Woman Sexually Assaulted on Celebrity Millennium

Celebrity Crew Member Eduar Klay Moran Bonilla,The Juneau Empire reports that a 40-year-old cruise ship worker from Honduras.was caught sexually assaulting a 26-year-old woman, also a crew member, from Ottawa, Canada.

On July 12th at 2:30 A.M., the woman was reportedly had "left the crew bar and was walking back to her room alone when a man she didn’t know grabbed her from behind. He covered her mouth, groped her breast and behind, and attempted to force himself on her . . . "

Meanwhile, a comedian on the cruise ship stepped out of his cabin to search for Ibuprofen for an ear ache when he "heard a woman scream behind a door that led to the crew members’ stairwell. When he opened the door, he saw a man holding one hand over a woman’s mouth and his other hand across her waist."

The newspaper says that the comedian startled the assailant who was later identified as Eduar Klay Moran Bonilla.

The arrest of a foreign (i.e., non-U.S.national) attacking another foreign crew member is a relatively rare event in the U.S.  If the incident occurred in international waters, U.S. local police would hot have jurisdiction. The FBI and Department of Justice would have jurisdiction only if either the assailant or the victim were a U.S. citizen. Most of the time there is no arrest in these type of incidents. The offending crew member is simply flown home and the matter is swept under the rug. Here the Alaska state troopers had jurisdiction because the ship was in state territorial waters at the time of the crime.

Over a decade ago, we obtained through a court order confidential internal documents from Royal Caribbean / Celebrity where they studied the problem of sexual assaults in their fleet. Outside experts concluded that most crew members know if they are caught, the worst that can happen is that they will be flown home.  The experts concluded that only when there is a real deterrent like being arrested and imprisoned will the cycle of sexual violence on the ships be reduced. The experts recommended improvements in ship security and human resource policies which the cruise lines ignored. 

We are currently representing a young crew member who was sexually assaulted on an Oceania cruise ship by a Honduran crew member

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Photo Credit: Michael Penn | Juneau Empire

Man Arrested on Charges of Raping Passenger Aboard the Carnival Dream

The Virgin Islands Daily News reports that a 19-year-old Kentucky man pleaded not guilty in District Court in St. Thomas on charges that he raped another passenger during a Carnival cruise. The charges specifically "sexual assault with intent to commit a felony."

Cruise passenger Conner Layne was arrested after a 18-year-old woman's complaint that he tried to rape her while on board the Carnival Dream during a June 4th cruise. 

Carnival Dream Cruise ShipThe newspaper states that the alleged crime took place while the Dream was in international waters sailing to St. Thomas.

According to an affidavit written by FBI special agent Rafael Fernandez, an 18-year-old woman reported that she and Layne were "having drinks in the ship's club when Layne invited her back to his room. Once there, she had another drink and sat on the bed, and she and Layne began kissing and Layne started 'touching her about the body'." Layne then forcibly "held her down, pulled up her dress, pulled down her underwear and penetrated her with his penis."

The woman said that because Layne was intoxicated, she was able to push him off of her, and she ran out of the cabin. 

The District Magistrate released Layne from custody after he posted a $10,000 bond.

The newspaper states that Layne was allowed to return to his home in Kentucky but had to provide DNA samples as a condition of his release.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia /  Kuloskulos

What To Do If You Are Sexually Harassed or Assaulted on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Last night, a member of the one of the leading online cruise communities - CruiseCritic - contacted me about a cruise line passenger who had been harassed and battered by a cabin attendant in Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship - Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault her cabin.  This was far from a rape, but it certainly sounds like something other than a "cultural misunderstanding."

Some of the CruiseCritic members supported the passenger and made some generally okay suggestions like call the cruise line and tell them what happened. But it was obvious that everyone online was basically just shooting in the dark.  Unfortunately, some of the members mocked her story.

Now a little background information may be in order.

No Pre-Employment Screening and the Cruise Lines Sweep Bad Conduct Under the Rug  

I have represented over 60 women and children raped or sexually molested on cruise ships over the past ten years. I have also represented six women who have appeared before Congress during hearings on crimes and unsafe conditions on cruise ships.  I am not talking about "harassment" but conduct which is criminal in nature and should land the perpetrator in jail for a long time.  When we sue the cruise line and obtain the cruise line perpetrator's employment files and conduct an investigation, we often find that there is virtually no pre-employment investigation before hiring crew members. Plus, we discover that after joining the cruise line, some of the crew members engage in what the cruise lines characterize as "minor" problems such as sexual comments or "inappropriate touching" by the crew member.  These early warning signs are sometimes ignored or swept under the rug. 

Profile of the Who, When and Where a Cruise Line Predator Strikes

In our experience, the crew member most likely to harass or assault a passenger is a male cabin attendant in his late 20's or early 30's.  And the cruise line where you are most likely to be harassed or assaulted?  Without question, in our experience, Royal Caribbean.  By far.  And the most likely time to be "hit upon?"  The last night of the cruise.  

So it was disturbing to hear that that the incident involving the CruiseCritic passenger involved - you guessed it - a cabin attendant on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship on the last night of the cruise.  Here is a portion of the passenger's account posted on CruiseCritic:

The Passenger's Account - Still Coming to Grips with What Happened

"My room steward came up behind my chair on our balcony and proceeded to put his hands on my shoulders, that's ok but when he ran them down the front of me, well that was not ok. I tried to not let it upset me, but I am still really bothered by this. We were 2 women traveling alone. I am in my late forties and very comfortable traveling solo. Unfortunately this really made me start to think, How safe is it really? I didn't want to make a complaint because it was our last night on the cruise . . . I know i will probably get the people telling me to get over it and that it is no big deal, and that is how I tried to look at it, But how safe is it for other women traveling alone with that steward . . .

Royal Caribbean - Sexual Assault - Cabin AattendantsHe was a big man and i was a little unnerved by his size. I just stopped his hands and didn't say anything. I know I am stupid for not reporting right away, but i just wasn't sure what to do. I had another incident occur on a Royal ship years ago with my then 11 year old son, where a fellow passenger hauled off and cold cocked him while he was at the kids club. The security really didn't do much about it, told his parents and told them to stay close to their son for the trip, but he was still allowed in the kids club and left unsupervised on the ship. Needless to say my son had a black eye throughout our vacation and the fact that security just didn't make sure that this other kid was allowed where my son was, was even more upsetting. Maybe that is why I didn't report him at the time for fear of security not really doing much . . ." 

This Is a Crime on Miami Beach - But Business As Usual on Cruise Ships  

If this happened in a club at South Beach, the bouncers would haul Mr. "Happy-Hands" outside and he would find himself face down on the sidewalk only to be hand-cuffed and hauled off in a squad car and end up being finger printed at the cop shop on Washington Avenue.  But on a cruise ship, its another matter. You are in the middle of the ocean with no police within a thousand miles.  A crew member is between you and your cabin door.  The balcony is behind you.  Women have disappeared on cruise ships.

In September 2007, one of our clients was featured in a Congressional hearing. Her Royal Caribbean cabin attendant was very attentive, too attentive.  This led to increasing aggressive behavior of "inappropriate talk" - to casual touching - to offers of champagne - to using his key card to enter her cabin at night while she slept in her bed - to raping her.

Royal Caribbean Knows They Have a Problem . . .

In another one of our court cases, we obtained an excel spreadsheet from Royal Caribbean (only after the Court threatened Royal Caribbean with a fine of $1,000 a day if it did not comply) listing the number of incidents of sexual assault and harassment on its cruise ships for a period a little longer than two and one-half years.  I know the data was incomplete, but it indicated that over 250 women were sexually harassed, assaulted or battered.  This reflects a real problem throughout the Royal Caribbean fleet.  A large number of the incidents occurred in the passenger cabins.  

. . . But Royal Caribbean Keeps the Passengers in the Dark

It is therefore additionally disturbing at this late date to think that a woman on a Royal Caribbean ship could be sexually harassed and battered (yes - a non-consensual, offensive touching is a criminal offense!) and yet the cruise line would have no published protocols to explain to the guest what to do and she would have to resort to a public plea for assistance.  It is equally discouraging that a large and well established cruise community like, CruiseCritic, would not have an online resource for its members to refer to to understand what steps they should take.    

Cruise Ship Crime Recently, a bill was introduced before Congress (HR 3360) which will require cruise lines to provide contact information for assault crisis centers. But the Senate has not voted on the bill yet.  As matters now stand, cruise lines continue to keep the passengers in the dark regarding what to so or who to contact in circumstances like this.

A Few Suggestions

So here are some suggestions when you are sexually harassed or, as some people understate, "inappropriately touched" on a Royal Caribbean cruise:

Head directly to the Purser's Desk.  Request to see the Security Officer, the Head Purser, the Staff Captain, and the Hotel Director.  Ask for their names and write them down.  Give your name, cabin number, name of the crew member if known, and a short statement of what happened.  Request that the cabin attendant be removed from his responsibility for your cabin. Demand that the cabin attendant's key card be taken away from him. Before you return the statement, ask for a copy.  Request the full name and employee number of the crew member. Ask for the email and telephone of the head of security for Royal Caribbean in its corporate headquarters and one of cruise line's in-house lawyers in Miami.  Ask for a telephone number or email to contact these individuals in Miami before you leave the cruise ship. 

Who to Contact After You Leave the Cruise Ship

If you leave the ship without making a complaint (about 40% of women are too upset, traumatized, or disoriented to report the incident on the cruise ship so don't beat yourself up) don't waste your time calling the cruise line.  You will be directed to a low level representative in the customer care department - the same people who take calls regarding lost luggage, or handle silly complaints about bad food or poor service.  You will be ignored or they will eventually call you back and offer you a 25% discount on your next cruise. You will feel worse after dealing with these knuckleheads.  You need to document what happened and demand that action be taken by the top security and executive leaders.  

Empower yourself!  Take control of the situation.

Send a letter to the President (Adam Goldstein) and CEO (Richard Fain) of Royal Caribbean at 1050 South Caribbean Way, Miami FL and send an email copy to the head of Royal Caribbean's security department Gary Bald (GBald@rccl.com) and one of the top lawyers at Royal Caribbean such as Tony Faso (TFaso@rccl.com).  Don't let them interrogate you without a lawyer being present.  Ask them to notify law enforcement and provide you with the telephone number and address of the FBI. Look up the FBI office closest to you and call and write them a letter.  

Keep your letter or email to the executives and the lawyer short and to the point.  And make certain that you write: "Submitted without prejudice.  Not to be used against me in a civil or criminal proceeding."

Royal Caribbean Cruises - Sexual Harassment and Sexual AssaultFollow up in writing and by email.  Don't let it drop until you are satisfied. 

Royal Caribbean claims that it has a "zero tolerance" program against sexual harassment.  The crew members are instructed never to touch a passenger.  This particular crew member and his wandering hands should be terminated.  Otherwise, he will become emboldened and his conduct will become more aggressive.   

Think of the Next Passenger Who Will Climb Aboard the Same Cruise Ship and Meet Your Cabin Attendant  

Remember - the male cabin attendant who sexually harasses you and touches you "inappropriately" is the one most likely to use his pass key and enter a woman's cabin at night.

Think of the next passenger who may be traveling alone on the next Royal Caribbean cruise or the child left alone in her parent's cabin when this cabin attendant enters under the guise of cleaning the cabin or making the bed.   

If the incident involves a rape, then call the Purser's desk and ask for the Security Officer to come immediately to your cabin.  Ask for medical treatment and request the Security Officer to lock and seal your cabin.  Ask for a telephone number for the FBI and a national rape crisis center such as the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)

Love Boat Waiter Acquitted of Sexually Assaulting Passenger

On Thursday, a Los Angeles Federal Court jury acquitted a headwaiter working for Princess Cruises of sexually assaulting a woman passenger during a cruise on the Coral Princess.  

Coral Proncess - Sexual AssaultA woman from Kansas City accused Princess Cruises crew member Jorge Manuel Teixeira (from Portugal) of sexually assaulting her during a cruise last March between Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles, while the ship was at sea off the coast of Mexico.

Another Cruise Crime At Sea Goes Without Justice?

The daily Breeze newspaper has done the best job reporting on this case starting with "Crewman Arrested in Sexual Assault."

According to the FBI, the Princess crew member invited a 42-year-old passenger to share a bottle of wine and then attacked her.  He was charged with a federal count of aggravated sexual assault.  The 17-page FBI affidavit that describes the crime and a 100-page transcript of the crew member's interview with two FBI agents are available on line.

Unsafe On The Love Boat? 

As we have reported in the past, there is a problem with sexual assaults on cruise ships, including the Carnival owned Princess Cruises and its sister company P & O Cruises.  We have commented on this problem in prior blogs - Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships and Sexual Assault Reported on P & O Cruises' Pacific Sun Cruise Ship.

Coral Princess - Sexual AssaultArrests of sexual predators on cruise ships are rare, and criminal prosecutions and convictions are somewhere between slim and none.  Cruise lines often help defend their crew members behind the scenes, in the hope of avoiding the stigma of one of their crew members going to jail. 

No Jail Time - Business As Usual For Sexual Assailants on Cruise Ships

The Daily Breeze reports that the lawyer for the Princess Cruises waiter told the jury that the passenger had retained a lawyer and had a lawsuit pending against the cruise line.  This is the type of information routinely released to the assailant's lawyer in order to taint the trial and prejudice the passenger who is victimized.  




Coral Princess        Barbara Bagnell (via National Post)

Coral Princess Logo       Brad Graverson / Staff Photographer of the DailyBreeze.com 

Princess Cruises Sexual Assault Trial Begins

The Daily Breeze newspaper reports that the criminal trial has begun in Los Angeles of a Princess Cruises headwaiter who is accused of sexually assaulting a passenger from Kansas City. 

Coral Princess Head Waiter - Sexual Predator or Family Man?

Princess crew member Jorge Manuel Teixeira, 39, from Portugal, is charged in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles with sexually assaulting a passenger aboard Princess' cruise ship, the Coral Princess

Princess Cruises Coral Princess - Sexual AssaultAssistant U.S. Attorney Reema M. El-Amamy is quoted as saying: "This was aggravated sexual abuse. This was a crew member who met a passenger on the ship and proceeded to sexually assault her." 

The crew member's defense lawyer describes his client as a "family man" with two children in Portugal and no history of violence.

The newspaper describes that after the assault, the woman said she did not know who to turn to.  "I was scared -- and I did not know who to trust at this point," she said. "I didn't want to go to another (ship) employee."

We have reported on the problem of women being sexually assaulted on Princess Cruises ships in a prior blog: Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships.



Coral Princess       Brad Graverson / Staff Photographer of the DailyBreeze.com  

Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships

Love BoatMost passengers don't realize the danger which women and children face on cruise ships.  For example, who would think that they are at risk of being raped on the cruise line featured in the popular television series the "Love Boat?"

The "Love Boat" - Carefree, Romantic Cruises 

Princess Cruises is a cruise line headquartered in Santa Clarita, California.  It is perhaps most famous for the Pacific Princess which served as the cruise ship for the "Love Boat."  It now operates thirteen large cruise ships: Caribbean Princess, Coral Princess, Crown Princess, Dawn Princess, Diamond Princess, Emerald Princess, Golden Princess, Island Princess, Ruby Princess, Sapphire Princess, Sea Princess, Star Princess, and Sun Princess - as well as four smaller cruise ships, Ocean Princess, Pacific Princess, Royal Princess, and Tahitian Princess. Princess markets an illusion of carefree honeymoon vacations and luxurious romantic getaways. 

Rapes and Molestation on the "Love Boat?" 

But notwithstanding its idyllic image, crew members have drugged and raped women during cruises on the "Love Boat" fleet.  Anguished parents have also reported their children being sexually assaulted and molested during cruises with Princess.

Princess Cruises - Cruise LawThe most publicized sexual assault this year involved Jorge Manuel Teixeira, a head waiter aboard Princess Cruises' Coral Princess.  According to the FBI, the Princess crew member invited a 42-year-old passenger to share a bottle of wine and then attacked her. He was charged with a federal count of aggravated sexual assault.  The 17-page FBI affidavit that describes the crime and a 100-page transcript of the crew member's interview with two FBI agents are available on line.    

Sexual Crimes on Cruise Ships are Rarely Prosecuted

What is remarkable about this particular crime is not that it occurred, but that the FBI actually arrested the crew member and he is awaiting trial.  Most crimes on foreign flagged cruise ships involve foreign crew members and do not result in arrests.  Although Princess is headquartered in California and has a base of  operations in Los Angeles, Seattle, and South Florida, it tries to use the fact that it registered its business in Bermuda (to avoid U.S. taxes) to also avoid culpability. Trust me, the country of Bermuda is not going to send a team of investigators to a Princess cruise ship sailing to Alaska and conduct an investigation that leads to an arrest of a Princess Cruises crew member.

There have been a number of sexual assaults against women and children on the Princess cruise ships over the years.  These crimes continue to this day.  I recently had to fly from Miami to Seattle to a Princess cruise ship after a Princess crew member had been drugged and raped on the cruise ship.  I have also discussed in other articles the problem with sexual assaults on the Princess sister company P & O Cruises, which like Princess Cruises, is wholly owned by cruise giant Carnival Corporation.   

Princess Cruises - Sexual AssaultForeseeability of Sexual Assaults on Cruise Ships?

A number of rapes over the last year or two have not yet been reported by the press.  However, there are cases readily available on line.  For example, in the case of  D.C. v. Princess Cruise Lines, filed in California, a 15-year boy traveling with his family reported that he had been sexually assaulted in the sauna on the cruise ship.

Princess Cruises claimed that it was not "foreseeable" that a passenger could be sexually assaulted during a cruise. Princess made this claim notwithstanding the hundreds of rapes and molestations which the cruise line industry was required to report to Congress during cruise crime hearings.  

Princess Cruises - a Problem Dating Back to 1993

The child's attorney introduced evidence that Princess knew that there had been a history of prior crimes.  The in-house lawyer for the cruise line, Mona Ehrenreich, admitted in deposition testimony that there were seven incidents of sexual assault alone from the time she joined the cruise line until year 2002. One incident  involved an assault by a crew member against a minor in a cabin.

In addition, the case contains fascinating testimony by Charles Harris, who was employed as the Senior Chief Security Officer of Carnival Cruise lines between 1991 and 1994. 

Princess Cruises' Parent Company - Carnival - A Prevalence of Sex Crimes During Cruises 

Officer Harris indicated that the problem of sexual assault on ships was "well known" and "well documented" and he was aware of the "prevalence" of sexual assaults and rapes on cruise ships. While retained in a case against Carnival, he learned that Carnival had had over 100 reported cases of sexual assault and rape on its ships. FBI agents in Miami reportedly are called to investigate a shipboard sexual assault case "about every other week."

A Lack of Transparency 

One of the problems with cruise lines is they lack transparency.  For example, last year I attended a hearing before the U.S. Senate regarding cruise ship crimes. This hearing was just one of the five Congressional hearings I have attended in the last four years regarding the problem with sexual assaults.  The cruise industry's chronic under-reporting of rapes has always been a hot topic with Congressional leaders. 

Princess Cruises - Sexual AssaultOne of the speakers at the hearing was Evelyn Fortier, the former vice president of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.  She informed the Senate sub-committee that there are three explanations for cruise line's refusal to accurately report shipboard rapes: (1) cruise ships were not required to report crimes on cruise ships and there was no way to assess whether the ships fully and accurately reported sexual assaults on their vessels; (2) sexual assaults, whether on land or sea, are historically under-reported; and (3) cruise lines conceal, under-report or misclassify sexual assaults out of fear that the bad press will cause them to lose customers. 

Added to this list should also be that the cruise lines like Princess try to avoid legal liability for the crimes their crew members commit.  Concealing or mischaracterizing rapes is one way the cruise lines try and protect their legal interests.  

These issues were discussed in an interesting article entitled: "Sexual Assaults on Cruise Liners May Be More Frequent Than Previously Reported" in SecurityManagement.com.

"Love Boat" Crime Statistics

Like other cruise lines, Princess Cruises has a problem with sexual assaults on its cruise ships. And like other lines, it pretends it doesn't have a problem.  Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009 which requires cruise lines to report all crimes to the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI. Now it will be interesting to see just how much crime really occurs aboard the "Love Boat."


Photo credits:

"Love Boat"             Amazon.com The "Love Boat" Season 1, Volume 1 

Ruby Princess       Rezsox's Flickr Photostream

Coral Princess       Brad Graverson / Staff Photographer of the DailyBreeze.com   

Star Princess         Jim Walker, Seattle WA July 4, 2009