center lists: Mexico, Brazil, Nassau Bahamas, Barcelona Spain and Naples Italy.

Nassau Tribune: U.S. Girl Strangled, Sexually Assaulted in the Bahamas.

 

Photo Credit: 

Crime tape - Crime Will Destroy Us! bahamas B2B.

St. Lucia armed robbery - DBS TV St. Lucia via the Times.

Acapulco killings - "Drug Related Killings on the Rise in Acapulco."

Nassau armed robbery - Caribbean 360.

Barbados Shooting: Splash News/Alamy.

Arrest Made in Roatan for Robberies of Cruise Passengers & Tourists

A number of people have sent me links to news sources in Roatan indicating that the local police arrested a 20 year old islander, identified as Cory Lee Beckner, as a suspect in the robbery of several cruise passengers and tourists.

Teledifusora Insular indicates that the young man is the son of the owner of Palm Beach in Roatan. He allegedly is the "ringleader of a gang" which preyed on tourists to Roatan.

He reportedly was born in the U.S. although he was raised as an "islander" in Roatan. This comes to the surprise of many who blamed the Hondurans from the mainland for causing all of the trouble on their island.

The Trip Advisor site contains a comment by a cruise passenger (from Royal Caribbean) to Roatan which said this about Palm Cory Lee Beckner Roatan Honduras CrimeBeach after a cruise to Roatan last month:

"We booked an excursion from cruiseexcursions.com to go zip lining in South Side, and Eco-tour there and a beach trip to West Bay Tabyana. The local company who facilitated the tours was Christopher tours. For some non-understandable reason, we were taken instead to Palm Beach. There was only one other family there and we got eated up with sand flea bites within minutes of getting there. On the way out from the beach to the main road, we were shot at by robbers. They shot the tire out on our cab, held a gun to my 15 year old sons head and a knife to my 16 year old sons throat and robbed us of money, cameras, phones, shoes and clothes. Apparently this is common on Roatan."

Was 20 year-old Mr. Beckner really involved in this crime or any of the other crimes alleged by tourists who visited Roatan this year? 

Anyone with information regarding the suspect or crime in Roatan, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

More Trouble for Cruise Tourism in Roatan

The Telegraph reports that Cruising Excursions, a company which operates tours exploring Roatan's "fishing villages, mangroves, iguana farms and beaches," announced that it is canceling its tours on the island.

An excursion company representative said that “a string of reports of robberies, violence against visitors and now this horrific murder have forced us to suspend our cruise excursion programme on this beautiful island. "

The newspaper further quoting the spokesperson saying that it is “very sad for the majority of law Roatan Hondurad Cruise Crimeabiding island residents, especially those who make a living from tourism but we cannot recommend cruisers go ashore until we are reassured that measures are in place to protect visitors."

The excursion company also said that all bookings have been canceled with full refunds.

Roatan is in crisis mode trying to respond to the murder of a Filipino crew member from the Norwegian Pearl a week ago. We previously reported on the horrific crime

The excursion company's withdrawal from Roatan is significant because it was based not only on the recent homicide but on what it describes as a string of violent robberies this year. 

We reported on prior armed robberies in January and March

Roatan attended the Cruise Shipping Miami convention in Miami Beach last month to promote its port. I stopped and took a photo of the booth. I thought that it was just a matter of time before something like this happened.

 

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

Bahamas Crime Watch: British Tourist Shot Dead in the Bahamas

The BBC reports that a British citizen from Winnipeg, Canada was shot and killed while visiting the Bahamas earlier this week.

56 year old Edgar Dart was visiting his mother in Emerald Bay, Grand Bahama after his father died. The BBC says that around 7:00 AM on Tuesday, a masked gang of three robbers broke into his mother's home armed with a gun and a machete. The family were tied up with duct tape during the raid and jewelry and personal items were stolen.  Mr. Dart was killed in front of his son, as well as in front of his brother, sister-in-law Edgar Dart - Murder Bahamasand young nephew. 

The Daily Mail reported that “they were forced to look on helplessly as Edgar lay on the floor bleeding to death in front of them. It took him around an hour to die . . . and there was just nothing they could do for him.” 

A family member said: "His young son was there as well - it is barbaric, horrific and just really shocking."

No arrests have been made.

The death was reportedly the 30th murder for the Bahamas this year. The local newspapers, the Nassau Guardian and the Tribune, mentioned the story but do not mention the gruesome details.

The Daily Mail quoted Mr. Dart's brother saying "The police report on the killing is very scant. Crime is on the increase on the island and they do not want such matters reported because they fear it will damage the tourist industry."

We have reported on the high crime rate in the Bahamas on many occasions. Read:

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

U.S. State Department Issues Another Crime Warning About The Bahamas

Bahamas "One Gunshot Away" From Cruise Line Exit
 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Honduran Police Arrest Bay Islands Resident in Murder of NCL Crew Member

A number of news sources are reporting that the national police and special forces in Honduras arrested a suspect last night for the murder of the Norwegian Cruise Line crew member in Roatan.

The Honduran newspaper Tiempo reports that an arrest of Guzman Ramirez has been made in the murder of NCL assistant cook "Jacob."

The suspect was hidden in the home of relatives, located in Coxen Hole, just 400 meters from the murder scene.

Guzman Ramirez Roatan MurderWhile capturing the suspect, the police seized a .38 caliber revolver, allegedly involved in the murder. (The newspaper states that the crew member had two gunshot wounds, one in the left arm and another in the chest).

The newspaper states that the suspect was detained for drug possession in January but was quickly released by the police. 

The Honduran police originally arrested two other suspects but released them.

The newspaper also states that the suspect is originally from the Bay Islands and is not from the mainland of Honduras as many people thought. Many people in Roatan have informed us that the Bay Islands are peaceful and their crime problems mostly stem from the mainland.  

You can see other photographs of the suspect and the arrest here - CAPTURADO HOMICIDA DE FILIPINO.

We were the first in the U.S. to report on this terrible crime. You can read the initial accounts here.

NCL quickly announced that it is pulling its cruise ships from Coxen Hole for at least a week. 

Royal Caribbean is continuing to sail to Roatan although passengers from that cruise line have been robbed at gunpoint.  

Carnival is still sailing to its facility at Mahogany Bay in Roatan despite cruise passengers been robbed at gunpoint

Honduras is one of only two countries (the Bahamas is the other) subject to a critical crime warning from the U.S. state department.  You can read the warning here. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world and has had such a record since 2010.

Will NCL's CEO Kevin Sheehan Pull the Norwegian Pearl, Dawn & Jewel Out of Roatan?

Last month Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) pulled its cruise ships out of Tunis after Tunisian officials at the port prohibited Israeli passengers from entering the country.  

It could have been confusion over visa and immigration issues, but NCL issued a stern public statement condemning what it perceived as discrimination against its Jewish clients. 

“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests. We are outraged by this act . . . "

Yesterday we were the first to report that a Filipino crew member was shot and killed in Roatan. A bandito gunned the crew member down for his cell phone. The crew member bled to death on a main street near the port.

No, the crime was not unforeseeable. No, it was not rare. The U.S. State Department has issued a critical crime warning. Since 2010 Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. The New York Norwegian Pearl Cruise ShipTimes wrote about crime problems in Roatan in January. We published articles this year like this and this about the escalating armed violence in Roatan against U.S. citizens. Women and children have been terrorized by armed criminals in this deceivingly idyllic island. Now a crew employee is dead. 

How will NCL react?

Will NCL be outraged?  Will NCL tolerate such violence? Will NCL send a strong message to Roatan?

Is a Filipino crew member killed in Roatan worth the same as two dozen cruise guests discriminated against in Tunisia?

I certainly think so.  

Roatan has done little to address the armed robberies against cruise passengers and tourists this year. Its reward of a paltry $5,000 (U.S.) for the bad guy responsible for the death yesterday seems awfully meager. I suppose that an island where a criminal will kill for a $250 cell phone will be motivated by a $5,000 bounty for the killer. 

NCL's CEO must act decisively. Sheehan must pull his ships from Roatan. A message must be sent that this is unacceptable. 

Anything less will be an in insult to the NCL crew members and to the memory of Filipino crew member "Jacob."

April 8 2014 Update: NCL just posted this on its Facebook Page:

"Norwegian Cruise Line is shocked and saddened by the tragic death of a crew member from Norwegian Pearl in Roatan, Honduras on Sunday, April 6, 2014.

Police reports indicate the crew member was killed during an attempted robbery while in Roatan. Local officials are investigating and have the alleged suspect in custody.

In an abundance of caution for our guests and crew, we have cancelled calls to Roatan this week for Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Jewel.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the crew member."

April 10 2014 UpdateHonduran Police Arrest Bay Islands Resident in Murder of NCL Crew Member

 

Read our prior article: NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras

This evening we received reliable information that a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member was shot and killed in Roatan, Honduras earlier today.

The crew member reportedly was from NCL's Norwegian Pearl cruise ship.

The only information we received is that a Pearl crew member named "Jacob" from the Philippines was killed by a gunshot today while the Norwegian Pearl was in Roatan today. The murder apparently occurred when the gunman was trying to rob the crew member of his cell phone a short distance form the cruise ship. 

NCL Norwegian Cruise Line Pearl This year we have posted two articles warning about the high crime rate in Roatan. We published the articles last month and in January:

Travel Crime Warning: Tourists Assaulted, Robbed & Terrorized in Roatan, Honduras

Crime in Roatan: Shots Fired, Armed Robbery of Carnival Cruise Passengers

The U.S. State Department issued a warning that the murder rate in Honduras is the highest in the world. 

Before I learned of the murder today, I received the following message on this blog: 

"Honduras is rated the number 1 murder country in Central America for a reason.  . . . People, just remember this, anyone who lives there or owns property there is going to paint you a rosy picture of this place because they can't leave or they have their money invested there. Avoid Roatan."

If you have information about this crime, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Update: The Teledifusora Insular Facebook page identifies the Filipino crew member as Jacob Bagan. It states that the police are searching for someone called "Barrabas" who shot the man and then left his bicycle at the scene. The new mayor of Roatan offers a reward of 100,000 Lempiras (a little over $5,000 U.S.) for the capture of the murderer. There are numerous photographs on the Facebook page, including one of the deceased man that is graphic. Other newspapers are covering the story, including this one, which contains very disturbing images (warning). 

Below is a video from Roatan of the Mayor being interviewed.

April 7 2014 UpdateWill NCL's CEO Kevin Sheehan Pull the Norwegian Pearl, Dawn & Jewel Out of Roatan?

April 10 2014 UpdateHonduran Police Arrest Bay Islands Resident in Murder of NCL Crew Member

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Visitor 7  

U.S. State Department Issues Another Crime Warning About The Bahamas

Two and a half months ago, I was on the front page of the Nassau Guardian warning cruise passengers about crime in Nassau Bahamas following a critical crime warning from the U.S. Embassy.

Yesterday the U.S. Embassy in Nassau issued another crime warning, advising U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on "heightened alert" to avoid being a victim of crime. The warning referred to a number of armed robberies which occured in the last two weeks.

This is the thrid critical crime warning for the Bahamas since December 2013.

The most recent warning states, in part: 

"Armed robbery and violent crime remain major threats facing both U.S. citizens and residents of The Crime Cruise Ship Passengers Nassau BahamasBahamas, including in areas frequented by tourists on New Providence and Grand Bahamas Islands. In the past year, a number of U.S. citizens have fallen victim to armed robbery."

The advisory also suggested that U.S. tourists should "monitor local news stations for updates" and maintain a "high level of vigilance."

You can read the warning here

We have written over a dozen articles about the high crime rate in Nassau. Before booking a cruise, we suggest reading:

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

U.S. Attorney Raises Alarm Over Crime - Bahamas "One Shot Away" From Cruise Line Exit

Have a thought?  Please leave a message below, or join the discussion on Facebook.

Travel Crime Warning: Tourists Assaulted, Robbed & Terrorized in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan Honduras MapIn January we reported on an incident in Roatan where a U.S. family's rental car was shot up while on a beach access road. The family of four (with two children) were robbed at gunpoint and terrorized. The family had arrived in Roatan via a Carnival cruise ship.

This violent crime followed a warning issued in December 2013 by the the U.S. Department of State warning. You can read the warning here. Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. As I mentioned in our prior article, the warning indicates that "the vast majority of serious crimes in Honduras, including those against U.S. citizens, are never solved; of the 50 murders committed against U.S. citizens since 2008, police have only solved two."

This past week we have received complaints from tourists and cruise visitors to Roatan. One woman from the U.S. was attacked after she traveled to Roatan to dive.  Here are her comments:

"I ..i am female..came to roatan to dive and was basically attacked by 3 local men on this island. They assaulted me then robbed me..holding a knife to my neck. I heard them discussing kidnapping me for a ransom..or selling me to a slave market...to be taken out by boat. I got away when another tourist group drove by with several guys in the car. They saved my life. No one should go to this God forsaken island. I have learned a scary and nearly life ending lesson."

Another U.S. woman informed us that she and her two children (boys 15 and 16 years old) were robbed during a private excursion to a beach. They were held at gun point and knifepoint and robbed of all of their valuables. The woman, a single mother, stated that the cruise line, Royal Caribbean, did not warn them that there is a crime problem in Roatan or, in particular, armed robbery at the roads to and from the beaches in Roatan which seems to be a particular problem. The incident occured, according to the woman, at an access road to Palm Beach. 

In addition to these two recent incidents which were reported directly to us by the victims, concerned expatriate U.S. citizens living in Roatan have told us about armed robbery on the island, mainly against people riding in taxi's or driving on beach access roads. We have learned that a taxi with four cruise passengers was recently stopped by two local men at Palm Beach. The men held a knife to a woman's Roatan Honduras Crime - Cruise Passengersthroat and pointed a gun at a man's head. One robber reportedly fired a shot into the taxi. The men stole the cruise tourists' money, cell phones, cameras and other items. 

After our article in January, we received comments from U.S. and Canadians living in Roatan that it was unfair to lump the island of Roatan with the mainland of Honduras as a dangerous place to live or visit. Some property owners who have invested in real estate in Roatan under the hope and belief that they would live in a slice of paradise may be second guessing themselves considering what appears to be increasing violence against people arriving from North America.

Some people don't like us to write articles like this, arguing that "crime occurs everywhere" or just "use common sense." But all of the victims who contacted us were using common sense and doing what people normally do while on a vacation.  The point is that certain types of crime occur more often in certain places than others. The problem is that criminals in these poor countries are targeting U.S. passengers with iPhones, cameras, jewelry and cash. The New York Times recently published an article about crime problems in Roatan: Security Concerns on a Honduran Island.

From our view, there appears to be a rising tide of crime against cruise passengers throughout the Caribbean ports. Honduras and the Bahamas are the only countries we know with port facilities which are the subject of warnings about crime from the U.S. State Department. 

The cruise industry just convened their annual trade show, Cruise Shipping Miami, with much fanfare on Miami Beach. A delegation came from Honduras, promoting Roatan. I wonder what, if any, discussions the delegates from the Caribbean islands had with the cruise lines about keeping cruise passengers safe? 

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

Read our prior article about crime in Roatan.

 

Map & photo credit: Top - Global Healing; Bottom - Jim Walker. 

Cruise Crime Cover Up: Cruise Lines Report Only Small Fraction of Crimes to the Public

WPTV Cruise Ship CrimeWPTV West Palm Beach aired an interesting program last night indicating that the cruise industry reports only a small percentage of crimes committed on cruise ships.

Last year the cruise lines reported only 78 crimes on cruise ships.  However, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the news station located reports of more than 300 crimes on just cruise ships leaving from Florida ports. 

In 2013, the cruise lines disclosed only 14 thefts from cruise ships. However, WPTV's Dan Krauth stated that a FOIA request uncovered 75 thefts on cruise ship on Florida-based cruise ships alone. Under current U.S. law, cruise lines have to report only thefts involving property worth $10,000 or more. So if $9,999 of a passenger's stuff is stolen, the cruise lines keep it secret.

Jewelry, computers, money and other valuables were stolen essentially on every single cruise leaving Florida last year but only a tiny fraction of the thefts were reported by the cruise lines to the police. 

The cruise industry conceals the vast majority of physical assaults, sexual assaults and thefts which happen during cruising. It also touts crime statistics based on the incomplete database, creating a false and misleading impression of what really happens on the high seas. 

 

 

WPTV interviewed me during the program. The news station also cited a publication by our firm's former law clerk, Caitlin Burke, explaining that cruise ships evade U.S. law by incorporating in foreign countries and registering their cruise ships in places like the Bahamas. “Flags of convenience” date all the way back to the 1920s, according to Caitlin E. Burke, an advocate for cruise victims. “Flagging a ship under a foreign flag for the convenience of the cruise line is nothing new, nor is it rare,” Burke wrote in A Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships.

Interested in this issue?  Read Cruise Industry Launches False Crime Statistics Campaign

Credit: video and photograph WPTV

Cruise Industry Launches False Crime Statistics Campaign

After the Costa Concordia capsized, travel agents began telling their clients that such incidents were "rare" and that cruising was "absolutely safe." Some travel agents went as far as to claim that the last time a cruise ship sank was over a 100 years ago when the Titanic struck an iceberg.

Of course this was false. But the travel agents were repeating the talking points issued by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). This was part of a campaign by CLIA to assure the public that cruising was safe and sound. You can read about the false and misleading campaign by the cruise industry here: Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash.

Holland America LineIt seems like the cruise industry is now back at work spreading falsehoods again.

Following the vicious rape, beating and attempted murder of the 31 year old passenger aboard the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam, HAL's president Stein Kruse released a statement claiming that "no incident like this has occurred in our company's 140-year history."

Of course this is false too. Just last month a 18 year old girl was raped by an officer on the Amsterdam cruise ship, according to an article written by another lawyer here in Miami who represents victims of sexual assault on cruise ships.

The official Coast Guard portal also reveals that there recently have been reported rapes of women on HAL cruise ships, including assaults committed by crew members. 

The sexual assault of women and children is a problem which the cruise industry avoids discussing. When pressed to mention the issue, the cruise lines always say that sexual assaults are "rare." 

A year and a half ago, I wrote an article revealing 23 Reports of Sexual Assault on NCL Cruise Ships in 15 Months. I have also mentioned that Royal Caribbean reportedly experienced 24 sexual assaults during the same year. 

But the cruise lines will never acknowledge the true numbers. In its press releases, the cruise industry invariably fudges the numbers.  The cruise lines were successful in altering the language of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act such that only those cruise ship crimes reported to and closed by the FBI needed to be disclosed to the public. The problem was that not all cruise ship crimes are reported to the FBI and the FBI keeps most files open.

The result is that only a tiny portion of cruise ship crimes is ever publicly disclosed, according to a report by the Senate Commerce Committee. Of 959 crimes reported to the FBI for a 18 month period in 2011 and 2012, only 31 were disclosed on a web site maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

In addition to the cover-up of crimes, the cruise lines have been adept at keeping the cause of cruise ship disappearances secret. 

HAL has been unable to explain why the last five passengers who disappeared from HAL cruise ships Cruise Ship Crimewent overboard. Several of these passengers were women who disappeared from their cabins. HAL always seems to argue that the passengers committed suicide.

If the 31 year old woman recently victimized on the Nieuw Amsterdam had not fought her attacker off, and she disappeared during the cruise, what would HAL be saying about her now? Would it accuse her of committing suicide? Would the violent crime become just a "mystery?" A cruise line capable of a whopper like there-has-been-no-woman-attacked-for-140-years is capable of saying anything.

The cruise lines are relying on the CLIA travel agents to relay their false crime statistics and misleading opinions to the public. Travel Pulse just published "Agents: The Front Line In Telling the Real Cruise Story."

The travel publication says:

"Another week and another negative story hits the consumer media in regards to cruising. The latest issue involved a crewmember who is accused of raping and beating a passenger on board a Holland America Line charter.

It’s another challenge for the cruise lines, but an even bigger one for the travel agents who are on the front lines.

                                                     *              *            *             *

Despite what you might see or hear in the consumer media, travelers should seek out the insights and advice of a professional travel agent. They’ll get the true story, and the real numbers, when it comes to that particular story." (Emphasis added)

So what is the "truth" that the cruise lines and travel agents want us to believe in order to buy cruises from them?  

What is the "true story" about the HAL crew member who was, as the travel publication puts it, "accused" of "raping and beating" the passenger?  He has already confessed to raping as well as beating, choking and attempting to murder the poor woman who he tried to throw into the sea.  

And what are the "real numbers?" Do the travel agents really want us to believe that the last time a ship sank before the Concordia was the Titanic in 1912? And there had never been a prior rape of a passenger by a crew member on a HAL cruise ship for 140 years dating back to 1874?    

A travel agent that repeats the tall tales and skewed crime statistics of the cruise lines to their clients, tells them to ignore the media stories (like CNN), and represents that cruising is absolutely safe has a good chance of being sued for fraud if their clients are victimized.  

 

Photo Credit: Nieuw Amsterdam Wikipedia / Cybergoth

Cruise Passenger Sexually Assaulted In Freeport, Bahamas

KTAS - ABC television reports on an undergraduate from Texas who was assaulted while ashore in the Bahamas during a Carnival cruise.

The young woman states that she wanted to smoke marijuana during her stop over in Freeport, but she was assaulted while in port. 

The story was previously reported by WKMG.

The Bahamas is one country where crimes in general and sexual assaults in particular pose a substantial danger to cruise ship passengers. We have written many times about crimes in the ports of call in the Caribbean. But a cruise passenger invites trouble trying to buy pot while ashore. 

The video also discusses that the murder rates in many of the countries in the Caribbean where the cruise lines sail have a serious problem with crime.  for example, the murder rate in St. Thomas is 10 times higher than the U.S. and the murder rate in Honduras is 20 times higher. 

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Human Resources FAIL: Cruise Lines Don't Conduct Background Checks of Their Crew Members

Following the horrific crime perpetrated by the Holland America Line crew member against the passenger on the Nieuw Amsterdam cruise ship on Valentine's Day, the cruise industry is pulling out all of the stops to convince the public that the cruise lines carefully screens their employees.

But it's not true. 

Cruise lines don't vet their crew members.

The foreign flagged, foreign incorporated cruise industry delegates the obligation to third-party foreign hiring agents to try and screen the applicants. Countries like Indonesia, India, and the countries in the Cruise Ship CrimeCaribbean & Central America have no computerized electronic data-base base of criminals, perverts, sex offenders or pedophiles which can be carefully cross referenced with social security numbers, driver's license numbers, and passport numbers. There is no infrastructure in a place like Nicaragua or Goa to search to make certain that the prospective employees isn't a sociopath.  There are no U.S. human resource specialists involved. It's a random, unsophisticated, "hit-or-miss" task conducted (or not) by hiring agents far-far-away who make money when they place people from around the world on U.S. based cruise ships.  

In places like India and the Caribbean, the hiring agents often accept (require) money from the applicant in order to get a job on a cruise ship. The system is often based on bribery.

In places like Jamaica, the applicant has to obtain a certificate from a constable certifying that the applicant has no criminal record. But there is no computerized data-base for the local police in Ocho Rios, for example, to check whether a Jamaican has committed a crime in Negril or Kingston or other places in Jamaica. After a favor from an uncle or a little pay-o-la to a policeman who's making only $250 a month, anyone can appear with a stamped "I'm-not-a-crook" certificate and hop aboard a cruise ship.

We have seen the official cruise line hiring agents in India tell the applicants that unless they list the Four Seasons, or the Hyatt, or the Hilton as a prior job, they would not be hired as a waiter on a Celebrity cruise ship. Falsification of a resume is not only a common practice, it's often required by the cruise lines' hiring agents.

There's no chance of screening out pedophiles or child molesters. Think your cabin attendant is carefully screened and vetted? No country in Central America or the Far East has a state-of-the-art database tied to someone's criminal history.  If a pedophile shows up with a certificate from God-knows-who that he is not a criminal, he's welcome aboard.

The worst ones involved in this rotten system are not foreign countries but the cruise lines themselves. If a crew member aboard Disney has been fired on suspicion of molesting a child, Disney won't tell Carnival or Royal Caribbean. The security personnel of the cruise lines meet every 60 days. They may discuss the risk of a jihadist terrorist attack, but they don't tell each other about pedophiles in their own cruise ship's kid's centers or rapist-employees who molest teenage girls during cruises. They just fire them and hope they go away.

We have seen cases where a crew member who was fired after he drugged and raped our client ended up later on a Princess cruise ship, and another crew member who was fired after raping another one of our clients later join a NCL cruise ship.

Cruise lines tout that crew members are "vetted by the U.S. Government prior to issuance of a visa." Hogwash. All a crew member needs is a C1/D visa. That's called a "seaman's visa." There is no investigation or rigorous screening at all.  A "seaman's visa" is also called a "transit visa."  It permits a foreign crew member simply to transit through the airport and be taken to the ship.  It's easy to obtain and essentially just involves an administrative task to obtain one. There is no interview; it's just paper work.  It's completely different from a B1/B2 tourist visa which requires an interview and a strict review of a candidate's background. Most tourist via applicants are rejected; seaman transit visas are rarely turned down.

A couple of years ago I wrote about a former Eastern European who allegedly raped a child in California. He was on the "Most Wanted" list in a city in California. But he was hired to work on a Carnival cruise Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Shipship which routinely sailed into and out of California. He previously worked on other cruise ships after he allegedly raped the child. Crew member Kaloyanov was a fugitive from justice for 8 years but was safe working in the cruise industry. 

U.S. Customs and Immigration officials in California, who are suppose to check the crew and passenger rosters every time a ship enters a U.S. port, failed to realize that Kaloyanov was a criminal suspect - even though he was on a "Most Wanted" database of a city in California!

The resourceful California police finally caught up with the crew member when they Googled his name and found photographs of him on line standing in front of a cruise ship. The police then determined that Kaloyanov had worked for Carnival Cruise Lines for four years, as a fitness instructor and the manager of a hair salon on a Carnival ship.

Its a shame that the cruise lines' "rigorous" pre-employment screening does not even include Googling the applicant's name.  You can read about this case: 

Most Wanted Rape Suspect Arrested On Carnival Cruise Ship - Worked As Manager Of On Board Hair Salon      

My view:  99% of crew members are honest, hard-working individuals trying to support their families back home. But there are perverts, predators and nut cakes everywhere. The problem is that cruise lines try and save money by sloughing their obligations off to mostly disinterested or sometimes corrupt far-away agents that they don't vet themselves. There is no way this doomed system will successfully weed out the criminals who will prey on unsuspecting cruise passengers and their children.

 

I suggest reading: USA TODAY's "Who's working on the cruise ships you're sailing aboard?"

Please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credits:

Top: Broward Country Sheriff's Office

Bottom: Wikipedia / Cybergoth

Tonight on WKMG -TV 6 Orlando: "Top Cruise Spots Also Top List for Crime"

Disney Cruise Ship Crime - ChildrenTonight at 11:00 P.M. WKMG-TV 6 (CBS Orlando) will air a special report on crimes which occur during cruises, including ports of call.

Investigative producer Lauren Sweeney and investigative reporter Tony Pipitone take a look at dangers ashore in countries like the Bahamas where cruise passengers have recently been robbed at gunpoint and sexually assaulted. 

We have written extensively about the high crime rate in Nassau which has led to the U.S. State Department recently issuing two warnings that crime in Nassau is "critical."  

If you are a victim of crime in a place like Nassau, unfortunately neither the local police or the cruise line will do much at all.

Last year this WKMG investigative team aired the disturbing story of a 33 year old waiter on a Disney cruise who molested an 11 year old girl. Rather than report the crime immediately to the FBI, local police in Port Canaveral, or the sheriff's office, the cruise line sailed the ship out of the U.S. port to Nassau where the police there did nothing. Disney then flew the pedophile crew member back home to India.

Photo Credit: WKMG TV-6 (CBS Orlando) 

The video below is a three minute introduction of the special tonight.

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Elderly Couple on Thomson Celebration Brutally Assaulted

A newspaper in the U.K. reports on a "dream luxury cruise turned into a holiday from hell" when an elderly couple were brutally assaulted by a fellow passenger. 

The Gazette Live states that the violent crime occurred aboard the Thomson Celebration. The woman suffered "serious spinal injuries" and her husband incurred "serious facial injuries." Both victims were taken to the hospital. 

A spokesperson for the cruise line said the assailant left the cruise after the attack, and that it "is very Thomson Celebrationsorry to hear of the injuries." 

“We would like to reassure our customers that their safety is of paramount importance and incidents such as this are extremely rare.”

Cases like this never cease to amaze me.

Instead of apprehending the assailant and confining him to the brig or secluding him to his cabin under the watch of a guard, the cruise line lets him disembark and escape justice. Invariably, the cruise line's PR team expresses condolences and claims that the crime is "rare."

In my opinion, the captains and security officers of cruise ships which permit assailants to flee justice should be arrested for aiding and abetting a criminal.

The cruise ship sailed from Santa Cruz in Tenerife to exotic ports like Las Palmas, Santa Cruz, Funchal and Agadir in Morocco.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / ozgurmulazimoglu

Carnival-Owned AIDA Cruises Pulls Out of Margarita Island, Venezuela After Murder of Passenger

Margarita Island Venezuela Cruise MurderToday there is a report in El Universal newspaper that German cruise line AIDA Cruises announced the suspension of its two next port calls on Margarita Island, Venezuela. 

Last week we reported that a 76 year old passenger was shot and killed while ashore on an excursion from the Aida Luna cruise ship.

Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world. 

The newspaper quoted the president of the Nueva Esparta Chamber of Tourism, stating:

"This was expected to happen, because security has a direct effect on tourism; hence we insist on saying that time has come to go from words to action. Not only we need police, but the fact of the matter is creating wellbeing in the region in order to minimize crime; there is the need to combat impunity with all the strength we have."

In many ways, there are other countries in the Caribbean which are exactly in this Venezuelan island's precarious situation. I was interviewed by the Nassau Guardian last month about the high crime and murder rates in Nassau and the threat presented to cruise passengers. I said that Nassau was "one gunshot away" from losing its cruise ship business.  I expect Carnival to up and leave if and when a Carnival passenger is shot.

In Margarita Island, which is in the Caribbean, this turned out to be the case.     

The Aida Luna is owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by AIDA Cruises.

I suspect other islands in the Caribbean are holding their breath, afraid that a cruise tourist will become a murder statistic.  

 

Photo (Map) Credit: David Gouaze 

America Now: Cruise Ship Crime

Cruise Ship CrimeToday, "America Now - News You Can Use" aired a video about the issue of cruise ship crimes.

The video shows images of 15 cruise passengers who were victimized during cruises. 

Although cruising appears to be a "hassle-free" vacation, there are crimes which occur. The number one crime is sexual assault, with over 30% of such crimes involving minors.

One of the problems with crimes on cruise ships is that there is no independent police force.  The security personnel are employees of the cruise line. There is a conflict of interest which occurs when a passenger is victimized, particularly when the assailant is a crew member.  

Interviewed during the program are Jamie Barnett, the President of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, and Laurie Dishman who was sexually assaulted during a Royal Caribbean cruise to Mexico.

Photo Credit: NBC

 

 

Cruise Passenger Murdered in Venezuela's Margarita Island

Yesterday a cruise passenger was murdered while ashore in Venezuela's Margarita island.

The international press reports that "a gunman shot dead an elderly German tourist on Venezuela's Margarita island," in the latest incident "illustrating the country's rampant crime." 

Reuters identified the dead man as Goldhahm Hors Kurt, age 76, from Germany.

A German cruise blog explains that the cruise tourist had gone ashore on an excursion from the Carnival owned Aida Aida LunaLuna cruise ship. The crime occurred at a tourist shop in a shopping center.

The El Universal newspaper says that two armed robbers on a motorcycle tried to rob the tourists. A struggle ensued and Mr. Kurt was shot and killed.

Venezuela's murder rate is one of the highest in the world, and reflects a trend we have observed of substantially higher crime against tourists in the Caribbean region. Last month a former Venezuelan beauty queen and soap opera star Monica Spear was shot and killed when she returned to her homeland. 

The Venezuela Tourism Minister tweeted (@IzarraDeVerdad) his condolences and said that authorities were pursuing the criminals. However, newspapers state that over 90% of murders in Venezuela remain unsolved.

The Aida Luna is a Sphinx class cruise ship, owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by AIDA Cruises.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Frank Schwichtenberg / GNU Free Documentation License 

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Police Refuse to Release True Rape & Shooting Statistics

Cruise Crime Nassau BahamasWe have recommended in prior articles that people thinking of cruising to the Bahamas should first read the local news papers in Nassau.

Today the Tribune published two interesting articles which cruise passengers and crew members should consider reading.

The first article is entitled "Hospital Reports Show 40% More Rapes Than Police Statistics." The newspaper reports that "Princess Margaret Hospital (where tourists are often seen after being raped in Nassau or on cruise ships arriving in port) officials dealt with 147 rape cases in 2013. However, official crime statistics released by the authorities last month, reported 104 cases."

A governmental official told the Tribune:

“Clearly there is a huge discrepancy with what the police are publishing. I don’t want to come out and say they are fudging the stats, but the actuality is that the police are not being upfront with the public on crime.”

Crime Nassau BahamasThe second article is entitled "Hospital Says 519 Shot Or Stabbed Yet Only 10 Attempted Murders Recorded."

519  people were shot or stabbed in 2013 according to Princess Margaret Hospital records, yet only 10 attempted murders were recorded by the local police department.

The newspaper concluded that the statistical disparities raise questions about the possible deliberate manipulation of crime statistics.

A doctor at the hospital told the newspaper that the "impact of violent crime on providing care to patients has been unbelievably onerous."

We have mentioned many times that crime has reached an epidemic level in Nassau.  

Mostly against the local citizens, the violent armed robberies and sexual assaults also affect cruise passengers who disembark in Nassau thinking it is a tropical paradise.

The U.S. Embassy and State Department have already issued two critical crime reports about murder, armed robbery and rape in Nassau in the last six weeks based on the "official" Bahamian crime statistics.

Cruise passengers traveling to Nassau should read these articles.

They should consider that the rapes, shootings and stabbings in Nassau are even worse than the local Bahamian police are reporting.

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

Nassau Bahamas - Crime WarningThe newspapers in Nassau continue to report the high rate of armed robberies and murder. 

If you are thinking of taking a cruise to Nassau, don't trust the U.S. based cruise lines or U.S. travel agents to be transparent with you. That would be a mistake. There are hundreds of millions of dollars to be made in cruise fares, cruise excursions and cruise commissions from people sailing into Nassau. 

The local newspapers in Nassau are straight forward in reporting crime. The crime problem mostly affects the local Bahamians but it also involved crimes against cruise passengers and tourists. Check out these local newspapers in Nassau: Tribune; Guardian; Bahamas B2B, Bahamas Press, and Nassau Punch. And check out the Bahamas Police Depatrment. Bookmark them and read the news articles and information for a couple of weeks before you book a cruise. 

Here are a few highlights over the last month:

United States Issues Another Crime Warning For The Bahamas: 2 days ago the U.S. Embassy issued yet another crime warning. The new advisory warns US citizens traveling in the Bahamas of a “crime spike” in the country. "The Embassy said that a number of US citizens had fallen victim to armed robbery and two had been murdered in the last eight months." Read the chilling advisory here.

Two tourists were robbed of their belongings and a rental car at gunpoint: "The man and woman were on Jaws Beach in western New Providence when they were approached by two men who Crime in Nassau Bahamasproduced a weapon, took a backpack containing cash and other items." The U.S. Embassy says that the robbers carried an "assault rifle."

"Nassau is Bloodier Than New York" From the Tribune in Nassau: "New York City is much, much safer than small New Providence, despite that US city’s massive size. Of every 25,035 New York City resident, only one was murdered in 2013. Conversely, of every 2,100 Nassauvian, one was murdered in 2013."

Tourism Conference To Debate Issue Of Crime: "US Embassy officials issued a crime warning to Americans living in and travelling to New Providence and Grand Bahama. In the advisory, the murders of two Americans over the past eight months and numerous armed robberies were pinpointed."

Challenging the Status Quo of Crime in the Caribbean:  "2014 began with crimes rates soaring ridiculously high in the Caribbean."

Are Bahamian officials safe?  In December, the Acting Prime Minister Philip Davis was robbed at gunpoint. A few days ago, a police officer assigned to guard a residence of the Prime Minister Christie was arrested on suspicion of stealing a television at the residence. The latter is a petty crime I know, but you have to shake your head when the bad guys are bold enought to stick up the Acting Prime Minister and the police are stealing from the Prime Minister.

"Two men armed with guns robbed a pre-school while more than 100 students attended classes." From pre-schools full of children to the highest governmental officials, no one seems safe in this beautiful island. 

 

Have a thought? Leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: 

Top: Bahamas B2B

Bottom: Tribune

Disney's Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas: Are Passengers Staying on the Cruise Ship?

Crime Nassau BahamasToday I received something from a cruise passenger who reads this blog that I don't see very often - a cruise line providing warnings to their passengers about crime in a port of call.

We have written a number of articles recently about the high rate of crime in Nassau.  The U.S. Embassy released the warning from the U.S. State department calling the armed robbery and murder rates in the Bahamas to be "critical."

The Nassau Guardian interviewed me about the problem and I said that Nassau was "one gunshot away" from the cruise lines leaving.

We have heard that Carnival and Disney are warning cruise passengers to be careful going ashore in Nassau. This is the first actual written warning we have ever seen.

I think the warning is missing some things, like a reference to the fact that the U.S. Department of State issued an official warning and characterized the armed robbery rate as "critical."

The warning is a bit watered down too. Disney says that you need to take precautions in Nassau "as in an large city" or in any "tourist destination." The truth is that Nassau has a higher violent crime rate than any large U.S. city other than, perhaps, Detroit. Everyone knows about Detroit being dangerous. But lots of tourists are fooled into believing that Nassau is a tropical paradise.

And what on earth does Disney mean when it says use the same level of precaution like you were in "any tourist destination." Like you were in Disney World? The warning loses its effectiveness. Lots of travel agents say things like this. "Crime occurs everywhere," but that's an assurance not a warning. The truth is that crime occurs more often in certain places, like Nassau. The point is that crime in Nassau is critical. Its unlike any other tourist destinations. That's the point of the State Department warning in the first place.

As I have suggested in prior articles, we suggest that people thinking of buying a cruise to the Caribbean first read the daily newspapers in Nassau before selecting Nassau as a destination on your cruise itinerary.  The Tribune (photo, above), the Bahamas Press and the Guardian are excellent sources of information. 

The passenger who sent us the warning, a mother traveling with her children, commented:

"I have never seen such a busy port day on board the ship. Hard to find room in a pool or a chair. Looks like many stayed on board."

I'm wondering how many passengers are deciding to stay on the ship, when they reach Nassau, because of concern that their family members could be a victim of crime.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Disney Cruise Crime Warning in Nassau

Travel Weekly: "The New Wave of Attacks on the Cruise Industry"

Travel Weekly published an article today entitled The New Wave of Attacks on the Cruise Industry. It was written by a contributing editor, Richard Turen, who runs a travel agency and a marketing group.

Its an interesting article which discusses who Mr. Turen views as the critics of the cruise industry.

He discusses cruise expert Ross Klein, a professor in Canada, who has testified before Congress several times about man overboard cases and crime against children on ships. Dr. Klein also operates the website CruiseJunkie which is the definitive compilation of most everything which goes wrong while cruising.  

Travel Weekly Richard TurenHe also discusses me and rewards me as the "king of anti-cruise tirades" and the "most visible critic of the industry."

Here are a few sentences from Mr. Turen's article:

"To give you a flavor of Walker's site, let me quote some of the reasons he does not recommend cruise vacations:

  • 'Cruise lines are a perfect place to sexually abuse children.'
  • 'Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL are corporate felons.'
  • 'If you are retired or a child, the cruise line considers your life worthless.'

Jim Walker has appeared on every major news outlet and frequently testifies before Congress. So his impressive background and litigation record against cruise lines must be taken seriously. His goal is clearly stated on his website:

'If travel agents are going to hawk cruises by advertising all the reasons why you should take your family on a cruise, trust us that we will provide you with the other side of the story.'

Check back on our blog later this afternoon. I'll publish my response to Mr. Turen's article and place some of his comments in context and perspective. He has raised some interesting issues which deserve discussion and a larger audience.

January 24 2014 Update: Don't miss reading our response to the Travel Weekly article.

 

Photo Credit: Travel Weekly

Crime in Roatan: Shots Fired, Armed Robbery of Carnival Cruise Passengers

A week ago, a popular cruise line blogger wrote a glowing review of the port of Roatan, Honduras as a wonderful place that cruise passengers should consider. But nowhere in the review was there any mention of the high crime rate there. The murder rate in Honduras is the highest of any country that a cruise line could choose.

The blogger posted the review on Twitter. I thought that he was out of his mind.

So I questioned on Twitter why he didn't mention Honduras' high crime and murder rate? I posted the the U.S. Department of State's warning.

Carnival Conquest RoatanToday I read a message which had been posted by a Carnival cruise ship passenger, traveling with his wife and three girls, on a Facebook page of a friend called the "Missing America's Project:"

"ROATAN WARNING! 02 JANUARY 2014. SHOTS FIRED AT MY FAMILY. RENTAL CAR HIT BY BULLET, ROBBED AT GUNPOINT. Please use extreme caution if traveling to Roatan, an island cruise destination off the coast of Honduras."

You can read the rest of the message below.

One of the problems is that travel agents and cruise line do not warn cruise passengers of the dangers of crime in the Caribbean ports of call where crime is a real problem.  Some cruise lines provide luke-warm warnings in publications provided to the passengers on the cruise ship, but only after the families have already purchased their tickets and are sailing to the port.

The U.S. Department of State warning is accessible here. It is ominous. Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. In addition, "The vast majority of serious crimes in Honduras, including those against U.S. citizens, are never solved; of the 50 murders committed against U.S. citizens since 2008, police have only solved two."

The family robbed stated that another family sailing with Carnival had a shotgun pointed at them on a van during a sight-seeing excursion.

Here's the message posted on the Facebook Page:

"This past Thursday, during our Carnival Cruise port call, while driving on a beach access road on the northeast side of the island, a masked gunman sprung from the bushes about 30 feet in front of our car. With no warning he aimed and fired his semi-automatic weapon, striking the front hood of our rental vehicle. My wife and our three daughters, ages 8, 14, and 15, were with me. My immediate reaction was to put the car in reverse and try to back down the gravel/dirt access road to distance my family from the gunman. I wrecked the rental after driving approximately 75 yards in high speed reverse. The gunman pursued us on foot with pistol drawn. I got out of the car and when the gunman arrived he proceeded to rob us of cash, iPhones and camera. The encounter lasted approximately three minutes, and for most of that time he had his gun pointed either at me or at my daughters.

The gunman was 20-25 years old (best guess), brown native skin, black hair, about 5'8" tall, and weighed approximately 200 lbs. He spoke almost perfect "Island English".

Carnival has responded by providing comfort to my family, and has handled this incident in a caring and professional manner. The local police are investigating.

Roatan has only one major east/west running paved road. Many of the beaches and tourist destinations are located away from this paved road, and must be accessed by driving on un-paved secondary roads through rural "jungle" areas. Use extreme caution when off the main path, especially when in a highly noticeable rental car.

Also on the same day, another cruise guest had a shotgun pointed at his family while on a sight-seeing guided van tour. They were also on a remote un-paved side road." 

March 20 2014 Update: Travel Crime Warning: Tourists Assaulted, Robbed & Terrorized in Roatan, Honduras.

 

Thinking of visiting Roatan Honduras? Read the Missing Americans Project first.

Photo Credit: Sven Manguard / Wikimedia

Cruising to Nassau? Don't Trust Your Travel Agent, the Cruise Line or Bahamas' Tourism Bureau. Read the Local Newspapers in Nassau Before You Book!

Recently there have been a number of signs that crime in the port of Nassau is out of control.

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau and the U.S. Department of States issued warnings that crime and armed robbery have reached "critical" levels. 

The crime has affected all aspects of life in Nassau. There are armed robberies in the bars, restaurants, nightclubs, streets, beaches, by-the-Atlantis-Resort, on Bay Street, outside of churches, during excursions, in homes, in cars and on routes to and from the cruise ships.

Recently, I learned about crime ranging from the armed robbery in Nassau of a pre-school with 100 children in attendance (two days ago) to the armed robbery of the Acting Prime Minister and his wife in their home (last month). 

Did travel agents inform me of this information? Did the cruise lines disclose this? Did the Bahamian tourism officials state this? 

Of course not.

I learned information of this type from two sources. First, from passengers who call our office and tell us what happens ashore in Nassau. Secondly, by reading the local on-line press in Nassau.

The local major newspapers in Nassau are excellent. The are transparent. And unlike the local police or the businesses which are wholly dependent on money from the cruise ships, they do not act like tourism officials who say "its better in the Bahamas" regardless whether that's true.

Travel agents, by and large, seem more interested in their commissions than telling you the hard facts. They may tell you that "crime occurs everywhere" and ask why pick on Nassau because U.S. cities have more than their fair share of crime. But everyone knows Detroit is a war zone. But few people know that Nassau is too. I doubt that a travel agent, the cruise line or the local tourism people will disclose that the homicide and armed robbery rates in Nassau are some of the highest in the world.

The cruise lines don't want to scare you away as a customer. They may tell you to be careful in Nassau, but only after they have already sold you a cruise to the Bahamas.

Our recommendation? Read the local newspapers in Nassau. Most of the crime reports as well as the positive things about Nassau are covered by the local press. 

Here are the newspapers you need to read if you are thinking of sailing your family to Nassau:

Tribune

Guardian  

After you have read the Nassau newspapers, make an informed decision whether you think its safe for your family to travel there.

January 10 2014 Update: In addition, check out these on line media sources in the Bahamas:

BahamasPress

NassauPunch

Freeport Nassau Guardian

Bahamas Police Department

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / TampAGS, for AGS Media

Nassau Bahamas: "One Gunshot Away" From Losing Cruise Lines

Yesterday the Nassau Guardian published an interview of me discussing the crime situation in Nassau which cruise passengers face when disembarking at the port.

You can read that interview here: "U.S. attorney raises alarm over crime - Bahamas 'one gunshot away' from cruise line exit says maritime lawyer who represents victims." My opinion is that Carnival and the other cruise lines will let matters in Nassau play out as they long as they can. But an armed robbery of a passenger ending in death will probably result in the cruise lines pulling out, as they have done in the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix) and Mexico. 

Today the cruise line responded to my interview. A representative of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Jim Walker Cruise Lawyer Nassau CrimeAssociation (FCCA) was interviewed in an article "Passenger perception is the key for cruise lines." Her opinions were interesting. She said that its not the crime, but the passengers' perception of whether Nassau is dangerous, which is important.  I suppose that raises the issue of whether the cruise lines and travel agents are warning passengers before they buy their cruises, which doesn't seem to be the case.   

As matters now stand, most travel agents don't warn passengers about Nassau. When challenged on social media whether they issue warnings to their clients about armed robbery in Nassau (which the U.S. Department of State warns about), most travel agents didn't want to talk about it.

Carnival warns passengers before they cruise into Nassau. The FCCA representative disputes the term "warning." She said that the advisories are "merely information the cruise lines are obligated to provide."

So we are left with the reality versus perception game. Expect a renewed effort in the media from the Bahamas tourism officials to convince the U.S. public that cruising to Nassau remains safe, irrespective of the actual crime rate. 

A Cruise Passenger's Perspective: Local Newspapers in Nassau, Bahamas Paint Grim Image of Armed Robberies & Murders

On Friday, I published an article regarding whether travel agents and cruise lines are warning passengers about the high rate of violent crime in Nassau. My article followed an article in the Tribune newspaper in Nassau reporting on the cruise industry's concern with crime against its passengers and crew members, as well as the U.S. State Department warning of the risk to tourists of armed robbery. 

My impression is that whereas Carnival is warning its passengers of high crime ashore in Nassau, the other cruise lines are not. And while some travel agents are transparent with their clients and tell them the sad news about Nassau, many have a cavalier attitude of "crime happens everywhere" or "nothing Nassau Bahamas Crimehas happened to me there" type of approach.

The article - Is Your Travel Agent or Cruise Line Warning You of Crime in the Bahamas? - also hit a nerve with the residents of the Bahamas. In comments to my article, I received two reactions from the Bahamas community. One sentiment was "yes, its dangerous here." The other reaction was a mixture of denial and strange patriotism "no, don't malign my country, Miami is more dangerous."

But the truth is that Nassau is more dangerous than Miami, New York, or Los Angeles, and does not compare well to even Detroit which is the murder capital of the U.S. In terms of armed robberies and murders, a U.S. citizen cannot travel to a more dangerous city in the U.S. compared to Nassau. And unlike these U.S. cities, Nassau is dependent on tourists arriving by cruise ship. The Miami-based cruise lines are finally talking about pulling out of Nassau if such high crime affecting their guests doesn't improve.   

The Bahamas used to advertise that "it's better in the Bahamas." I don't know if it does anymore. A more accurate description would be "it's more dangerous in the Bahamas."

Perhaps some of the remote islands of the Bahamas are safer, but that's not where the cruise lines unload thousands of people a day.

Last month, the Acting Prime Minister of the Bahamas was the victim of armed robbery (see photos on our Facebook page here).  Earlier this year, a 74 year-old female U.S. diplomat was the victim of an armed robbery on a Sunday morning downtown Nassau while walking to church. A few months ago, we wrote about the open letter to the Tribune newspaper about crime penned by Bahamian Senator Bostwick who talked about "regular random robbery of tourists."   

Many in the Bahamas dependent on the U.S. dollars of the cruise passengers say that violence finds only those tourists who "go over the hill" looking for drugs or sex. Similarly, many U.S. travel agents tell their clients that everything will be fine if you stick with the other passengers in the cruise approved excursions ashore.

But I will always think of the Bahamas as the only place where armed robbers have targeted cruise passengers to rob in bulk on multiple occassions. I'm talking about the armed robbery of 11 passengers visiting the Queen's Staircase on a quiet Sunday afternoon and, a month later, the armed robbery and terrorizing of 18 cruise passengers during a cruise excursion to a nature's preserve.

I have been accused of exaggerating things. My response is don't read my blog. Read the local newspapers in Nassau - the Tribune and the Guardian.  They are filled daily with stories of violent crime. I selected ten front page headlines from the Tribune in the last month or so to post on our Facebook page. Here are a few recent headlines:

"Man shot down in street," "7 shot, 1 killed at peace party," Murder count over 2012 total," and "Four dead in 36 hours of violence." The headlines go on and on.

You can see the articles from the Tribune here.

I doubt any cruise lines or travel agents want any of their customers to read these articles when deciding their cruise itinerary.  

Armed Robbery of Jewelry Store in Cayman Islands While 5 Cruise Ships Visit

Cayman 27 reports that three armed men robbed a jewelry store in downtown George Town, Cayman Islands this morning. It was initially reported that shots were fired during the robbery although no one was injured. The local newspaper now indicates that the local police deny that shots were fired. 

The armed robbery occurred while five cruise ships, with over 14,000 passengers, were in port. 

The Cayman 27's report indicates that the jewelry heist occurred at Diamonds International, which Diamonds International Cayman Islandsis located across the street from the cruise terminal.

The island's police commissioner reportedly drove his vehicle into the robbers’ getaway car.

Taxi and tour operators were involved in chasing and apprehending the robbers. A tour operator broke his arm during the chase.

The robbery occurred when cruise passengers were in port. The Cayman 27 article has photographs of the robbers, crashed cars and one of the guns involved in the robbery. It also has a photo of tourists with cameras around their necks at the scene.  

Crime in the Caribbean islands is an issue which we discuss regularly on this blog. Crime in ports of call in the Caribbean is increasing, especially in the Bahamas, Honduras and St.Thomas, although the Cayman Islands is generally not considered to be dangerous.

The U.S. Department of State states that: "the crime threat in Cayman Islands is generally considered low, although travelers should always take normal precautions when in unfamiliar surroundings. Petty theft, pick-pocketing and purse snatchings occur. A few cases involving sexual assault have been reported to the Embassy."

We have written about crime against cruise passengers in the Cayman Islands before, including the rape of a teenager from a Carnival cruise ship.

Cruise lines promote the ports of call as tropical paradises. Many passengers are lured into the world of cruise fantasies and lower their guard.

 

Photo Credit: TripAdvisor

Three Men Charged With Assault on P&O Ferries Spirit of France

As a maritime lawyer in Miami Florida, I have mostly followed and reported on the schenanigans of the Miami-based cruise lines.

But after learning of the plight of the Fearnside family who lost their son, Richard, on a P&O ferry based in the U.K, I have broadened my horizons.

What on earth is going on with the U.K. based ferries? It sounds like they are technologically stuck back in the 1950's, maybe the 40's.  

P&O Ferries says that CCTV cameras on open decks is impossible. But P&O Ferries has lots of CCTV cameras on its duty free booze in the ferry's shops. But not on its decks where passengers have disappeared. It has no automatic man overboard detection systems. I suppose that's impossible too.

Poppycock.

Tonight we learn from Kent On Line that Port of Dover police charged three men after assaulting a passenger on board the P&O Spirit of France ferry, causing bodily harm. They are also jointly charged with threatening unlawful violence towards others.    

Violence on a P&O ferry? Seems so. I'd like to review the CCTV cameras to see what the police in Kent can prove. P&O does have that basic capability, right?     

Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

PO Ferries Spirit of France

Photo Credit:  Spirit of France - Wikipedia / 2013harry

Cruise Crime & Missing People: Are Cruise Lines Telling You the Truth?

The non-profit International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization released an interesting press statement today.

Earlier this year, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee convened a hearing about protecting cruise ship passengers. Senator Rockefeller planned to introduce legislation which required the cruise industry to report crimes and overboards which occur on cruise ships.

Under intense pressure before the Senate committee, the executives of the three major U.S. based cruise lines (Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean) promised at the outset of the hearing to begin to "voluntarily" report cruise ship crimes and man overboard situations. Was this an earnest commitment to transparency or a last Cruise Ship Safety ditch effort to stave off legislation?

My son and I were at the hearing. The first thing I thought was "sounds good, but what tricks are the cruise lines up to this time?"

Shortly after the hearing, the cruise line began to post their crime and man-overboard data.

Royal Caribbean and sister line Celebrity Cruises quickly proved that they can't be trusted. They chose to disclose only three (3) overboard persons for the time period from October 2010 to June 2013. As explained in our article Cruise Line "Voluntary" Crime & Man-Overboard Disclosures: Royal Caribbean's Data Is Incomplete and Misleading, at least eleven (11) persons went overboard during this time period.  

Royal Caribbean was particularly sneaky. It chose to define man-overboards as excluding all crew members and included only U.S. passengers. In the process, Royal Caribbean summarily excluded eight men who were either crew members or were non-U.S. citizens who went overboard.   

So instead of learning the complete story about people disappearing from Royal Caribbean ships, the public learned of only 27% of the truth (only 3 out of 11). This is exactly the type of deceitful conduct that Senator Rockefeller wanted to avoid.

So what tricks were played by Royal Caribbean's competitor, Carnival?

The ICV press statement today reveals that Carnival Corporation, which owns Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa, HAL, P&O Cruises, Princess and many others, combines all of its its cruise brand data in one tally in order to dilute the rate of crime on its cruise brand with the most crime.  

Why does Carnival Corporation (the parent company) do this?  Because it gives the false appearance that Carnival Cruise Lines is much safer than it actually is. Based upon research by cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, Carnival Cruise Lines makes up less than half the total of the Carnival brands but accounts for a whopping 88% of all the crimes for the parent company, Carnival Corporation. (The conclusions are based on crime data obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request for the period covering October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008.)

The purpose of the cruise crime disclosure is to permit consumers to determine the safest / most dangerous cruise lines to take your family on cruises. 

But the cruise lines are playing a big game. Trickery and dishonesty are the names of the game. 

The Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans can't help themselves. They are incapable of telling the U.S. public the truth.

That's one reason why the House and Senate have introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act (H.R. 2800 and S.1340). And that's why you should insist that these bills are enacted into law.    

You can read the ICV press release here.

Bahamas Cruise Crime Controversy Continues: Is the Carnival Warning Adequate?

Newspapers in Nassau continue to cover the bickering over whether Carnival Cruise Line should be warning its passengers about the high rate of crime in the Bahamas. 

In an article last week, we pointed out the criticism leveled against Carnival by the Atlantis mega-resort that Carnival's warning letter provided to cruise passengers had the potential to scare them from leaving the cruise ship and coming ashore with their money.  Local vendors in Nassau were making the same complaints.

A Senator in the Bahamas, John Bostwick, jumped into the controversy by publicly accusing Carnival of unnecessarily frightening its passengers over crime in Nassau to divert them to the cruise line's new Cruise Ship Crime - Nassau Bahamasprivate island, Blackbeard’s Cay.

Shortly after these accusations against Carnival, Senator Bostwick wrote a letter to the Tribune newspaper talking of "regular random robbery of tourists" at gunpoint, including a 74 year-old diplomat robbed in Nassau while walking to church and the armed robbery of tourists outside of Atlantis. He also complained that there was a developing sex industry at the port involving boys. 

Mr. Bostwick recommended an urgent saturation of tourist zones with CCTV cameras, increased police funding, and additional police patrols, K-9 units & undercover operations.  He also suggested the removal of all "vagrants, negative characters and known criminals" from downtown and efforts to avoid Nassau turning into a place of sex and narco-tourism.

Meanwhile, the latest news is that the Bahamian Tourism Minister, Obie Wilchcombe, has promised to investigate the Senator's accusations against Carnival.  

In a showdown between Carnival and the tourism-dependent Bahamas, the cruise line has the upper hand. Carnival can pull out of Nassau in a second and leave the island reeling. Just ask St. Croix, Acapulco and Mazatlan. 

Carnival responded to the controversy by pointing out that it sent the Bahamas with a “draft” warning during a May 2013 meeting of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) members. A vice president of Carnival stated “the Bahamian government was made aware in advance that cruise lines were planning to warn their guests.”  

The Bahamas Tribune newspaper contains the language of the Carnival letter to its guests:

“The US Embassy in Nassau recently issued a security message advising US citizens traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being a victim of crime.

The Bahamian government is taking this situation very seriously and has committed to providing significant additional security personnel and resources, with particular focus on the tourist areas.

We wanted to bring this to your attention as a reminder to enhance your personal security by exercising good judgment and taking certain precautions as you would when visiting any foreign destination.

If you decide to venture into town, we encourage you to stay in the main tourist areas, return to the ship before sunset, and refrain from wearing any jewelry or carrying large sums of cash or other valuables.

Compared to the grim warning of the situation in the Bahamas contained in the U.S. State Department on-line warnings, the Carnival letter is rather innocuous and is really not much of a warning at all. It's incomplete and understates the critical nature of the crime problem in Nassau.

It's often hard for the cruise lines and the local tourism officials in the Caribbean ports of call, which rely on U.S. dollars from cruise passengers, to have a transparent conversation about the risks associated with crime in the ports of call.

Just today, an article was published in a newspaper in Trinidad & Tobago about the harm to the country's tourism industry caused by travel advisories about robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault involving cruise passengers and tourists.

It seems like many tourism officials in countries in the Caribbean view scary travel advisories as the problem rather than crime itself.

 

Photo Credit: meted.ucar.edu

Port of Miami Security Guards Arrested for Stealing Cruise Passenger iPads

The cruise industry promotes the safety and security of cruising by telling the public that all luggage is carefully x-rayed before being loaded onto cruise ships.

Post 9/11, the concern that terrorists may target cruise ships led to the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code which requires that all cruise passenger baggage be subjected to x-ray machines to check for explosive devices.

Sounds comforting, right?  Maybe not.

It seems that two security officers at the Port of Miami operating the baggage x-ray machines were not looking for Port of Miami Security Guardsbombs or detonation devices. They were looking for stuff to steal.

According to the Miami New Times and Local NBC Channel 6, two security officers were involved in a scheme to steal electronic equipment from cruise ship passengers luggage and sell the stolen goods on Craigslist.

Jean Russell Thomas, age 30, and Sherece Renee Nelson, age 25, were arrested in the criminal operation. 

Earlier this month, a passenger from the Carnival Victory complained that that after checking her bags for departure, they did not arrive in her cabin. When the bags finally arrived, the woman's iPad was missing. She notified police.

Security video showed security guard Thomas, working as an x-ray screener, handling a bag that had been removed from the belt. The police report said:

"The defendant is then observed standing up and adjusting an item in which he had placed into his pants (rear) underneath his shirt and then placing the bag back onto the belt where it would be transferred to the ship." 

Thomas later listed two iPads for sale on Craigslist. The iPads matched the description of the missing iPad as well as another iPad reported missing from luggage of another cruise passenger.  

Undercover police officers called Thomas and arranged to buy an iPad. Thomas showed up along with Nelson, who acted as a look out according to the newspapers.

Nelson was arrested for dealing in stolen property.

Thomas was arrested for grand theft, dealing in stolen goods and, this one cracks me up, driving with a suspended driver's license (habitual).

Where did the cruise port find these dim whits to work as security guards?

 

Like this story? Try reading Stolen iPhone Adventures Aboard the Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

Three Cruise Lines Plan to Return to Mazatlan: Will They Provide Bullet-Proof Jackets to Passengers?

The L.A. Times Travel Section reports today that three cruise lines have announced that they plan to return to crime-plagued Mazatlan.

First, Holland America Line's Veendam will return in November. Norwegian Cruise Line's Star will return in December. The third line, Azamara, will sail the Quest to Mazatlan in February 2014.

In 2010 and 2011, Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and Holland-America stopped calling at the Mexican port.  As the newspaper states, most of the cruise lines listed crime in the port as a major concern.

Mazatlan Mexico Crime - Cruise ShipThe issue of crime against cruise passengers in Mexican and Caribbean ports has been a hot topic on this blog. Read our article two and one-half years ago: Cruise Lines Skip Papua and Mazatlan, But Sail Passengers to Nassau - the Cruise Crime Capital of the World.

Don't miss reading the Gadling article: Mazatlan and Cruise Lines, Not a Good Match Anytime Soon which was published in May 2011.

But that was over 2 years ago, the Mexican tourism people say. The officials of Mazatlan assure the cruise lines that the city has new security precautions. The police and army have allegedly cracked down on crime and they invested in security cameras, accordingly to Mazatlan officials who commented to the L.A. Times. 

The L.A. Times writes that city officials hope the three cruise lines will signal to other lines that "Mazatlan is a safe, enjoyable port where the margaritas are large and luscious, the shrimp tasty and the scenery grand."

Sounds like a good Mexican restaurant in Miami to me. Someone needs to provide me with more detailed and assuring information before I pay to sail my family to Mazatlan and go ashore. 

 

Photo Credit: Mazatlan - AOL / Gadling

Atlantis Discourages Carnival from Warning Cruise Passengers of Crime in Nassau

A dispute has erupted in Nassau whether cruise passengers who disembark in the Bahamas should be warned of the risk of violent and often deadly crime. 

In response to the widespread violent crimes and high homicide rate in the Bahamas, Carnival Cruise Line finally began warning its passengers of the crime problems ashore before the passengers disembark. The warning comes in the form of a letter which Carnival provides to its passengers before they arrive at port in Nassau.

Carnival's warning includes telling the thousands of passengers Atlantis Nassau Bahamas - Carnival Cruise - Crimeon each ship not to carry large sums of cash when disembarking in Nassau.

Tribune 242 reports that the Atlantis Resort in Nassau (which can accommodate some 4,000 cruise passengers a day) is “very concerned” about the crime warning sent by Carnival. Simply put, it seems like Atlantis is afraid that the cruise line will scare off the resort's potential customers.

The newspaper reports that local merchants in port including those along Bay Street, in addition to the Atlantis mega-resort on Paradise Island, have expressed concerns over the effect of Carnival's warning on their business.  

David Johnson, the Ministry of Tourism’s director-general, told the newspaper that the Bahamas was trying to respond to the anger expressed by Bahamian merchants over the impact on their businesses by Carnival's warning letter. Mr. Johnson said that the letter was being left by Carnival employees in cruise passenger cabins. Johnson was quoted saying:

“Every passenger receiving a note like that, even before they arrive at the destination, that’s not what we would wish to see. We want to optimize the tourism dollars businesses are getting, so we’re very concerned about that." 

Johnson also said that it sent a "negative message about Nassau to potential visitors before they even set foot in the city." 

“We’re disappointed that the cruise lines may be discouraging passengers from venturing off the ship,” the Atlantis executive George Markantonis told the newspaper. 

My take? How irresponsible on Atlantis' behalf.

Atlantis has experienced significant problems with tourists robbed at gunpoint or its own employees attempting robbery, as you can see here and here.

Cruise lines like Carnival have a legal responsibility to warn cruise passengers of the risk of crime which it knows or should know about ashore in its ports of call. Crime in Nassau is well known to the cruise lines but not generally known by passengers.  Read our recent articles here and here. Crime in Nassau has been a major problem ever since I started this blog: Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Carnival is finally doing the right thing by warning its passengers of the crime in Nassau. Atlantis, on the other hand, seems driven only by the Almighty Dollar.  

September 10 2013 Update:  Read the U.S. State Department's warning about Bahamas. 

 

Photo Credit: Atlantis - Carnival Cruise Line

Cruise Ship Crime & Sexual Assault Lawyer: Read About Our Experience, Reputation & Results

There has been a great deal of debate over the past decade regarding the amount of crime which occurs on cruise ships. The cruise industry claims that crime is "rare," whereas at least one cruise expert who testified before Congress stated that the rate of crime on cruise ships is twice that of crime ashore.

Of course one crime is too many if it affects you or your family. 

The most likely crime on cruise ships is sexual assault.  The most likely victim is a woman or child aboard the ship as a passenger. And the most likely perpetrator is a crew member.  

Strict Liability: Cruise lines are strictly liable to pay compensation when a crew member sexually assaults a passenger. There is no need to have to prove that the cruise line knew that the ship employee Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Crimehad a record of assaulting other passengers and/or that the cruise ship was negligent in failing to warn the passenger of the danger of being attacked on the ship. If the crew member rapes a passenger, then the cruise line is vicariously liable.

Our firm has education and substantial experience to handle maritime sexual assault lawsuits against the major cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

Education:  Jim Walker focused on maritime law at Tulane University School of Law. He studied all of the maritime law personal injury courses and graduated in 1983.  He has practiced maritime law for 30 years.

Experience:  The firm has handled sexual assault cases against Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean where women and children have been victimized on cruise ships. Three of our clients have testified before the U.S. Congress about being sexually assaulted during cruises. We have attended eight Congressional hearings about issues regarding the safety of cruise ship passengers.

Reputation:  Jim Walker has referred to as a "Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" by Fox News; a "Top Maritime Lawyer" by the ABA Journal; a "Premier Lawyer for Cruise Passengers" by Reuters; a "Top Cruise Lawyer" by USA Today; and a "Leading Miami Attorney" by Newsweek Magazine. Read "about Jim Walker" for further details.

Results: We have obtained compensation for victims in a wide variety of cruise ship rape, sexual assault, and molestation cases, including the following recoveries: over $3,000,000, $2,500,000, $1,500,000, $900,000, $650,000, $500,000, $385,000, $250,000, and $115,000. (Please note that all cases are unique. These results may or may not reflect the compensation obtainable in your case).

Clients: We have represented women from ages 18 to 45 and parents of children from age 3 to 17. We have represented over 75 women and children sexually assaulted on cruise ships.

Types and Locations of Sexual Assaults:  Cases we handled include a variety of cruise ship employees - staff captain, ship doctor, chief engineer, hotel director, security guard, cabin attendant, bartender, cleaner, and child supervisor. The rapes and molestation cases occurred in various locations on the cruise ship. The most common locations are passenger cabins, storage rooms, and crew bathrooms.

We have studied the problem of cruise ship crimes extensively.  Consider reading:

Sexual Perverts & Pedophiles on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Rape of 15 Year Old Girl Is Latest Crime Against Children on Carnival Cruises

Another Child Porn Bust, This Time on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas

How safe is a cruise? Even after new law, it's hard to say

If you have a question about cruise ship crimes, and in particular sexual assault during cruises, please call our office at (305) 995 5300. or email me directly at jim@cruiselaw.com.

Cruise Industry Article "Safe at Sea" Misses the Boat

Cruise Ship Crime - PornographyA criminologist for the cruise industry, Dr. James Alan Fox, published an article earlier this week which contains a great deal of unsubstantiated and misleading opinions about crime on cruise ships. 

The cruise industry routinely hires Dr. Fox when Congress scrutinizes the cruise lines for not honestly reporting crimes. The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) paid Dr. Fox to comment on select crime data to try and and stave off mandatory cruise reporting legislation proposed by Senator Rockefeller.

Dr. Fox's subsequent article, published in a Boston newspaper, is entitled "Safe at Sea." He cites five "factors" which he says support CLIA's claim that cruising is safe. You can read my criticisms below his comments: 

1. "Cruise passengers are hardly a cross-section of be U.S. population," Dr. Fox says. He argues that the "age distribution" and "socio-economic standing" of the typical cruise line passenger tends "to limit the number of passengers with criminal intent."

Dr. Fox does not explain what specific types of U.S. citizens are more likely to board a cruise ship with "criminal intent." And I don't know how he could possibly know that. The limited crime data disclosed by the cruise lines doesn't provide the age, race, social status or economic standing of either the victim or the assailant such that anyone could determine who is the most likely person to commit a crime on a cruise ship.  

Cruise Ship Crime - RapeDr. Fox also does not identify any type of methodology or scientific analysis he conducted to arrive at his conclusions. The "factors" he cites are subjective opinions which mirror the press releases of the cruise industry which paid him in the first place. 

In my experience representing in excess of a hundred cruise victims over the years, cruise passengers are victimized by a wide variety of criminals of all ages, races, ethnicities, social groups and economic backgrounds. They are no different than perverts ashore. 

Carnival's $399-a-week for a "fun ship" cruise has opened up cruises to the masses which includes both good and bad people. Carnival's Micky Arison commented in an article I wrote about the problem of violence during cruises - Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships. Carnival's former CEO acknowledges that violence is a by-product of cheap cruise tickets which attract a more diverse group of passengers:

Cruise ships are a microcosm of any city or any location and stuff happens . . . The negatives of discounting might be less commission for agents and less revenue for us but the positive is it opens up the product to a wider audience.”

Cruise Ship Crime - PervertFrom my perspective, the "wider audience" includes a large slice of perverts, porn addicts, pedophiles, molesters, rapists, drunken brawlers, murderers, serial rapists, and even serial killers from across the U.S. And don't forget that people on a cruise ship are not just a slice of U.S. citizens across the country, but a slice of people from all over the world. 

Consider for the moment the disturbing number of passengers and crew members who bring graphic child pornography onto cruise ships on their iPhones, laptops, computers and thumb drives. Look here, herehere, here and here for a small example.  Child perverts who attack children on cruise ships come in all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds, as you can see here, here, here and here. One child predator alone employed aboard Cunard cruise ships, Paul Trotter, a child counselor no less, molested at least 13 U.K. boys in the last few years. There are many other child victims. Rapists who target single women and girls come in all sizes and colors, some wearing cruise ship uniforms. Violence rare? You can watch YouTube videos all day long of drunken cruise passengers brawls which resemble gang fights that rival the meanest street in a major urban city. Yes, there are murders too, as you can see here, here, here, here and here. There are few arrests or convictions. A cruise ship seems to be the perfect place to commit the crime and get away with it. 

Cruise Ship Crime - Israel KeyesSerial killers sailing on cruise ships too? There's no way, you say. But consider this headline from FOX News just last year: "FBI: Confessed Serial Killer Boarded Cruise Ship in New Orleans," and this sensational headline from ABC News "Serial Killer's Methodical Plan to Rape and Strangle Teen, Then Go on a Cruise." The articles involve serial killer Israel Keyes who abducted, robbed, raped, strangled, and mutilated a young woman in Alaska.  The FBI says that he was involved in a number of similar crimes across the country. Following his last grisly crime, where did serial killer Keyes go on vacation? He went on two back-to-back cruises out of New Orleans.

The lesson to be learned is that when you cruise, you never know who you're cruising with. Don't be fooled for a second that there are any fewer criminals on cruise ships than anywhere else.

2. "In addition to passenger self-selection is the type of screening performed by the cruise lines themselves. While most vacation venues do background checks on prospective employees, cruise lines also submit passenger manifests to both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard for screening."

Cruise Ship Crime - PornographyCruise lines don't conduct background investigations on their employees. Hiring agents in countries like Jamaica and India are suppose to do that, but rarely do. Read our article: Do Cruise Lines Conduct Background Checks of Crew Members?  Learn what the cruise industry's pre-employment vetting of cruise ship employees is really all about.  

Yes, cruise lines send their passenger manifests to U.S. Customs & Border officials, but the federal government usually does not conduct a screening of the list until after the cruise ships sails. Lots of people with outstanding warrants get arrested, but only after the ship returns to port.

People who are on "no fly" lists on suspicion of terrorism can still board cruise ships and travel by ship when they can't fly for security reasons.  

If you think that cruise line vetting and federal officials keep rapists off cruise ships, read this blockbuster article: Most Wanted Rape Suspect Arrested On Carnival Cruise Ship - Worked As Manager Of Onboard Hair Salon.  

3.  "Passengers and crew are searched for weapons and other contraband every time they board ship. In fact, except for only extraordinary circumstances (e.g., security details protecting certain dignitaries), passengers are not permitted to carry guns, even off-duty police personnel."

Dr. Fox is correct on this one point.  Your chance of being robbed at gunpoint on a cruise ship is extremely remote. But armed robbery on a ship is not a problem and has never been debated before Cruise Ship Crime - PedophileCongress. The most likely crimes are rape and sexual assault. The most likely rapist is an employee of the cruise line. 18% of sexual assaults on cruise ships are against children. Plus, a significant number of passengers and crew go overboard without an explanation.

But as far as guns are concerned once you disembark a cruise ship into a port chosen by the cruise industry, the risk of being shot or robbed at gunpoint increases significantly. The risk is particularly high in Mexico and the Caribbean. 22 Carnival passengers from the Splendor were robbed at gunpoint in Mexico. 17 Celebrity passengers were robbed at gunpoint in St. Kitts.  A total of 29 Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in two incidents in the Bahamas which you can read about here and here. 14 NCL passengers were robbed at gunpoint in St. Lucia. And to top it off a year later 55 cruise passengers and 2 crew members from the Celebrity Eclipse were robbed at gunpoint in St. Lucia.  I'm sure that none of these 125 people expected to have a gun pointed at their face during their family cruise.

Cruise lines don't like to discuss the problem, but cruise lines are responsible for warning passengers of crime they know or should know about in ports where they take their guests. Courts consider Cruise Ship  Crime -- Rapeexcursions ashore to be an integral part of the cruise experience. You may never be shot on a cruise, but passengers and crew have been murdered in ports of call such as cases like this and this and this.

4.  "Although cruise ships do not have immediate access to law enforcement while at sea, the level of security and surveillance provided by the cruise lines is relatively high compared to that of many other types of vacation destinations."

Dr. Fox does not explain what "relatively high" security and surveillance means. On a typical cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew members, there are only around ten security guards and a security chief and security supervisor.  There are many hundreds of waiters, assistant waiters, bartenders, bar servers, cooks, cleaners, and stateroom attendants on a ship but relatively few guards. There are far more dancers, singers, beauticians and spa employees than security guards.  At nighttime, there may be only one or two guards making rounds and a security supervisor in his office, which is grossly inadequate given the substantial amount of alcohol sold on cruise ships and potential Cruise Ship Crime - Molestation Disney Cruisefor physical and sexual violence.

Most surveillance cameras on cruise ships are not actually manned by anyone. Some cruise lines staff the security cameras in the casinos in order to protect their money, but they don't monitor cameras positioned on the exterior decks and interior hallways. Virtually no cruise lines have state-of-the-art man overboard systems to detect passengers and crew who go overboard, as required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act ("CVSSA").

The biggest problem with the absence of an independent police force on cruise ships is that the ship's security personnel have a conflict of interest when crimes are committed.  Some crimes against women are committed by the ship's security personnel or officers who are far senior to the security guards. When a woman is sexually assaulted at a hotel ashore, the local police will arrive and preserve the scene and apprehend the criminals involved. On a cruise ship, the ship security will often begin to build a case against the victim to protect the crew member and the cruise line. Sometimes the cruise ship officers and staff negligently or intentionally destroy evidence making the victim's case impossible to prove.       

5. "Last, and certainly not least important, the confined space on cruise ships limits the opportunity for would-be offenders to attempt a quick getaway. They certainly can't escape apprehension by jumping overboard or making off in a stolen lifeboat."

Crew members who commit crimes don't need to jump overboard or steal a lifeboat to escape. Cruise Cruise Ship Crime - Child Molesterlines have been known to sail the cruise ship out of the jurisdiction where the crime occurs and then fly the criminal employee home from the next port of call in order to avoid prosecution. Just earlier this week, the Miami Herald wrote an editorial stating the following about an assault by a Disney employee against a girl on the Disney Dream:

"There’s another serious problem that lawmakers should address: Some cruise lines egregiously help crew members accused of sexual assault and other crimes elude prosecution. Unfortunately, it’s an old story being given new life in an awful case reported by WKMG-Channel 6 in Orlando. A crew member on a Disney cruise was caught on video molesting an 11-year-old girl while the ship still was in port. Ship authorities waited a full day before reporting the crime to the FBI. By that time the ship was on its way to the Bahamas, where the alleged perpetrator was allowed to disembark, out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement. Disney then did the guy a further favor and flew him home to India."

Final Thoughts: Crime statistics don't tell the whole story. The more important considerations are whether the cruise lines are being truly honest with the public about crimes which occur, whatever the Cruise Ship Rapestatistics may be. True transparency by the cruise industry is the key. Unfortunately, it is sorely lacking. Cruise lines have never voluntarily released statistics of sexual crimes against children.

Cruise lines must be obligated to inform passengers about the specific types of dangers which exist on cruises. The cruise industry must be required by law to promptly report crimes when they occur. There must be penalties levied against cruise lines which delay reporting crimes or assist criminals who prey on women and children during cruises - especially if the criminals are their own employees.     

Photos:

Gary Lee Read - Child Pornography - Monarch of the Seas

Milton Braganza - Sexual assault / molestation of 11 year old girl - Disney Dream

Timothy Webb - Child Pornography - Grandeur of the Seas

Israel Keyes - Serial killer later vacationing on unknown cruise ship

Amado Nichols Hernandez - Child Pornography - Celebrity Constellation

Sherwood Stevenson - Sexual molestation of 6 year old girl - Liberty of the Seas

Casey Dickinson - Gang rape of 14 year old girl - Carnival Sensation

Lucas George - Sexual Assault of 13 year old girl - Disney Wonder

Paul Trotter - Sexual abuse of over 13 boys under age 14 - various Cunard cruise ships

Kris Herypiyanto - Rape of 14 year old girl - Carnival Freedom

Family of George Smith Supports New Cruise Safety Legislation

Over 8 years ago George Smith went overboard from the Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship in the Aegean Sea during his honeymoon cruise.

By all accounts, Royal Caribbean covered the true circumstances of the crime up. In the process, this less-than-honest cruise line sparked a national interest in what really happens on cruise ships which continues today.  

George Smith Royal Caribbean DisappearanceA Congressional hearing was convened in December 2005 which focused the public on cruise ship crimes, disappearances at sea and how cruise lines like Royal Caribbean handle public relation nightmares like this.  

Seven Congressional hearings later, the topic of cruise ship crimes, missing cruise passengers and crew members, and cruise cover-ups continues.

Senator Rockefeller has introduced new legislation designed to require greater transparency from the cruise industry. Sponsoring the bill is Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal who has stated that he is committed to requiring accountability aboard cruise ships.   

The Greenwich Times reports today that "Family of Man Lost at Sea Backs Cruise Ship Bill." The Smith family states in a letter: "We have encountered nothing but obstacles from both Royal Caribbean and those individuals last seen with George on the cruise ship."

The time for a law requiring cruise lines to be honest is long overdue.

 

Photo Credit: Greenwich Time

Miami Herald Editorial: "Report, Punish Crime on Cruises"

The following is an editorial / opinion piece by the Miami Herald which was published tonight:

"Crime on the high seas isn’t just about illegal commercial fishing practices, drug-running and Somalian pirates. Unfortunately, it also comes in the form of sexual assault, theft and suspicious disappearances on what are supposed to be pleasure cruises.

Under pressure from Congress, specifically, a consumer-safety bill introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, the three largest cruise lines, Miami-based Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, agreed to release the data of alleged crimes reported on their ships. Combined, they make up 85 percent of the industry. The crime stats will allow potential passengers to make better-informed decisions, just as the flying public can access information on airline safety and car buyers can find out which are the most road-worthy.

The crime data’s release should also propel cruise lines to take the problem as seriously as their CEOs say they do. In South Florida, cruises are a bread-and-butter industry, boosting the economy and luring tourists back again and again.

Given the multitude of cruises that depart annually, there isn’t anything akin to a crime wave on cruise ships. However, Sen. Rockefeller is right to be perturbed by how many cruise lines handle — or fail to handle — crime reported on board. Cruise-industry leaders announced their crime-data release agreement last week during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation.

It’s been a rough 18 months for the cruise industry. The public has heard unsettling news of cruise ship fires, read published messages sent from frightened and beleaguered passengers adrift in the dark and, most disturbing, seen dramatic photographs of the Costa Concordia, beached off the Italian coast, lying on its side, swamped with water, 32 passengers dead. Because of the public nature of these incidents, cruise-line leaders were equally as public in taking responsibility for what went wrong.

Less so, however, when it comes to crime aboard cruises to exotic locales. Legislation in the U.S. House and Senate would require the information be made available to the public. Before, only crimes that no longer were being investigated by the FBI were made public. As a result, potential passengers only had misleading information to go on. A report showed that 130 alleged crimes in categories specified by the cruise safety act had been reported to the FBI in 2011 and 2012, but only 31 of those had been reported to the public during that time. Cruise lines reported a total of 959 alleged crimes overall to the FBI, the document says.

There’s another serious problem that lawmakers should address: Some cruise lines egregiously help crew members accused of sexual assault and other crimes elude prosecution. Unfortunately, it’s an old story being given new life in an awful case reported by WKMG-Channel 6 in Orlando. A crew member on a Disney cruise was caught on video molesting an 11-year-old girl while the ship still was in port. Ship authorities waited a full day before reporting the crime to the FBI. By that time the ship was on its way to the Bahamas, where the alleged perpetrator was allowed to disembark, out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement. Disney then did the guy a further favor and flew him home to India.

According to the website cruiselawnews.com, “Disney was able to avoid the U.S. investigation into the incident while making certain that any investigation was handled only by the Bahamas which, theoretically can investigate shipboard crimes because Disney cruise ships fly Bahamian flags of convenience.” But the Bahamas has a lousy record of investigating such crimes.

Lawmakers must pressure guilty cruise lines to confront and end this deplorable practice. Merely reporting the number of onboard crimes brings little comfort if perpetrators are not brought to justice." 

Disney Cruise Line Sexual PredatorRead other articles regarding this problem with Disney Cruise Line:

"Sickened" By Molestation of Child on Disney Dream, Brevard County Attorney General Vows to Zealously Prosecute Cruise Ship Crimes

Images of a Disney Nightmare: Are Your Kids Safe Sailing With Disney?

Did Disney Cruise Line Really Sail a Crime Scene from the U.S. to Nassau? International Press Focuses on Disney Child Molestation Case
 

"Voluntary" Cruise Crime Statistics Keep Public in the Dark

Cruise Ship CrimeCBS travel expert Peter Greenberg has interesting comments on the recent crime statistics released by the three major cruise lines.

Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean posted 237 crimes which allegedly took place on their cruise ship over the last 2 to 3 years. This is the first time that the cruise industry has ever publicly posted their onboard crime statistics.

The information, however, is very limited.  The cruise lines do not mention the name of the cruise ship, or the date of the incident, or where the incident is alleged to have occurred or any explanation regarding what happened. The companies also do not disclose whether the victim is a child.

Legislation proposed by Senator Rockefeller will require the cruise lines to provide greater specificity about the crimes.  For example, the public should know whether a particular cruise ship has experienced multiple incidents where child counselors are accused of molesting children in a child-care facility on the ship.  As matters now stand, it's impossible to tell from the cruise lines' skimpy crime charts what the crime reports really involve.     

 

 

NBC News Discusses Cruise Ship Crime Statistics and Overboard Passengers

Today a local NBC station in South Florida posted a video of the recent disclosure of cruise ship crime statistics.

You can read the article here.

The video (below) includes an interview with me about the provisions of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 (CVSSA) which permitted cruise ship crimes and man-overboard incidents to be concealed from the public. Only incidents which were reported to the FBI and then the FBI closed the investigation could be disclosed to the public.  

The cruise lines were successful in inserting language to this effect into the CVSSA in order to conceal the vast majority of alleged crimes and overboards from the public.

 

NBC Covers Cruise Ship Crime: "Lawmakers Turn Attention to Crime on Cruise Ships"

Cruise Ship CrimeTonight NBC News aired a segment on the recent hearing before the Senate regarding the issue of cruise ship crimes.

Senator Rockefeller scheduled the hearing in a year filled with high-profile cruise ship mishaps. NBC correspondent Mark Potter reports that lawmakers are turning their attention to the amount of crime that takes place while vacationers are out at sea. 

Senator Rockefeller's staff conducted an exhaustive analysis of cruise ship crimes. Senator Rockefeller discovered that of the 959 crimes alleged to have occurred on cruise ships since 2011, only 31 crimes were disclosed to the American people.

Concealing the accurate number of crimes, particularly sexual crimes against children, is a real disservice to the cruising public. 

I was interviewed at the Port of Miami about the need for cruise passengers to remain vigilant during cruises.  

Professor Ross Klein, a cruise expert who has testified before Congress on several occasions, explained that 18% of the sexual assaults on cruises, occur against minors.  

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

Watch the video below. 

  

 

Food Stashed Under Beds & Secret Crime Statistics: The Cruise Industry Has a Lot to Hide

Today the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will conduct a hearing on whether there needs to be greater Congressional oversight of the cruise industry in light of recent cruise ships mishaps. 

There are two recent examples of cruise line conduct which the committee should consider in determining whether Congress should take a closer eye on the cruise lines.

Example 1: A luxury cruise line, Silversea Cruises, recently flunked a surprise inspection by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of the cruise line's Silver Shadow cruise ship.  What makes the incident so egregious is that the CDC found that the cruise line engaged in

"an organized effort  . . . to physically remove over 15 full trolleys of dry foods, spices, canned foods, Cruise Industry Consumer Protectioncooked foods, milk, raw meats, pasteurized eggs, cheeses of all types, baking goods, raw fruits, raw vegetables, and a variety of both hand held and counter model food equipment, pans, dishware and utensils to over 10 individual cabins shared by two or three galley crew members in order to avoid inspection by VSP (Vessel Sanitation Program) staff. All the out of temperature potentially hazardous foods were discarded along with most other foods that were not canned or in original containers. The lead VSP inspector poured concentrated chlorine liquid over all the discarded foods as they were dumped into garbage bags to ensure they would not be used again." Read the CDC report here.  Look at the disgusting photographs here.

Yes, a luxury cruise line holding itself out as a 6 star cuisine experience was literally hiding meat, fish, eggs and cheese under the bunks in the crew quarters in order to cheat U.S. sanitation inspectors. Our investigation here and here leads us to the only conclusion that this deception is an industry-wide problem, 

Example 2:  After Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act which was intended to require cruise lines to report crimes to the FBI and the Coast Guard in order to post crimes on an internet site for the public's consideration, the cruise industry and the FBI conspired to hide the information.  Read this disturbing story here.

The President of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, Ken Carver, exposed the cover-up when he sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the FBI and learned that of the 400+ crimes alleged on cruise ships in 2012 alone, the FBI decided to post only 15 crimes on the Coast Guard internet site. A great injustice to the victims and the public. Watch the video below:

It's high time that Congress intervene and protect American families from the cruise industry's hide-and-seek games.      

 

 

When Will There Be Justice for George?

George Smith Cruise Ship DisappearanceIt has been eight years since George Smith disappeared from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 4, 2005.

The cruise line initially stated that it had no idea what happened. But in 2012 it was revealed that Royal Caribbean took possession of a video shortly after the incident which implicated several men who were last seen with Mr. Smith. The video shows one of the men saying "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."

The FBI took possession of the video back in 2005 and did not reveal the contents to any of the families.

Seeking justice on the high seas when crimes occur is often a difficult task. The FBI has a poor record prosecuting crimes on cruise ships. It often seems that the FBI is more concerned with not embarrassing the cruise lines than obtaining justice for victims of crimes and their families.

The George Smith case is a good example of justice denied. But the case is still "open" and has been transferred from the FBI's office in Connecticut to the FBI office in New York. Say your prayers that there's an arrest and prosecution.

You can read a series of articles about Mr. Smith's disappearance here.

 

Photo Credit: CBS

It's Not Better in the Bahamas: Crime Up, Cruise Passenger Spending Down

The headline today in the Nassau Guardian newspaper blasted "Elderly Woman Shot at Home" during a robbery.  Another front page story involved an unrelated but even more deadly title "Men Charged with Murder."

These headlines are hardly rare. Two weeks ago, a U.S. crew member was shot dead during a robbery in downtown Nassau.  You can read about that crime and many others against cruise passengers in Nassau here

The U.S. State Department has issued at least three "critical" warnings to travelers of the high homicide rate in the Bahamas, which is many, many times greater than the murder rate in Los Angeles Its Better in the Bahamas - Cruise Crimefor example. 

Cruise lines are complaining to government representatives about cruise passengers being robbed. And there is talk about warning cruise passengers not to leave the cruise ships when they dock in Nassau.

Crimes are hardly limited to Bahamians killing and robbing other Bahamians.

Last week two armed men robbed 20 patron of a downtown bar at gun point of their money and valuables. Most of the people robbed were tourists.

The increasing crime trend is occurring at a time when cruise passengers are spending less money in the Bahamas.  Cruise passengers now spend around $65 a day while ashore down from around $84 a few years ago.  

For country where well over 50% of its Gross National Produce comes from tourists, the Bahamas is facing a tough situation. Cruise passengers are spending less and are more likely to be robbed or shot while on vacation. 

A local newspaper bluntly reports The Government Has Lost the War on Crime.

We have been involved in two cases involving shore excursions where over 30 cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in the Bahamas, as well as young women sexually assaulted in Nassau and on cruise ships in port there.

Disney recently sailed its Disney Dream with a child molester aboard, rather than report the crime timely to U.S. authorities, because it knew that the Bahamas police which can't control crime on their own island would do nothing about a crime on a Bahamian cruise ship.    

Charges Dismissed Against Cruise Passenger Accused of Strangling and Dumping Ex-Wife Overboard

Two days ago we reported on a ruling made by a judge in California holding that a cruise ship passenger accused of strangling and throwing his former wife overboard from a cruise ship in Italy could be prosecuted in state court.

But yesterday, the same judge reconsidered his ruling and decided that he did not have jurisdiction over the criminal case filed against Lonnie Kocontes and dismissed the murder charges. The prosecutors then promptly re-filed charges against Kocontes, in an effort to keep him in jail in Orange County, California for allegedly murdering his ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki.

Lonnie Koncontes Cruise Ship MurderWe hailed the judge's original ruling as significant because state prosecutors usually do not have jurisdiction to pursue criminal case when the crime occurs outside state territorial waters. The alleged crime involving Kocontes occurred during a cruise from Italy raising the issue whether the criminal prosecution should be pursued in Italy, or in a federal court in the U.S. or in state court in California. The judge's latest ruling, that California has no jurisdiction, illustrates the problem prosecuting criminals on cruise ships on the high seas.

The case leaves me wondering whether Kocontes, a lawyer, researched the issue of maritime jurisdiction over cruise ship crimes before going on vacation with his ex-wife who had over a million dollars in her accounts in California.  

 

Photo Credit: Orange County Register

Cruise Ship Passenger Can be Tried in California State Court for Murdering Ex-Wife

Crimes on cruise ships on the high seas often fall into jurisdictional no-man's lands where prosecutions are impossible to pursue. 

But yesterday a judge in Orange County, California ruled that local prosecutors can try a criminal case against a cruise passenger accused of strangling his ex-wife and tossing her off a cruise ship in Italy seven years ago.

The Orange County Register reports the Orange County judge ruled Wednesday that California law does not prevent prosecutors from handling cases which arise outside of California. 

In a case we have mentioned before, cruise passenger Lonnie Kocontes was arrested in February for killing his ex-wife for financial gain.  Kocontes and Micki Kanesaki, although divorced, lived together in Lonnie Kocontes - Cruise Ship MurderCalifornia and went on a cruise together in 2006. She went overboard in the Mediterranean Sea. Her body washed ashore the next day and the coroner found evidence that she had been strangled before going into the water.

When Kocontes returned to California, he began transferring more than $1 million from Kanesaki's bank accounts.

The judge's ruling is significant because typically state prosecutors do not have jurisdiction to pursue criminal case when the crime occurs outside state territorial waters.  The exception to this general rule is Florida which enacted a state law which permits the state to prosecute criminal on the high seas when the cruise leaves a port in Florida.  

You can read our prior article here: Cruise Ship Passenger Pleads Not Guilty of Strangling His Ex-Wife & Throwing Her Overboard

"Sickened" By Molestation of Child on Disney Dream, Brevard County Attorney General Vows to Zealously Prosecute Cruise Ship Crimes

Disney Dream Cruise Ship Crime Disney Cruise Line's decision to sail its Disney Dream out of the jurisdiction to Nassau, Bahamas has caused concern and outrage not only with the local police department in Brevard County but has also caught the attention of the new Attorney General for Brevard County, Phil Archer.

After watching the video tape obtained by WKMG Channel 6 in Orlando and learning that Disney had assisted the assailant crew member in leaving the jurisdiction and avoiding prosecution, Attorney General Archer said he was "sickened."  He vowed to prosecute crimes on cruise ships which are all too often not timely reported to the local law enforcement or are ignored by the FBI.

According to WKMG, which again aired an informative report on this disturbing case, Archer said that "at least two crimes" may have occurred on the Disney Dream while in Brevard County's waters: "false imprisonment, as the suspect cornered the child in the elevator, which he prevented from moving by blocking the door as he appeared to molest her; and lewd or lascivious molestation on a child under 12, a felony that could have produced a life sentence."

Archer characterized the Disney molestation case as "serious" and promised vigorous prosecutions of crimes like this in order to protect other families who may cruise in the future.  The local police chief also promised a more active role in investigating allegations of cruise ship crimes and completing reports.

When asked to respond to Disney's excuse that the child's grandmother allegedly said she did not want to pursue a criminal prosecution in the Bahamas, Attorney General Archer said: "the decision to prosecute that serious a crime in Florida rests with a prosecutor, not a grandmother."

Watch the video below:

 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Cruise Ship Passenger Pleads Not Guilty of Strangling His Ex-Wife & Throwing Her Overboard

In a disturbing case we have covered over the years, U.S. lawyer, Lonnie Loren Kocontes, entered a plea today of not guilty in the strangulation death of his ex-wife, Micki Kaneski, during a cruise off of the Italian coast seven years ago.

This case seems to stand in stark contrast to the cruise industry's claim that murders don't occur on cruise ships.

Kocontes met Kanesaki in the 1990s at a Los Angeles law firm where he worked as an attorney and she worked as an administrative assistant. They later married in 1995. 

Kacontes Cruise MurderKocontes was fired from his job after he was arrested in 2000 for charges of sexual contact with a minor that were later dismissed. In 2001, they divorced to protect their assets from civil litigation. They continued to live together, but their relationship deteriorated.

In May 2006, the couple vacationed in Italy and sailed aboard the Island Escape cruise ship. On May 26, 2006, the cruise ship was sailing between Sicily and Naples, when Kanesaki went overboard. Her body washed ashore the next day in Calabria in southwest Italy. An autopsy was performed. An Italian medical doctor concluded that she had been strangled before she went overboard.

Kocontes claims that Kanesaki left the cabin around 1 a.m. to get a cup of tea. Kocontes reported her missing after he woke up and claims he couldn’t find her. Italian police boarded the ship, seized records and videotapes and took statements from the crew.

Prosecutors say that Kocontes strangled Kaneski to death on board the ship and then threw her overboard.

Kocontes later began transferring more than $1 million from Kaneski’s bank accounts into joint accounts he held with his new wife. That prompted the FBI to begin seizure efforts which were dismissed by a federal judge in California.

The Orange County Register covered the story back in 2006, and quoted Kanesaki’s mother saying that her daughter was in good spirits before the cruise. ‘‘I can’t imagine what happened to her. There’s no reason to believe it was a suicide.’’

A newspaper in Italy published an article "The Perfect Murder."

The case reminds me of the murder of Karen Roston by her husband Mark Roston aboard Admiral Cruises' Sundancer some 20 years.

Guilty Plea Entered in Murder of Cruise Ship Passenger in Antigua

Nina Elizabeth NilssenOver three years ago, a U.S. cruise passenger, Nina Elizabeth Nilssen, age 30, was murdered while vacationing in Antigua near the English Harbour / Falmouth area. She had been cruising with her parents, an uncle and aunt, sister and brother-in-law aboard the Royal Clipper, a tall masted ship operated by Miami based Star Clippers. 

The murder was terribly tragic as she was ashore with her family to attend the marriage of her sister. 

A 27-year-old man, Tishara Daniel, was arrested for attacking Ms. Niessen and stabbing her in the neck while she was walking near Windward Bay Beach in Pigeon Point.

Yesterday he pled guilty to the murder. He will be sentenced on July 5 for the crime. 

The cruise line pulled out of Antigua following the crime but returned five months later.  

You can read our prior articles about the crime and ensuing events here.

Celebrity Crew Member Arrested for Cruise Ship Theft

HuanHuan Shen Celebrity Cruises Eclipse TheftThe Broward County Sheriffs Office has posted a mug shot of a 27 year old Celebrity Cruises crew member arrested over the weekend on two counts of charges of grand theft (over $300 and less than $5,000).

According to the Sun Sentinel newspaper, HuanHuan Shen was arrested when the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship returned to Port Everglades on Saturday. He is accused of stealing cash from two crew members who he shared a cabin with on the cruise ship.

The newspaper states that Shen opened safes in his cabin and took $4,600 belonging to cabin mate Yang Zhang and $3,300 from cabin-mate Zhibao Dong for a total of $7,900.

Most Chinese ship employees on Celebrity cruise ships are employed in the laundry department earning only around $1,000 a month. 

Its good to see a local sheriff's office involved in responding to cruise ship theft like this. Under federal law, cruise lines are not even required to report a theft of under $10,000. The FBI will not even respond to reports of cruise ship thefts of under $10,000. Unless a local law enforcement entity gets involved, crew members can steal from passengers and other crew members and know that the worst that will happen is they may be fired and sent home.      

The Eclipse was last in the news when 55 passengers were held up at gun point in St. Lucia ten days ago.  

Are You Cruising with a Wanted Felon? Five Passengers Arrested on Carnival Magic in Galveston

The Houston Chronicle has an interesting article about five passengers arrested in Galveston when a cruise ship returned to port.

The passengers were on the Carnival Magic cruise ship and were arrested because they all has outstanding criminal warrants. Three women and two men were arrested and handcuffed and taken to jail in Galveston.

The criminal offenses included forgery, felony tampering with government records, and felony property Carnival Magic Cruise Shipdamage. 

The arrests took place after the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ran the names from the cruise passenger manifest through various databases. If outstanding warrants are located, the CBP will make an arrest once the cruise ship returns to port after the cruise. 

Arrests like this are common, according to the director of the port in Galveston, although five on one cruise ship is higher than normal. 

I have always wondered why these checks are not conducted before the ship sails so that the arrests take place before the cruise. Otherwise it sounds like most families will find themselves cruising with one one or two criminals with outstanding warrants.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Thomas Doerfer     

Another Cruise Crime Alert in the Bahamas!

Cruise Ship Crime Nassau BahamasYesterday it was announced at the marketing debut of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas, that one of the ports of the new cruise ship would be Nassau in the Bahamas when it was launched in 2014.  My first reaction was that Nassau was a dangerous location to host the new Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Well today, there is a headline in a newspaper in the Bahamas "Cruise Ships Warn on Crime."  

The newspaper reports that cruise executives have met with Bahamian officials about crime levels in New Providence, and in particular downtown Nassau, escalating at a pace which is no longer safe for passengers. The concern was not just crime affecting passengers but crew members as well. 

From what we hear from cruise passengers who cruise to Nassau, it is not a particularly safe place to visit.  

We have written several articles about the crime problem in Nassau, including the rape of young women who go into the bars near the port.

U.S. State Department: Crime In Nassau, Bahamas Is Critical

Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau - Are Royal Caribbean and Senor Frog's to Blame?

Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau

18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level

 

Image Credit: Tribune 242  

Here We Go Again: 55 Celebrity Cruise Passengers & 2 Crew Members Robbed at Gun Point in St. Lucia

Cruise Critic reports that 55 cruise passengers and two crew members from the Celebrity Eclipse were robbed at gunpoint by three men on Friday, April 12 2013 while in St. Lucia. 

Celebrity Cruises issued a statement indicating that passengers were visiting the Botanical Gardens in Soufriere at the time of the robbery and were on two Celebrity-sponsored shore excursions, "Breathtaking Soufriere and Warm Mineral Baths" and "Land and Sea to the Pitons."  Passengers were traveling on the same bus.

Celebrity Cruises EclipseCelebrity states that "none of our guests were injured in this unfortunate event," but Cruise Critic states that passengers reported that "one woman fell and broke her leg."

No one is talking about the potential emotional trauma and psychological effects of the armed robbery.  

All the cruise passengers aboard the bus had their money and jewelry taken.

Cruise passengers to St. Lucia have been targeted in St. Lucia the past. We have written articles about the crime problem in that island: 14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia.

The problem got so bad that NCL dropped the island for its 2010 to 2012 schedule. Read Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia.

Robbing passengers on cruise-sponsored bus excursions is hardly rare. In 2010, 17 Celebrity cruise passengers were robbed in a bus by gunmen in St. Kitts.  "Robbing cruise passengers in bulk" in the Caribbean islands and Mexico is not uncommon and I have written about it: Robbing Cruise Passengers in Bulk - Yes, It Happens!   

I wonder whether Celebrity provided any warning to its guests about the problem with cruise passengers being targeted for armed robbery in St. Lucia and other Caribbean islands? 

If you have info about this latest crime, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

April 14 2013 Update: A video from a local news station in St. Lucia is below.  You will hear tourism officials stating that they told the cruise passengers that such incidents against tourists are "rare," St. Lucia Celebrity Cruise Crime Victimswhich is obviously untrue if a major Miami based cruise line like NCL pulled out in 2010. 

The U.S. national media has picked up the story with Fox News carrying a AP story which mentions the incident. Not much information except the St. Lucia tourism people already hard at work. The article quotes St. Lucia Tourist Board Chairman Mathew Beaubrun portraying the robbery as a "rare incident."  Damage control is underway.

April 15 2013 Update: USA TODAY assists in the PR damage control, repeating the St. Lucia talking point that crime in that country is "rare."

Several newspapers are reporting that the police on St. Lucia have arrested one or more of the men involved in the robbery. Fox News says that the police arrested one of "four masked men armed with homemade shotguns and pistols held up the passengers from Celebrity Cruise."  The Times mentions that three men were arrested.

April 20 2013 Update: I stumbled across a discussion on the Cruise Critic site where just 2 months ago passengers from the Celebrity Eclipse were accousted by a man ashore with a knife which sparked a discussion about crime in St, Lucia.  Meanwhile the cruise line and the PR people on the island are saying that such crime is rare. Read our article Liar, Liar Pants On Fire? St. Lucia Tourism Denies Prior Armed Robbery of Cruise Passengers.

Photo Credit: DBS TV St. Lucia via the Times
 

 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia /  Jonathan Schilling

Murder Aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas?

Enchantmemt of the Seas Cruise Ship MurderLast night I received an email from a person who follows cruising who received information that there may have been what is being described as a "murder / suicide" on an unidentified Royal Caribbean cruise ship. There was a vague posting of the alleged incident on the Disney boards

This morning I received another email from a passenger who just disembarked the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship.  The person's email is as follows:

"Just got off Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas. They were detaining everyone on the 7Th floor and the police were there collecting statements. The crew wouldn't say what was going on but other passengers said there was a murder/death on the 7th fl. Post if you hear anything about it."

My understanding is that the Enchantment OTS is moored in Baltimore at the moment.  

Enchantment of the Seas Cabin 7110If you have any information about this alleged incident, please leave a message or post a comment on our Facebook page.

Update March 25 2013:  I received the following information this morning from a person who wishes to remain anonymous:

The deceased person is reportedly a woman in her 60's who allegedly was found on the floor by her husband.    

She reportedly had fallen inside the cabin earlier the same evening and hit her head and went to bathroom where she fell again this is when husband called for help. Nurses arrived to the cabin to attend the situation however she was pronounced dead at 5 AM.

(Please note that I cannot verify any of this information or any comments below). 

The cabin was thereafter sealed at some point until arrival into port where investigations will begin.

We were also provided with a copy of a photo of the door of the cabin in question which shows a plexi-glass cover over the key hole and key card slot with a lock around the handle.  

The FBI has told news stations in Baltimore that there are "suspicious undertones" surrounding the death.

A local CBS news station in Baltimore aired a short video on the investigation.

March 28, 2013 Update: The AP is reporting that an "autopsy shows that a Virginia woman found dead aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship died of natural causes.

FBI spokesman Rich Wolf has identified the woman as 64-year-old Katherine Kennedy, of Midlothian, Va. He says Kennedy died of heart disease.

Her husband found her dead Sunday in her cabin on the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship. FBI agents met the ship when it arrived in Baltimore on Monday to begin investigating the unexplained death.

Wolf says Kennedy also had a laceration on her forehead, but authorities determined that she got the cut when she fell down. They said it had nothing to do with her death."

Photo Credit:

Top: Rageousgtx at en.wikipedia

Bottom: Anonymous

Murder in Antigua: Store Employee Shot in Cruise Tourism Zone Heritage Quay

Yesterday evening I received a tweet from a Twitter friend in Antigua: "several cruise passengers witnessed a day light killing in the tourism area of #antigua today." Later I was told that an "attempted robbery at one of the shops led to a gunman shooting the woman in the head. She died on the spot around 1.30."

This morning the Antigua Observer covered the sad story: Mother of 5 Gunned Down in Heritage Quay

The newspaper says that "a 38-year-old mother of five was gunned down in broad daylight yesterday – the latest in an alarming spate of shootings and robberies across the country." The victim was working as a sales person at First Gadget Electronic Store on Thames Street.

The store is located in the heart of St John’s within the cruise tourism zone Heritage Quay.

Antigua - Cruise IndustryAntigua has had its share of violence and crime in areas frequented by cruise passengers. Last month an altercation between a store owner and cruise passengers escalated into a highly publicized fight between the cruisers and the police in St. John's.   

More serious incidents over the last few years involved a young woman from a cruise ship being murdered ashore, cruise passengers attacked and robbed (ironically while tourism and cruise officials were meeting to discuss the issue of safety of cruise visitors in Antigua) and six cruise passengers from Brooklyn arrested after disputing a cab fare and getting into a fight with the local police.

Caribbean countries like Antigua have  precarious relationships with the cruise lines. Some cruise lines temporarily stopped calling in Antigua following the murder of a passenger from the Star Clippers in 2010.

In 2009, Carnival suddenly pulled out of Antigua - Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato.

The murder of the store employee in the tourist area comes at a time when Antigua announced that it formed a new police unit to protect tourists from crime and its tourism officials announced that they were optimistic about attracting tourists to the island notwithstanding the increase in violent crime.

The police and government officials are involved in trying to deal with the PR fall-out in the tourism sector. There is a reward offer of $50,000 for info leading to the arrest of the gunman and there is talk about asking for the death penalty (public hangings).

Tragic incidents like this will continue to make the local citizens frightened, and continue to plague the island's relationship with the big Miami based cruise lines that unload thousands of people into Heritage Quay. 

  

Photo Credit: vibesantigua

Lawyer Arrested for Allegedly Strangling & Throwing Wife Off Cruise Ship

Lonnie KocontesLonnie Kocontes, age 55, was arrested last week on a murder warrant in the death of his ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki, who went overboard from an Italian cruise ship seven years ago.

Kocontes, a lawyer licensed in California, was arrested in Florida where he was living. He was booked into into the Pasco County Jail where he is being held without bail. 

He is charged with one count of "special circumstances murder for financial gain." 

Kocontes met Kanesaki in the early 1990s at a Los Angeles law firm where he worked as an attorney and she worked as an administrative assistant. They later married in 1995.

Kocontes was reportedly fired from his job after he was arrested in 2000 for charges of sexual contact with a minor that were later dismissed. In 2001, they divorced to protect their assets from civil litigation. They continued to live together, but their relationship deteriorated. 

In May 2006, the couple vacationed in Italy and sailed aboard the Island Escape cruise ship. On May 26, 2006, the cruise ship was sailing between Sicily and Naples, when Kanesaki went overboard. Her body washed ashore the next day in Calabria in southwest Italy. An autopsy was performed. An Italian medical doctor concluded that she had been strangled before she went overboard.

Kocontes claims that Kanesaki left the cabin around 1 a.m. to get a cup of tea. Kocontes reported her missing after he woke up and couldn’t find her. Italian police boarded the ship, seized records and videotapes and took statements from the crew.

Island Escape Cruise ShipProsecutors say that Kocontes strangled Kaneski to death on board the ship and then threw her overboard.

Kocontes later began transferring more than $1 million from Kaneski’s bank accounts into joint accounts he held with his new wife. That prompted the FBI to begin seizure efforts which were dismissed by a federal judge in California. 

The Orange County Register covered the story back in 2006, and quoted Kanesaki’s mother saying that her daughter was in good spirits before the cruise. ‘‘I can’t imagine what happened to her. There’s no reason to believe it was a suicide.’’ 

A newspaper in Italy published an article "The Perfect Murder." 

The case reminds me of the murder of Karen Roston by her husband Mark Roston aboard Admiral Cruises' Sundancer some 20 years ago.

 

Photo Credit: VIP.it

Sex Attack Alleged On Carnival Cruise Ship

Carnival Cruise Ship RapeJust when you think that things could not get any worse for Carnival, news is just breaking that authorities are investigating what is being characterized as a "sex attack" on a Carnival cruise ship. 

A newspaper in the Bahamas is reporting that a team of of detectives from Nassau to Galveston, Texas yesterday to investigate an alleged sexual assault that occurred on a Carnival cruise ship.

The newspaper identified the cruise ship as the Triumph, which has remained in the headlines after it caught fire and had to be towed back to port.  However, the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) reportedly stated that the incident did not involve the Triumph.  The BMA said that it was investigating a Bahamian registered vessel but not the Triumph. The BMA did not even acknowledge that they were investigating a cruise ship. 

The country of the Bahamas is responsible for investigating fires and collisions as well as crimes which occur on cruise ships flying the flag of the Bahamas.

Here's what the Bahamian newspaper is reporting: 

While the Bahamas Maritime Authority is leading the investigation into what caused the fire, detectives from the Royal Bahamas Police Force are also investigating a sexual offence claim, Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said yesterday.

“We send some officers to Texas to head up the investigation. The ship is a Bahamian Flag Ship so wherever something happens we have to tend it. The officers went over there this morning and should be back sometime tomorrow. They are investigating a sexual offence matter that happened on the cruise. We should have some more information tomorrow on the matter.”

A statement is also expected from the Maritime Authority, according to London Representative Dwain Hutchinson. He said an investigation is underway and a statement will be released to the press “soon.”

Carnival flags six of its ships in the Bahamas, including the Destiny, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Sensation and the Triumph.

Sexual assaults on cruise ships are one of the cruise industry's nastiest secrets.  We have attended several Congressional hearings which have studied the problem. There has been expert testimony before Congress that the risk of being raped at sea on a cruise ship is twice that of being attacked ashore.  

February 18, 2013 Update:  Carnival say that the incident but it does not appear to be related to any Carnival ships.

Seven Tourists Raped in Acapulco: What is the Cruise Industry's Spin?

The news reports out of Mexico are shocking.

Six women from Spain vacationing in Acapulco were bound and raped by a gang of five men who burst into their holiday rental. Their male friends were gagged and bound by telephone cords and robbed.  

One news source said the mayor of Acapulco did not help matters with a statement saying no big deal: “It is unfortunate, but it happens anywhere.” 

Mexico - Cruise Ship ViolenceThis is the last thing Mexico's tourism industry needs.  

Although none of the tourists arrived by cruise ship, the issue remains whether traditional cruise ports in Mexico are safe for travel. 

Last year I wrote an article Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?  I chronicled the violence, murders, robberies and assorted mayhem in the Mexican ports of call.

The Mexican tourism industry, the cruise lines which sail to Mexico, and the expatriated Americans living south of the border will say that such incidents are rare, but read my article and judge yourself before you drink their Kool-Aid.  

I'd be tempted to sail in Europe or to Alaska, but I wouldn't be caught dead sailing to Acapulco.   

Join the discussion of the issue on our Facebook page

 

Photo Credit:

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images via Wall Street Journal's Mexico Tourism Feels Chill of Ongoing Drug Violence

Alleged Rapist Arrested Aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Brian DenbyOne of the topics I harp on here at Cruise Law News is the danger of having a sexual predator sailing in the next cabin to you while you enjoy a vacation cruise.  

Cruise ships of course do not screen passengers to determine whether they are sexual predators. The local port officials and sheriff's offices can easily perform background checks like this but they usually don't bother to conduct the checks until the cruise ships are at sea and then it's too late to arrest the undesirables before they can attack someone on the cruise.   

Today we have another example of why it is prudent not to trust the friendly man who is sailing next to your family's cabin.

WSVN-7 reports today that the police arrested a 30 year old man who allegedly sexually assaulted two underage teenage girls outside a South Florida shelter.  The news station states that Brian Denby was arrested after arriving back at the Port of Miami from a cruise this morning.

Three weeks ago, according to police, Denby was walking by a shelter for victims of abuse called "Kids in Distress." After talking to two teen girls who live at the shelter, he hopped the fence sexually abused the two girls. The police released his sketch and after a tip came in the officers were able to identify Denby.

The news station reports that Denby was on vacation on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the Bahamas. When the cruise ship arrived back to the Port of Miami today, the police and federal officials boarded the ship and arrested Denby.  He is in jail in Broward County charged with several counts of lewd and lascivious battery.

Photograph courtesy of Broward County Sheriff's Office via CBS News.

 

Bad Times Aboard the Fun Ships: Passenger Alleges Rape Aboard Carnival Victory Cruise Ship

A lawsuit recently filed here in Miami illustrates the danger of cruise ship rape which most families who cruise do not realize.

The lawsuit filed last week alleges that Carnival served a young woman two margaritas, a Mojito and three double vodka drinks. Weighing only 118 pounds, the passenger was visibly intoxicated but the Carnival bartenders kept pouring drinks to the woman and her friends, one of whom was so drunk that she vomited on her.

Carnival crew members and officers were observed openly fraternizing and drinking alcohol with women in the ship's bar and disco club. The lawsuit alleges after the woman was intoxicated, two Carnival Cruise Ship - Rape - Sexual Assaultupper level Carnival ship employees, both large men, physically pinned down the wrists of the petite, small framed woman and took turns raping her. One Carnival employee sodomized her. The lawsuit states that the two men humiliated the woman and laughed at her when she resisted and protested.  

The theory of liability against Carnival is that the cruise line routinely over-serves alcohol to its passengers in order to increase profits and it does not maintain an adequate level of security to protect women on its cruise ships. While Carnival encourages excessive alcohol consumption, it does not enforce its alleged "zero tolerance" policy against crew - guest fraternization. In addition to the negligence allegations, the lawsuit asserts that the cruise lines is vicariously and strictly liable for the criminal conduct of its employees.

We first mentioned the incident last March - Was a Passenger Sexually Assaulted on the Carnival Victory?

The correlation between excessive alcohol and sexual violence against women is a topic we have discussed often here on this blog. 

Serving a young women what turns out to be 9 drinks, permitting crew members and officers to mingle with the drunk women in the disco, and providing no real security or warnings to passengers about the risk of being raped is a recipe for disaster.

Carnival nonetheless continues to aggressively advertise the sale of virtually unlimited booze. Just recently Carnival announced that it would impose a "limit" of 15 alcoholic drinks as part of its all-you-can-drink package. Of course fifteen (15) drinks is no limit at all.  

If a bar or restaurant served a woman 10 or 15 drinks and then employees of the restaurant raped the guest, the local police would probably end up arresting the bartenders and restaurant owner in addition to the employees who committed the crime. But on Carnival cruises, this seems to be part of the "fun ship" experience.

In 2006, I attended a Congressional hearing where a subcommittee listened to testimony where bartenders of Carnival-owned Costa Cruises served a 15 year old girl 10 drinks. A newspaper in Ireland wrote that in a period of 45 minutes the 15-year-old girl "was served 10 drinks in a bar on the cruise ship, two Sex on the Beach, four Woo Woos, two vodka and mixers, a shot of vodka and liqueurs." The young girl went overboard while trying to vomit over the railing. She has never been found.    

If you are a woman sailing on a cruise ship, watch how much you drink. Bartenders earn their living on tips and the food and beverage employees are under pressure to meet drink quotas. If you drink too much, stay with your friends. If you are a parent with teenage daughters, don't think that the cruise line will strictly enforce a drinking age of 21 or that it is safe to leave your children unattended. 

Stonewalling at Sea - Cruise Lines Continue to Cover Up Disappearances on the High Seas

The disappearance of passengers and crew members at sea is one of the cruise industry's real problems.  The problem is compounded by the tendency of the cruise lines to place their reputation as a priority rather than providing information to the grieving families.  If the evidence tends to suggest that a crime occurred, or the circumstances involve facts that may place the cruise lines in an embarrassing light, the cruise lines suppress the information.

Most investigations fall to the country where the cruise ship is registered, such as countries like the Bahamas or Bermuda. These countries depend on the revenue generated from the cruise lines and assist the cruise lines in covering the true facts up.

The video below provides a look into cover-ups alleged against Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line (the Magical Company) and Holland America Line.   

January 7, 2012 Update: Follow the discussion on Facebook: What's more important to the cruise lines when someone disappears on the high seas?

A. The truth, or
B. The cruise line's reputation?

 

Is Your Cruise Line or Travel Agent Warning You of Crime in the Bahamas?

On New Year's eve, a major newspaper in the Bahamas published an article about crime affecting cruise ship passengers and crew.

The Tribune said that on December 13th, the United States Embassy in Nassau warned of increased violent, criminal activity in the Bahamas.  The embassy warned that armed robbery remains a “major threat” facing U.S. visitors to the Bahamas. A few days later, the Nassau Guardian discussed the warnings by the U.S. State Department and Carnival cruise line to cruise passengers and also mentioned that Acting Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis was robbed by three men in his own home at gun point.

A representative of Carnival was quoted telling governmental officials in Nassau that the cruise lines remain concerned Nassau Bahamas Cruise Ship Crimeabout incidents of crime in The Bahamas, including Nassau.

In 2013, we wrote a dozen articles about widespread violence in Nassau targeting tourists in the Bahamas arriving by cruise ships and vessels. The cases involve armed robbery, rape and murder. The incidents are happening near the port and just outside of the Atlantis resort. You can read one article here. The local newspapers are filled with stories and images of crime against tourists and local citizens alike.  

Recently, cruise passengers aboard the Celebrity Constellation were stuck in Key West for an extra day when the cruise line replaced an engine. When they finally set sail, the cruise line took them over to the nearby Bahamas rather than down to Cozumel. Many passengers expressed their concern that Celebrity sailed them to crime-ridden Nassau.

I wonder just how many travelers understand the danger of sailing into Nassau?   

Which cruise lines are passing warnings on to their passengers?

The homicide and violent crimes rates in Nassau are higher than any U.S. city. 

Are there any travels agents warning their clients to stay away from Nassau because of crime?    

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Photo Credit: Tribune newspaper

Note: I erroneously published this article under the date January 3, 2013. The correct date should be January 3, 2014.

Update: Its seems that many in the Bahamas are mad that the U.S. Embassy has issued the warning. Others suggest that the crime statistics in the Bahamas are understated in order to protect the island's reputation. Read: US Embassy's Duty Is To Their Citizens, Not The Bahamas.

Crime in the Bahamas has been a problem for a long time: When we started this blog in 2009, some of our first articles involved the Bahamas where robbers stole from large groups of cruise passengers at gunpoint, such as this case where armed men targeted 11 passengers visiting the Queen's Staircase and robbed them on a Sunday afternoon. A month later armed robbers struck again when 18 cruise passengers from Disney and Royal Caribbean were robbed during a cruise excursion.  

We also suggest readingToo little, too late? A cruise passenger robbed in Nassau speaks out. “We were repeatedly assured by police that ‘this never happens,’ and yet, 21 people were victims of aggravated theft in one day, each in busy tourist areas that are supposedly safe. I was horrified when I started doing the research online and saw just how much armed robbery, theft and violence is happening in Nassau these days.”

Read our last article about crime in Nassau - see what the local press is saying

See images of the violence from the local press in Nassau.

No Arrest After Cruise Passenger with Service Dog is Attacked Aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas

The popular online community Cruise Critic reports today on a disturbing incident where a 59-year-old passenger attacked another passenger who had a service dog with him aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas on December 20th. 

The article is based primarily on comments by Cruise Critic member "Bloemerl" who posted:

"My heart goes out to our new found friend and his service dog Freedom. He was viciously attacked late at nite while getting a pizza in the Solarium. He was beaten because a man could not respect service dogs and felt Freedom should not be on board." (The photo to the right is not of Freedom).

Service Dog - Disabled - Cruise ShipAlthough Royal Caribbean confirmed the incident occurred, the cruise line disembarked the passenger in Antigua rather than detaining him to be arrested by the FBI when the cruise ship returned to port in Fort Lauderdale.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told Cruise Critic that the attacker was disembarked for being in violation of the line's "guest conduct policy."  

Royal Caribbean claims that it reported the assault and battery to local law enforcement in Antigua "as well as to the Broward Sheriff's Office in Florida." Remarkably, there is no mention of a report to the FBI which has jurisdiction over crimes on the high seas involving U.S. citizens. The FBI can make an arrest where the victim and/or the assailant is a U.S. citizen. The failure of the cruise line to report the incident to the FBI violates the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

A spokesperson for cruise line said "ship crew would have detained the man had a law enforcement agency asked them to hold him, but no such request was received."  This statement begs the question why the FBI was not notified.

Royal Caribbean also characterized the victim as sustaining only "minor injuries and was treated in the ship's medical facility."  But according to Cruise Critic member "Bloemerl," the man was transferred to a Fort Lauderdale hospital at the conclusion of the sailing to be checked for broken ribs and possible internal injuries.

Unfortunately, this is often the way that cruise lines handle shipboard crimes. If the incident had occurred say at the Dadeland Mall here in Miami, the local police would certainly make an arrest and the case would be prosecuted. But on the high seas, the cruise lines just dump the criminal off at the next port and wash their hands of the situation. Often they refuse to notify the FBI. Prosecutions are then virtually impossible.

 

Photo credit: Royal Caribbean - a service dog is defined by Royal Caribbean as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."

23 Reports of Sexual Assault on NCL Cruise Ships in 15 Months

A court case pending in Miami contains an insight into the number of sexual assaults which occur during cruises.

The case is Jane Doe v. NCL and involves an incident where a cruise passenger alleges that she was raped in the toilet stall of a public bathroom while participating in a "Pub Crawl" on the Norwegian Sun.  A "Pub Crawl" is what I would describe as a drinking game where NCL employees take passengers to bars throughout the cruise ship where they are served booze. I mentioned the case last year.  

The federal district court judge just entered a number of orders in the case which are of interest.

Norwegian Sun Cruise Ship - Sexual AssaultNCL filed a motion arguing that it owed no obligation to warn its guests of the risk of being raped on the high seas. The court rejected the cruise line's argument.

The court pointed to the fact that there were 23 allegations of sexual assault on NCL cruise ships for the 15 month period before the incident (January 2010 to April 2011). The history of prior sexual crimes on NCL's fleet of cruise ships raised the issue whether the rape on the Norwegian Sun was foreseeable which, the court held, is an issue for the jury at trial.

NCL also argued that it had no duty not to over-serve passengers alcohol during cruises.  The federal court also rejected this argument. The court adopted the holding of a state court case, Hall v. Royal Caribbean, where a state appellate court ruled that cruise lines face liability when they serve passengers alcohol beyond the point of intoxication.

The security report on this case concluded that the passenger was "extremely intoxicated." 

Last week, I mentioned that NCL just adopted a "all you can drink" alcohol policy for $49 a day.  In our experiences there is a direct correlation between too much cruise booze and sexual assaults. 

The passenger in the NCL case is being represented by Miami maritime lawyer Keith Brais who posted copies of the court orders on line here and here.

NCL is being defended by Miami lawyer Curtis Mase.  Mr. Mase was involved in a highly publicized case in 1999 where a trial court ordered Carnival to reveal the number of sexual assaults against cruise ship passengers. This was the first time a cruise line had to reveal the extent of shipboard crimes.

Carnival disclosed that there were 62 incidents on its cruise ships for a five year period.  Two weeks later, the New York Times reported that Carnival located another 46 incidents and raised the tally to 108 incidents of sexual misconduct over the preceding 5 years. 

Gunmen Rob Jewelry Store While Costa Pacifica In Port In Greece

Cruise Port of Katakolon - Robbery The popular crew member website, Crew Center, posted an interesting article today entitled "Masked Gunmen with AK47 Robed Jewelry Store while Costa Pacifica was in the Port."

The article explains that an armed robbery of a jewelry store occurred in the port city of Katakolon, Greece while the Costa Pacifica was docked in port.

At the time of the robbery, there were hundreds of cruise tourists who had come to shopping area from the Costa Pacifica.

Crew Center explains that shortly after 2:00 PM a silver Ford Galaxy appeared and four masked men with Kalashnikovs entered the jewelry store with automatic weapons.

After the armed men robed the store of all the jewelry, they smashed the shop and shot at in the air causing panic among the locals and tourists.

Police officials say that they found the car abandoned and completely destroyed. Witnesses say that perpetrators were Greeks and spoke fluent Greek.

There are no reports that anyone was physically injured. 

Crew Center also posted a video of the incident. 

 

 

Photo and video:  Crew Center

Bermuda's Kangaroo Courts Back in Action

Bermuda Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner was again busy fining cruise tourists last week.

According to the Bermuda Sun, Magistrate Warner fined a Norwegian Star passenger on his honeymoon $800 after the local police used a sniffer canine to locate a few marijuana cigarettes (6 grams) in the passenger's cabin while he and his newlywed bride were enjoying the sites ashore. 

I have written a dozen articles (here's one and here's another) about the good Judge Warner fining U.S. passengers big bucks for small amounts of pot.  It seems like these fines are a major source of revenue for Bermuda.  The fact that the pot is found only after police take dogs on the cruise ships to conduct searches of private cabins with no warrant or probable cause doesn't seem to mind the prosecution or the judiciary in Bermuda.

American passengers who are already kicked off the cruise ship and facing jail time are always quick to pay $500 to $3,000 to avoid a few months in the slammer on the rocky island.  What a racket.  The newspapers in Bermuda love covering these type of cases and are sure to plaster a photo of the busted pothead in their newspapers

And speaking of rackets, Magistrate Warner also fined a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger $4,000 after he was caught stealing stuff on the Explorer of the Seas cruise ship.  According to Bernews, the Royal Caribbean security caught a passenger from New Jersey "using (a) stolen credit card in three transactions to dishonestly acquire goods and services (from the ship spa) including two bottles of men’s cologne."

Now I don't like crooks and I'm glad that the bad guy with the cologne got caught.  But I wonder how on Explorer of the Seas Nassau Bahamasearth a judge in Bermuda could assert jurisdiction over a theft committed by a U.S. citizen on a foreign flagged cruise ship in international waters?

According to Bernews, Magistrate Warner was also wondering why he was presiding over such a case. The newspaper states: "After questioning and then confirming that the ship was a "Bermuda Registered ship" and Bermuda authorities were lawfully able to take action, Senior Magistrate Archie Warner allowed the case to proceed."

The problem is that the Explorer of the Seas is not a vessel registered in Bermuda. Everyone knows that. No Royal Caribbean cruise ships are registered in Bermuda. The Explorer of the Seas is registered in and flies the flag of the Bahamas. (Next time the magistrate should send someone to the dock and take a photo of the cruise ship's stern. You will see: Explorer of the Seas - Nassau.)

Bermuda, the Bahamas, whatever. Both start with a "B," close enough for Magistrate Warner.  The short hearing netted Bermuda $4,000 - quick money for a case that it has no jurisdiction over.    

This would be amusing, I suppose, except for the fact that Bermuda demonstrates no interest in prosecuting serious cruise ship crimes.  Bermuda looks the other way when faced with rapes, abandonment of mariners at sea, or mysterious disappearances of crew members that occur on cruise ships which are, in fact, flying the maritime flag of Bermuda.

 

Photo Credit: Explorer of the Seas - travel.com

FBI Cruise Ship Crime Cover-Up Continues

Journalist Robert Anglen has an article today in the Arizona Republic entitled "Stats Don't Fully Account For All Cruise-Ship Crime."  The article was also published in USA TODAY and discusses the false and misleading cruise ship crimes statistics in the FBI database which mentions only 2 cruise ship crimes for the second quarter of this year. 

You will recall that the cruise lines were suppose to be required to report the hundreds of crimes which occur each year, pursuant to the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Law.  But the language of the new law was altered at the last minute to permit the cruise lines to cover the crimes up.  Lawmakers said the FBI demanded the alterations to benefit the cruise lines.  There is no doubt that the cruise lines and Bogus FBI Cruise Ship Crime Statisticstheir trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), were behind the last minute shenanigans.

Mr. Anglen wrote an article earlier this year (in June) entitled "Law Shields Industry On Cruise-Ship Crime Information" which exposed the manipulation of the law which was originally designed to require greater transparency from the cruise industry.  The public was suppose to be able to access an accurate public database with all of the crime allegations available. But the behind-the-scenes alteration of the law has resulted in an unprecedented concealment of crimes by the cruise lines with the full cooperation and assistance by the FBI.

Is it just a coincidence that many of the top security personnel at the cruise lines today used to be senior FBI officials?  The FBI has an open dialogue with the cruise lines but routinely keeps the victims in the dark.

This cozy relationship between the FBI and the cruise lines is a great disservice to the cruising public.

The article mentions Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims organization. 

Mr. Anglen's article also quotes me referring to the FBI database as "bogus" and only 2 crimes in the last quarter as "lies." These comments were from from a blog I wrote in August - "Lies, Lies & Lies - FBI & Cruise Industry Continue to Publish Bogus Cruise Crimes Statistics."

The cruise lines must be chuckling after thumbing their collective nose at the legislative process. They have proven that foreign off-shore industries can easily circumvent the U.S. democratic process, as long as they have friends in high places.  

 

Photo credit: FBI

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call

Twenty-seven years ago, a state appellate court in Florida held that a cruise line owes its passengers a duty to warn of known dangers beyond the point of debarkation in places where passengers are invited or reasonably expected to visit. Carlisle v. Ulysses Line Ltd., S.A.,475 So. 2d 248, 251 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1985). 

The Carlisle case involved a horrific incident involving four passengers aboard the S.S. Dolphin on a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. They were attracted to this particular cruise by promotional brochures advertising the beautiful beaches of Nassau. Upon arriving in Nassau, the two couples rented a jeep and headed for the beaches. Following the advice of the ship's cruise director, they traveled to a secluded beach and were ambushed by three masked gunmen who opened fire on them with shotguns. All four of them were wounded. Mr. Carlisle later died from a gunshot wound to his head. After the incident, the survivors learned from members of the ship's crew that other tourists and a member of the ship's crew had been victims of violent acts perpetrated in various places on the island. Bahamian police reported that the particular beach where plaintiffs were attacked was "very bad."

The cruise line denied that it had any obligation to passengers off of the cruise ship and further denied that it had a duty to warn of crime in the ports of call where it disembarked its passengers.  The appellate court in Carlisle disagreed, holding that the cruise line's legal duty to its passengers does not end at the gangway and it must warn of dangers where the passenger is invited to, or may reasonably be expected to visit. 

The court drew a distinction between "point to point" travel offered by an airline which clearly has no obligation to its passengers once they leave the airplane, and a cruise vacation where the cruise lines advertise (and profit from) the ports of call.  Cruise lines have an ongoing duty to their passengers throughout the cruise experience.  The decision makes sense.  The cruise lines frequent the ports of call on at least a weekly basis; they have agents in the ports; and accordingly they are in a position to know far more about the ports than a passenger. 

The federal trial courts in this jurisdiction have applied Carlisle, but the cruise lines have been trying to chip away at it for years.  Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have been trying to convince the federal judges that cruise lines should have no liability to the passengers once they step foot in port and they don't have to warn of dangers that they know about but their passengers don't.   

Recently, Royal Caribbean was successful in obtaining an order ending a case filed against it after a young woman was sexually assaulted by men in Cozumel.  The passenger alleged the cruise line knew that there Carnival Victory Cruise Ship were rapes and violent crimes against its passengers in this port but failed to warn them. You can read about this case, which is now on appeal, in our article: Royal Caribbean Smears Crime Victim & Gets Cozumel Rape Lawsuit Thrown Out Before Trial.    

Last week, in a case we are handling, the cruise lines received a major set-back when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the rationale of the Carlisle decision and stated that cruise lines do in fact have an obligation to warn cruise passengers of the danger of crime of off the ships.

The case involved a 15 year old girl who was celebrating her quinceanera with her parents and brother on a Carnival cruise. A gang-related shoot out ended up with the girl being killed in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Carnival successfully argued at the trial court level that it had no obligation to the young girl or her family, but the federal appellate court reversed the lower court. The pertinent portions of the 11th Circuit's opinion are below:

"Liz Marie and Appellants (her parents and brother) took a vacation aboard a Carnival cruise ship, the M/V VICTORY. Appellants allege that an unidentified Carnival employee encouraged Liz Marie’s father and brother to visit Coki Beach and Coral World upon disembarking the ship in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. On July 12, 2010, Appellants left the ship and traveled to Coki Beach independently of the ship’s sponsored excursions in St. Thomas. On their way back to the ship from Coki Beach, Appellants and Liz Marie rode an open-air bus past a funeral service of a gang member who recently died in a gang-related shooting near Coki Beach. Cars of funeral attendees were parked along the narrow road, blocking the bus’s passage. While stuck in traffic, gang-related, retaliatory violence erupted at the funeral, shots were fired, and Liz Marie was killed on the bus as an innocent passerby.

                                                             *                  *                   *

Appellants’ complaint alleges the following: a Carnival employee encouraged Appellants to visit Coki Beach in St. Thomas; Carnival was familiar with Coki Beach because it sold excursions there; Carnival generally knew of gang violence and public shootings in St. Thomas; Carnival knew of Coki Beach’s reputation for drug sales, theft, and gang violence; Carnival knew or should have known of the gang member’s shooting and funeral taking place near Coki Beach; Carnival failed to warn Appellants of any of these dangers; Carnival knew or should have known of these dangers because Carnival monitors crime in its ports of call; Carnival’s negligence in encouraging its passengers to visit Coki Beach and in failing to warn disembarking passengers of general and specific incidents of crime in St. Thomas and Coki Beach caused Liz Marie’s death; and Appellants have suffered various damages, including the loss of Liz Marie’s life. This negligent failure-to-warn claim is more than a mere recitation of the elements of the cause of action. The facts alleged in the complaint are plausible and raise a reasonable expectation that discovery could supply additional proof of Carnival’s liability. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S. Ct. at 1965. We consequently conclude that the district court erred in dismissing Appellants’ negligence claim under Iqbal."

You can read the entire decision here.

This is a significant decision because crime in the Caribbean islands (as well as Mexico) has been increasing over the years. We have written several dozen articles over the last couple of years about the murder, robbery and rape of cruise passengers ashore in ports of call in the Caribbean. Take a minute and read about the rash of crimes where cruise passengers are targeted: Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico.   

Our firm retained appellate specialist Phil Parrish to write the winning brief. Carnival was represented by Curtis Mase and Valentina Tejera.  You can read the lawsuit our law firm filed here.

 

The case is receiving national and international coverage:

ABC News: Vacation danger: Is cruise ship liable for perils on shore excursions?

Virgin Islands Daily News: Court rules lawsuit over slain teen tourist should be heard.

 

Photo Carnival Victory cruise ship bajan.wordpress.com

Cruise Crime Novelist Discusses Lawlessness of Cruise Industry in "Cold Grave"

A forensic medical expert in Australia, appalled by the high number of rapes and disappearances of passengers on cruise ships, has written a novel to bring awareness to the problem of crime while cruising.

Dr. Kathryn Fox appeared on an Australian morning television program to discuss her book "Cold Grave" about the death, murder and disappearance of cruise passengers. In a nutshell, the novel was inspired by the lawlessness of the cruise industry. The introduction to the interview states that cruising has never been more popular but sailing the high seas has "never been more dangerous."

The video, which you can see at this link, contains rather fascinating cruise crime information:

  • A passenger or crew member goes overboard from cruise ships every two weeks.
  • A woman is twice as likely to be raped on a cruise ship than ashore.
  • 70% of rapists on cruise ships are crew members.
  • Cold Grave - Cruise Ship Crime, Rapes, Murder and Disappearances Sexual predators often target cruise ships.
  • Shorter cruises (2 - 3 days) are more dangerous than longer cruises.

Dr. Fox discusses the disturbing  case of Disney crew member Rebecca Coriam who disappeared from the Disney Wonder cruise ship last year.  

She also mention the case of Australian passenger Dianne Brimble who was drugged and raped on a P&O cruise.

Dr. Fox explains how many passengers "on holiday" let their guard down, drink lots of alcohol, and often engage in behavior that they would not engage in at home, such as drinking in public, walking around at night, and trusting strangers including cruise employees in uniform.   

Don't forget to watch the video here.  

Lies, Lies & Lies - FBI & Cruise Industry Continue to Publish Bogus Cruise Crimes Statistics

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) statistical FBI compilation for the last quarter (April 1, 2012 - June 30, 2012) is out.

And if you are inclined to believe the FBI statistics, being on a cruise ship is the safest place on planet earth.  According to the crimes disclosed by the FBI, over the last three months of the reporting period only two crimes occurred on the 200 cruise ships or so operated by the twenty-six cruise lines operating under the trade banner of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).

Cruise Ship Crime - Rape - Sexual AssaultThe crimes which the FBI chose to disclose? One suspicious crew member death on a Carnival cruise ship, and one sexual assault on a Royal Caribbean ship. You can look at the database here

If you can read the microscopic text of the database, you may think: Wow, 3 - 4 millions passengers cruising a quarter and only one or two crimes?

But the truth is far different. We know from attending non-stop Congressional hearings over the last 7 years, that these two incidents are only a small fraction of the actual crimes which historically occur. Our little firm alone represents more cruise passengers than this victimized over the last six months.

We represent young women violently raped by two men on both a Carnival and a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. But you will find no mention of these violent and devastating crimes by the FBI or cruise line, anywhere.  The FBI database is bogus.  And you can read about other cruise crimes here, here, here, herehere, herehere.  But don't bother to look for them on the FBI list of cruise crimes. There is no mention of them.  And that is exactly how the cruise lines want it. 

In years past, we listened to Congressional testimony and read FOIA requested information where literally hundreds of sexual assaults on cruise ships were revealed.  So why have only 2 crimes been reported in the last quarter and only 5 crimes reported for all of 2012?

As we explained in prior articles, the cruise industry and the FBI teamed up to alter the language of the crime reporting bill which cruise victims had approved by both houses of Congress.  But before the cruise crime bill passed into law, the cruise lines - with the assistance of the FBI - altered the language to exclude over 95% of crimes on cruise ships from being reported on the Coast Guard database.

What the FBI discloses now is a small fraction of the actual number of crimes. 

In the U.S., the Uniform Crime Reporting ("UCR") requires all alleged crimes be disclosed to the public. But the cruise industry wants to keep the number of crimes secret. Behind the scenes, the cruise lines changed the law regarding cruise crimes such that only those crimes reported by the cruise lines, and disclosed to the FBI, and investigated by the FBI, and then closed by the FBI are included on the FBI database.

Crimes hidden from the FBI, or reported to state agencies or other governments, or those crimes reported to the FBI and ignored / not investigated by the FBI, or crimes reported to the FBI and the FBI keeps the files open indefinitely are not reported.          

Cruise Crime - Sexual Assaults on Cruise ShipsThe bottom line? The FBI and the cruise lines are hiding 95% of the crimes from the public.

This serves as a great disservice to the cruising public.

If you are a travel agent, cruise specialist or concerned member of the public, email me at jim@cruiselaw.com or call me at 305 955-5300. I'll be happy to discuss with you how we can work together to educate the public about the actual number of sexual assaults against women and children which occur routinely during cruises.   

I have spent the last decade of my life watching the cruise lines try and hide dozens of crimes a year.  It won't work. They will never get away with it, no matter how many innocent people are hurt in the process. Help me keep the cruise lines honest, and your customers safe.

The next family with teenage girls and little kids walking up the gangway to a cruise ship deserve to know the truth.

Royal Caribbean Passenger Reports Rape at Senor Frog's in Cozumel

A newspaper in Mexico and cruise expert Professor Ross Klein report that a young woman from Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas cruise ship was apparently drugged and sexually assaulted by employees of Senor Frog's in Cozumel, Mexico last Friday, August 10, 2012.

The article states that the woman (reportedly around 19-20 years of age) was cruising on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship which called on Cozumel. Her family went on a tour and ended up at Senor Frog's which is a popular bar frequented by cruise passengers and other tourists. The newspaper explains that the young woman and other family members drank and she danced with one of the employees who worked Senor Frogs Cozumelwith several other men as disc jockeys (DJ's).  

The young woman ended up being invited into the DJ's "cabin," an enclosed area of the restaurant from where music is played. The DJ's gave her a drink and she thereafter lost track of things but just remembers vague images of the four men attacking her and trying to fight them off. 

The circumstances were particularly brutal with reports that other employees went into the booth to watch, and some men were beating the victim.  

She was taken back to the cruise ship and experienced pain and burning in her genital area and had bruises on her body.  Her family decided to leave the cruise and stay on the island to report the incident to the Mexican police. 

Another newspaper reports that the four Senor Frog employees were taken to a local magistrate who promptly released them. We are not referring to this newspaper because it mentions the victim's name. The newspaper also indicates that police records indicate that from January to June 2012 there were seven complaints of rape.  It is less than clear whether the article refers to the bar or Cozumel.  Women raped in Mexico rarely obtain justice.

This is not the first report of rape of a cruise passenger in Cozumel or the first rape of a Royal Caribbean passenger who went to a Senor Frog's during a cruise.

In June, we mentioned a lawsuit filed against Royal Caribbean arising out of a gang rape of a young woman in Cozumel from the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas.  The cruise line provided the passenger with a map of the shopping locations recommended by Royal Caribbean. A gang of men brutally raped the young woman while she visited one of the recommended stores.

Royal Caribbean does not warn cruise passengers of the danger of being sexually assaulted or violently attacked in Cozumel.  Cozumel is one of the few ports capable of accommodating the Genesis project ships like the Allure and the Oasis and it is my opinion that the cruise line doesn't want to scare anyone off from traveling to this Mexican port.

Last year a young woman from Poland, working aboard the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas, was murdered while ashore in Cozumel.  

Royal Caribbean knows that bars ashore in ports of call present dangers of date rape drugs and sexual assault. 

Last year a Royal Caribbean passenger was raped and severely beaten after drinking at a Senor Frog's in Nassau.

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas Cruise Ship - Sexual AssaultCruise lines have an obligation to warn of dangers ashore in the ports of call that they sail to and where there guests are reasonably likely to frequent such as local bars near the cruise ships.  

Royal Caribbean in particular, acknowledges that it has a duty to inform cruise passengers of dangers like this. The cruise industry publication 'World Cruise Industry Review" interviewed the head of "Global Security" at Royal Caribbean, Gary Bald, about the cruise line's obligation to warn cruise passengers of dangers in ports of call.  In an article entitled "Safe Harbor," Mr. Bald stated that as far as looking for dangers to passengers in ports of call, "I’m locked in and tuned in around the clock, 24/7.”   

The article states that "Bald is happy to share security information with both the crew and the passengers. “All guests are my responsibility,” he says, “and I don’t want some more prepared than others.” 

It will be interesting to see whether Mr. Bald and his cruise line warned this latest victim and her family about the prior rapes and attacks in Cozumel and other Royal Caribbean ports of call.  

 

Photo credit: Top: Senor Frog's - Julián Miranda/SIPSE; bottom - Wikipedia / Andres Manuel Rodriguez

Secrets on the High Seas - Rape of Houston Passenger Reveals Flaws in Cruise Crime Reporting

A local news station in Houston, Texas reports that there are problems with the manner that crimes on cruise ships are reported and investigated by the FBI.

KRPC Channel 2 in Houston aired a program yesterday that reported on the rape of a 56 year old Texas woman on at the last night of a cruise out of the port of Houston (Galveston).  Like most rape cases on cruises, the FBI did not make an arrest.

The investigation by the news station revealed that the FBI disclosed that it investigated only 16 crimes all of last year.  But the crime numbers "just don't add up," according to the news station. (We know that this is a bogus number of crimes because in years past, there has been testimony before Congress tCarnival Cruise Ship - Rape - Sexual Assaulthat hundreds of crimes occur each year during cruises).  

The interesting thing revealed in this report was that the Port of Houston alone had 15 crimes reported just out of its port, so clearly the FBI's data of 16 cruise crimes for all cruises nationally is grossly understated.

This particular case involved an allegation that a cruise line employee (waiter) committed the rape.  In our experience most shipboard rapes are committed by cruise employees with waiters, as well as cabin attendants and bartenders, the most likely ones to rape a passenger.

Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") organization was interviewed during the program and stated: "True and accurate crime data needs to be available and released to the public . . .  it is the cornerstone of accountability and safety for millions of Americans who chose to cruise each year."

But the cruise industry's organization that promotes cruising, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), says that everything's just fine. CLIA responded to the program by claiming that cruise lines have been reporting crimes pursuant to a law passed in 1996.  This is a false statement as the first law requiring the reporting of crimes during cruises was not passed until 2010.  But due to intense lobbying, the law was altered and permits the cruise lines to hide crimes unless the crimes were first reported to the FBI and then closed by the FBI.  

The wording of the law permits over 95% of cruise ship crimes to remain secret - just like the cruise lines want.  

Cruise lines have been hiding true crime statistics for decades. You will see more and more of these types of stories in the future.

To watch the video, click on the link here.

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Cruise Crime Talking Points: Attack, Attack, Attack!

The big news coming from the cruise industry is that the CEO of the Cruise Line International Association, Christine Duffy, launched a new blog.  One of the primary purposes of Ms. Duffy's blog is to attack what CLIA is calling "sensationalist" and "misleading" news accounts of crimes on cruise ships.

Ms. Duffy recently sent an email to its travel agents together with an attachment called “The Truth About Crime and Crime Reporting.  Several travel agent friends sent me copies. 

The cruise line talking points are primarily in reaction to a cruise documentary which aired last month CNN Safe at Sea - Sexual Predators on Cruise Shipson CNN's Anderson Cooper's AC 360 called "Safe at Sea." CNN interviewed a 15 year old girl who was violently sexually assaulted by an uniformed crew member on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship. The crime involved a scenario we have warned about repeatedly, where a crew member uses a pass key to enter a cabin and rape a child who is alone.

You will hear no apologies to the girl from the cruise line, or the cruise industry, or Ms. Duffy during the program or in her blog. CLIA declined to participate in the program; instead, CLIA sent in an after-the-fact statement (as it always does) criticizing the little girl and two other individuals who CNN interviewed.     

The CNN program interviewed a former U.S. Customs and Border agent and a former cruise ship security officer who stated that cruise ships are "magnets" for sexual predators. (Watch the video below).

CLIA attacked them as "irresponsibly" offering "inflammatory and unfounded accusations."  

One thing to remember is that Ms. Duffy just joined CLIA as its CEO last year.  She did not attend any of the five Congressional hearings into cruise ship crimes from 2005 through 2009. She was not present at the Congressional hearings to listen to first hand accounts of sexual assault and one expert testify that the chances of being raped on a cruise is twice that of being a victim on land.  Professor Ross Klein’s study of cruise crimes indicated that the rate of sexual assault on cruise ships was 59 per 100,000 passengers. The rate of sexual assault in the United States was only 32 instances per 100,000 people.

Last year, in a landmark rape case against Princess Cruises, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal held that " . . . if congressional reports are to be believed, sexual assaults and other violent crimes on cruise ships are a serious problem." The Eleventh Circuit cited the testimony from cruise line executives from the March 2006 Congressional hearing that 178 passengers on North American cruises reported being sexually assaulted between 2003 and 2005. 

In the March 2007 hearing, a FBI representative testified before Congress that from 2000 through June 2005, the FBI opened 305 case files involving “crime on the high seas.” During those five years about 45% of the crimes that occurred on cruise ships involved sexual assaults.

In September 2007, a Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI testified before Congress that “sexual assault and physical assaults on cruise ships were the leading crime reported to and investigated by the FBI on the high seas over the last five years . . .  employees were identified as suspects in 37 percent of the cases, and 65 percent of those employees were not U.S. citizens.” The FBI representative also testified that the majority of cruise ship sexual assault cases are not prosecuted.

Although these numbers are significant, I have always thought that the crime statistics reported to Congress are probably just a fraction of the actual number of crimes which occur during cruises. For example, in 2006, Royal Caribbean told Congress that 66 rapes and sexual assaults reportedly CNN Cruise Crime - Rape on Cruise Shipsoccurred over the course of the preceding three years - that's 3 rapes every 2 month just on the Royal Caribbean fleet. However, in a subsequent civil case our firm handled against this cruise line, a trial court here in Miami ordered the cruise line to produce its raw crime data to us. The reports revealed that the total number of sex-related crimes were actually around 273 (over 4 times the amount reported to Congress). 

The Los Angeles Times covered the story in an article entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters."

CLIA is banking on its travel agents having short memories and not being concerned with actual statistics. CLIA's talking points contain no statistics, only self-serving opinions like "crime is "remarkably low" or there are only a "handful" of crimes during cruises. 

So far it seems like the travel writers and travel agents are responding to CLIA's call to arms.  

Travel Agent Central was the first to publish articles about the cruise industry's crime talking points. One article is entitled "CLIA ARMS AGENTS TO REBUT REPORTS OF CRIME AT SEA" (caps in original), written by Andrew Sheivachman.  It explains how CLIA is "arming" its agents to engage in a war against those who were victimized at sea.

The headline made me stop and shake my head - the cruise lines "arming" their  agents to fight the victims? Sounds like the cruise industry is fighting a war.  What an real insight into the cruise industry's thought process. Let's-re-victimize-the-women-and children-raped-during-cruises!   

Other bloggers and travel writers are taking CLIA's bait.

A Canadian travel agent, Robert Mackie, recently blogged about the CLIA talking points and adopted all of Ms. Duffy's talking points verbatim in his article Truth in Television Travel Reports.

Travel writer Theresa Norton Masek is the latest one to swallow the cruise lines' bait - hook, line and sinker. Writing for Travel Pulse, Ms. Masek penned CLIA Takes Steps to Battle Sensationalist Reports on Cruise Ship Crime which pitches all of CLIA's points.  The article offers no view other than the cruise lines' and might as well as been written by Ms. Duffy herself.

These articles are entirely disrespectful to actual crime victims. What did the the 15 year old girl raped on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas do to deserve such scorn?  CLIA has chosenCruise Ship Rape - Royal Caribbean not only to "deny and defend," but to "attack the victim" and anyone who will stand with her. 

The question posed to travel agents is simple.  Do you stand with your cruise trade organization when it embarks on a war to regain its reputation where victims are re-traumatized in the process?

Such a question poses not only a philosophical dilemma, but a pragmatic problem as well.  Do you really want to risk embedding CLIA's talking points into your sales pitch to your clients - only to expose yourself to a lawsuit for fraud if your client's daughter is raped on a cruise you sell based on such false information?

Instead of walking lock-step with CLIA, do something not contemplated by CLIA's cult-like talking points - tell your clients the truth.  Refer them to a reliable source of information. 

The Sun Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale has an online data base for one year of cruise ships crimes. There are hundreds of assaults, rapes, thefts and other disturbing stuff - no different than any major city. Take a look here.  

 

 

Watch CNN Special "Predators at Sea" - Are Your Kids Safe on Cruise Ships?

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas - Sexual Predator Last night, CNN Anderson Cooper's program AC 360 took a look at the safety of women and children on cruise ships.

The program began with an interview with a girl who alleges that at age 15 she was sexually assaulted by who she describes as a uniformed Royal Caribbean crew member aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship. The crime occurred after the cruise employee let himself into the child's cabin while her parents were at a different part of the cruise ship. Like most cruise ship crime cases, the FBI did not arrest anyone and the crime remains unsolved.

A former U.S. Customs and Border agent and a former cruise ship security officer were interviewed. They stated that there is a 85% to 100% chance that a cruise ship leaving a port in Florida has a sexual predator aboard. Cruise ships are "magnets" for sexual predators and criminals know that cruise crimes are rarely reported and rarely investigated by the FBI. 

The cruise industry, predictably, released its talking points and stated that the safety of its guests is its highest priority. The cruise industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), also stated that ship crime is rare. It went as far as to state that there are only a "handful" of crimes which occur during cruises based on the database required by a new cruise safety law.

Remarkably, the cruise industry did not mention that the cruise law was watered down to require the disclosure of only a fraction of the many hundreds of crimes which occur each year. We suspect that CLIA was behind the alteration of the cruise law in order to cover-up crimes like the one involving the girl on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Watch the video below:    

 

CNN's "Safe at Sea" Series Investigates Sexual Assault of 15 Year Old Girl on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean Child Rape - Cruise Ship Crime Tonight, the CNN Anderson Cooper AC360 program aired a short documentary into the issue of the safety of children on the high seas, entitled "Safe at Sea."

The program focuses on a fifteen year old girl sailing with her family on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in 2010.  While her parents and siblings were at a different part of the ship, the young girl was in her cabin alone.  A crew member in uniform uses a pass key and enters the cabin unannounced and violently forces her to perform oral sex.

Terrified and distraught, the child did not immediately report the crime to her parents.

Our investigation into other crimes against children on Royal Caribbean cruise ships led us to the court ordered production of an internal report by Royal Caribbean which concluded that sexual misconduct occurs "frequently." The report concluded that as many as one-third of women and children sexually assaulted on Royal Caribbean cruise ships report the crime only after they have left the cruise ship and are back in the security of their home.  

In this case, the parents informed the local police in California of the shipboard crime who found the child's complaints to be "credible."  The police forwarded the complaints to the FBI.  The FBI investigation included collecting photographs of crew members selected by the cruise line which, not surprisingly, did not contain the predator's photo. The family thereafter never heard back from the FBI.

Child Sexual Assault - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship The cruise line, however, paid a settlement to the child. On the CNN program tonight, the child (whose identify was protected for her privacy) stated that she felt the crew member was a predator and had done it before.

The program also contained an interview with a former U.S. Customs and Border official who stated that, in her experience, 85% of cruises contain at least one sexual predator on the cruise ship.  

The cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), attacked the former federal employee and released a statement to CNN stating that:

" . . . . it is disconcerting that this individual would irresponsibly offer such inflammatory and unfounded accusations."

This, in a nutshell, is the attitude of the cruise industry and cruise lines like Royal Caribbean toward victims.

A fifteen year old child is sexually assaulted during a cruise. Yet, the cruise line and the cruise industry offer no apologies to the child or her family.  

Instead, they attack those who dare to speak out in public about crimes on cruise ships.

Cruise Line International Association - CLIA Attacks Cruise Victim

Cruise Law - Coming to a Theater Near You!

People ask me why I practice "cruise law." My answer?  It's the most exciting type of law practice possible, like being in a movie - except it's the real world with real people.

Consider the news in the world of cruising this year. 

A showboating and debonair Italian captain runs a $500 million luxury cruise liner into the rocks.  He puts his blond girlfriend into one of the first lifeboats to safety. His officers announce on the PA system that "the situation is under control. Go back to your cabins." He abandons ship, claiming that his slipped and fell into a life boat. Passengers as young as 5 and as old as 70 then drown.

Cruise Law News - Cruise Ship DramaIf this were a movie, no one would believe such an outrageous script.        

Click on the TV and chances are you'll see Images of cruise ships adrift on the high seas. These are not rusting freighters from third world nations.  They are the cruise lines' best, biggest, safest and most technologically advanced cruise ships carrying the most precious cargo in the world - your families.

This year alone we've seen cruise line abandonment of mariners in distress, abuse of crew members, capsizing, collisions, conspiracy, cover-ups, crimes, disappearances, engine failures, fires, groundings, and union busting involving Azamara, Carnival, Costa, MSC, Norwegian, P & O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Saga Cruises and many other cruise lines.

When a passenger or crew member is injured or a victim of crime on the high seas, the cruise lines are their worst enemy.  The deceit and double-dealing by the cruise lines are right out of a bad movie script.

I have written over a thousand articles about bad behavior of cruise ship over the last couple of years.

There will be no end of the stories in the future. 

Our firm is on the edge of the drama, always ready to help a cruise passenger in distress or a crew member needing medical care.  In an industry which cares most about it's own image and reputation rather than your family's health and safety, we are always eager to help the underdog.  In the process, we will expose "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."    

L.A. Times Weighs In On Cruise Crime Cover-Up

The L.A. Times is the latest major newspaper to discuss the behind-the-scenes alteration of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.  

In Drop in Cruise Ships' Reported Crimes Raises Questions written by Dan Weikel and an accompanying editorial Cruise ship crimes: Why so hush-hush? by Paul Morrison, the L.A. Times takes a look at the reporting of cruise ship crimes after the new cruise safety law came into effect. 

Designed to require greater transparency from the cruise lines in reporting shipboard crimes, the new cruise safety law was watered down to require the disclosure of only those alleged crimes which the cruise lines reported to the FBI and the FBI then closed.

This altered language was designed to cover up the majority of crimes on cruise ships.  Before the new Cruise Ship Crime Lawcruise safety law came into effect, the FBI was known for its disinterest in investigating crimes on cruise Cruise Ship Crime - Cruise Crime Lawships. For those few crimes it investigated, the FBI solved few of them.  It also seemed to never close their files even when in truth it was not doing anything to investigate the crimes.  By altering the language of the law, the cruise lines knew that it would keep the actual number of crimes under wraps.

The cruise lines deny that they were involved in the cover-up.  And so far Congressman Kerry's office (who was instrumental in passing the new law) is pointing to the FBI and Coast Guard as requesting the change.  Here's what the L.A. Times is saying:

"The FBI and the Coast Guard had asked Congress for wording that means, under the law, that the public only is allowed to be told about the number of closed cases that are no longer being investigated.

That’s just about 180 degrees opposite what law enforcement agencies do on land: All reported crimes are public record, not just those under investigation or resolved.

See how insidious such a policy can be?

If we heard only about the LAPD’s closed cases, nobody would have heard of the Black Dahlia, and the recent murders of two USC graduate students from China might not be public knowledge. Women in South L.A. wouldn’t have been told to be on alert for the "Teardrop Rapist," who has raped nearly three dozen women in the course of about 15 years, one as recently as last month.

This kind of result is hardly what a law called the "Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act" sounds like it was meant to achieve. Turns out, the security and safety being protected here are the economic security and fiscal safety of cruise lines."

The question at this point is not whether there was a behind-the-scenes cover-up, but who in addition to the FBI and Coast Guard were engaged in the cover-up.  Were the cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), involved?  Of course, but they would never admit it. But why would the FBI alone take such steps, which as the L.A. Times concludes, were designed to protect the "economic security and fiscal safety of cruise lines" and not the passengers victimized on cruise ships?

With an industry known for its secrecy, it will take some time before the ugly truth comes out.  But it eventually will. The public will then see that the cruise lines and their CLIA representatives worked overtime with federal agencies against transparency. For the time being, they were successful in thwarting the democratic process and turning the cruise safety law into a joke. 

Cruise Crime Debate Continues

The recent articles about the FBI assisting the cruise lines in covering up ship crimes has sparked a re-newed interest in the safety of cruise passengers on the high seas.

Fox News published an article this morning "How Safe Is Your Cruise Ship" mentioning the cruise lines' talking points that cruise ship crime is "extremely rare."  For a different point of view, Fox News interviewed cruise expert Ross Klein who has testified before Congress that a cruise passenger "is twice as likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise ship than on land."

Fox News also mentioned our law firm's experiences representing cruise sexual assault victims, including children.

The debate whether cruise ship crime today is "rare" or "routine" consists essentially of opinions without a quantitative foundation because the FBI is hiding the actual crime statistics from the public, as Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims Organization discusses in the video below.

It should be up to the public, not a corporation with a conflict of interest, to determine exactly what is "rare" or "routine" based on the actual crimes statistics which are currently being hidden. .

 

FBI Cruise Crime Cover Up Story Goes Viral

FBI Cruise Crime Cover Up - Royal Caribbean - FBI AgentsEvery once in a while a story comes along which blows the lid off of the status quo.

Such a story broke yesterday when Salon Magazine published a blockbuster article "Erasing Cruise Ship Crime." Written by Matthew Harwood, the Salon article tackles the ugly spectacle of our nation's FBI sabotaging the efforts of a grass roots cruise victims organization.  

The story goes like this. The International Cruise Victims Organization (ICV) labored for the past six years to enact a cruise safety law to require the cruise lines to report the many cruise ship crimes which occur each year.  All of the cruise victims' stories are compelling - a son or daughter who vanished at sea under mysterious circumstances, a child lost due to gross medical negligence by shipboard doctors, a woman raped at sea - all real tragedies that happened to real people. 

The cruise lines fought tooth and nail against the passage of the ICV supported law, but dropped its opposition at the last minute.  Why?  The fix was in. The FBI altered the language in the cruise crime bill at the last minute. Instead of reporting all crimes (averaging over 400 a year), the cruise ship crimes which are now disclosed on the FBI database average barely one tenth of that figure. As a final indignity, the cruise lines and some travel agents point to the bogus database as proof that cruising is absolutely safe.  

The Salon article points out the fact that cruise lines hire FBI officials to maintain the status quo. The result is that the FBI and its fraternity alumni brothers on the cruise ships all scratch each other's backs. No one will give their friend a hard time.  No need for anyone to be embarrassed. The cruise lines even invite the FBI to private wine and dinner parties, but exclude the victim's group.

The truth here is ugly. It involves behind-the-scenes shenanigans by large offshore corporations and a large federal agency.  The secret deals stifle democracy. The editing of Congressional bills by a self-dealing FBI perpetuates a system which rewards the indifference of federal law enforcement officials who are suppose to respond to victim's horror stories on the high seas but, in truth, are deep in the FBI - Cruise Line Cruise Crime Cover Upcruise lines' pockets.  It condones and encourages cruise lines to cover up ship crimes whenever and wherever they can, while the FBI looks the other way.

The Salon story hit a nerve. 

The conservative South Florida Business Journal asked whether the Salon article was the "smoking gun" which revealed a cozy relationship between the FBI and the Miami-based cruise lines, particularly Royal Caribbean which hired many FBI agents as well as senior FBI officials.  Is it a coincidence that the cruise lines' friends at the FBI were the ones who watered the cruise crime bill down?

Many other reporters and bloggers picked up the story and added a sense of outrage to the FBI cover up.        

Jezebel wrote "FBI Works With Cruise Lines to Bury Reports of Rapes at Sea," and added a photo of a huge Royal Caribbean cruise ship (photo top).

Inquisitir published "FBI Involved In Cruise Line Sexual Assault Crime Coverups."

Newser added "FBI Muzzles Cruise Line Rape Cases - Salon Says Bureau Too Cozy with Cruise Line Industry."

Leisure Guy said "Concealing Crime: How the FBI Improves Its Crime Fighting Statistics."

Raw Story reported "Loophole Lets Cruise Ship Rapes Go Unreported."

Grey haired old-school PR experts will tell the cruise lines and FBI not to worry about the bad press because the bloggers are not writing for the major newspapers.  But with the explosion of social media today, no one cares what the AP or Reuters are saying.  Now it's the Huffington Post types who are spreading the word and influencing public opinion.  

Other stories will follow.  You will see major newspapers and networks come with the next round of stories exposing the FBI cruise crime cover up.

The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) will FBI - Cruise Lines Cruise Crime Cover Upeventually respond with their own spin.  CLIA will open the prepared, canned statements: "Crime is rare. Our number 1 priority is the safety of our guests. We reports all allegations of crime to the appropriate law enforcement." But the tide has turned.  The public knows these types of official statements are gobbledygook.  

Truth be told, the FBI, which is suppose to watch over the foreign cruise line corporations and protect the public, has acted like a secret lobbyist for the cruise lines.

Should you trust the cruise lines and a corrupt FBI organization with the most precious cargo carried on cruise ships - your family?

 

Photo credits from the original media sources, top to bottom:

Jezebel, Inquisitir, Salon.

"Erasing Cruise Ship Crime" - Why Did the FBI Gut a Bill Requiring the Cruise Industry to Report Rapes?

Salon Magazine published a blockbuster article today about how the FBI gutted a cruise safety law designed to protect the cruising public.

The article states that the grassroots International Cruise Victims (ICV) association worked for years with Congress to pass, on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act.  The new cruise law required the FBI to post incidents of cruise ship crimes on an internet database maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

But shortly before the act passed into law, the FBI inserted language which watered the reporting requirements down to the point that the database is worthless.  Before the law passed, each year hundreds of rapes and violent crimes on cruise ships were reported by the cruise lines.  Now, only a handful are reported.  For some quarters, nothing is reported.  

You can see the bogus database here

Was the cruise industry behind the changes to the cruise safety bill?

The article points to the incestuous relationship between the FBI and the cruise lines which hire former FBI officials to maintain a cozy relationship with the FBI.  Although the new cruise safety law was designed to force greater transparency from the cruise lines, the FBI's manipulation of the bill results International Cruise Victims - ICV - Cruise Crime Lawin just the the opposite result - greater secrecy and opportunity for the cruise lines to cover the crimes up.

The bottom line? The cruising public is kept from reviewing the true crime statistics.  And the cruise lines and some travel agents use the bogus database to advertise that cruising is safe! 

The article quotes ICV CEO Ken Carver, President Jamie Barnett, (photo, in Washington D.C.) and board member (and our client) Laurie Dishman.

Cruise expert Ross Klein, who has testified before Congress several times, is also mentioned.

The article refers to a couple of articles from Cruise Law News as well.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the FBI and its friends frustrated the democratic process and the hard work of the ICV organization.  But one thing is certain, the ICV under the leadership of CEO Carver and President Barnett will keeping working until the original language is back in the cruise safety law.

 

Photo credit:  Ken Carver and Jamie Barnett - by Jim Walker

Cruise Ship Rapist Pleads Guilty and Sentenced to Jail, But the FBI Refuses to Post Crime Data for Public Viewing

Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship RapeOne of the purposes of the new Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Law is to educate the public regarding the sexual assaults and other crimes which occur on cruise ships.

But as we reported in our article Cruise Lines, FBI & Coast Guard Caught Altering Cruise Crime Law, the FBI and Coast Guard - acting to promote the cruise lines' interests - undercut the Congressional purpose of the new cruise crime law. The cruise lines and these two federal agencies changed the language of the law to eliminate most cruise ship crimes from being reported.  

Originally all cruise ship crimes were required to be disclosed to the public.  But with the altered language, cruise crimes not reported to the FBI, or those crimes reported to the FBI and still under investigation, do not need to be disclosed to the public. 

You can read about about this issue in the Washington Post, USA TodayArizona Central and NBC Bay Area.

A good example of how the cruise lines are trying to hide crime statistics is a recent case this year involving a young girl raped on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. We reported on the crime in January.  A fifteen year old girl was lured from a teen club and raped by another teenager and a 20 year old man, Luis Scavone (photo left), on the last night of the cruise. The minor promptly reported the crime after she escaped from the rapists' cabin.

Royal Caribbean allegedly "sealed" off the crime scene and reported the crime to the FBI and the Broward County's Sheriff's Office in the cruise ship's home port. In Florida, local law enforcement also have jurisdiction over crimes on the high seas on cruise ships which return to a port in Florida.    

But rather than preserving evidence of the crime scene, Royal Caribbean unlocked the "sealed" cabin and cleaned the cabin.  It destroyed evidence in the crime scene.  Once the FBI learned of the cruise line's misconduct, it left the cruise ship and declined to prosecute.

The FBI was willing to let the two rapists (from Brazil) walk free after raping a girl. Even more disturbing is that the evidence destruction occurred on a cruise ship supervised by a former top FBI officer, Gary Bald (photo below left), who now heads Royal Caribbean's security department.

The FBI agents should have arrested cruise line employees for the destruction of evidence, but the FBI looked the other way and simply closed its investigation. The cozy relationship between the FBI and its former FBI agents, who are now working for the cruise lines, sometimes leads to the former and present FBI agents scratching each other's backs rather than protecting the public.

The Broward County Sheriff's Department, on the other hand, was not deterred by the cruise line's misconduct and arrested the two Brazilians. The State Attorney's Office for Broward County then prosecuted the two suspects and obtained guilty pleas from both.  The 20 year old Brazilian man pled guilty last week to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in the rape of the girl.  He is now behind bars.   

Royal Caribbean Cruise - Director of Security Gary BaldYou would think that the rape of a child on the world's largest cruise ship would be documented on the online database maintained by the FBI and Coast Guard.  That was the intent of the cruise crime law. But the FBI decided not to report it. Take a look here at the FBI statistics.  There is not a single report of a sexual assault for Royal Caribbean in 2012. In fact, there is not one report of a violent sexual crime against a cruise passenger for the entire cruise industry this year.

In prior years, the FBI reported over 400 crimes on cruises a year.  But now with the altered language in the cruise crime law, the FBI and cruise lines are concealing crimes. The FBI online database lists only 13 sexual crimes for all of last year.   

The bottom line is that even thought the cruise rapist is in jail after pleading guilty to state prosecutors, the FBI refuses to reveal the crime to the U.S. public on the online database required by the cruise crime law.

There is monkey business going on here.

The FBI and the cruise lines who routinely hire FBI agents are in cahoots. Congress needs to investigate how they derailed the law.  And the U.S. public needs to know how a law designed to protect women and children on cruises has been sabotaged to protect the image of the billion dollar cruise industry.     

Cruise Lines, FBI & Coast Guard Caught Altering Cruise Crime Law

NBC Bay Area reports that Congress is pointing the finger at the the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard for watering down a cruise crime law on behalf of the cruise lines to make it easier for the cruise industry to withhold statistics about crime at sea from the American public.

The Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 was intended to provide greater transparency regarding the number of cruise ship crimes which occur on cruise ships each year. The FBI has previously stated that over 400 serious crimes occur a year on cruise ships leaving U.S. ports.

However, last minute maneuvers by the FBI and Coast Guard on behalf of the cruise lines altered the bill so that only crimes "no longer under investigation” by the FBI would be reported in the public database.

Crimes not reported to the FBI, and therefore no longer under investigation, don't have to be disclosed to the public. This encourages the cruise lines to engage in cover-ups, which was the problem which the new law was intended to correct.

The result of the alteration of the law is that only a few crimes are reported to the public rather than the hundreds which actually occur.

Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims Association, spent months trying to figure out how the bill was altered.  He learned that the Senator who introduced the law, John Kerry, agreed to permit the law to be altered.

Mr. Carver said he's disappointed that the agencies he’d worked with to make crime statistics more transparent are to blame for the radical changes to the cruise crime law.

"We do feel betrayed there has been a close relationship built up over the years between the Coast Guard, FBI and cruise lines," Carver said. "Why did they want to change it so that instead of working to protect the U.S. citizens it protected the cruise line industry?"  

 

  

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Gang Rape in Cozumel

Cozumel - Cruise Ship CrimeCrimes against women in ports of call is a topic which I write about on a regular basis on Cruise Law News. Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn about the danger of crimes in the ports of call that they sail to on a regular basis.  Cruise lines sell an idyllic image of a care-free tropical vacation, but in reality they know or should know that there are dangers ashore waiting for their passengers.

One country I write about all too often is Mexico.  Drug related crime is increasingly creeping into the port cities. Gang violence will increasingly pose a threat to cruise passengers traveling to Mexico unless things turn around quickly in the future.

But a real threat to female passengers sailing to Mexican ports is violence, including sexual assault, against teenagers and young women.

A case pending in our court system should serve as a wake up call to cruise lines sailing to Mexican ports.  After Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas sailed into Cozumel, a young woman went ashore into the port to shop.  The lawsuit alleges that the cruise line provided her with a map of the shopping locations recommended by Royal Caribbean.  A gang of men brutally raped the young woman while she visited one of the recommended stores.  The lawsuit further alleges that it is believed that the men who raped the cruise passenger worked in the subject shopping area.

Like most crimes against cruise passengers in ports of call, there have been no arrests.  Ostensibly the alleged rapists may still be working in and / or around the shopping area in question.

Does Royal Caribbean warn cruise passengers of this danger?  No.  Cozumel is one of the few ports capable of accommodating the Genesis class cruise ships like the Allure and the Oasis.  No way will Royal Caribbean risk scaring its customers away from Cozumel when it has to sell 11,000 tickets for these two monster ships.

In fact, the cruise line touts Cozumel as one of the safer ports in the world.

Five months after the gang rape of the Royal Caribbean cruise passenger from the Oasis, a Royal Cozumel - Cruise Chip CrimeCaribbean crewmember from the Allure of the Seas was found murdered and floating in the water off of Cozumel.  The cruise line did not alert her or any other crewmembers or passengers of the earlier crime.  Indeed, after the murder Royal Caribbean issued a press release characterizing the crime as "isolated and uncharacteristic for Cozumel."   

It seems that Royal Caribbean forgot about the gang rape a few months earlier? 

The murder, like the rape, remains unsolved.

I have never heard of anyone in Mexico being tried or convicted of a crime against a tourist or a ship employee going ashore. There are several web sites discussing the reluctance of Mexican police to get involved in investigations in cases like this, such as Mexican Vacation Awareness which chronicles crimes and violence against tourists in Mexico.  Some of the local police in Mexico have even been accused of participating in crimes against tourists.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean conceal these dangers from their cruise guests.  It appears that even the stores on the cruise line's recommended shopping list may not be safe to visit.

 

Photo credit: AP Photo/Angel Castellanos

Did the Cruise Industry Sabotage the New Cruise Crime Law?

The Arizona Central newspaper published a blockbuster article this morning, Law Withholds Cruise Safety Information, which reveals how the cruise industry avoids reporting crimes.

In 2010, Congress passed a federal law which requires cruise lines to report missing passengers, murders, sexual assaults, and other crimes on cruise ships. Over the years there has been great debate over the frequency of crimes during cruises.  Some experts have reported that the likelihood of being a victim of rape is twice as high on a cruise ship compared to on land, whereas cruise lines conclude - without reference to actual statistics - that cruise crime is "rare."

Cruise Ship CrimeThe new law, called the "Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act," was designed to force greater transparency from cruise lines regarding just how many women are raped and children molested during cruises. But instead of revealing the true number of crimes which take place, the new law permits cruise lines to cover the crimes up. 

As originally written, the law required the Coast Guard to post on an internet site, "a numerical accounting of the missing persons and alleged crimes . . ." However, shortly before the bill was enacted into law, the language was changed to "a numerical accounting of the missing persons and alleged crimes . . . that are no longer under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

As the article explains, this means that the public is not allowed to see reports of:

  • Cases handled only by the cruise lines; 
  • Cases not investigated by the FBI; 
  • Cases under active investigation by the FBI; and
  • Cases left open after the FBI files charges.

The result is that only a tiny fraction of cruise ship crimes are being disclosed to the public. The Arizona Central newspaper states:

"The public is not allowed to see reports of all alleged crimes aboard ships. Where the FBI once publicly reported more than 400 crimes a year, only six crimes on ships in the past nine months have been listed on the public database. And cases not investigated by the FBI -- for example, allegations handled by a ship's security staff -- never will be reported in the database under the new law."

6 crimes on 200 gigantic floating cities?  Give me a break. Earlier this year I reported on 13 sexual crimes committed by a single pedophile crewmember on just a couple of Cunard cruise ships. None of these crimes against little kids ever found their way onto the database. Hundreds of thousands of parents booked cruises and took their kids into the cruise ships' "playzones" without knowing a child predator worked there. That's exactly how the cruise lines want the cruise crime law to work.  

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization worked hard for six years to see that the new cruise law came into effect.  The cruise industry and its trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA), fought tooth and nail against the ICV.  But at the last minute, CLIA dropped its opposition to the new law.

I attended the five Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. leading up to the new law (including the June 19 2008 hearing before the Senate, photo below).  I remember thinking that it was funny (i.e., odd, Cruise Ship Safety Hearing strange, suspicious) that CLIA rolled over at the last minute.  Well, now it's clear, the cruise lines were just playing possum.

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are full of former FBI agents and Coast Guard officials who go into the private sector to make the big bucks working for the cruise lines at the end of their careers.  

While the victims of cruise ship rapes and families of missing cruise passengers were celebrating the passage of the cruise crime bill, the cruise lines were at work with their former colleagues at the FBI and Coast Guard to water the language of the new law down.

The newspaper quotes a FBI spokesperson Denise Ballew saying "We are not at liberty to discuss any information we may have fed into the legislative review process." 

Before the cruise crime bill passed, cruise lines were self-regulating and not required to report crimes that took place in international waters.  Now, there is a law but it was subverted to provide greater secrecy for the cruise industry than ever before.

Cruise lines can now safely hide before the loopholes that were inserted at the last minute without the knowledge of the cruise victims' organization.  The result is that the public cannot learn of the actual number of crimes on cruise ships.

Take a look at the cruise crime statistics here.  They are a joke.   

Let's hope that Congress will not let cruise lines get away with these shenanigans.  Congress needs to change the language of the bill back to as originally drafted.  Otherwise, families thinking of cruising will be tricked and their family members potentially victimized if they rely on this incomplete and deceiving information. 

 

June 10, 2012 Update:  USA Today re-printed the article and there are some brutally honest comments being made in the comment section about the cruise industry, corporate lobbying, Federal government and FBI and pay-offs & sell-outs . . .  

Guilty Pleas in Celebrity Cruises Excursion Bus Robbery in St. Kitts

The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer reports today that five men accused of robbing a tour bus full of cruise passengers in November 2010 pleaded guilty to the crime.

Elroy “Stanny” Williams, Junior “Que” Sobratie, and Curtis Long were charged with four counts of robbery, one count of conspiracy and one count of assault with intent to rob, while Delvin Francis and George Welsh were charged as accessories to the crime.

The men were involved in the armed robbery of the 17 cruise passengers who were aboard a tour bus on its way to Brimstone Hill Fortress.

St. Kitts Cruise Ship RobberyThe robbery targeted 17 cruise passengers from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship. They were on a cruise sponsored excursion called the "Caribbean Journey Masters tour bus." While the tour bus was heading towards a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path. The driver exited to investigate, and the robbers threw a rock into the windshield of the bus. Two armed, masked men rushed from the bushes and entered the bus.

A local newspaper reported that seventeen passengers, including an infant, were aboard the bus at the time of the robbery. The cruise passengers were robbed of their money, cell phones, jewelry and other personal items.

We wrote a number of articles about the crime:

More Cruise Tourists Robbed, This Time In St. Kitts

Celebrity Cruise Passenger Robbers Face Trial in St. Kitts

"New" Evidence in George Smith Case: "We Gave That Guy A Paragliding Lesson Without A Parachute"

CBS News aired an interesting program today where additional details of the incriminating statements by the "three Russians" about "missing honeymooner" George Smith were revealed.

CBS interviewed former Assistant FBI Director John Miller who explained that the day after Mr. Smith's disappearance, the two Rozenberg men and "Rusty" Kofman were eating breakfast in the cruise ship's George Smith Missing - Cruise Ship Murderdining room when they began filming each other. Miller explains that the men were recorded laughing about the situation and mocking Mr. Smith. 

The camera then stops on one of the three men (who was not identified) who said: "We gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."

To my knowledge, these precise words have never been revealed to the public before.  Although the release of the actual statement is new, the existence of the tape is not.  The FBI has been in possession of the tape since 2005.

Obviously this statement is incriminating, considering Mr. Smith went over the railing of his balcony and the Royal Caribbean security report on the morning of the disappearance states that young men were seen leaving the area near the Smith's cabin at around 4:30 AM.

With this statement as well as other evidence we are familiar with in the case (we represented Jennifer Hagel and hired forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee to investigate whether George was thrown overboard), it is disturbing that the FBI has not made an arrest.  

It's long overdue.

 

 

Video credit:  CBS News

Last summer we wrote a series of articles about Mr. Smith's disappearance: Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later.

"Concerns Linger About Cruise Line Safety"

Cruise Ship Crime - Cruise LawThe Seattle Times published an article today raising the issue of whether cruising is really safer, and crime reporting more transparent, following the passage of the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act which came into effect this year.  The article is Concerns Linger About Cruise Line Safety.

The article was written by Christopher Elliott.  Mr. Elliott interviewed me, Ken Carver - the Chairman of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, and David Pelkin - a spokesperson for the cruise line's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).

The CLIA spokesperson dodged the question.  But my thoughts about the issue, as well as those of ICV President Carver, came through loud and clear.

The language of the new cruise safety law was watered down by the cruise lines to the point that reporting crimes alleged on cruise ships is less transparent than ever.  Mr.Elliott writes:

"The International Cruise Victims Association's Carver is also skeptical of the crime statistics. He alleges that the actual number of crimes is hundreds of times higher. "That's the most disappointing part of the new law," he says. "The statistical database is largely incomplete."

The problem is a clever loophole in the law, which stipulates that the FBI doesn't have to include open files in crime statistics. As long as a case isn't closed, it doesn't get reported. "Many travel agents are now marketing cruises by referring their clients to the Coast Guard database for the proposition that there are virtually no crimes at all on cruise ships," Walker adds. "It makes a mockery of the law." 

You can read the article here.

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

"10 Murdered in Mexican Pacific Resort City" reads the headline in Acapulco today, with a photo below of a bloody body lying in from of a scenic beach resort.  After such a horrific headline and photo, no one needs to read the actual article about the mutilated, dismembered and often decapitated bodies dumped in public areas of the Mexican city.

Two weeks ago, some 50 or so headless bodies were dumped on a highway near Monterrey, Mexico. The corpses had been mutilated with the dead's heads, hands and feet all cut off.

The official word from the Mexican authorities is always the same statement, carefully tailored not to scare the tourists and their U.S. dollars away - its just drug violence; don't worry the Zetas drug gang Violence Acapulco Mexico - Cruise Vacationdon't target cruise passengers; violence like this doesn't happen in cruise ports.

Perhaps it's true that there is more violence in a northern land-locked city like Monterrey, but how about a resort and cruise port like Acapulco?

A year and a half ago, USA Today asked the question in an article "Will Cruise Ships Bypass Acapulco Because Of Drug Violence?"  

Which cruise lines today are still sailing to Acapulco or, for that matter, Puerto Vallarta?  

I've written a number of articles about the dangers presented by violence in Mexico:

Two month ago, armed banditos robbed 22 Carnival cruise passengers who were traveling in a bus back to the port in Puerto Vallarta during a Carnival sponsored excursion.

Last November, armed robbers stuck up a Puerto Vallarta jewelry store while a Holland American Line cruise ship was in port.  The U.S. press didn't mention the story.

In October of last year, I posted this article: "Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas: Is it Safe to Cruise to Mexico?" after an unbelievable gun fight in broad daylight. 

Two years ago, I wrote: "Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Ships From L.A. Due To Crime In Mexico."

After I wrote my article about the crazy shoot-out in Cabo last year, I received hate e-mails for a couple of weeks. Not from Mexicans, but mostly from U.S. citizens who moved south and are selling real estate or involved in small businesses in places like Cabo or Puerto Vallarta.

There is no question that drug-related violence is out of control in Mexico.  But do U.S. passengers who have never traveled to Mexico really take the time to distinguish Monterrey from Mazatlan when there are reports of a dozen violent murders in a single day?     

An AP article last year said that although port officials and cruise industry representatives have tried to emphasize that most violence in Mexico takes place away from cruise destinations, the message has a hard time "competing with images of beheaded bodies on the news."

Working for the Mexican tourism board or as a travel agent in LA selling cruises to Mexico seems like impossible jobs in the face of such violence.  

My view?  There are a lot of safe cruise itineraries leaving out of Seattle to Alaska I would consider taking long before sailing my family south of the border.  

 

For additional information, consider:

Photo Blog - Drug Related Killings on the Rise in Acapulco

Five People Killed at the Port of Acapulco (March 2012)

How safe is Mexico for Tourists?

In Acapulco, It's Mayhem by the Beach

 

Photo credit: Latin America Herald Tribune / Reuters (photo taken August 2011)

Stolen iPhone Adventures Aboard the Disney Wonder Cruise Ship

Disney Wonder - Stolen iPhoneNew York Magazine has a rather remarkable story about a cruise passenger who alleges that her cell phone was stolen during a cruise in April on the Disney Wonder.  She was able to identify the alleged thief, a cruise ship employee, thanks to cloud technology after the photos from her iPhone were uploaded to Apple's Photo Stream.

The cruise passenger, "Katy," cleverly uploaded some of the photos taken by Disney crew member, "Nelson," into her Facebook album entitled "Stolen iPhone Adventures."

The album is hilarious.  

Passenger "Katy" places captions on the photos, identifying the alleged crew member thief at various ports, hanging out with his (soon to be ex) girlfriend and partying with his cruise ship posse.  One of the photos includes a crowded crew party with an officer present with a caption identifying the officer allegedly as the captain of the cruise ship. 

Disney Wonder - Stolen iPhoneAh, what fun - an officer partying with the crew below deck documented with a iPhone stolen from a guest.

Disney says that it placed the crew member on "administrative leave" and restricted him from guest areas.

The New York Magazine article is careful to state says that it is possible that the crewmember bought the phone from someone else, or that there is some other explanation as to why he had the phone in his possession.

But cruise passenger "Katy" is not holding back. 

Her photo album has gone viral.  The world now knows that things are not always as they seem on cruise ships, even on the Magical Kingdom's fleet.   

 

Photo credit: "Katy"s facebook page

Disney Wonder Cruise Ship - Stolen iPhone

Disney Wonder - Stolen iPhone

Press Release: New Information in the Unsolved Murder of Cruise Honeymooner George Smith

Greenwich Magazine - Mystery at Seas - Murder of George Smith  A publishing company in Connecticut issued a press release today indicating that there is additional evidence to support the conclusion that George Smith was murdered during his honeymoon cruise in July of 2005. 

Greenwich Magazine indicates that its June edition will contain "new information released for the first time" which will provide additional proof that "could lead to the criminal indictment of suspects in one of the biggest unsolved murder cases in Greenwich, Connecticut history." 

The press release also mentions an "incriminating videotape." 

The story is called Mystery at Sea, and was investigated and written by Timothy Dumas.  Mr. Dumas previously authored the book Greentown, Murder and Mystery in Greenwich, America's Wealthiest Community, which chronicles the murder of Martha Moxley.

The press release states that Mr. Dumas conducted extensive interviews and waded through depositions, cruise ship files, incident reports and witness statements. It appears that he has been working closely with the Connecticut lawyers representing Mr. Smith's parents and sister.  

Last summer I published a series of articles about the case: Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later

I'm looking forward to reading the article at the end of this month.

Let's hope that the new information leads to an arrest.

 

Credit:  Greenwich Magazine

U.S. State Department: Crime In Nassau, Bahamas Is Critical

Bad news for our friends in the Bahamas and cruise passengers intending to vacation there. 

The U.S. State Department's 2012 "Crime and Safety Report" has labeled New Providence island's (including Nassau) criminal threat level as "critical" with Grand Bahama's island's (including Freeport) level as "high."

"In previous years, most violent crimes involved mainly Bahamian citizens and occurred in 'over-the-hill' areas, which are not frequented by tourists," the report stated.  "However, in 2011 there were numerous incidents reported that involved tourists or have occurred in areas in tourist locations.

Nassau Bahamas - Cruise Ship - Crime "In late 2011, there have been numerous reports by cruise ship tourists and others regarding incidents of armed robberies of cash and jewelery. These incidents were reported during daylight and nighttime hours. In several cases, the victims were robbed at knife-point, and gold necklaces and jewelery were taken. "Cash for Gold" is a new business in the Bahamas that may have resulted in the increase of these type of crimes."

Criminal threat levels are ranked as low, medium, high or critical. Other countries in the region also categorized as "critical" are: El Salvador, Guyana, and Ecuador.

"The US Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships. In several incidents, the victim had been reportedly drugged."

Unlike the secretive cruise lines, the newspapers in the Bahamas do a very effective job reporting on issues of high crime.   

The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape in the world according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime and violence.

Our firm has represented five women sexually assaulted on cruise ships in port in Nassau or ashore in the Bahamas. All of the women raped ashore ranged in age from 17 to 23 and were in seemingly safe locations in downtown Nassau near bars or stores within sight of the cruise ships.  

Celebrity Cruise Passenger Robbers Face Trial in St. Kitts

The alleged robbers of a bus load of Celebrity cruise passengers in St. Kitts are facing trial for a crime committed during an excursion in St. Kitts in November 2010.

We wrote about this incident in our article More Cruise Tourists Robbed, This Time In St. Kitts.

The robbery targeted 17 cruise passengers from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship. They were on a cruise sponsored excursion called the "Caribbean Journey Masters tour bus."  While the tour bus was heading towards a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path. The driver exited St. Kitts Robbery - Excursion - Celebrity Cruise Shipthe bus to investigate, and the robbers threw a rock into the windshield of the bus. Two armed, masked men rushed from the bushes and entered the bus.

A local newspaper reported that seventeen passengers, including an infant, were aboard the bus at the time of the robbery. The cruise passengers were robbed of their money, cell phones, jewelry and other personal items. 

As is often the case in St, Kitts, the police did not release the name of the cruise line or cruise ship. Local police and tourism bureaus in the Caribbean are very sensitive to bad press and avoid embarrassing the cruise lines on which they rely for the U.S. tourist dollar.  Nonetheless, the crime caused cruise lines to temporarily suspend cruises to the island.

The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer reports that five men are accused of being involved in the robbery.

St. Kitts has recently been in the "cruise news" lately.  Last month, a young woman from Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas alleged that she was raped aboard an excursion sailboat which sailed between St. Kitts and Nevis.  

 

Photo credit:  St. Kitts & Nevis Observer

Panama Opens Criminal Investigation Into Princess Cruises - Captain Perrin to Face Homicide & Failure to Rescue Inquiries

A reader of Cruise law News in Panama brought an article in the Panamanian newspaper Prensa, entitled "MP Abre Sumario a Capitán de Crucero" to my attention this morning.    

As I predicted last week, Panama has decided to proceed with a criminal investigation into the conduct of the Master of the Princess Cruises cruise ship Star Princess, for failing to assist three young Panamanian men who were adrift 100 miles out to sea aboard the Panamanian fishing boat Fifty Cents.  

Several passengers observed the fishing boat in distress and tried to convince the cruise ship to assist. Initial reports indicate that officers aboard claim that they were avoiding fishing nets and allegedly were thanked Princess Cruises - Star Princess - Panama Fifty Centsby the fishing boat. Princess Cruises later claimed that the captain of the cruise ship was never informed of the people in distress.     

The article explains that the Public Ministry (MP) of Panama launched an investigation into the deaths of two Panamanian fishermen, who went adrift in their fishing boat on February 24, 2012. 

The investigation was initiated by a Panamanian lawyer who filed a complaint on April 18, 2012. The aunt of one of the dead fishermen, Fernando Osorio, was quoted by a newspaper in Panama, My Diary, "I ask that you drop the full weight of the law" on the captain. She referred to her 16 year old nephew as a human being, not an animal to be left in the sea.

The General Secretariat of the MP referred the investigation to the Homicide Division of the Judicial Investigation Department.

Last week, I wrote about the duties owed to persons in distress at sea and the rights of the cruise ship flag state, Bermuda, and the  government of Panama to pursue criminal charges: Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

My prediction?  Bermuda will do a favor for its cruise line customer, Princess Cruises, and exonerate Captain Perrin. Panama will issue an arrest warrant for the captain and a writ of attachment to seize the next Princess cruise ship sailing through the Panama Canal . . .    

 

Read our first article about this case: Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners in Distress?

Photo credit: MY DIARY | Roca Gonzalez Edilsa

Cruise Ship "Prey Zones" - U.S. Media Ignores Widespread Sexual Abuse Of Children On Cunard Cruise Ships

Yesterday, we reported on the case of Cunard cruise youth supervisor Paul Trotter who was arrested in February after police in England were tipped off that his home computer contained indecent images of children. When the police seized his computer, they realized that Trotter had filmed himself sexually abusing the children on the cruise ships.

We reported on the story after reading a police statement which indicated that the abuse occurred in and/or around the children's "play zone area."  Many cruises lines have lax policies and procedures and permit adult crew members to be alone with children and take them into the bathrooms in the children's clubs.

Paul Trotter - Cunard - Sexual Abuse of Children The police had the difficult task of identifying the victims, and then faced the unpleasant task of informing the parents that their children were molested by the youth counselor whom they entrusted with their children's safety during a family cruise.  

I posted an article about this disgusting set of circumstances early yesterday morning. There were already two articles posted in England.  I anticipated that the U.S. press would soon follow.  After all, Cunard is owned by Miami-based Carnival and many thousands of U.S. families have sailed aboard Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria cruise ships.

The police found evidence that Trotter abused at least 13 children.  But he worked for Cunard for many years, some articles say 4 years others say 5 years.  Although one victim is too many and 13 victims is a lot, do you think that is all of the victims?  Trotter enjoyed the luxury of waiting for his victims in the "play zone" over the course of hundreds and hundreds of cruises where unsuspecting families dropped their kids off to be watched by him.  

We know from the Penn State-Jerry Sandusky case and the failures of the Catholic Church for decades, that sexual predators who target kids cannot be cured. They will abuse children for decades.  First there's one victim, then 2 or 3, then a dozen, and then the public comes to the uneasy realization that there must be many more but there will never be a definitive list. Victims, particularly child victims, are afraid to tell their parents what happened and try to suppress the trauma out of shame or confusion.  

Were U.S. children victimized by Trotter in the children's "play zones" of the three Cunard ships?  Only the most naive person would think not.  

Is Trotter the only child predator who worked for Cunard or Carnival?  Only the most naive person would think so. 

The "play zones" were Trotter's "prey zones" where he would target his victim, groom the child, and then engage in his depravity while videotaping the crime - probably in a bathroom.      

At the end of the day yesterday, there were over a hundred articles about Mr. Trotter all showing his creepy looking mug shot. All of the articles were in the U.K. and in other European countries.

Not a single U.S. newspaper or television / cable news covered the shocking news.  Only this blog, Cruise Law News.

I emailed the articles to news reporters, tweeted about the crimes and challenged the local newspaper and bloggers who cover cruise news to address the issue. Everyone remained silent.  Their journalistic ethics of honestly reporting on an important story fell short of their financial self-interest of not losing cruise sales or not embarrassing Cunard or Carnival or CEO Micky Arison.  As I write this follow up article this Saturday morning, the U.S. media remains silent. 

Newspapers like the Miami Herald and USA Today are deep in the cruise lines' pockets.  The cruise lines advertise heavily in the larger newspapers, and the "journalists" simply look the other way when stories appear that may embarrass their cruise lines friends.  I have warned for years about this problem. Take a moment and read Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships or Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place to Sexually Abuse Children.

Newspapers like the Miami Herald and USA Today should be ashamed.  They do the public a terrible disservice not warning parents of the dangers posed to children on cruise ships. They are happy to write puff pieces for Carnival and Cunard but avert their eyes when things go terribly wrong.  They are complicit with the Carnivals and Cunards who don't protect the children and then choose their marketing reputation over the children's welfare. 

 

 

Who's reporting on the Cunard / Paul Trotter story as of April 21, 2012:

U.S.A:  

Cruise Law News

U.K / Ireland:

BBC News Telegraph Mail Online The Sun Daily Echo Lancashire Evening Post Pontefract and Castleford Express ITV News The Independent Swindon Advertiser Belfast Telegraph Bourne Local Huffington Post UK MSNBC News UK Isle of Man Today and a hundred others in England.


Update of U.S. Media reporting on Cunard / Paul Trotter:

Old Salt Blog - April 21, 2012

Cruise Radio - April 22, 2012

South Florida Business Journal - April 23, 2012

Sun Sentinel - April 24, 2012

Cruise Critic - April 24, 2012

'Ships of Shame" - Australia's 60 Minutes Looks at Cruise Ship Crime

Yesterday, Australia's 60 Minutes aired a special program investigating crimes on cruise ships.

The program mentioned the disappearance of Rebecca Coriam (from the Disney Wonder) and Merrian Carver (from the Celebrity Mercury), the outrageous circumstances surrounding the death of Dianne Brimble on a P & O cruise ship, and the sexual assault of a 15 year old girl aboard the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas.

The program focuses on the problems posed by flags of convenience.  U.S. based cruise ships do not fly American flags but the flags of countries where the cruise ships are registered in order to avoid taxes, labor laws, and safety regulations. If you are on a victim of a crime on a cruise ship flagged in the Bahamas, Panama or Liberia, these countries have jurisdiction and will either do nothing or eventually assign a single policeman to investigate.  Not surprisingly, there are virtually no convictions in most cases of cruise ship crime.

The cruise lines refused to appear in the program, but sent a representative of the trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association, Michael Crye.  Mr. Crye is a lawyer who often appears in public for the cruise lines.  Appearing very nervous, he admitted that most Americans have no idea that a police officer from a third world country would be the representative who may (or may not) appear on the cruise ship following a crime.    

Take a few minutes and watch the program here: Ships of Shame.  

Cruise Ship Door Locking Devices - What On Earth Is This?

A member of Cruise Critic posted a photograph of some kind of device designed to prevent the insertion of a key card to unlock a passenger cabin door as well as to padlock the door handle from moving.

The passenger apparently sailed aboard an unidentified Royal Caribbean cruise ship last month, and invited the fellow Cruise Critic members to speculate on why this device was used.

Cruise Passenger Door Locking DeviceWas the device used to lock a passenger in the cabin? This seems very unlikely.

Or was the device used to keep the cabin secure for an investigation by law enforcement officials to search for drugs or to investigate a crime scene?

Aren't these cruise ship doors designed such that there is a master lock or key which can prevent cleaning personnel out of the cabins following crimes?

What happened on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship at the end of last month?

Which cruise ship was this (some speculate the Liberty of the Seas or the Monarch of the Seas)?    

As a maritime lawyer who has represented many passengers whose family members have been sexually assaulted in their cabins, I have seen many incidents where the passenger cabins were meticulously cleaned when the crime scenes should have been preserved.

Is this a device designed to prevent that from occurring? 

I am curious why any cruise line would use this particular type of locking device?

Anyone have information to solve this riddle?  Please leave a comment below.

 

Photo credit:  Cruise Critic member SSPhone

"Attacked at Sea" - the Dark Side of Cruising

NBC Bay Area aired a cruise crime special last night regarding the problem of sexual assaults at sea. The program is called "Crime Onboard - The Dark Side of Cruising."

NBC reports that although cruising is one of the most popular ways to travel and vacation, passengers are often left in the dark about the risks out at sea.  One problem is how many reported crimes are actually made public. The investigation concludes that shipboard crimes are often unreported, covered-up or not accessible by the public.

The program begins with cruise passenger Laurie Dishman who was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship who was sexually assaulted by a part time security guard with a history of sexually harassing women during cruises.  We represented Ms. Dishman in a lawsuit against the cruise line.  

 

 

You can watch the video interview with Ms. Dishman's Congresswoman, Doris Matsui, here

 

Video credit:  NBC Bay Area

NBC Special: Crime Onboard - the Dark Side of Cruising

As part of its special investigation into the problem of crime on cruise ships, "Crimes Onboard - The Dark Side of Cruising," NBC Bay Area interviewed Congresswomen Doris Matsui (D-CA) who was instrumental in the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act.

Congresswoman Matsui's constituent (and our client) Laurie Dishman called upon her after Ms. Dishman was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in February 2006. Congresswoman convened a hearing regarding the crime. Ms. Dishman testified before Congress in 2005 regarding her ordeal.  She traveled to Washington D.C. over 30 times to lobby for the passage of a cruise crime bill to protect women and children from sexual assaults on cruise ships.

Congresswoman Matsui discusses the new safety law which became effective this year.  She points out correctly that one of the purposes of the new law was to educate the public regarding the startling number of sexual assaults and other crimes which occur on cruise ships each year.  However, after the bill was voted into law, the final version of the law was watered down.   The FBI and Coast Guard now reveal only the number of closed criminal cases on cruise ships as opposed to the number of total crimes actually occurring each year.  

The public is warned of only a fraction of the real number of cruise crimes.  

The difference is between 16 closed cases as opposed to the actual number - "in the hundreds."

The democratic process is a slow one.  The cruise industry vigorously fought against the new cruise law for years, only to cave in at the end when passage of the law was likely.  Now it turns out that some limiting language was inserted into the bill at the end of the day which conceals the majority of the crimes which occur each year on cruise ships.  I wonder who did that? 

As Congresswoman Matsui points out, she and others in Congress are working on this issue.  The cruise crime law is just the first step to deal with the problem of crime on cruise ships.    

 

 

Watch the video interview of Congresswoman Matsui's constituent, Laurie Dishman, here

Video credit:  NBC Bay Area

FBI Arrests NCL Assistant Cruise Director for Engaging in Sex With 16 Year Old Passenger & Child Pornography

The Federal Bureau of Investigations ("FBI") arrested the assistant cruise director of the Norwegian Star cruise ship for engaging in sex with a 16 year old passenger and possessing child pornography.   

29 year old Senad Djedovic, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, worked for Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) for six years for a number of different NCL cruise ships 

The 16 year old girl, from Minnesota, was sailing with her family on a 7 day cruise out of Tampa at the end of January.  Djedovic met the girl shortly after she boarded the cruise.  At the end of the cruise he engaged in sex with her in a stairwell on the cruise.  After the cruise, Djedovic exchanged Senad Djedovic - NCL - Cruise Ship Sexual Abuse emails with the girl which included explicit images and a video of him masturbating in front of a photo of the child. 

One email included the message: I miss you big time . . . you little young girl."  

The child 's father allegedly told him earlier in the cruise that she was 16 years old.  He apparently admitted to other crew members that she was only 16. 

The FBI seized his computer which contained child pornography on a hard drive.  Under a sub-folder entitled "scandals" there were several videos depicting sexual acts with 12 to 15 year old girls, which were downloaded from the internet. 

The Department of Justice charged Djedovic with sexual abuse of a minor and possessing materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.  

Sexual abuse of minors during cruise by cruise staff and older passengers is one of the real dangers on cruise ships.  Last month we reported on a Cunard children's activities supervisor being arrested for child sexual abuse

You can read about many other cases where crewmembers possessed child pornography or crewmembers and passengers sexually abused minors during cruises here, involving all of the major cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean.

Lost at Sea: Australia's Dateline Features Cruise Law & International Cruises Victims

Dateline Lost at Sea Cruise Disappearances and Cruise CrimeAustralia's popular television program Dateline aired a cruise special today about missing passengers & crewmembers and crime at sea.  

The program starts with the case of missing Disney youth counselor Rebecca Coriam who disappeared from the Disney Wonder cruise ship last year.  Her parents Mike and Ann Coriam were interviewed and express their thoughts about how the case is being handled.

The program also features the case of missing Holland America Lines (HAL) passenger Blake Kepley who vanished from the HAL's Oosterdam.  

The CEO (Ken Carver) and President (Jamie Barnett) of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) are on the program.  Mr. Carver lost his daughter Mirian Carver on the Celebrity Mercury and Ms. Barnett's daughter Ashley died during a Carnival cruise.

I am interviewed and I discuss the problem of cruise ship crime and the cruise industry's lack of transparency.

Take a minute and watch the program below: 

 

Robbing Cruise Passengers in Bulk - Yes, It Happens!

Yesterday I talked about the recent armed robbery of 22 Carnival cruise passengers who were traveling in a bus back to the port in Puerto Vallarta during a Carnival sponsored excursion.

I mentioned that the cruise lines and tourism officials would quickly start a PR campaign to convince the public that robberies of large groups of passengers is rare.  But it's not.

There have been at least 100 passengers robbed at gunpoint (or machete) during excursions over the last 3 - 5 years; the majority of them were traveling in large cruise excursion groups. 

In 2007, 17 passengers from the Carnival Conquest cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint during a cruise line sponsored excursion after sailing to Montego Bay, Jamaica. The excursion was to Cruise Excursion Bus - Cruise Ship Crimethe Lethe Estate, an old banana plantation.  The Carnival passengers were riding in a trolley when several bandits jumped out of the bush and robbed the 17 cruise tourists. cam. The passengers were terrorized as the gunmen pointed guns at the children on the trolley and took off with the passenger's jewelry, wallets, purses, cameras and money.  You can read the account in the USA cruise blog here.

Since I started Cruise Law News two and one-half years ago, I have reported on 4 armed robberies of cruise tourists in groups between 11 and 18 people. 

In November 2010, 17 Celebrity cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in a tour bus.  While the buds was heading toward a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path.  When the bus stopped, armed robbers threw a large rock into the front window and rushed into the bus and robbed the excursion group. 

In December 2009, 14 NCL passengers were robbed during a "safari" excursion in Anese-La-Reye by 4 masked men armed with guns and knives. The robbery occurred at beautiful waterfall advertised as a "perfect place to spend several hours in quiet reflection." 

In October 2009, a Bahamian newspaper reported that two "vicious robbers" held a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship by gunpoint in Nassau.

In November 2099, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during an excursion in the Bahamas during an excursion into a remote natural preserve.  The passengers were part of a large Segway excursion which contained passengers from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships.  

In addition to these incidents, there are dozens of other robberies of smaller groups, involving couples and families, which occur while the passengers are ashore.

When cruise experts and the tourism bureaus in Mexico and the Caribbean islands tell you that such crimes are "rare," take the time to educate yourself.  Don't trust your family's safety on representations from those who are trying to sell a product.  As the saying goes, those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it. 

Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico

The issue of the safety of cruise passengers in Mexico is again in the news with the armed robbery of twenty-two cruise passengers in Mexico on Thursday.

The passengers had sailed to Mexico on the Carnival Splendor and were on an excursion near Puerto Vallarta which was advertised and sponsored by the cruise line.

A Mexican newspaper reports that masked men robbed the passengers at gunpoint when they were returning to the cruise ship in a bus after touring "El Nogalito," a natural park.  The gunmen took off with the passengers billfolds, watches, cameras, cellphones and jewelry.  The newspaper reports that the local authorities initially tried to downplay the incident.

The Puerto Vallarta Robbery is Just Latest Crime Targeting Cruise Passengers

Puerto Vallarta - Cruise Ship  - Crime MexicoCruise lines and the local tourism boards usually respond to these type of crimes against tourists by claiming that they are rare.

In the video below (KCAL-9 / CBS Los Angeles) you can hear travel expert Peter Greenberg, say (excitedly) that armed robbery of cruise tourists in buses is "highly unusual" and an "aberration," while mentioning that he has plans to vacation in Mexico next week. 

But the truth is that crimes like this are not rare at all. U.S. passengers disembarking into Mexico and the Caribbean Islands are increasingly being targeted by criminals in groups.  We hear of virtually no crimes against passengers disembarking in Canada, Alaska or European itineraries.  But Mexico and the Caribbean ports of call, plagued by poverty and drugs, are a different story. The banditos go after the money and jewelry and cruise tourists have both.  Why target a single tourist when you can rob cruise passengers in bulk in buses in remote areas?  

Cruisers are sitting ducks.  Consider that over 100 cruise passengers have been robbed at gunpoint or murdered just in Mexico or the Caribbean islands in the last couple of years:

Eleven Royal Caribbean Cruise Passengers Robbed In Nassau

Eighteen Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Passengers Robbed at Gunpoint in Nassau

Fourteen Passengers Robbed at Gunpoint at Anse-La-Reye Waterfall in St. Lucia

Seventeen Celebrity Cruise Tourists In Bus Robbed in St. Kitts

Royal Caribbean Crewmember Murdered in Mexico 

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues 

Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas - Is It Safe to Cruise to Mexico?

Violence Strikes Puerto Vallarta Jewelry Store While HAL Cruise Ship in Port  

More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Cruise Passenger Killed in St. Thomas  

NCL Cruise Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

Passenger From Star Clipper Murdered in Antigua

Cruise Passengers Attacked and Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Cruise Ships From L.A. Due to Crime in Mexico

Does the Cruise Industry Monitor Crime in Ports of Call? 

Is the cruise industry providing adequate warnings to families of the dangers ashore in the ports chosen by the cruise lines?  It seems to me that unsuspecting cruise guests are being disembarked into increasingly dangerous ports of call in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Expect a lively debate where Mexican officials will understate the problem and the cruise industry defenders will chant "crime occurs everywhere."  But it's only in Mexico and the Caribbean ports where cruise passengers are robbed at gunpoint, literally by the busload.

 

Read Sun Sentinel's Cruise Crime Database (and Don't Forget the Cartoons)

With cruise safety hearings coming up later this month in Washington, the debate will resume regarding how many crimes really occur on cruise ships.

The cruise lines will say that crime is rare but will not refer to any database to support their their self-serving conclusion.  Cruise lines do not reveal their own internal crime statistics, except when ordered to do so under the threat of sanctions by a court.

But there are some on-line sources of information.  In addition to this blog, there is of course the web site Cruise Junkie by cruise expert Ross Klein who tracks cruise ship crimes.  

Another interesting source is a database by the Fort Lauderdale newspaper, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, which listed cruise crimes from December 2007 to October 2008.  You can look at the hundreds of various crime allegations, some petty and some very disturbing, here.

Unlike the Miami Herald which is beholden to the cruise lines which advertise in the Miami newspaper, the Sun Sentinel has maintained a sense of journalistic integrity when it comes to reporting on things that go wrong during cruises.

The Sentinel also has a sense of humor about the cruise industry.  Take a look at the cartoon which ran last week after several Princess cruise ships returned to Fort Lauderdale filled with passengers sickened by norovirus:

Chan Lowe - Cruise Ship Norovirus

" . . . viral diseases, crimes of violence, theft, seasickness, weight gain, liver damage, possibly getting stuck at the dinner table for the entire journey with people who deny the theory of evolution … sounds like the kind of vacation from which lasting memories are made . . ."

The cartoon and comments are by Chan Lowe who has been the Sun Sentinel’s editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years.  

 

Cartoon credit:  Chan Lowe / South Florida Sun Sentinel / Tribune Media 

Cruise Industry Accountability Back in the Spotlight: U.S. House and Senate to Hold Hearings on Cruise Ship Safety

Cruise Ship Safety HearingsThe U.S. House and Senate have scheduled hearings for February 29 and March 1, 2012 to address whether the cruise industry has taken adequate steps to protect cruise passengers and comply with newly enacted laws designed to make cruising safer.

A series of events prompted the Congressional hearings.  

First, and most obvious, is the Costa Concordia disaster.  There is not much debate that the cruise ship engaged in a reckless maneuver of showboating near the rocks of Giglio - apparently with the blessing of the cruise line - which endangered the lives of thousands of passengers who were further imperiled by the irresponsibility of the vessel's officers and the disorganization of its crew.  Chaos and confusion caused by a cowardly to-hell-with-the women-and-children captain who managed to place his mistress in one of the first lifeboats to safety.

17 dead and 15 missing are the result. 

Only after these deaths did the public learn that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is suppose to oversee the cruise lines, did not even require lifeboat drills before the departure of ships from port.  So much for the "stringent requirements" of this toothless United Nations' maritime fraternity. This is the madness which results when cruise lines are left to their own devices.

Secondly, and equally importantly, is the failure of the cruise lines, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Coast Guard to comply with the newly enacted Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

The new cruise safety law was designed to require the cruise lines to do things as simple as bore peepholes in passenger doors, and to have at least one crewmember certified in crime scene preservation.  The Coast Guard was required to post accurate crime statistics on a web page based on crimes reported to the FBI.  The purpose of the crime statistics was for the public to finally see truthful crime statistics of the thefts, homicides, suspicious deaths, assaults and sexual assaults which occur during cruises. 

The cruise lines have failed to comply with many aspects of the new law.

This year alone I have seen a cruise line destroy evidence more thoroughly and brazenly than I have ever seen; refuse to release a rape victim's medical records to the victim as required by law; and refuse to report crimes in a timely and accurate manner.

The reporting system in place by the FBI and Coast Guard is a joke.  Over the years we have obtained (through court orders) lists of rapes on cruise ships.  We know that cruise lines historically have over 100 sexual assaults a year, in addition to thefts, disappearances suggesting foul play and physical assaults. But take a look at the FBI / Coast Guard on-line report of the last quarter of 2011 here - only 3 sexual assaults and not one single theft, physical assault, homicide or suspicious death for the entire cruise industry!  

The problem is that the FBI is disinterested in involving itself in shipboard rapes, disappearances and murders and is leaving the dirty work to the cruise line security to investigate the crimes.  But there is an inherent conflict of interest in delegating law enforcement duties to the cruise ship's security officers who have already failed the cruise passengers. One of our clients was raped by a security guard.  Do you think the cruise line security department is going to build a case against one of their own?  The bottom line is that many cruise crimes remain unreported by the cruise lines or not investigated by the FBI.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the FBI does not report crimes to the Coast Guard database whenever there is an open file.  One thing that the FBI is good at is keeping its investigations open, even if there are no investigations ongoing.  The Department of Justice rarely prosecutes cases after FBI investigations.  

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) has worked hard over the past 6 years to bring the new cruise safety law into effect.  Our firm has attended 5 Congressional hearings since 2005, 4 in the House and 1 in the Senate, before the new law came into effect.  We have seen the dedication of the ICV members over the years.  One of our clients, Laurie Dishman, has traveled to Washington over 30 times to lobby Congress for a law to protect the cruising public.  

Cruise ShipsIts a real shame that the goals of the new legislation - greater accountability and transparency of the cruise lines and greater safety of passengers in the process - are being subverted by the cozy relationship between the self-regulating cruise industry and the FBI which has little interest in investigating cruise ship rapes.

So far, the entire cruise industry has refused to commit to send one single cruise line president or CEO to attend the cruise hearings at the end of this month.  Instead the cruise industry will send Christine Duffy, the president of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), who has been giving talking points on how to sell cruise tickets to travel agents by overcoming customer fears about cruising following the Costa Concordia debacle.

We will hear about how wonderful cruising is and how the safety of the passengers is the cruise industry's highest priority.  Ms. Duffy will make these remarks while 2 Americans and 13 other passengers from other nations remain trapped dead in the sarcophagus of the Costa Concordia.    

Hopefully the House and Senate will see through this happy talk.

The Concordia crash should be a wake up call that this is a self-regulating industry which needs a tight rein.  The cruise line / FBI / Coast Guard reporting system is a failure.  Congress needs to take a hard look at the cruise industry and the federal agencies which are making a mockery of the cruise safety law. 

Raped on a Cruise Ship Operated by an Italian Cruise Line and Flagged in Panama? Cruise Rape Victim Falls Through Jurisdictional Cracks . . .

A criminal trial against a South African man accused of raping a South African woman during a cruise ended when the trial court ruled that the alleged rape did not occur in the territorial waters of South Africa.

Sindhu Ramanandh Bhogal - Alleged Cruise Ship Rapenewspaper in South Africa published a disturbing story about the defense raised by the lawyers for a passenger who is accused of raping a woman after allegedly spiking her drink during a cruise aboard the MSC Sinfonia cruise ship.

The case involves South African national Anika Marks who sailed on the MSC Cruises ship in November 2009.  Ms. Marks was on what is described as a three-day business trip with work colleagues when another South African passenger, Sindhu Ramanandh Bhogal, allegedly drugged and raped her. 

The cruise ship regularly sails between Durban and Mozambique. On the cruise in question, Ms. Marks says that she had been dancing at a disco on the cruise ship when she went alone to an outside deck to smoke a cigarette. Bhogal was there and they spoke.  She left to go to the toilet, leaving her drink and cigarettes on the deck next to Bhogal.

After she returned, she smoked a cigarette Bhogal offered her and drank a drink he offered her.  Marks thereafter "lost control of her head and body" and then remembered walking down stairs with Bhogal behind.  The next thing she remembered was Bhogal on top of her, with her dress up and underwear off, and him raping her.

After two years of legal wrangling, defendant Bhogal's lawyers asserted a new defense - the South Anika Marks - South Africa - South Africa - Cruise Ship RapeAfrican state courts cannot try him for the cruise ship rape because the incident happened in   Mozambican waters.

Mr. Bhogal’s lawyer cited a provision in the South African Criminal Procedures Act that if the alleged crime occurs in international waters or another country's territorial waters, the South African state courts have no jurisdiction.

Because the MSC cruise ship is operated by an Italian cruise line and is flagged in Panama, technically only the country of Panama can prosecute crimes against a South African woman which occur outside of the territorial waters of South Africa.

I have never heard of Panama ever investigating or prosecuting crimes on Panamanian flagged cruise ships.  After all, cruise lines flag their ships in places like Panama to avoid oversight. That's where Carnival, for example, flags its vessels.  If you are a woman sexually assaulted on a Panamanian flagged cruise ship and your country does not permit criminal prosecutions of rapists in international waters, don't expect anyone from Panama to arrest the assailant.  You are in an international no-man's land. 

 

Photo credit:  INSLA

16 Brawling Passengers Kicked Off P&O Cruises' Pacific Dawn

A newspaper in Australia is reporting that 16 cruise passengers, with ages between 18 and 23, were booted off the P & O Cruises' Pacific Dawn cruise ship for fighting.  

The incident occurred late at night, with some newspaper accounts suggesting that the men were intoxicated and fighting over a woman. 

The Observer reports that one of the passengers was arrested after he allegedly assaulted a female crew member.  The newspaper quotes one of the rowdy passengers stating: "We got PO Cruises Pacific Dawn Brawlkicked off because we were having too much fun . . . It was awesome." 

Outbreaks of fights like this are one of the occurrences which mar the cruising experience.  How often these incidents occur is subject to debate.  Recently, 20/20 aired a cruise expose which showed lots of YouTube videos of cruise drunks and out-of-control brawls.  Many travel agents and cruise fans were upset with what they thought was a sensationalist television program.  

We have looked into the problem of too much booze and fights on cruises over the last few years in our articles:

Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships

More Cruise Ship Violence - A Drunken Brawl On Carnival's Dream

If you were on the cruise and have photos or video of the brawl, please leave a comment below. 

  

Photo credit:  Christopher Cahn / Observer

Alleged Cruise Ship Rapists From Brazil Seek Low Bond

Luiz Antônio Scavone Neto - Alleged Cruise Rapist - Luis Scavonne The Sun-Sentinel reports that at a hearing this morning the defense lawyer for alleged cruise rapist, Brazilian citizen Luis Scavone (full name Luiz Antônio Scavone Neto) requested a Broward judge to set "little or no bail."   However, prosecutors for the state argue that defendant Scavone is a flight risk. 

Judge Matthew Destry scheduled a hearing for this Friday to take testimony and hear argument whether defendant Scavone, who allegedly committed "lewd and lascivious" acts against a 15 year old girl on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, is a fight risk.

Scavone is photographed above left, in happier times.  

The Broward County Sheriff's Office arrested Scavone together with a 15 year old boy, described as an  "alleged accomplice," who lured the 15 year old girl from an on-board nightclub into a passenger cabin on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship, according to state prosecutors.

The incident was investigated by the FBI and the Broward County Sheriff's Office which also asserted jurisdiction after the cruise ship returned to port in Fort Lauderdale.

Luiz Antônio Scavone Neto - Cruise Rape Suspect - Allure of the SeasA previous judge who presided over the preliminary hearing,  John "Jay" Hurley, expressed concern that Scavone would flee to Brazil if given the opportunity.  The Sun-Sentinel quotes the judge saying "People who are from Brazil can go to Brazil, and there's very little chance that they'll be brought back to the United States."  The judge called Brazil a "loophole."  The judge was referring to the fact that Brazil recently amended its constitution to prohibit the extradition of criminals from Brazil.  Judge Hurley ordered that Scavone be fitted with a GPS monitor if he is released from custody while the case is pending.

It will be interesting to learn whether the two defendants hid after the alleged crime on the ship ship to avoid responsibility.  That would be a good indication whether they would try and flee the U.S. if released on a low bond. 

The press in Brazil are showing interest in this alleged cruise ship crime.  Several newspapers are publishing stories.  The 15 year old defendant's uncle is apparently a lawyer in Brazil.  The SRZD newspaper in Brazil quotes the family lawyer in Brazil denying everything and making nasty comments about the victim and her family.

Read Our Prior Article:  Two Rapes Alleged on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship 

Photo credits:

Top:  Brazil Voice

Bottom:  Joe Cavaretta via Sun-Sentinel

Sun-Sentinel article credit: Rafael A. Olmeda

Two Rapes Alleged on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

The world's largest cruise ship was the location for two shipboard rapes during a 10 day Christmas and New Year cruise which returned to South Florida yesterday.

The first reported incident occurred on the last night of the cruise and has been reported by several local news stations.  It involved a 15 year old girl who was lured from a cruise line teen club under false pretenses back to a passenger cabin and then sexually assaulted by a 20 year old man and another 15 year old boy.

Allure of the Seas Passenger - Luiz Scavone - Brazil - Rape - Sexual AssaultThe alleged assailants are two Brazilian passengers who were sailing aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, which is based on Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

According to the Broward County's Sheriff's Office, the 15 year old girl was at the cruise ship's teen club called "Fuel" when a 15 year old boy told her he was having a party in his room.  The young girl, who was vacationing with her family, was led to believe that she would meet friends there.  However, after entering entering the cabin, she was confronted by an older passenger, Luiz Scavone, age 20. His full name is Luiz Antônio Scavone Neto.

The Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) said that Scavone and the 15 year old boy prevented her from leaving, removed her clothing, forced oral sex, and then both raped her. "The victim told them 'no' several times and tried to leave but was not able to," according to the  BSO.

Scavone and the 15-year-old boy have been charged with "lewd and lascivious battery."  Scavone is in jail in Fort Lauderdale.  His Broward County Sheriff's mugshot is to the left. 

A judge in Broward County ordered Scavone to relinquish his Brazilian passport.  According to CBS Channel 4, the judge stated that if the immigration hold is lifted, and Scavone is released on bond, he must be fitted with a GPS monitor and is barred from applying for a replacement passport.  The judge cited the case of a Boynton Beach police officer who fled to Brazil last July using a replacement passport after he was indicted on a drug charge.  The U.S. used to have an extradition treaty with Brazil for decades, however Brazil now prohibits its citizens from being extradited to other other countries to face criminal charges.

The second incident occurred in the early morning hours of January 1, 2012.  It also involved a Brazilian passenger, believed to be in his 40's, who sexually harassed and then sexually assaulted and battered an U.S. college student.  The young woman was treated in the ship infirmary and underwent a rape examination.  Unlike the incident involving the 15 year old victim where the assailants were arrested, the Brazilian man was released by the FBI and the Broward Sheriff's Office.  He returned to Brazil and cannot be extradited.

This incident has not been reported in the media.  Royal Caribbean has not issued a statement regarding the second allegation of sexual assault.

 

 

Issues to consider:

These incidents raise questions regarding the adequacy of the security aboard the world's largest cruise ship.  The Allure and its sister cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas, can carry 6,500 passengers.  Both ships are essentially small cities with no police force.  We have been critical of Royal Caribbean's refusal to employ a sufficient number of security guards on its cruise ships and its refusal to monitor closed circuit television cameras to respond to potential criminal activities.    

A year ago, the Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain and President Adam Goldstein were aboard the Allure's sister ship with microphone in hand and supposedly open for all questions.  But they refused to provide any information about the safety and security of the passengers.  Certainly U.S. passengers who pay thousands of dollars each to sail on this mega-target of a ship deserve straight forward answers whether their families will be safe from crime.  Here are the questions which I posted on my blog which remain unanswered:

"Q:  The LA Times reported that for a period of 32 months, there were over 250 incidents of sexual assault, battery, and sexual harassment against guests and crew members on Royal Caribbean cruise ships. In light of these problems, how many security guards are employed on the Genesis class of cruise ships? 

Q:   How many security guards are assigned to the seven "neighborhoods" on the cruise ships?  Allure of the Seas - Security - Sexual AssaultsAre there security "sub-stations" in each of the neighborhoods?

Q:  How many security guards patrol the neighborhoods from 10:00 p.m. to 4 a.m., a time period we have found when female passengers are at a higher risk of being assaulted?  (Both of the alleged rapes this week occurred in the early morning hours when Royal Caribbean has virtually no guard patrolling). 

Over a year ago, I also asked the  question: 

Has Royal Caribbean invested adequately into safety and security technologies and personnel to protect you and your family?  The cruise line executives will never tell, but we shall soon find out."

January 10, 2012 Update:  Alleged Cruise Ship Rapists From Brazil Seek Low Bond

 

Photo credit:

Top: Broward Sheriff's Office via Mugshots Online

Bottom:  Royal Caribbean Cruises via Cruise Critic

Crime Scene on Splendor Cruise Ship? Carnival Won't Say

Professor Ross Klein's website CruiseJunkie contains disturbing comments from a cruise passenger aboard the Carnival Splendor cruise ship who reports that on December 15th during a sailing to the Mexican Riviera a gruesome physical altercation took place in cabin 1306.

Here are the comments:

Carnival Cruise Violence - Cruise Ship"Wild, out-of-control alcohol-fueled domestic fight - starts at 9PM, escalates to most certainly a felony assault (or worse) by 3AM. All kinds of yelling, screaming, howling.  Objects (victim?) thrown against the walls. Finally security responds; victim has blood streaming from her, multiple wounds; others report seeing multiple pools of blood in the room. Around 3:45 AM, Carnival removes the 'guests' and immediately starts the process of cleaning the room up, starting with the blood. 

NO attempt whatsoever to preserve the scene or the evidence.  Staff members will not discuss what happened other than 'it's under control' and 'he won't be a problem.'  Rumor is that the offender was removed from the ship in Puerto Vallarta."

We reached out to Carnival's PR department yesterday who said they would check it out, but no response so far.

It's disturbing to read an account like this particularly after we just reported that a drunken Carnival passenger who beat and strangled his wife to death was sentenced to life in prison.  And should there be any doubt that cruise lines destroy crime scene evidence?  

Does anyone on this cruise have additional information?  Please leave a comment below.

December 21, 2011 Update:  This article was picked up by the popular Cruise Critic online community and posted in a thread on the message board.  How did the concerned Cruise Critic cruise fans react to the bloody crime scene and Carnival's spoliation of evidence? 

Read their comments like  "Doesn't affect me . . .  Who cares . . . Ship happens" which you can read here.  Unfortunately, this type of complacency perpetuates the sorry state of affairs on cruise ships where cruise lines destroy evidence knowing that their fan base doesn't care. 

I think I'll re-name this article "Crime Scene on Splendor Cruise Ship? Carnival Won't Say and Cruise Fans Don't Care."

Carnival Crewmember Travel Coordinator Arrested For Fraud and Grand Theft

A fifty-one year old employee of Carnival Cruise Lines has been arrested for organized fraud and theft.  

Miami resident Serafin Sanchez was arrested and booked on two criminal counts, described as organized theft of more than $50,000 and first degree fraud in excess of $100,000.

According to the arrest warrant, Mr. Sanchez is a shore-side employee of Carnival and worked as a "Crew Travel Coordinator."  His responsibilities included booking airline flights for crewmembers signing on Carnival's cruise ships around the world.

Serafin Sanchez - Carnival Cruise LineCarnival has two basic types of crew employees: (1) those who qualify for free fights to and from ports (salary employees), and (2) those who must pay for airline flights (non-salary employees).  Mr. Sanchez is accused of defrauding Carnival Cruise Lines by using his knowledge and authority to book flights for non-salary crewmembers and charging Carnival's travel account while keeping the money the crewmembers paid for the airline tickets.

The alleged scheme operated as follows:

A crewmember working on a Carnival ship would contact a head waiter on a cruise ship (identified as Rudy Saldana), who was known "to have a friend" (Mr. Sanchez)  who could arrange reduced price airline tickets. 

Mr. Sanchez would quote an arbitrary price for the ticket to Mr. Saldana who would communicate it to the crewmember.   Mr. Saldana would then collect the money from the crew member.  Mr. Saldana would deposit the money in his personal account to which Mr. Sanchez had access via a debit card.  Mr. Sanchez would then purchase the airline ticket for the crewmember but would charge the price of the ticket to the Carnival travel account.  Mr. Sanchez would allegedly pocket the money collected from the crewmember.

The arrest affidavit further alleges that Mr. Sanchez operated this "organized scheme" to defraud Carnival of approximately $132,000.00 from June to September 2011.  Mr. Sanchez  did not reimburse Carnival Cruise Lines any of cash collected from the non-salaried cruise employees.

Mr. Sanchez pled not guilty to the allegations. He is out on a $20,000 bond.  His defense counsel is Joel DiFabio whose office released the following statement:

"We are actively cooperating and working with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office in an attempt to resolve this matter as quickly as possible."   

 

Photo credit:  Mugshot via whosarrested.com

Cruise Ship Rape: A No Man's Land On The High Seas?

Cruise Ship Rape - Victim Anika MarksA newspaper in South Africa published a disturbing story today about the defense raised by the lawyers for a passenger who is accused of raping a woman during a cruise aboard  the MSC Sinfonia cruise ship.

The case involves South African national Anika Marks who sailed on the MSC Cruises ship in November 2009.  Ms. Marks was on what is described as a three-day business trip with 40 work colleagues when another South African passenger, Sindhu Ramanandh Bhogal, allegedly drugged and raped her. 

The cruise ship regularly sails between Durban and Mozambique. On the cruise in question, Ms. Marks says that she awoke two hours after the alleged rape.  She accompanied her colleagues to the South Africa - Portugese IslandsPortuguese islands (see map), one of the ship’s stops on the cruise.  She reported the rape during the cruise the day before the cruise ship was due to return to Durban.  

Rather than using a Jane Doe pseudonym, Ms. Marks is using her own name because she believes that this will encourage other rape victims to take action.

After two years of legal wrangling, defendant Bhogal's lawyers have a new defense - the South African state courts cannot try him for the cruise ship rape because the incident happened in international waters.  The defense lawyer even obtained a statement from Sindhu Ramanandh Bhogal - Cruise Shipthe cruise ship's captain (how interesting) that the incident did not occur in South African waters.  At a hearing last week, Mr. Bhogal’s lawyer cited a provision in the South African Criminal Procedures Act that if the alleged crime occurs in international waters, the South African state courts have no jurisdiction. 

Ms. Marks, on the other hand, alleges that the alleged rape took place the same night the ship left Durban such that the vessel was still in  territorial waters.

If the court concludes that the alleged rape occurred on the high seas, then Mr. Bhogal may walk free.  The prosecution would then have to obtain authority from the National Prosecuting Authority to try and prosecute Mr. Bhogal.  

Cases like this reveal the dilemna which many women face after they have been raped on cruise ships around the world.  Sometimes they find themselves in a no man's land.

In the U.S., only the state of Florida has a law which permits the prosecution of rapists on the high seas.  The Florida law is unique because it permits the state to exercise jurisdiction over crimes which occur on cruise ships even if the rape occur in international waters, provided the ship leaves from a U.S. port and the majority of the passengers are residents of Florida.  

Regarding rapes which occur on cruises in international water which leave from ports in other states, only the U.S. Department of Justice may prosecute such crimes provided that the FBI is interested in investigating the incident.

But if the rape does not involve a U.S. victim or assailant and is against a citizen of another country and occurs on a foreign flag vessel on the high seas, the FBI has no jurisdiction.  This means that the criminal can avoid prosecution on technical terms, citing a lack of jurisdiction.      

MSC Sinfonia Cruise Ship

 

Photo credit:  Photos nos 1 and 3 - International Newspapers via Saturday Star

Victim Support UK: Cruise Ship Crime is "Hidden Scandal"

When the official "investigation" over the disappearance of their daughter by a single policeman in the Bahamas went nowhere, and Disney Cruise Line left them with no explanation, the Coriam family turned to two organizations for help - Victim Support and the International Cruise Victims.

Ann and Michael Coriam will tell you that these two organizations have been there at every step for their family as they seek answers regarding what happened to their daughter Rebecca, a Disney youth counselor who disappeared from the Disney Wonder in March of this year. 

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog are familiar with the International Cruise Victims ("ICV"), a U.S. non-profit organization founded by Ken Carver after his daughter mysteriously disappeared a cruise on the Celebrity Mercury.  The ICV is responsible for creating awareness of Victim Support - Rebecca Coriamdangers on cruise ships which the cruise industry would prefer the public not to know.  Due to the ICV's hard work, last year President Obama passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

You may not be as familiar with Victim Support, a non-profit organization based in the United Kongdom which  provides free and confidential help to victims of crime and their family across England and Wales.  It also speaks out as a voice for victims and campaigns for change. 

The hard work of Victim Support has been recognized of late, with the Daily Mirror in the UK publishing an article yesterday referring to the goals of this charitable organization.  The article states:

"The charity has two major concerns: holidaymakers are twice as likely to suffer sexual assault when on a ship, and crimes are not investigated properly.  Cruise firms want to protect their image and say almost all the missing people fell overboard.  But others suspect a more sinister reason for the disappearances and the charity wants better investigations into previous cases, as well as more measures taken to stop them happening.

The charity’s chief executive, Javed Khan, said: “How crime on cruise ships is investigated and how victims are dealt with are a hidden scandal.  Many victims are left without protection and little prospect of securing justice.”

Victim Support is now calling on the International Maritime Organization ("IMO") to take urgent action to improve the prevention and investigation of crimes on cruise ships.

You can read more about Victim Support's campaign to make cruising safer here.

Violence Strikes Puerto Vallarta Jewelry Store While HAL Cruise Ship In Port

There has been a very public debate about the safety of cruise passengers while in Mexican ports.  In June of this year, Princess Cruises pulled out of Puerto Vallarta (and Mazatlan) stating "as the safety and security of our passengers and crew is our highest priority, and based on the continued violence in these areas, we’ve made the decision to cancel our calls to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan.”

Puerto Vallarta was not pleased and responded with an accusation that the crime rate was actually higher on Princess' cruise ships  than in this Mexican port. 

Last month Princess announced that it would add these two ports back to its itinerary next year but Puerto Vallarta Mexico Crimewill monitor the violence in Mexico to determine if it would continue to serve the two ports.

Well now we have another violent crime which struck pretty close to apparently unsuspecting Holland America Line cruise passengers as they visited a shopping square near the cruise terminal.  (HAL and Princess are both owned By Carnival).

A Cruise Law News reader brought to my attention that a newspaper in Mexico reports that when a Holland America cruise ship was in port in Puerto Vallarta earlier this month, six armed criminals robbed a jewelry store right across from the ship pier.

The November 1, 2011 article states that six heavily armed men robbed a jewelry store, located at the exclusive Plaza Galleries and got away with millions of dollars of diamonds.

The robbery turned violent as the gunmen repeatedly beat the store manager in the head with a pistol.

The incident occurred around 1:00 in the afternoon while cruise passengers from the HAL cruise ship were in the shopping plaza where the jewelry store is located.  The news article reports "several tourists from Holland America cruise ship, docked at the Maritime Terminal, located across the street, were in the square."

There is no indication that any of the HAL cruise passengers were in danger or even knew of the robbery.  Nonetheless, it is unsettling that heavily armed banditos can stick up an exclusive jewelry store in a shopping square on a port day across from the terminal and get away scott free. 

I wonder if Princess Cruises or HAL even know that the crime occurred?

 

November 25 2011 Update:  "Radio Silence"

"Cruzi" @CruiseCritic had an interesting comment on this story:  " . . . these days there is more "stuff" going on of concern to tourists right in the tourist zone in PV than ever happened in Mazatlan in the tourist zone.  Difference is almost nothing gets press in English from Puerto Vallarta, and no "incident" chatter on forums permitted.  The city relies on tourism nearly 100%.  I also wonder if Holland America is even aware of what went on.  Probably, because it happened under their noses in a mall frequented heavily by passengers.  I just happened across this article searching for something else that just happened there.  Was anyone on the HA ship in Puerto Vallarta on November 1st?  This group has struck again, more than once, alluding capture, but that's not all that's going on there.  Yet, radio silence."  

Photo credit:  informador.com.mx

Accused Royal Caribbean Cruises Rapist Sues Bahamas for Spending Four Nights in Jail After Acquital

One of the categories I have for my Cruise Law News blog is "weird cruise news." 

Why such a category? 

For stories just like this:

Soveriegn of the Seas Cruise Ship - RapeThe Nassau Guardian published an article today about a Royal Caribbean crewmember, employed as a stateroom attendant, who was accused of raping a young woman on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas cruise ship. 

The incident involved a student from Florida State University who reported being raped back in 2006 on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship while it was docked in Nassau. 

The accused crewmember was Ruel Lockwood from Nicaragua.  He entered the young woman's cabin with a key card, which he used to enter cabins to clean them.

Why Royal Caribbean lets single men have key cards to women's cabins on their cruise ships remains an unpleasant mystery for me. 

I was young Jane Doe's Miami counsel, appointed by the Washington D.C. law firm of Winston & Strawn to act as co-counsel for Jane Doe after the shipboard rape.

The job of prosecutors in foreign countries of convincing juries to convict a cruise ship employee for raping an American woman is a daunting task, especially when the cruise line sent its defense lawyers to Nassau to assist the Bahamian criminal defense lawyers defend the case - which we alleged in the lawsuit filed against Royal Caribbean.

Yes, as expected, the jury in the Bahamas acquitted the cruise line employee accused of the rape.  The legitimacy of the verdict should be considered with the fact that Royal Caribbean paid $1,500,000.00 to settle the civil case where we alleged that the crewmember raped our client.

In my opinion, cruise lines don't pay that type of compensation if a rape did not occur.

Now here comes the weird part. 

After crewmember Lockwood was acquitted, he remained in jail for 4 days in Nassau.   For that, he sued the Bahamas for "unlawful detention."  Although he spent months and months in jail for the rape charges, he is now seeking damages for the 4 days he spent in jail after the jury acquitted him.  

Crewmember Lockwood should count his blessings for not spending the next 20 years of his life in the bowels of the Nassau jails.

Seeking compensation for 4 days in jail after his "acquittal" of raping an innocent coed during a cruise is a sick joke.

 

Photo Credit:  usscusk.com

Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas: Is it Safe to Cruise to Mexico?

Violence Cabo San Lucas - MexicoNew sources report today that hundreds of people cowered for hours inside a shopping mall in the resort town of Cabo San Lucas today while security forces traded gunfire with armed criminals at the Plaza Sendero shopping center.

A local newspaper in Mexico, Milenio, reports that 12 men armed with high powered rifles (AK-47's), were traveling in three vans (other articles say 3 - 4 men).  When they were observed by police, they retreated into a store at the mall. They were suspected of killing a marine the night before.  There are conflicting stories whether they held 200 of the 600 shoppers hostage.  After a shoot out, three men were arrested according to Borderland Beat.  

This dangerous event occurred after cruise lines like Princess Cruises, its parent company Carnival Cruise Line, and Disney Cruise Line pulled out of Mexican ports such as Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta in the last few months because of fears of violence.

Is it safe to cruise to Mexico when places like Cabo San Lucas turn into a scene from the Wild West?

You can see the gun battle and arrests in the video below:

 

 

October 29, 2011 Update:  The incident may be related to another gun fight broke out late on the night of October 28, 2011 between 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM in Cabo San Lucas "between Mexican military and assumed narco trafficantes."  One soldier and a gunman are dead and two police officers are seriously injured.  A video of the nighttime shooting is below: 

 

 

Video credits: Top - TheRasek79 (YouTube); bottom - BajaWhistleBlower (YouTube)

Photo credits:  Pat Garcia / La Paz, Mexico

October 30, 2011 Update:  Photographs are emerging of the criminals holding hostages (above) and the military responding to the situation (below).  Photos courtesy of Now Public / Pat Garcia, La Paz, Mexico. 

Cabo San Lucas - Crime - MexicoFor other articles about crime in Mexico:

U.S. Travel Warnings to Mexico

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Ships From L.A. Due To Crime In Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Tells Princess Cruises: "We're Safer Than Your Cruise Ships!"

Frommer's Is it Safe to Travel to Los Cabos? 

LA Times: Mexico Woos Tourists as U.S. Advises Travelers to Avoid Parts of the Violence-Plagued Country

Fox News: Cruise Ships Avoid Mazatlán Due to Crimes Targeting Tourists 

Cabo San Lucas Heats Up

Are the FBI and Coast Guard Underreporting Cruise Ship Crimes?

One of the key provisions of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 is that crimes on cruise ships are suppose to be posted on the internet in order to provide a warning to the U.S. public. 

After listening to testimony over the course of the last five Congressional hearings, Congress concluded that cruise ship crime in general, and sexual assaults in particular, were such a problem that the U.S. public needed to be warned. 

Just last month, in the case of Jane Doe v. Princess Cruises, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal held that " .  .  . if congressional reports are to be believed, sexual assaults and other violent crimes on cruise ships are a serious problem."  The Eleventh Circuit cited the testimony from cruise line executives from the March 2006 Congressional hearing that 178 passengers on North American cruises reported being sexually assaulted between 2003 and 2005.  During that same period, 24 people were reported missing and four others reported being robbed. 

In the March 2007 hearing, a FBI representative testified that from 2000 through June 2005, the FBI opened 305 case files involving “crime on the high seas.”   During those five years about 45% of the crimes that occurred on cruise ships involved sexual assaults.

In September 2007, a Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI testified before Congress that “sexual assault and physical assaults on cruise ships were the leading crime reported to and investigated by the FBI on the high seas over the last five years, 55 percent and 22 percent respectively . . . . Employees were identified as suspects in 37 percent of the cases, and 65 percent of those employees were not U.S. citizens.”  The FBI representative also testified that the majority of cruise ship sexual assault cases are not prosecuted.

Although these numbers are significant, I have always thought that the crime statistics reported to Congress are probably just a fraction of the actual number of crimes which occur during cruises.  For example, in 2006, Royal Caribbean told Congress that 66 rapes and sexual assaults reportedly occurred over the course of the preceding three years.  However, in a subsequent civil case we handled, a trial court here in Miami ordered the cruise line to produce its raw crime data to us.  The reports revealed that the total number of sex-related crimes were actually around 273, including allegations of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period.

The Los Angeles Times covered the story in an article entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters."   

With the new cruise safety law, cruise lines were finally required to report incidents of homicides, suspicious deaths, missing U.S. passengers, assaults, sexual assaults and thefts over $1,000 to the FBI.  The U.S. Coast Guard, in turn, is responsible for posting the FBI cruise ship crime statistics on the internet for the public to view. 

So what do the crime statistics the Coast Guard posted on the internet reveal?

According to the United States Coast Guard Investigative Services' quarterly report from July 1, 2011 through September 30, 2011, not a single reportable crime occurred.    

Let me repeat that.  According to the just released FBI / Coast Guard report - not a single reportable crime occurred during the third quarter of 2011.

According to the FBI / Coast Guard's first quarter and second quarter reports, only a total of ten sexual assaults occurred in the first six months of this year. 

For 2010, the FBI / Coast Guard report disclosed only 28 sexual assaults on cruise ships.  For the first nine months of this year, the number has dropped to only 10 sexual assaults.

These numbers are not only far less than in any of the prior years, but they are even less than the number of crimes the cruise lines will admit occurred.  For example, last month a newspaper in New Zealand reported on a study which concluded that the risk of being sexually assaulted was twice as high on a cruise ship than ashore.  Royal Caribbean responded to the article by stating that it had 24 incidents of rape or sexual assaults last year.  Yet, in their 2010 report, the FBI / Coast Guard disclosed that Royal Caribbean had only 6 such incidents in all of 2010.    

The FBI does not inform the public of alleged crimes which are under investigation (this is permitted by the cruise safety law) and this may partially account for such low numbers.  But the reality is that the FBI investigations rarely lead to a prosecution.  Not disclosing crimes because they are allegedly "under investigation" by an agency whose investigations rarely lead to a prosecution does the public a real disservice.  

Also, the numbers which the FBI and Coat Guard chose to disclose to the public do not include incidents which the FBI determines lacks sufficient evidence of a federal crime or the FBI deems unworthy of conducting a full investigation.  This is the rather amazing part of these statistics.  The cruise safety law was passed in large part because of an incident where a passenger was clearly sexually assaulted, yet the FBI prematurely closed its investigation the same day that the cruise ship returned to Los Angeles after the crime occurred.  I am talking about the case of Laurie Dishman whose Congresswoman in California, Doris Matsui, was instrumental is passing the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in the first place.

Based on the FBI and Coast Guard's current method of responding to the cruise safety law, these agencies would probably not even disclose the cruise ship crime against Ms. Dishman if it occurred today.    

There is something very wrong here.  What should the U.S. public conclude by reading the recent third quarter FBI / Coast Guard statistics suggesting that not a single crime occurred on a cruise ship over the past three months?   Around 3,500,000 passengers sailed on cruise ships over the past ninety days, millions out of U.S. ports, and not a single crime occurred?

What a joke.

The FBI and Coat Guard are making a mockery of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act  - a law victims of crime worked hard to enact in order to protect future cruise passengers.

Its time for Congress to take another look at the way the cruise lines, FBI and Coast Guard are reporting - or in this case - not reporting cruise ship crimes.  

 

For an insight into the actual number of incidents of sexual assaults and crimes on cruise ships, we suggest following sites:

Sun Sentinel Data Base

Professor Ross Klein Cruise Crime Analysis October 30 2007 - September 1, 2008

Professor Ross Klein's Analysis  of Reports of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault on Royal Caribbean International, 1998 - 2005

Appellate Court: "Sexual Assaults and Violent Crimes on Cruise Ships are a Serious Problem"

Yesterday, I discussed the case of Jane Doe v. Princess Cruises, where the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal addressed the issue whether a raped crewmember can pursue a case before a U.S. jury.  Or does she have to appear before an arbitrator in Bermuda where California-based cruise line Princess Cruises flags its cruise ships?

Cases like this raise all type of issues. 

Princess Cruises - Cruise Ship Rape - ArbitrationThe first issue, perhaps, is how can a country like Bermuda which did not bother to send an investigator to the Star Princess to arrest the assailant crewmember after raping a young woman on the Bermuda flagged cruise ship be an appropriate forum for the victim to seek justice?

But the Eleventh Circuit was charged with deciding a narrow legal issue: did the ten legal causes of action asserted against Princess Cruises fall within the arbitration language the cruise line inserted into the crewmember's employment contract? 

Or did the bad conduct alleged against Princess fall outside of the parameters of arbitration?   The issue of justice was not on the table.

However, the Eleventh Circuit nonetheless departed from the issue before it and could not help but to address the fundamental issue whether women are safe on cruise ships.  It stated and I quote:

"Unfortunately, if congressional reports are to be believed, sexual assaults and other violent crimes on cruise ships are a serious problem."  (emphasis added)

Quite frankly, I have never seen an appellate court depart from the legal issue before it.  I have never seen an appellate court give "advisory opinions" or social commentary like this.

The Court was obviously displeased with the facts alleged in the case and, like the appellate panel stated at oral argument on this case, raised the basic question whether cruising is safe or whether crimes against women on cruise ship go un-prosecuted.  Here is the language of the Court:

The House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Staff has reported that: 

At a hearing in March 2006 convened by the Committee on Government Reform, cruise industry executives testified that 178 passengers on North American cruises reported being sexually assaulted between 2003 and 2005. During that same period, 24 people were reported missing and four others reported being robbed. 

Crimes Against Americans on Cruise Ships: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Coast Guard and Mar. Transp. of the H. Comm. on Transp. and Infrastructure, 110th Cong. 2 (2007).  From fiscal year 2000 through June 2005, the FBI opened 305 case files involving “crime on the high seas,” and during those five years about 45% of those cases were sexual assaults that occurred on cruise shipsInternational Maritime Security: Joint Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Nat’l Sec., Emerging Threats, and Int’l Relations and the Subcomm. on Crim. Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Res. of the H. Comm. on Gov’t Reform, 109th Cong. 8 (2005) (statement of  Rep.Souder, Chairman of the Subcomm. on Crim. Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Res., Member, H. Comm. on Gov’t Reform).

Salvador Hernandez, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, testified before Congress in 2007 about sexual and other physical assaults that have taken place on cruise ships: “Sexual assault and physical assaults on cruise ships were the leading crime reported to and investigated by the FBI on the high seas over the last five years, 55 percent and 22 percent respectively . . . . Employees were identified as suspects in 37 percent of the cases, and 65 percent of those employees were not U.S. citizens.” Crimes Against Americans on Cruise Ships: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Coast Guard and Mar. Transp. of the H. Comm. on Transp. and Infrastructure, 110th Cong. 12 (2007) (statement of Hernandez, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI).

Salvador Hernandez, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, testified before Congress in 2007 that the majority of cruise ship sexual assault cases are not prosecuted. Crimes Against Americans on Cruise Ships: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Coast Guard and Mar. Transp. of the H. Comm. on Transp. and Infrastructure, 110th Cong. 12 (2007) (statement of Hernandez, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI). (emphasis added)

When appellate courts offer commentary about the "serious problem" of rapes and violent crimes on cruise ships based on data provided to Congress by the FBI, the cruise industry may consider implementing changes to their shipboard procedures to making cruising safer for women.   

 

Photo credit:  Star Princess cruise ship, Seattle Washington - Jim Walker

Royal Caribbean: 24 Allegations of Rape and Sexual Assault in 2010?

Today a newspaper in New Zealand published an article about the high rate of sexual assaults on cruise ships.  The article is entitled  "Sex-Assault Risk Greater On Liners Than On Land: Study."

The article refers to ". . .  one well-known cruise line, Royal Caribbean International, receiving more than 450 sexual abuse complaints during an eight year period."

Royal Caribbean Cruises - Rape - Sexual Assault - Crime The article is based on research conduct by cruise line expert Dr. Ross Klein, who has testified before our U.S. Congress on issues of crimes against cruise passengers.  Dr. Klein's popular website tracks crimes, cases of noro-virus and other incidents and accidents involving the U.S. cruise industry.

The newspaper quotes the following crime statistics based on Dr. Klein's information: 

Royal Caribbean International - 18 ships and 451 complaints of sexual assault and harassment between 1998 and 2005.

Celebrity Cruises - 9 ships and an average of 16 complaints each year between 1998 and 2002.

Carnival Cruise Line - 92 sex-related complaints in one nine-month period in 2008.

According to the newspaper, a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean stated that: " . . . the company carried more than 4.5 million guests and crew members in 2010 and reported 13 allegations of rape and 11 of sexual assault - not all of which were upheld."

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are quick to try and minimize the number of sexual assaults by two methods.

First, they like to point out that there are virtually no convictions, which is true.  A major problem is that there are very few convictions when women on raped at sea because of issues of spoliation of evidence, confusing jurisdictional issues, and the tendency of the cruise line to protect its own employees and reputation rather than preserve evidence and encourage prosecutions.  

The second method is to compare the number of crimes to the total number of passengers or passengers/crewmembers which have sailed over the course of a year.   The implication by Royal Caribbean is that it should be compared to a city of 4.5 million and it has "only" 24 rapes or sexual assaults.  

The correct way that the FBI and crime statisticians calculate crime rates is by comparing the number of crimes to the total population, not the total number of tourists or people in transit.  In the case of cruise lines, this means the total population on a cruise line's fleet of ships at any one particular time.  According to this cruise line's information sent to its investors, Royal Caribbean has a total passenger population of around 62,000.  (I am not certain of the total number of crewmembers). 

If this number (24) is accurate, that means that there is a rape or sexual assault allegation about every other week on Royal Caribbean ships alone. 

Royal Caribbean Cruises - Sexual Assault - RapeThere is also a question whether the statistics released by Royal Caribbean are to be trusted.

In 2005 and 2006, we attended Congressional hearings with our clients where Royal Caribbean was instructed by Congress to disclose the total number of sexual assaults in its fleet over a period of approximately three years.  It disclosed 66 rapes and sexual assaults.  However, in a subsequent civil case we handled, the cruise line refused to disclose its crime statistics.  We filed motions to compel and for sanctions.  A trial court then ordered the cruise line to disclose the number of such sexual incidents or face a fine of $1,000. 

In response, the cruise listed far in excess of 66 incidents; the total number was around 273, including allegations of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period.  The Los Angeles Times covered the story in an article entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters."

If Royal Caribbean is claiming it had 24 incidents last year, I suspect the true number is higher.

 

For additional information about sexual assaults on cruise ships, read another article from the LA Times: Cruise Ship Crime `Low Priority'   

Perfume Sales Assistant Alleges Rape Aboard the Celebrity Equinox

Courthouse News has published a copy of the lawsuit our firm filed against Celebrity Cruises following the alleged rape of an unconscious female crewmember aboard the Celebrity Equinox.  You can read the allegations in the lawsuit here.

According to the lawsuit papers, in October 2010, a crewmember employed as an assistant sales clerk working for a perfume concessionaire aboard the Celebrity Equinox, was raped on the cruise ship in the early morning hours after leaving the crew bar.  "Jane Doe" awoke to find another crewmember sexually assaulting her.

Celebrity Equinox Cruise ShipShe reported the incident to her supervisors and was examined and treated in the ship infirmary.  Police in the next port of call in Israel interviewed her, and the assailant crew member was eventually terminated and sent home.  Like most cruise ship sexual assault allegations, the assailant crew member was not arrested and there was no criminal prosecution.

The ship doctor did not administer any anti-retroviral medications to Jane Doe.  She was permitted four days off from work and thereafter returned to full time duty.  Neither Celebrity Cruises not her employer, Harding Brothers which operates the perfume concession, provided her with a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor despite her many requests for help dealing with the trauma.

Jane Doe ended her employment on the cruise ship in February 2011.  Jane Doe is from South Africa.  She is unemployed.  Neither Celebrity nor Harding Brothers have provided her with any medical treatment or assistance after she left the cruise ship as required by the doctrine of "maintenance and cure."   

Celebrity and its parent company Royal Caribbean have known about the high rate of sexual assaults on cruise ships for over a decade.  

In 1999, Royal Caribbean hired two top notch firms to study the problem of sexual assaults on the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity fleet of cruise ships.  The cruise line retained a consulting firm called "Sheridan, Swailes" to study the company's security systems.  Royal Caribbean also retained a nationally recognized expert on sexual harassment issues, Dr. Kay Krohne, who previously was a commanding officer at the Naval Training Station in San Diego. 

Kay Krohne - Cruise Sexual Assault - Cruise Sexual HarassmentAfter conducting an extensive analysis of the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity fleet, these experts concluded that sexual misconduct occurred "frequently" during cruises.  They attributed this problem to the fact that most crew members were not afraid of being arrested, much less convicted.  Dr. Krohne reported that the worst thing that could happen to a crew member who committed a crime on a Royal Caribbean or Celebrity cruise ship was to be sent on a one way flight home.

Last summer, we reported on a similar sexual assault allegation involving a crewmember from South Africa. "Taryn" was employed as a beauty therapist on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  Another crewmember employed as a fitness instructor allegedly raped her.  The cruise line reportedly sent her home after reporting the incident and refused to provide her with medical treatment or living expenses as required by the maritime law.  Her assailant was not prosecuted. 

We wrote about the case in an article Cruise Rape - Is Royal Caribbean Up To Its Old Tricks?

Women on cruise ships need to be aware of the danger of rape, especially after drinking alcohol.  Crewmembers should also know that if they are sexually assaulted on a cruise ship, they entitled to treatment with psychiatrists and counselors until they reach their maximum medical improvement.   

 

Photo credit:

Celebrity Equinox in Haifa Port, Israel - Wikipedia (Shlomiliss)
 

Busted in Bermuda - Customs Officials Extort Money From Cruise Passengers By Unconstitutional Drug Searches

This year we have been reporting on the high number of arrests by the Bermuda customs officials of cruise ship passengers for small amounts of marijuana. 

A Pattern of Invading Cruise Cabins and Shaking U.S. Passengers Down for Money 

Bermuda Flag - Drug BustsAll of the cases fit into a pattern. 

After the cruise ship arrives in port, the passenger leave their cabins and go ashore for sightseeing or to purchase souvenirs from the local vendors in port.  While the passengers are ashore, the Bermuda customs officers will board the cruise ship with sniffer dogs and sneak into the passengers' cabins with the drug dogs.  If they find pot, usually in an amount for 6-8 cigarettes or so, they will wait for the passenger to return to the cruise ship and arrest them.  They will then haul the passengers ashore and jail them. 

When the case is finally called, the Magistrate will lecture them and give them the option of 30 to 50 days in jail or paying a fine of $1,000 to $3,000 and leave the country.  The passengers always pay the money and then fly back to the U.S rather than spend a month or two in jail.

In none of the cases we have reported on has there been a search warrant to enter the cabin.  Nor has there there been any indication that the customs officers had probable cause to invade the private cabins of the passengers.    

You can read about the individual cases in our articles:  Are You a Stoner? Don't Cruise to Bermuda!, Cruise Ships & Drug Smuggling and High Times on the High Seas - Cruise Industry Struggles with "Reefer Madness"   The press in Bermuda loves to cover these cases and identify the U.S.passengers and even photograph them, as you can read about here.   

I have always scratched my head reading about these shake downs.  Why don't the defense lawyers move to dismiss the charges because the pot was seized after an illegal entry where there was no probable cause to enter the private cabins nor did the authorities bother to obtain a search warrant?  In the U.S., a case like this would be thrown out in a New York second and the prosecution chastised.

Does Bermuda's Constitution Prohibit Illegal Search and Seizures? 

Cruise Ship Drugs - BermudaWhen I was 15 years old and taking my first constitutional law course (yes, my parents sent me to a great prep school), I read for the first time something called the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Does Bermuda have a similar provision in a constitution to protect its people from random searches and seizures by the police?

This morning, I seem to have found my answer while reading an article in the BDA Sun last Friday entitled "Cruise Passengers Fined for Cannabis After 'Unconstitutional' Search."

The article covers the story of two women in their fifties from New York who went ashore to visit the sights in Bermuda after the Norwegian Jade cruise arrived in port.  The customs officers entered the cabin the women shared without their knowledge or permission, and without a search warrant or good reason.  They found eight grams of cannabis.  That's about enough weed for ten cigarettes.   

The customs officers arrested the two women and took them to jail.  They were booked for importing the weed into Bermuda, even though they went ashore without the pot and had no intention of taking it ashore and even though the customs officers had to go onto the ship, trespass the ladies' private cabin and root around to find it.

Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner - Bermuda - Cruise Pot"It's Only A Matter of Time Before You All Get Sued"

The newspaper reports that Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner (photo left) fined the two ladies $1,000 each but he did not appear to be particularly happy about doing so.  Here is the exchange between the Magistrate and the prosecution taken verbatim from the local newspaper:

“I see on all these summaries of evidence that customs officers are carrying out random searches on people’s rooms."

“Who told customs officers they can carry out random searches?”

Crown counsel Tawana Tannock told Mr. Warner she wasn’t instructed on that question.

Mr. Warner then said: “Can the police or customs just go in anybody’s room whether hotel or ship and search them?”

Ms. Tannock said: “I can’t speak to that.”

The magistrate replied: “Like a hotel room or somebody’s house, people pay good money for the cruise room."

“So you all may be looking to get sued."

“I mean, if they’re guilty, they’re guilty by the fine for the simple possession is $1,000.”

The Magistrate told Ms. Tannock customs officers should consider or reconsider the search method.

Mr. Warner continued: “I can tell you that there is no such provision giving anybody such authority."

NCL Cruise Ship - Drug Bust - Bermuda“It’s unconstitutional, it would be unconstitutional."

“It’s only a matter of time before you all get sued.”

Bermuda has probably netted $100,000 playing this monkey game with cruise passengers over the past several years.  Are there any competent criminal defense lawyers who can take a hint from Senior Magistrate Warner and raise a peremptory challenge to these type of illegal search and seizures?  

Are there any independent advocates on the island willing to sue the customs officials and prosecutors for what is patently an ongoing unlawful scheme to threaten cruise passengers with jail time in order to reach into their pockets for money?  

August 19, 2011 Update:

The Bermuda Sun reports that a 48 year old US tourist after Customs officers from Bermuda entered his cabin.  The cruise passenger was present and admitted having six grams of cannabis in the cruise ship safe. Customs officers claim that they searched the cabin on the Celebrity Summit in Dockyard on August 17 after receiving an unidentified "tip-off."

Magistrate Archibald Warner, who we reported on above questioning the legality of warrantless random searches, fined the passenger $1,000.

 

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Tells Princess Cruises: "We're Safer Than Your Cruise Ships!"

I ran across an interesting article written from the perspective of a Mexican port which one of the cruise lines labeled as too dangerous to visit.

It seems like Princess Cruises has incurred the wrath of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico after the cruise line dropped the port from its cruise itinerary citing "continued violence" as the reason.  USA Today quickly picked up on the story and conducted a poll asking its readers whether cruise lines should Puerto Vallarta - Crime? - Princess Cruises - Mexicopull of of this port which Princess Cruises painted with a broad brush that all-of-Mexico-is-unsafe

Princess spokeswoman Karen Candy told USA Today:  “As the safety and security of our passengers and crew is our highest priority, and based on the continued violence in these areas, we’ve made the decision to cancel our calls to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan.”

But the good people in Puerto Vallarta are pointing out that their city is a heck of a lot safer than the city where the cruise line is headquartered in Southern California or most of the destinations visited by Princess cruise ships such as Bermuda, Bahamas, and Jamaica.  The article is entitled "Princess Cruise Lines: Stop Slandering the Safety of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico."

The article also points out that Carnival Cruises, its owner, as well as Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruises still include the Mexican port on their itineraries.

The article points out that there is a high rate of crime on cruise ships and Princess has had more than its fair share of incidents of sexual assault against women, both passengers and crewmembers, on its fleet of cruise ships.  Are Princess Cruises ships more dangerous than this Mexican port of call?   Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

Disappearance of George Smith - Larry King Live & the "Missing Groom Mystery"

Larry King Live - George Smith Disappearance - Cruise ShipThe media's interest into the "missing groom" story was unparalleled in the history of the cruise industry.  Royal Caribbean had been able to dodge bad press about the disappearance of passengers and women and children sexually assaulted on its fleet of cruise ships for decades.

But the case of George Smith was different.  Every network was covering the story, non-stop. 

I will never forget sitting behind my desk speaking on the telephone with Greta Van Sustern about the case when my secretary, Betsy, buzzed me saying: "Larry King is holding on line 2."  I suppose it was a tad obnoxious to respond to Betsy: "tell Larry that I will call him back in a couple of minutes." 

But that was the way it was with the most popular case involving a cruise ship mystery like this.  We were receiving letters, Fed Ex packages, flower arrangements, notes, and invitations to stay in hotels before and after high profile interviews on a weekly basis.  

We used the media to our advantage.  We were dealing with Royal Caribbean, an admitted corporate felon which was just coming off a five year period of probation for lying to the U.S. Coast Guard about wide spread illegal dumping of chemicals and blackwater into the aqua, warm waters of Biscayne Bay in Miami to the dark, cool waters of Alaska.  This was a corporation with a reputation for dishonesty. 

Larry King Live - George Smith Missing - Royal Caribbean Cruise ShipLarry King invited me on his show twice.  First in August 2005 before I was hired by Jennifer Hagel to talk about the issues in the case.  The second time was in January 2006, together with the Smith family and their counsel, after I was retained, to talk about the details of the case. 

Shows like Larry King Live, with literally millions of viewers, were instrumental in educating the public about the problems of crimes and disappearances on cruise ships which the cruise industry had kept hidden for years.  The publicity would continue as the U.S. Congress convened five hearings in the House of Representatives and Senate into the issue of crimes and disappearances of passengers on cruise ships. 

 

This article is part of a series of articles this week: Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later.

Do you have information which may solve this case?   Please let us hear from you.

Philippines to Adopt International Cruise Victim Legislation to Protect Passengers and Crew

A newspaper in the Philippines reports that legislation has been introduced in the Philippines to protect passengers and crew of cruise ships from sexual and physical assaults while at sea.

Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from Pampanga sponsored a bill which requires passenger and cargo ships to adhere to specific requirements to protect of passengers and crewmembers.

Macapagal-Arroyo - Philippines Cruise Safety LawThe legislation is patterned after the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Law which was signed into law last year by President Obama.  The cruise safety law was the result of the efforts of the International Cruise Victims organization.   

Representative Macapagal-Arroyo said that the leading crimes on cruise ships operated by cruise lines based in the United States are sexual and physical assaults.  “These crimes at sea can involve attacks both by passengers and crewmembers on other passengers and crewmembers,” Macapagal-Arroyo said.

“House Bill 4608 is being introduced to follow the footsteps of the U.S. and more importantly, to enhance safety of passengers and prevent incidents of a similar nature from happening,” Macapagal-Arroyo said.

The bill follows the U.S. law by requiring ship rails at least 54 inches in height, peep holes and security latches on cabin doors, fire safety codes, and the integration of  technology that can be used for detecting passengers who have fallen overboard. The new bill also requires anti-retroviral medications and rape kits to be available on ships. 

Crimes must be noted in the the vessel's logs and reported to appropriate authorities.

The introduction of this law in the Philippines demonstrates the expansive reach of the International Cruise Victims to protect passengers and crew around the world.

 

Photo credit: bansangpilipinas.com

"Pub Crawl" on the Norwegian Sun Ends with Rape Allegation against NCL

A fellow Miami lawyer filed a lawsuit against Norwegian Cruise Lines ("NCL") on behalf of a passenger who alleges that she was raped while aboard the Norwegian Sun cruise ship.

Cruise Pub Crawl - Norwegian SunThe alleged incident occurred in April when the passenger was participating in an NCL organized "pub crawl."   

NCL employees took her and other guests around the ship stopping briefly to drink at various bars where the bartenders encouraged the passengers to drink above safe limits.  After the drinking game, the passenger alleges that she was raped in a public bathroom.

The lawsuit alleges that NCL created a dangerous situation by over-serving the guest alcohol to the point that she could not protect herself and not escorting her safely back to her cabin.

Several years ago, an appellate court here in Miami held that cruise lines face liability when they serve passengers alcohol to and then past the level of intoxication.  The fact that the passenger voluntarily drank the alcohol does not act as a bar to the legal claim.

Cruise Passenger and Crew Members Assaulted in Bermuda

A post by a cruiser on a CruiseCritic forum yesterday indicates that a cruise passenger visiting Bermuda was assaulted and battered in an attempted robbery last week.

One June 14th, a passenger from the NCL Dawn cruise ship was walking back to the ship around 4:00 p.m. from Snorkel Beach on what is described as a "relatively well traveled walkway in front of the main entrance to the Maritime Museum." 

Bermuda Cruise CrimeA Bermudian man punched the passenger in the face, knocking him to the ground and then began to search through the passenger's pockets.  The passenger fought back and then fled back to the cruise ship where he reported the incident to security personnel and customs agents. Bermudian police reportedly stated that such attacks have become more frequent  in recent years.

On June 8th, the BDA Sun reported that two NCL crewmembers from the Dawn were assaulted early in the morning in Snorkel Park and one of the crewmembers required medical treatment in a hospital.

The newspaper then published an article about the fracas entitled Warning of Tourism Fallout after Fight.   Snorkel Park chief Tom Steinhoff is quoted as saying: "Behaviour like this threatens further investment in Bermuda and threatens Bermuda tourism – we are going to do everything we can to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again."

On May 31, 2011, the Royal Gazette newspaper reported on the attacks of two cruise tourists in an article entitled "Man Admits Attack on Cruise Ship Visitors."  A Bermudan man admitted attacking two cruise tourists with a piece of metal pipe in a public bathroom in Par-la-Ville Park.  As usual, the newspaper did not mention the name of the cruise line or cruise ship.

Last week's violent assault and battery of a cruise passenger is not going to help the island's reputation.

The Bermuda Police have an online website which contains "daily reports" of crime.  Although there is an online account of the earlier incident involving the crewmembers, there is no mention of the assault of the cruise passenger last week.

Unlike many of the Caribbean islands, Bermuda has long enjoyed a reputation for being a generally safe destination (the exception being the brutal rape and death of a young Canadian tourist Rebecca Middleton and the incompetence of the Bermudian authorities which followed). 

Are crimes against cruise passengers and crew a problem in Bermuda?    

 

June 22, 2011 Update:

Cruise Critic has an interesting article about this incident.  The police in Bermuda are claiming that this was no random act of violence but rather a "drug deal gone wrong."  The police do not deny that the passenger was injured.  Rather they are saying that the alleged drug transaction led to the violence. 

I'm not sure that makes me feel any better.  It seems to raise the issue whether Bermuda may have a problem with drugs as well as violent crime. 

The article is entitled "Bermuda Police Debunk Alleged Attack on Cruise Ship Passenger." 

June 23, 2011 Update:

The Royal Gazette newspaper in Bermuda is finally covering the story - "Alleged Robbery was Drug Deal Gone Bad Govt."
 

Rush to Judgment: Did Pressure from Royal Caribbean Cause Mexican Police to Arrest an Innocent Man?

Earlier this week, we reported that the case against the Mexican man charged with killing Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, was falling apart.  A key prosecution witness testified at a hearing that police pressured him into making a false statement implicating Nelson Pérez Torres as the murderer.

Nelson Pérez TorresIn our article Is Alleged Murderer of Royal Caribbean Musician Innocent? we pointed out that the Mexican police have now been accused of strong arm tactics against both the alleged killer and the star prosecution witness.

A newspaper in Mexico is reporting today that after Ms. Markiewicz's death, an official from Royal Caribbean traveled to Mexico and placed pressure on Mexico officials to quickly solve the crime.

SIPSE.com states that case gained special importance because it involved a crew member from the Allure of the Seas cruise ship, operated by Royal Caribbean.  The newspaper reports that Michael Ronan, vice president of Royal Caribbean, traveled to Cozumel and met with tourism authorities and the police to discuss the details of the case.

"The pressure increased when he made statements that cruises to the island could be suspended if the case was not resolved."  (translation)

This crime occurred at a time when some cruises lines were suspending cruises to Mexico due to the perception that it is unsafe to disembark in Mexican ports due to violent crime. 

Mexican police arrested Mr. Torres within a week of the death of Ms. Markiewicz.  Newspapers in Mexico published stories that Mr. Torres was railroaded into a confession.  His friends and family members even picketed at the pier with signs saying Mr. Torres is innocent. 

On the same day as the arrest, Royal Caribbean issued a press release stating that its "Global Adam Goldstein - Royal Caribbean Security Department fully supported and assisted Mexican officials in their investigation of this isolated and uncharacteristic crime for Cozumel."

Cruise line President Adam Goldstein was quoted saying:  

"We thank the Mexican authorities for their commitment to quickly solving the murder of our crew member . . ."

"Quick" justice is often no justice at all. 

It will be unjust to both the Torres and Markiewicz families if the wrong man is convicted.  
 

 

Photo credit:

Top: SIPSE.com 

Is Alleged Murderer of Royal Caribbean Musician Innocent?

Nelson Pérez TorresThe press in Mexico is raising questions about the criminal charges leveled against Nelson Pérez Torres, who is jailed and awaiting trial for the murder of Royal Caribbean crewmember, Monika Markiewicz.

Ms. Markiewizc was an accomplished musician employed as a violinist aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.  In February, she disembarked in Cozumel from the Allure and did not return to the cruise ship which left and sailed back to Miami.  Her body was located the following day. 

An autopsy determined the cause of Ms. Markiewicz's death was "drowning" but noted that she suffered a blow to the head.

Mexican police arrested 24 year old Nelson Perez Torres, who worked at a restaurant / bar near the port.  He reportedly confessed to striking Ms. Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean, according to the chief prosecutor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo where Cozumel is located.  You can read our articles about this case below: 

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

Monika's Last Recital

A newspaper in Mexico is reporting today that the case against Torres is "riddled with contradictions and irregularities."  SIPSE.com  reports that the "star witness" for the prosecution has not only retracted his statement but alleges that he was theatened by the police to sign the declaration.  The Torres family has always contended that their son was beaten and "confessed" to the crime under duress.  We previously blogged about this: Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

The Mexican newspaper also states that videos taken at an intersection near the crime scene, and which should depict the identity of the murderer walking with Ms. Markiewicz, have not been produced.  The article also alludes that there will be defense witnesses who will testify to Mr. Torres being at a different location at the time of the murder. 

 

Photo credit:  estosdias.com.mx

Video credit: VOZTVCOZQROO (YouTube)

Sea Marshals on Cruise Ships? At Least in the Port of Los Angeles.

One of the proposals recommended by the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization is having "sea marshals" on cruise ships in order to protect passengers and respond to shipboard crimes.  

Sea Marshal - Los Angeles - Cruise Ship SecuritySince 9-11 the Federal government has placed "air marshals" on airplanes.  The ICV has attempted to ensure that cruise ships have the same level of security by supporting legislation in California requiring "sea marshals" on all cruise ships entering and departing cruise ports in that state. 

Unfortunately, the cruise industry fought against an independent police force on cruise ships. The typical argument is that state law enforcement have no jurisdiction over foreign flag cruise ships on international waters.  However, there is no question that states like California have jurisdiction to place sea marshals on cruise ships once the ships reach state waters to act as a police presence and to monitor environmental  activities.  Alaska has a very effective sea marshal program designed to monitor cruise ship waste water dumping. 

The port of Los Angeles already has a sea marshal program.  By all accounts it is successful and serves the valuable purpose of protecting passengers.  As explained in an article today "Marshals Defend Port of L.A." in the Contra Costa Times, the port of Los Angeles has six sea marshals, as well as an additional eight to 10 port police officers who are trained to join the team. The L.A. sea marshal program is seperate from the sea marshal program operated by the U.S. Coast Guard  which board vessels up to 12 miles offshore. 

The sea marshal program in L.A. is geared toward addressing vulnerabilities as cruise ships and cargo vessel head into and out of the harbor.  Sea marshals board cruise ships 3 miles from port.  They are armed.  They make sure that no one forces their way into the bridge to hijack the ship and uses it as a floating bomb or a battering ram,  just as al-Qaida terrorists forced their way into the cockpits of jetliners on 9-11. 

Sea marshals also inspect various areas of the cruise ship, look for explosives, drugs, suspicious activities, and coordinate underwater inspections by port police divers once Los Angeles Port - Sea Marshal - Cruise Passenger Safetythe cruise ships reach port.  They remain on the bridge, where they keep watch as the cruise ships sail out of the Port of Los Angeles.  They return to port once the vessels reach 3 miles offshore.

The newspaper interviewed John Holmes, the deputy executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, who said: "Our most precious cargo at the port are our cruise passengers .  .  .  Anytime you get on a ship in Los Angeles and these guys come on board, I think it really gives people a sense of security."

It remains less than clear whether the sea marshals in Los Angeles have responsibility to handle reports of crime which occur at sea as the cruise ships sail back to California.  Undoubtedly, the local sea marshals can liason with the Los Angeles Port Police and the FBI.

Los Angeles has proven that a sea marshal program on a state level can work.  More ports and states need to follow Los Angeles's lead.

Miami New Times: Couple Sues Carnival Cruise Lines After Teenage Daughter Killed in Virgin Islands Gang Shootout

The lawsuit we filed this week of behalf of our clients for the death of their daughter, Liz Marie Perez Chaparro, has been covered in the Miami New Times and USA Today this week.  The article, written by Tim Elfrink, for the Miami New Times is entitled "Couple Sues Carnival Cruise Lines After Teenage Daughter Killed in Virgin Islands Gang Shootout."

"Liz Marie Perez Chaparro was celebrating her quinceañera on a Carnival cruise with her parents last summer when an employee convinced the family to join an excursion in St. Thomas. What he didn't mention, Chaparro's family says, is that a heated gang war was raging in the area.

Liz Marie Perez Chaparro - Death - Carnival Cruise Chaparro died on a tour bus when a shootout exploded between the rival gangs at a funeral, peppering the young tourist with bullets. Her family filed suit against Carnival today, alleging they should have known the violence was likely.

Chaparro and her parents, Ceferino Perez and Aida Esther Chaparro, live in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They saved for ten months to pay for her quinceañera cruise last July, they told the Virgin Island Daily News.

On July 12, one of the first nights of the cruise, Perez was drinking on deck when a cruise employee sold him on a trip to Coki Beach, a popular sandy stretch in St. Thomas.

But Perez didn't know that the Virgin Islands at the time were riding an all-time high homicide streak, he says in his lawsuit. Already that calendar year, the islands -- with a population of 100,000 -- had seen 43 murders.

What's more, Perez says, the week before a gang member had been shot and killed at a mall near Coki Beach and his gang had planned a funeral at a cemetery near the beach on the day of the excursion.

"(Carnival) should have known there was a high risk of an attempted gang revenge killing at the funeral," Perez says in the suit.

Either way, soon after Perez and his family boarded the bus for Coki Beach it was trapped on a two-lane road blocked by the gang members.  When a shootout broke out, their bus was caught in the crossfire.

Fourteen-year-old Liz Marie Chaparro died on the scene.

A Carnival spokesperson didn't immediately return a phone call and an email about the lawsuit this morning; we'll update the post when we hear back."

 

A copy of the lawsuit is available on line here (via courthousenews.com). 

Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn their passengers of dangers in the ports of call.  For our article about this terrible crime, read: More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.

U.S. Cruise Passenger Dies in Naples After Assault, Attempted Robbery

Reuters is reporting that an American tourist died in Naples yesterday, after thieves assaulted him while trying to steal his Rolex watch a week ago. 

The article states that Oscar Antonio Mendoza, age 66, and his wife cruised to Naples on May 18th.  After he disembarked the unidentified cruise ship to tour the city with his wife, two men approached him on a scooter, grabbed his arm and tried to take his Rolex.

Mendoza struggled with one of the men and was thrown to the ground, hitting his head. He was taken to hospital and operated on.  He did not regain consciousness and died nine days later.

Naples is an interesting place to visit, but it has a reputation for pick pockets, purse snatchers, and drive-by-scooter robberies.

Naples Cruise Passenger Assaulted  

May 29, 2011 Update:  Cruise Critic reports that the cruise passenger was from the Solstice cruise ship operated by Celebrity Cruises.

Cruise Critic writes "It should be noted that the Italian city is notorious for crime. The Cruise Critic profile on the port warns visitors to be 'careful about crime -- pickpockets, burglaries, etc.' "

What Happens to Cruise Ship Criminals? Not Much . . .

"Naked Law" by AVVO recently published an interesting article "What Happens to Cruise Ship Criminals?"

The article poses the following scenario: 

"A group of young women take a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean, a trip they’ve been planning for months.  The second night on board, they have a couple of drinks in one of the ship’s many lounges and bars.  The bartender is attractive and flirty.

Later that night, he rapes one of the women in her cabin—something he’s done before because he always gets away with it.  He knows full well that cruise companies generally do whatever it takes to cover up shipboard crimes.  By the time his victim gets to port, it’s too late to get any real evidence, plus the maid steam-cleaned the DNA off the cabin carpet."

TIME Magazine - Crime Rocks the Boats - Cruise Ship CrimeThe problem with this hypothetical scenario is that it is not hypothetical at all.  We have represented passengers who have been raped by bartenders, cabin attendants and even security guards on cruise ships.

The article mentions two of our client's cases and also refers to an article by Cruise Law News. 

First cited is an article by Julie Rowe in TIME Magazine entitled "Crime Rocks the Boats" which discussed the case of firm client Janet Kelley and the disappearance of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise with firm client Jennifer Hagel.  TIME published its blockbuster article in March 2006 while Congress was convening its second (of five) hearings on the problem of cruise ship crime.  It would not be until 2010 that Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which requires cruise ships to report shipboard crimes to the FBI and U.S. Coast Guard and to maintain rape kits aboard the ships.  

AVVO also cited our article Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It! in which we discuss the disturbing cases of passengers James Scavonne (Carnival), Dianne Brimble (P and O Cruises), Merrian Carver (Celebrity Cruises), Christopher Caldwell (Carnival), and George Smith IV (Royal Caribbean), as well as the disappearance of Italian crew member Angelo Faliva (Princess Cruises). 

The new cruise safety law will not go into effect until 2012.  In the meantime, there remains few arrests and even fewer convictions when crimes occur during cruises.  The most recent alleged crime, involving a 17 year old who was allegedly raped after a crew member purchased her a half dozen drinks, resulted in a quick FBI investigation and no arrest.  Royal Caribbean terminated the crew member and gave him a one way ticket back home.  But the cruise line bartender who sold the booze and those on the cruise ship who observed the crew member drinking and fraternizing with the minor remain employed today.

The fired bartender is free to seek employment on one of the other 25 cruise lines which operate out of the U.S.  The cruise lines who are members of the Cruise Line International association ("CLIA") do not share information with each other when a crew member from one of the CLIA cruise ships is fired for sexual misconduct.

In the case of firm client Janet Kelly, raped by a cruise line bartender on a CLIA cruise ship, the crew member applied for work on another line (Princess Cruises) and was accepted for employment.  Sexual predators are emboldened by the cruise industry's indifference to this problem.

 

Credit: Julie Rowe, Time Magazine

Brazilian Police Conclude MSC Crewmember Strangled to Death

In January last year, we reported on the death of Camilla Peixoto Bandeira, age 28, aboard the MSC Musica cruise ship.  Her boyfriend, Bruno Souza Bicalho, allegedly found Ms. Bandeira deceased in their cabin, claiming that she committed suicide by hanging herself with a sheet from an overhead pipe.

Camila Peixoto Bandeira - MSC Cruises Today, a newspaper in Brazil reports that the police concluded that Ms. Bandeira was murdered by her boyfriend, with the cause of death being strangulation with the hands.  The conclusions were based on medical and forensic analysis and investigations conducted by the Brazilian police officers aboard the ship.

Camilla's cause has been championed by her brother, José Godolphim Bandeira Netto, who publishes a blog about the family's ordeal. 

This case is now heading toward a prosecution of Mr. Bicalho for the murder of Ms. Bandeira.

We applaud Jose and Ms. Bandeira's family for their efforts in finding justice for Camilla.

 

Photo credit:  atribuna.com.br

International Cruise Victims Protect Passengers Sailing from California Ports

This week I traveled from Miami to California to attend a hearing at the state capital building in Sacramento.  California Assemblyman Roger Hernández (D - West Covina) had introduced legislation that will permit the State of California to prosecute criminals on cruise ships which call on California ports. 

This is an important bill.  In all states except Florida, only the FBI has jurisdiction to investigate crimes outside territorial waters and the crimes must be prosecuted only by the Federal government.  Unfortunately, the FBI has a very poor track record investigating shipboard crimes and only a small fraction of such crimes are ever prosecuted. 

International Cruise Victims - Cruise Ship CrimeCalifornia has addressed this problem by introducing a bill that will permit state prosecutors to pursue criminal cases against crew members and passengers who commit crimes against passengers on cruises which begin and end in California.  In instances where the FBI or DOJ decline to become involved, the state of California can become involved and a state attorney can prosecute the crime.  

I had the opportunity to review the bill and meet with Assemblyman Hernández.  Issues were raised in opposition to the bill whether the bill was unconstitutional because it may violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and impermissibly tread upon an area which was preempted by Federal law.  My analysis led me to conclude that the bill was constitutional and a valid exercise of the state of California to protect individuals sailing from its ports. 

Members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization (photo left) attended the hearing.  Charmian and ICV founder Ken Carver traveled from Phoenix, Arizona to discuss the disappearance of his daughter, Merrian Carver, during a cruise aboard a Celebrity cruise ship, and the failure of the Federal government to investigate the incident or prosecute the cruise line when it engaged in a cover-up . 

Friend and former client Laurie Dishman (photo below) testified about her horrific experiences during a Royal Caribbean cruise, when a part time security guard (hired as a janitor/cleaner) raped her and then the cruise line forced her to remain in the crime scene for several hours.  When she was finally permitted to go to ship infirmary,  the ship doctor handed Laurie black garbage bags and told her to return to the cabin and collect her own evidence.  Laurie explained to the Assembly how the Federal government failed her. The FBI closed its investigation within 8 hours after the cruise ship Laurie Dishman - Jim Walker - Cruise Lawreturned to port in Southern California and the Department of Justice declined to prosecute the case despite substantial evidence which should have led to a conviction of the cruise line rapist.

ICV President Jamie Barnett, told the Assembly about the circumstances of losing her daughter, Ashley, during a Carnival cruise and the indifference demonstrated by the FBI to her family's plight.  (You can read about Jamie's efforts to protect the cruising public in The Compelling Story of Jamie Barnett - Living Through the Loss).

The assembly room was packed. You could hear a pin drop as Ken, Laurie and Jamie testified.   Although there were technical legal concerns with the legality of the bill, the Public Safety committee of Assembly voted unanimously in support of passing the bill.

The experience reinforced a conclusion that I reached long ago.  At the end of the day, legislators are less concerned with technical mumbo-jumbo legal arguments and more concerned with the compelling stories of victims appearing before them.  

There are additional committees which will review the bill before it is passed into law, but this was a historic event nonetheless. 

Congratulations to the ICV members and its supporting friends.  A special thanks should go to Ken, Jamie, and Laurie for taking a leadership position in supporting this important bill which will make cruising safer.         

 

Photograph credit:  Jim Walker (sorry for the poor quality, photos taken on my blackberry).

California Introduces Cruise Crime Legislation to Permit Prosecution of Criminals on the High Seas

California Assemblyman Roger Hernández (D - West Covina) has introduced legislation that will protect the rights of cruise ship passengers when a crime is committed against them during cruises.  If passed into law, Assembly Bill 1060 will permit the State of California to prosecute criminals on cruise ships during cruises which start and end in California ports.  

Cruise passengers have faced difficulty obtaining justice after they become a victim of a crime.  Historically cruise lines refused to report crimes to law authorities.  Crimes victims, particularly women who were raped during cruises, were left to report the crime themselves.  Trying to figure out who to contact when you have been victimized in the middle of international waters was a Californiadaunting task.  When cruise ships reported shipboard crimes, the reports were often late, incomplete and misleading.  When passengers complained about the non-reporting or shoddy reporting, the cruise lines' response was to say "hey, we don't to report crimes in the first place."

Due to the efforts of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, cruise lines are now required to report shipboard crimes which occur on cruise ships which call on a U.S. port.  Last year, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act which requires cruise lines report crimes during cruises to the FBI and U.S. Coast Guard.    

The problem remains, however, with investigating and prosecuting the crimes once they are reported.  The FBI's track record over the past decade of investigating cruise crimes in unimpressive.  During Congressional hearings over the past five years, it has been revealed that only a very small percentage of crimes investigated by the FBI lead to arrests and prosecutions.  Many victims who contact our office complain about the FBI's reluctance to investigate cruise ship sexual and physical assaults.        

California Assemblyman Hernández's new bill will address this problem.  In instances where the FBI decline to become involved or the federal government chooses not to prosecute a crime, the State Attorney's office may elect to prosecute the case.  The state of Florida has a similar statute, although it is the only state which has taken steps to address the problem of crimes on cruises going unprosecuted.   

"Cruises are intended to be a vacation at sea, and when crimes are committed on cruise ships, victims are basically held captive with their perpetrator until the ship docks," said Assembly Member Hernández.  "AB 1060 provides relief for cruise ship victims who may otherwise not be able to find justice today."

Jamie Barnett, President of the ICV, issues a statement:

"ICV commends the leadership of Assembly Member Roger Hernández with the introduction of historic legislation to further protect the passengers arriving in California ports that have been a victim of a crime on a cruise ship.  In addition to the new federal legislation passed last year, this important legislation will provide even greater protection and options for passengers to make sure that justice takes place when they are a victim of a crime on a cruise ship. ICV sees this legislation as being a guide to other states to better protect their passengers who arrive in their states on cruise ships."
 

 

Credit:  California map   Jacques Liozu

St. Thomas Jury Convicts Killer of Carnival Cruise Passenger

Steve Tyler - Murder St. Thomas - Cruise - Liz Marie Perez ChaparroYesterday a jury in the U.S. Virgin Islands convicted a 22 year old man in St. Thomas of killing a young Carnival cruise ship passenger last July. 

The jury convicted Steve Tyson (photo left) of two counts of murder related to the July 12, 2010 shootout near the popular Coki Beach tourist attraction.

14 year old Liz Marie Perez Chaparro of Puerto Rico, was struck by a bullet as she and her family rode in an open-air safari taxi after disembarking from the Carnival Victory cruise ship 

Our firm represents the Chaparro family.  We wrote about the sad incident last summer More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Also killed during the incident was Shaheel Joseph, age 18, who is a local resident of St. Thomas.

St. Thomas has an astronomically high murder rate. The Coki Beach area is well known to local residents as suffering from gangs, drugs and crime.  Carnival did not warn the passengers of these facts prior to taking their cruise fares and sailing them into this dangerous port.

 

Photo credit:       virginislandsdailynews.com

Princess Cruises Captain Pleads Guilty to Sex Crime Against Girl on Princess Cruise Ship

A newspaper in the U.K. reports that a cruise ship captain pled guilty last October to sex crimes against a 14 year old girl.  The Spalding Guardian newspaper identifies the sex criminal as Captain Peter Russell, who entered the girl's cabin, apparently when her parents were not present, and performed an unidentified sex act on her.    

The U.K. newspaper indicates that after the cruise, Captain Russell contacted the girl on the internet and made obscene suggestions about the girl’s breasts, urged her to perform a sex act, and requested that the girl take a photograph of herself naked and send it to him.  According to the Captain Peter Russell - Princess Cruises - Child Predator - Sex Crime article, the disturbing circumstances were revealed to the child's parents when the girl broke down in front of her father and showed him the online conversations. 

Captain Russell subsequently admitted to the unlawful sexual activity with a child on the cruise ship and over the internet.

As is often the case, the newspaper did not identify either the cruise line or the cruise ship where the crime occurred.  The available information on the internet indicates that Master Russell captained a number of different cruise ships for Princess Cruises, including the Sun Princess and Sea Princess.  We asked Princess Cruises for information about when this occurred, what cruise ship was involved, how long Captain Russell worked for Princess and what, if anything, it did when the crime was committed.  No response so far.      

We have written many articles about the danger of passengers leaving their children alone in cabins on cruise ships, and trusting the cabin stewards and waiters.  Little did even we consider the depravity of a captain of a cruise ship targeting a little girl like this.  Consider this observation of Captain Russell during a Princess cruise from an unsuspecting passenger:

"After a day or so at sea we realised the ship's good-humoured tone was hugely influenced by Captain Peter Russell, a warm Englishman who spreads himself around the passengers like a favourite uncle at a wedding. The crew adore him. Forty-five years at sea, from tankers to cruise ships, Captain Russell exudes nautical wisdom and is also a bubbling fount of humorous stories  .  .  ."  

Yikes!

We have also written several blogs about the problem of sexual predators on Princess Cruises and the disturbing attitude that this cruise line, known ironically for the iconic "Love Boat" series, has toward sexual crimes against women and children like this.  In my opinion, Princess Cruises has one of the best deserved reputations for sex crimes on its cruise ships and engaging in cover-ups of such crimes.  Take a moment and read:

Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships

Sexual Assault Reported on P & O Cruises' Pacific Sun Cruise Ship     

Below is the unedited article from the Spalding Guardian:

SHIP CAPTAIN JAILED FOR TEEN SEX OFFENSES 

"A 'world class' cruise ship captain from Donington has been jailed for nine months for sex offences against a 14-year-old girl while she slept in her cabin.

Lincoln Crown Court heard on Thursday how Peter Russell (64), of Bicker Road, performed a sex act on a teenage girl while she was asleep in her bunk.

The victim thought she had dreamt the incident but it later came to light when Russell chatted to her on the internet on MSN Messenger and made obscene suggestions.

Matthew Lowe, prosecuting, said Russell made comments about the girl’s breasts and urged her to perform a sex act while chatting to him over the internet.

Princess Cruises - Sex Crimes - Child Molestation Russell went on to request that the girl take a photograph of herself naked and send it to him.

The incidents came to an end when the girl broke down in front of her dad and showed him the records of her online conversations she had with Russell.

Russell admitted two charges of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity together with sexual activity in the presence of a child and a further charge of sexual activity with a child.

Judge Sean Morris jailed Russell for nine months and placed him on the sex offenders’ register for ten years.

The judge told Russell: 'You are a sea captain of great distinction and have a glittering reputation.'

'You have brought that crashing down.'

Russell worked throughout the world as a captain of oil tankers for the Esso oil company and, following his retirement, went on to skipper cruise ships.

William Powell, defending, said: 'He stands before the court an utterly humiliated person.'

'His outstanding career is in complete ruins. He is a man who has disgraced himself to an appalling extent.'

'He has spent almost his entire career at sea.'

'He retired from Esso at the age of 50 with a reputation as a world class player.'

'He was up there with the elite. He was hugely regarded.'

Mr Powell said that Russell went on to skipper cruise ships but his job came to an abrupt end following his arrest.

He urged the judge to show mercy to Russell who was previously a man of 'good character.'

 

March 27, 2011 Update: Princess Cruises provided the following information to us:

"We only found out about this incident when contacted by the Linconshire Police in May 2010.  Nothing about this incident was ever reported to us.  We understand that this involved a family member, and that the incident occurred in 2008.  We tried to get more information from the Police but they would not give us much because they said it had nothing to do with Princess.  He worked for Princess at the most 4 years.  He signed off  from the Sea Princess at the end of his contract in Dec. 2009.  He did not work on board any of our ships again." 

 

Photo credits:

Captain Peter Russell - Dick Drayer / Picasa Photo

Princess Cruise Ship  - TravelServer

Cruise Rape Case Begins - Bermuda Press Tries to Conceal Connection to Princess Cruises

Today the Royal Gazette newspaper in Bermuda is reporting on the beginning of a criminal trial in Bermuda where a 40 year old crew member is accused of raping a female crew member on a cruise ship flagged in the Bermuda.

The newspaper reports that the case involves a crew member who is accused of raping a younger crew member.  The newspaper does not identify the name of the accused crew member althought it states that both crew members are Filipino nationals who worked on the same vessel."  The newspaper does not even name the cruise line or the cruise ship.

Rape - Sexual Assault - Caribbean Princess - Princess CruisesLast month we reported that the alleged crime occurred on a Princess cruise ship and Filipino crew member Johnwill Reyes Abdon, age 40, was the Princess Cruises crew member who allegedly committed the crime.

The incident occurred on the Caribbean Princess, a Bermuda-registered vessel, on December 28, 2010.

It is not unusual for the press in the flag state to try and conceal the name of the cruise line, the cruise ship and the cruise line employee involved in alleged crimes like this, in order to avoid embarrassment to its cruise line customer.  

The 26-year-old crew member became pregnant after the incident.  She testified that Ms. Abdon sexually assaulted her.   Ms. Abdon denied the charges and said that the  encounter was consensual. 

As we previously reported, sexual assaults on cruise ships are common, notwithstanding the efforts of the cruise industry to convince the public otherwise.  We attended five Congressional hearings since 2005 where Congress was provided with evidence of literally hundreds of incidents of sexual assaults on cruises. 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein studied cruise crime statistics provided to the U.S. Congress and concluded that passengers run nearly twice the risk of being sexually assaulted aboard a ship than they do on land.

We have written about rapes on Princess Cruises before in articles:  Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships and Princess Cruises Sexual Assault Trial Begins.

The unusual thing about this case is that the police in Bermuda (where the ship is flagged) actually traveled to South Florida and arrested crew member Abdon, and then flew him to Bermuda to face the charges.  Getting the local police from the flag state to arrest crew members on cruise ships around the world is rare.  Extremely rare. 

Whether a jury in Bermuda will convict a Filipino crew member who commits a crime against another Filipino crew member seems questionable.  Given the deplorable conviction rate aboard foreign flagged cruise ships in Princess Cruises' fleet, it is questionable that Mr. Abdon will receive jail time - even if he committed the crime.  Heck, the press in Bermuda will not even mention that one of the cruise ships flagged in Bermuda is even the location of the alleged crime. 

 

Photo credit:  raflucgr.ra.funpic.de

Senor Frog's Comments on Crime Against Cruise Passenger in Nassau

Today, we received the following statement from Senor Frog's in Nassau, about our articles "Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe?" and "Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau - Are Royal Caribbean and Senor Frog's to Blame?

"We, at Senor Frogs, are deeply saddened, concerned and disturbed by this news.

Senor Frogs is part of a chain of restaurants that has been operating for 40 years in tourist destinations. Our number one priority has always been and, continues to be, the well-being and safety of our guests. We take every step necessary to ensure the safety of guests within our premises. Unfortunately, our jurisdiction ends at the front door and we cannot see where each guest goes after they leave. We are aware of the situation being reported and have been providing all assistance to the Bahamian Government and Royal Bahamian Police in this case.

Senor Frogs has several security officers on-site. Some security members are off duty police officers. In addition, there is a small police station approximately 20 feet from our front entrance. The Bahamian Government assists us by sending police officers to patrol inside and around Senor Frogs restaurant, in addition to several other businesses.

Each of our Floor Managers has 10 – 20 years of experience, working in this environment. As I mentioned before, our priority is to safeguard our guests, in addition to providing high quality service and products.

We have 32 closed circuit cameras within Senor Frog’s premises. We reviewed the tapes for this incident and spoke with our security staff that witnessed the guest leaving. They reported, and the tapes confirm, that on that particular day, the guest that was involved in the incident was seen leaving Senor Frogs through the front entrance walking normal and not intoxicated. A male who did not appear to be intoxicated accompanied her. The male appeared to be another tourist. No flags were raised because there was no aggression, despair or any abnormal activity that would cause us to think something was wrong. They left the premises walking fine and in a friendly manner.

After leaving Senor Frogs, we have no information about where the guest went. For that information, you would need to contact the Police Department or Bahamas Government.

We are very concerned by these reports and will continue to ensure the safety of our guests. We also know that the Bahamian Government is concerned and is making great efforts to ensure tourists are safe while visiting Nassau.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the guest who was violated."

Cruise Lines Skip Papua and Mazatlan, But Sail Passengers to Nassau - the Cruise Crime Capital of the World

This past week, the news has been filled with stories of cruise lines canceling calls to ports around the world because of concerns for their passengers' safety. 

Carnival, Disney and Holland America Lines announced that they would no longer sail to Mazatlan because of violence in this Mexican city.  Carnival called the decision a "precautionary measure," noting that "there have been no incidents involving cruise passengers."

Royal Caribbean Cruises said that its Rhapsody of the Seas will not call on Port Moresby in Papua, New Guinea because of concerns for the safety of cruise passengers.  But  according to an Nassau Bhamas Crime - Cruise Ships - Robbery - Rapeinterview with a local tour operator in Papua, "no tourist that I heard in my lifetime taking tours around in Port Moresby have been rolled or have been attacked or been murdered."  Royal Caribbean says the latest visit was canceled "in an abundance of caution."

"Precautionary measures" and an "abundance of caution?"  If these are the governing standards for canceling cruises to violent ports, then what explanation do the cruise lines have for disembarking their passengers in Nassau? 

Yesterday, the Tribune, one of the leading newspaper in Nassau, blared the headline "66 Armed Robbery Victims in 2 Months."  At the same time, the other major newspaper, the Nassau Guardian headlined "Cruise Sector Not Expecting Decline in Business," reporting that cruise passenger arrivals grew by six per cent in 2010, continuing the rapid growth experienced over the past 40 years, with the numbers climbing from just over one million cruise visits in 1970 to over 20 million last year." 

The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape in the Caribbean according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime and violence.  But this is not an academic statistic.  It's real.  Earlier this week, we reported on a young cruise passenger who was beaten and raped in downtown Nassau near the cruise wharf. 

The last year and one-half has seen an epidemic of crime against cruise tourists.  We were the first publication in the U.S. to report on Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau and 18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas.  We have also written about Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues and Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level.

If the cruise lines are acting responsibly in avoiding a port like Mazatlan because of the potential for violence against passengers, then why are cruise lines sailing their ships into a dangerous port in the Bahamas where unsuspecting guests have actually been robbed and raped?

 

Photo credit:  BahamasPress.com

Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau - Are Royal Caribbean and Senor Frog's to Blame?

A horrific crime occurred in Nassau involving a twenty-four year old Canadian woman cruising to the Bahamas. 

"Jane Doe" (whose name is being withheld to protect her confidentiality) cruised aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas from Miami, leaving February 21st.   Jane Doe sailed with her father and friends.  The cruise ship docked in Nassau on February 23rd. 

While ashore the group ended up at Senor Frog's, a popular local bar, early in the evening.  Senor Frogs is located at the end of a promenade called the "Woods Rogers Walk," near the Straw Market, close to the wharf where the cruise ships dock. 

Senor Frog's - Sexual Assault - Nassau Bahamas After leaving the bar to head back to the cruise ship, the young woman was viciously attacked and sustained physical injuries.  Looking for help, Jane Doe was then sexually assaulted by a second man (pretending to be a good samaritan) who raped her.  She treated in a local hospital in Nassau and then eventually flew home to Canada to recover.

The high crime rate in Nassau is an issue which I have written about frequently on this blog.  We have represented and written about many cruise passengers raped or robbed at gun point in Nassau.  The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape in the Caribbean according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime and violence.  

Cruise lines are legally obligated to warn passengers of crimes in the ports of call where the cruise ships sail.  Unfortunately, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean do not warn of violence against passengers before disembarking them in Nassau, although the U.S. State Department does.  A year ago,  I was interviewed by Time Magazine in the article "Cruise-Ship Port Call: Gauging Crime in the Bahamas."  I also  wrote an article warning about violence against women in bars ashore in Nassau.  The article is entitled Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe? 

In response to the article, we received a letter from Senor Frog's requesting the: 

".  .  .  immediate removal of our front entrance picture and name from your website. We feel that your website has a negative impact togards (sic) our facility and our pictures and name has been used causing damage to our name and reputation, regardless of the crime in the bahamas.  Senor Frogs Restaurant is a serious stablishment (sic) pro-security we have daily security staff plus the fact that our location is just 1 minute walking distance to a police station our staff always ensure that customers are safe and having a good time we have zero tolerance to crime or disrespectful manners."   

Needless to say, we did not retract the reference to Senor Frog's or omit the photo. 

We requested a comment from Senor Frog's about this latest incident, and a copy of its response is referenced below. 

We also contacted Royal Caribbean for a statement but have received no response. 

Below is our article dated March 14, 2010, "Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe?"

The U.S. Department of State has issued a warning of dangers while traveling to the Bahamas, including sexual assaults on cruise ships in the port in Nassau:

Nassau Bahamas - Crime - Cruise Passengers"CRIME: The Bahamas has a high crime rate .  .  .  the U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as in casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships. In several incidents the victim had reportedly been drugged."  

This type of warning, although certainly warranted, is not what the Bahamas wants to hear.  Nassau is a preferred port of call for many cruise ships, which line up like cars in a crowded parking lot.  

Today's the headline in the Washington Post's travel section is also not what the Bahamas or the cruise lines which sail there wanted to hear: "Violent Crime Is Up In The Bahamas"  Here is a portion of the article:

"Bahamas-bound travelers, beware.

Crime in the popular tourist destination is on the upswing, especially on New Providence Island, where the capital city, Nassau, is located. And we're not talking just petty thefts or purse-snatching, but far more serious violent crime.

This island nation finished 2009 with a record 87 murders -- a statistic tourism officials probably won't be trumpeting in their next "It's Better in the Bahamas" ad  .  .  .

The criminal activity has prompted the operators of the world's largest cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, to warn its passengers to "be mindful of their personal safety," the Nassau Guardian newspaper reported  .   .   .

Some Bahamians attribute the crime wave to high unemployment (hovering around 15 percent on Senor Frog's - Nassau Bahamas - Alcohol - Rape New Providence Island, according to the Guardian) and the nation's status as a gathering spot for drug traffickers."

We have warned passengers cruising to Nassau about crime for the past 6 months:

Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau 

18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level

The problem with crime in Nassau is real.  Many passengers let their guard down and think Nassau is safe for no reason other than the cruise line is sailing there.  But we have represented passengers raped in Nassau, passengers raped on cruise ships in the port in Nassau, and multiple passengers robbed in Nassau.   

A major problem is when young women go into Nassau and drink at the popular bars near where the cruise ships dock.  Many women have been sexually assaulted after leaving the bar even though it is a short distance from the cruise ships.  The cruise lines do not provide security at the port nor do they warn about the dangers of date rape drugs and sexual assaults while in Nassau.

The U.S. Department of State warns about young women being sexually assaulted after leaving the cruise ships in Nassau:  

"Visitors should exercise caution and good judgment at all times.  Engaging in high-risk behavior such as excessive consumption of alcohol can ultimately be dangerous as it greatly increases the vulnerability of an individual to accidents or opportunistic crime.  Visitors should not accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers."   

March 9, 2011 Update:  Senor Frog's in Nassau sent us a statement today  - please read: Senor Frog's Comments on Crime Against Cruise Passenger in Nassau.

August 15, 2012 Update: Royal Caribbean Passenger Reports Rape at Senor Frog's in Cozumel.

September 8, 2012 Update:  Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call - a federal appellate court re-instates a lawsuit against a cruise line for not warning its passengers of danger in St. Thomas. The case involved a 15 year old girl who was celebrating her quinceanera with her parents and brother on a Carnival cruise. A gang-related shoot out ended up with the girl being killed.     

 

Credits:

Top photo - interior of Senor Frog's looking at cruise ships    

Middle photo - Oasis of the Seas - Nassau Bahamas Press

Bottom photo - Senor Frogs Casch52 Flickr photostream

Five Year Anniversary of Time Magazine's "Crime Rocks the Boats"

We are approaching the five year anniversary of the March 2006 Congressional hearings into the issue of crimes on cruise ships.  Due to the efforts of the newly formed International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, Congress convened a hearing in March 2006 to investigate the disappearances of cruise passengers and the sexual assault of women during cruises.

Merrian Carver - Missing - Celebrity CruisesThe cruise industry was caught flat footed.  The ICV organization, led by President Ken Carver (below, right), introduced the compelling stories of victims of shipboard crimes and mistreatment by the cruise lines.

Mr. Carver's daughter Merrian Carver (photo left), disappeared from the Celebrity cruise ship Mercury.  Her stateroom attendant knew she was missing and was instructed to do nothing.  Celebrity Cruises thereafter engaged in nothing less than a cover up, including members of senior management.  

George Smith IV (photo below left) disappeared from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.  The cruise line quickly characterized the incident as an accident and destroyed evidence. 

A bartender sexually assaulted Janet Kelly during a cruise from Southern California to Mexico (a confidentiality order prohibits the mention of the cruise lines or cruise ship).  The cruise line did nothing to assist in proving a case against its own crew member, but eventually fired him.  He ended up serving drinks on a Princess cruise ship shortly thereafter until we tracked him down and had him fired again.    

The stories of these victims  were compelling.  The cruise industry had little response.

We represented Mr. Smith's widow Jennifer Hagel and introduced her to another client of the firm, Janet Kelly.  They appeared on national television together (photo below, middle right) and were featured in an article by Time magazine called "Crime Rocks the Boats."  This hearing and the attendant press surrounding the hearing in Washington were an important step toward convincing our U.S. Congress to enact legislation to protect the cruising public.  Last year President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Ken Carver - International Cruise Victims - Cruise Ship Crime Safety and Security Act into law.  The public can thank Ken Carver, Janet Kelly and Jennifer Hagel - among many others - for their dedication and advocacy for creating public awareness of the need for legislation to oversee the foreign flagged cruise industry.   

Here is Time Magazine's article, unedited, written by Julie Rowe:         

"Like so many other tales of cruise-ship crime, Janet Kelly's story begins with a cocktail and ends with a confidentiality agreement. Six years ago, on the last night of a Mexican cruise returning to Los Angeles, the Arizona businesswoman stopped at a poolside bar before dinner. The bartender, who in the days prior had been friendly but not overly flirtatious, handed her a fruity concoction that had an unwanted kick. Kelly, who is convinced that the drink was drugged, says she felt her legs go rubbery and her mind turn to mush as the bartender led her to an employees-only restroom and raped her before she passed out cold.

After flying home the next day, she went to a hospital and was tested for evidence of sexual assault. The FBI, which is the lead agency for investigating incidents involving U.S. citizens on the high seas, took several weeks to interview the bartender, who claimed what happened in that bathroom stall had been consensual. After her criminal case landed in the "he said, she said" file, Kelly sued the cruise line, which promptly fired the bartender for misconduct (even consensual sexcapades between crew members and passengers are officially verboten) and sent him home to Jamaica. Several months later, she discovered through private investigators that he had been hired by another cruise line.

What's unusual about Kelly's story--aside from the rehiring of the bartender, who was booted once again after his new boss learned he had falsified his employment records--is that she is able to tell so much of it. Unlike many other cruise-crime victims, Kelly, 49, settled her lawsuit with an agreement that allows her to talk about her experience, although she can't name the cruise line or the size of the settlement. This week she will testify before a congressional committee as it debates whether there needs to be greater federal oversight of the booming cruise industry, which served 11.2 million passengers last year, up 63% since 2000. Although the vast majority of passengers are American, cruise ships steer around most U.S. laws by registering in foreign countries. Because of murky jurisdiction issues, the companies report crimes to the FBI on a voluntary basis.

In the wake of several recent missing-persons cases aboard cruise ships--at least 28 in the past three years--lawmakers are trying to determine whether those incidents and other crimes at sea get reported accurately, let alone investigated and prosecuted. The politician leading the charge, Congressman Chris Shays, represents the Connecticut district that had been home to hunky George Smith IV - Missing - Disappearance - Cruise Ship  honeymooner George Smith, whose mysterious disappearance from a Royal Caribbean cruise in July was initially dismissed by the ship's captain as an accident or suicide, despite signs suggesting foul play. Among the dramatic elements that have emerged in the case: Smith drank absinthe, which may cause hallucinations, a few hours before he vanished in the Mediterranean; a giant bloodstain was found below his balcony; some of his drinking buddies, who deny any wrongdoing, got kicked off the boat a few days later after a female passenger accused them of rape.

The media frenzy surrounding the ongoing Smith investigation has dredged up other unsettling cases. One concerns Merrian Carver, a sometime investment banker from the Boston area who disappeared in 2004 during a weeklong Celebrity cruise to Alaska. Her cabin attendant has testified that when he reported his suspicion that she was no longer aboard three days into the voyage, he was told to keep putting fresh chocolates on her pillow. At the end of the trip, his supervisor placed Carver's belongings in storage without notifying her family or the authorities.

The supervisor was fired for what a company spokesman insists was a rare breakdown of a solid reporting system. But Shays isn't sold on that. He is trying to determine whether cruise lines are keeping some crimes off the books. "There's a huge incentive to downplay any incident, to sail on," says the centrist Republican. "Is going on a cruise the perfect way to commit the perfect crime?"

The few statistics available aren't too comforting. No one tracks the total number of incidents cruise ships report to U.S. law-enforcement agencies. The FBI opened just 305 cruise-crime investigations from 2000 to September 2005, suggesting that either those floating hotel-casinos are some of the safest places on earth or this caseload is just the tip of the iceberg. Evidence supporting the latter: the FBI generally won't look into an onboard theft unless the items stolen are worth more than $10,000.

Other countries appear to put even fewer resources into investigating cruise-ship crime. For instance, Reginald Ferguson, assistant crime commissioner for the Bahamas, in which many ships are registered, says his office has examined "maybe one or two incidents involving U.S. citizens over the last three or four years."

That means the only authorities most cruise-crime victims can turn to are the ship's security personnel, who have a strong incentive to protect the industry's fun-in-the-sun image. "The cruise line controls the scene of the crime, controls the witnesses, controls the evidence," says Miami attorney James Walker, who represented Kelly. "It's all being filtered through the company's risk-management department." Court documents seen by TIME back up that contention. In one case, a passenger who was examined on board for evidence of gang rape sued the cruise line after ship security, by allowing housekeeping to repeatedly steam-clean the carpet, failed to preserve the Janet Kelly - Jennifer Hagel - Cruise Crimealleged crime scene. In another case, a passenger accused of sexual assault testified that a ship security officer coached him to state that "no sex was performed by anyone." Cruise lines, says maritime lawyer Charles Lipcon, "are silently working against the victim. They're busy trying to make sure criminal cases don't see the light of day."

Perhaps that's the reason only 7% of the 135 federal investigations into sexual assault over the past five years were prosecuted. Why were 93% of the cases dropped? Says Bill Carter of the FBI: "By the time we can get to [the victim and witnesses], a period of time has passed, people's memories change, they were intoxicated, or there is a lack of evidence because it was cleaned."

Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines, insists that the low incidence of reported crimes reflects the generally safe environment on the ships. Despite cases like Kelly's, he notes, cruise employees are vetted more rigorously than hospitality workers onshore and undergo a background check by the U.S. State Department. Royal Caribbean reported that its violent-crime rate last year was 15 incidents per 100,000 people on board. "We're approximately 30 times safer than American communities in general," says the company's head of fleet operations, Captain Bill Wright, who maintains that Royal Caribbean discloses every incident, even petty thefts, to authorities.

In response to the congressional probe, Crye says he and several cruise-line officials met with the FBI, the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection last month to "shore up any perceived deficiencies in reporting." At the same time, FBI assistant director Chris Swecker says he is considering development of a program to train cruise-industry security chiefs to improve evidence collection by using such tools as rape kits and blood tests for date-rape drugs.

But to Kelly and other victims of cruise-ship crimes, changes like those won't address the larger issue of whether the industry can be trusted to police itself. A recently formed activist group called International Cruise Victims is pushing to place the equivalent of federal air marshals on cruise ships.

That is undoubtedly an uphill battle, given the resources the industry has to oppose it. Carnival, the world's biggest cruise company, netted a record $353 million in the last quarter alone. And the George Smith case didn't stop Royal Caribbean from ending the year with a record profit of $716 million. The industry can use those deep pockets to stave off concerned lawmakers. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, from January 2004 to July 2005, the cruise industry spent $2.9 million on federal lobbying, nearly $1 million more than Wal-Mart did during the same period. That may be why, according to Congressman Shays, "there's never been any real oversight. Ever." Kelly, for one, is prepared to take on the industry--and endure intense scrutiny along the way--because, she says, "you just keep thinking about the next poor sucker who climbs aboard."

Crime Rocks the Boats - Cruise Ship Crime  

Credit:  Julie Rowe, Time Magazine 

Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Monika MarkiewiczNelson Perez Torres, age 24, reportedly confessed to striking Royal Caribbean crew member Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean, according to the chief prosecutor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo where Cozumel is located.

As we reported in a prior article, Ms. Monika Markiewicz, a 32-year-old Polish musician who worked aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship was found last Saturday in the waters off the southern part of Cozumel.  Her employer, Royal Caribbean Cruises, indicated that she was a victim of foul play.  

This morning, Royal Caribbean took the unusual step of issuing a statement via PR Newswire, claiming that the killer and Ms. Markiewicz were "casually acquainted for several months."  The cruise line also made a point of characterizing the crime as "isolated and uncharacteristic" for Cozumel."  Royal Caribbean also congratulated its security department for assisting in the investigation which led to the arrest of the alleged killer.

Meanwhile, a newspaper in Mexico Por Esto is reporting that the parents of Mr. Torres are complaining that their son had been falsely accused of the crime and allegedly intimidated into a confession.  Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Monika MarkiewiczThey claim that he had never been in trouble before and he had worked at a bar near the cruise pier for the past eight years.  They claim that because they are a humble family of little means, their son was railroaded into a confession.  Friends and family members picketed at the pier with signs saying Mr. Torres is innocent.   

There are several Mexican newspapers indicating that Mr. Torres gave different statements to the police, initially stating that he did not know Ms. Markiewicz and had never seen her, or that they had walked together to a location and he left after she resisted his advances, or that she had slipped and then he hit her with a rock to end her suffering.   

 

Photo credits:    Por Esto newspaper

Mexico, Cruise Ships & Crime Against Women

Thirteen years ago I represented a young woman from St. Augustine, Florida.  She was employed as a cook on a private yacht owned by a multi-millionaire tycoon.  She went ashore to Cabo San Lucas with a group of fellow crew members.  They ended up leaving her in a nightclub and returned to the yacht.  When she tried to walk back to the marina late that evening, four Mexican men abducted her in their car.  They  drove her outside of the city to a remote area.  They then raped her and burnt her naked body with cigarettes.  When the men passed out after drinking tequila and smoking weed, she ran to a highway, flagged down a car, and escaped from her hell in the Mexican desert. 

Her maritime employer, asshole as he was, not only refused to provide her with medical treatment but fired her from her job.  He blamed her for staying out late and drinking at the club.  The kindest thing I can say about the local police in Mexico is that they were indifferent to the young woman's plight.  

When I traveled to Cabo San Lucas, I found the surroundings hostile.  The area surrounding the marina and cruise port seemed menacing.  I have lived outside of the U.S., including in North Africa, but Mexico seemed utterly lawless to me.  The police authorities seemed no different than the banditos.    

My client's situation ended up in litigation based on the yacht owner's failure to warn her of the dangers ashore in Mexico and his refusal to provide her with medical treatment after she was victimized.  After a long protracted battle, she obtained a settlement and tried to move on with her life. 

Her ordeal has always haunted me. 

Cozumel Mexico - Crime - Cruise Ships Ever since then, I have been hyper-sensitive to the vulnerability of women employed on ships sailing around the world. I am apprehensive of the dangers which  await young women as they unsuspectingly walk down the gangplanks into the tropical ports of call which seem so appealing but - in truth - are so, so dangerous.

The recent story about the Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, from the Allure of the Seas, who disembarked her cruise ship in Cozumel and never returned, brings me back to my client's tortuous ordeal over a decade ago.

There is no indication that Ms. Markiewicz was sexually assaulted, but her employer has publicly stated that she was a "victim of a violent crime while ashore in a remote area in Cozumel."  Did the cruise line warn her and other crew members of dangers ashore in Mexico?   What did the cruise line do once they realized that she did not return to the cruise ship last Friday afternoon?  Did they abandon her as my client was abandoned 13 years ago?  Did they notify the young woman's family in Poland when the cruise ship set sail and left her in Mexico?  Did they contact the Polish Embassy or Consulate?  While heading back to Miami, did the cruise line call the emergency contact telephone numbers which all crew members provide when they join Royal Caribbean?

Is Royal Caribbean going to do anything now?  Its PR spokesperson stated yesterday that the cruise line has no intention of suspending its trips to Cozumel.  Full steam ahead, they say.  When the disastrous earthquake struck Haiti and killed 100,000 people a year ago, Royal Caribbean said that sailing back into the Haitian destination of Labadee was a "no brainer."  So the loss of one of its crew members due to a violent crime in Cozumel is not going to slow it down one bit.  

Royal Caribbean is directing all inquiries regarding the crime to the Mexican police authorities.  But the police have a reputation for incompetence at best and corruption at worst.  I have never heard of anyone in Mexico being tried or convicted of a crime against a tourist or a ship employee on shore leave.  There are several web sites discussing the reluctance of Mexican police to get involved in investigations in cases like this, such as Mexican Vacation Awareness.  And some of the local police in Mexico have even been accused of participating in crimes against tourists.

Many naysayers reading this blog will say "it could happen anywhere."  Others will say "what is a cruise line to do?"  Well we know what Royal Caribbean is doing - sailing to Mexico as if nothing happened.  And pretending the Mexican police will solve a crime against a young woman from Poland victimized in a remote location in a dangerous country. 

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

Numerous news sources are reporting that the body of crew member from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was recovered from the ocean near Cozumel. 

Allure of the Sea - Cruise Ship - Crew DeathPolish national Ms. Monika Markiewicz, age 32, was employed by Royal Caribbean as a musician.  She disembarked from the Allure on Friday and did not return to the cruise ship.  The cruise ship then left Cozumel and sailed back to Miami.   

Her body was recovered on Saturday.   

An autopsy determined the cause of Ms. Markiewicz's death was "drowning" but noted that she suffered a blow to the head.  According to the Canadian Press, Royal Caribbean spokesman Cynthia Martinez said the information the company had received indicated "she was the victim of a violent crime, and did not drown accidentally."  "Tragically, we recently became aware that the crew member was a victim of a violent crime while ashore in a remote area in Cozumel," the statement said.

Royal Caribbean has had many deaths in the last two months.  Last week, a crew member was killed and the safety officer injured during a fire drill aboard the Allure's sister ship Oasis of the Seas.  A passenger's husband filed suit over his wife's death on the Brilliance of the Seas.  Three Monika Markiewicz - Cozumel Mexicoweeks ago, a passenger fell to his death from the Liberty of the Seas.  Two months ago a young cook was found dead on the Oasis of the Seas.  

This most recent death comes at a time when some cruise ships have pulled out of some of the ports in Mexico, citing concerns with crime.

Are you a crew member aboard the Allure?  If you have information about this incident, please leave a comment below. 

February 8, 2011 UpdateMexico, Cruise Ships & Crime Against Women

February 9, 2011 Update:  There are a number of articles which are confusing the names of the Royal Caribbean crew member, Ms. Markiewitz, with a cruise line passenger who also died in Mexico after leaving the cruise ship last Friday.  The Latin America Herald Tribune identifies the cruise passenger as Ms. Samantha Page Thomas.  This newspaper also indicates that Monika Markiewicz was also known as "Monica Warshal." 

February 10, 2011 Update:  A newspaper in Mexico also identifies the passenger and contains a strange explanation of events.  A press conference of the Mexican prosecutor is available on line.  Warning, the video contains graphic post mortem images of Ms. Thomas as well as a photograph of Ms. Markiewicz  face down in the water when she was found.  The prosecutor is quoted as saying that they were also reviewing the cruise ship's surveillance camera imges to see who the crew member was seen leaving the ship with or whether she may have gone overboard. 

A Mexican man was arrested today in Ms. Markiewitcz's death. Nelson Perez Torres, 24, who worked in a restuarant in Cozumel, reportedly confessed to hitting Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean.

Read our updated article:  Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

Resources:

Mexican Vacation Awareness

 

Photo credits:  

Top - Runekrem Flickr page

Bottom - AP Photo/Angel Castellanos

 

Princess Cruises Crew Member Arrested for "Sex Attack" Aboard Caribbean Princess Cruise Ship

The Bermuda Sun reports today that a Princess Cruises crew member has been arrested for what is described as a "sex attack" on a woman on a cruise ship.   The newspaper identifies Filipino Johnwill Reyes Abdon, age 40, as the crew member who allegedly committed the crime. 

The incident occurred on the Caribbean Princess, a Bermuda-registered vessel, on December 28, 2010.

Princess Cruises - Caribbean Princess - Sexual AssaultThe article does not mention whether the victim was a cruise passenger or another crew member.

Sexual assaults on cruise ships are not rare, as the cruise industry leads the public to believe.  We have attended five Congressional hearings since 2005 where Congress was provided with evidence of literally hundreds of incidents of sexual assaults on cruises. 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein studied cruise crime statistics provided to the U.S. Congress and concluded that passengers run nearly twice the risk of being sexually assaulted aboard a ship than they do on land.

We have written about rapes on Princess Cruises before in articles:  Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships and Princess Cruises Sexual Assault Trial Begins.

The unusual thing about this latest incident is that the police in Bermuda (where the ship is flagged) actually traveled to South Florida and arrested crew member Abdon, and then flew him to Bermuda to face the charges.  Getting the local police from the flag state to arrest crew members on cruise ships around the world is extremely rare. 

The trial will begin on March 7, 2011.

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