A Week the Cruise Industry Would Like to Forget

This week has been a public relations disaster for the cruise lines and the travel industry.

A Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member from the Norwegian Pearl was gunned down in Roatan after he walked off the ship to call his wife and check on his child back in the Philippines (suspect photo below right). A Disney crew member sexually molested a 13 year old girl on the Disney Dream.  A visitor from Canada was murdered and his family terrorized in the Bahamas. A MSC cruise ship, the Magnifica, was raided by the police and labor officials in Brazil for human rights violations. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships infected hundreds and hundreds of guests with norovirus aboard the Grandeur of the Seas and the Crown Princess

You can read about the stories here.

A month ago I attended the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) and listened to NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan Roatan Murder Suspect Cruisesay: "we are ruled by public opinion; unless we can keep our business running right we will always be on defensive." The NCL boss added: "a period of operational excellence and no media incidents are needed."

A month ago I wrote that the continuous stories about mistreatment of crew members, sexual assaults, and children victimization will continue to damage the cruise industry's image. Its like reputation death by a thousand cuts. I heard no PR plan by the cruise lines at CSM to turn things around.  I said at the time that the cruise lines were just "hanging in the balance hoping for the best."

Well the best didn't come and cruise executive Sheehan didn't get his prayer answered for "no media incidents."

This week Sheehan pulled his cruise ships out of Roatan after one of his crew members was murdered last Sunday, but the move is just temporary. His ships will again start calling on Roatan at some point. But the danger is still there. Many cruise passengers, from Carnival and Royal Caribbean, as well as other tourists, have been robbed at gunpoint or machete point in Roatan earlier this year.

Crime in Roatan will not magically stop.  Other cruise tourists will undoubtedly be robbed. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world not to mention dysfunctional police and legal systems. Where do the cruise line go instead? Belize? The Bahamas? Their crime and murder rates are also some of the worst in the world.

Roatan, Belize, and the Bahamas are all beautiful but they are all dangerous places to visit. What families want to save up all year and go on a Caribbean vacation to get away from the stresses of their lives just to end up in some of the most dangerous countries in the world?

A new Harris Poll revealed that the cruise industry's image is sinking. The poll says that the U.S. public questions the safety and reliability of cruising. The poll cited the numerous norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships as one reason for the lack of confidence in the cruise industry. The poll was taken before the Roatan shooting or the Disney child molestation case this week.

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

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 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

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
 

Senate Hearing on Cruise Industry Accountability Reveals Less Than 3% of Cruise Ship Crimes are Revealed to the Public

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in Washington DC. attending the hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation titled "Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection."  

I have attended seven Congressional hearings on cruise ship safety issues from December 2005 through March 2012. This is my eight hearing.  For the past eight and one-half years, the cruise lines which attended these hearings have vigorously fought to keep the full extent of crimes which occur on cruise ships secret.  

Senator Rockefeller has now introduced legislation which will require the cruise lines to disclose all crimes on a on line database which will be available to the public. The previous database was grossly incomplete after the cruise industry and the FBI watered the last cruise crime disclose down such that only closed files were disclosed (it seems like the FBI always says that most files are "open" even if it is not conducting an investigation).  This incomplete and misleading database was a great disservice to the American public.   

Senator Rockefeller released a comprehensive report which reveals that 959 crimes were alleged to have occurred on cruise ships and reported to the Cruise Lines Senate HearingFBI since 2011, yet the U.S. public was informed of only 31 such crimes. That's less than 3% of the total number of actual crimes.

You can read the report here.

The proposed legislation is called the "Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013." It would:

Give consumers a clear upfront summary of the restrictive terms and conditions in cruise contracts. The Secretary of Transportation would develop standards for the cruise lines to provide prospective passengers with a short summary of the key terms in the contract. Consumers would be able to read a plain language summary of the key rights and limitations that passengers have during their cruise so they are fully aware of what rights they have, and don’t have, before they book their tickets.

Give the federal government more authority to protect cruise ship passengers. The Department of Transportation would be the lead federal agency for cruise ship consumer protection, similar to the role it has in aviation consumer protection. Passengers would also have additional protections in the event of a problem by giving the Department the authority to investigate consumer complaints.

Help passengers who encounter problems on cruise ships. Create a toll-free hot line for consumer complaints. An Advisory Committee for Passenger Vessel Consumer Protection would be created to make recommendations to improve existing consumer protection programs and services.

Make all crimes alleged on cruise ships publicly available information. The FBI currently only reports crimes that are no longer under investigation. This causes the number of alleged crimes to be severely under reported and does not give potential passengers accurate information about the safety of cruises. Cruise lines would also be required to place video cameras in public areas and would set requirements for cruise lines to keep the video footage.

Help passengers who have been a victim of a crime on the cruise ship, since they have limited access to law enforcement. The Department of Transportation would establish a victim advocate who can provide assistance to victims on board a cruise ship, make sure the victim is aware of his or her rights in international waters, and get access to appropriate law enforcement officers.

Senator Rockefeller released crime data on line under a series of reports and appendices entitled Cruise Ship Crime: Consumers Have Incomplete Access to Cruise Crime Data

Adam Goldstein, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, attended the hearing and promised that his cruise line would begin to voluntarily post crime data on the Royal Caribbean website. He announced that Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line would do the same.

This decision by the top three cruise lines comes only after an eighth Congressional hearing.  Let's see if these three cruise lines will live up to their promises for a change. So far there is no word that any of the other 25 or so CLIA cruise line members will voluntarily release crime data.

Its too bad that Royal Caribbean and the others did not agree to voluntarily release crime data eight Congressional hearings ago.

 

Photo of Senate Hearing - Photo Credit: Jim Walker - I attended the hearing with my youngest son, John, who got to sit in the first row. That's him standing in the photo.

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

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

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.

Does Carnival Warn Passengers of the Danger of Sexual Assault in the Cayman Islands?

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog about the police in the Cayman Islands making an arrest of a local man who allegedly sexually assaulted a cruise passenger who was visiting the island.

The newspaper article that my blog was based on was very vague and mentioned only that the alleged rape occurred on July 27th and the arrest occurred some three weeks later.  It took almost a month later after the arrest before the newspapers in the Caymans covered the story.  There still is no mention of where the incident occurred other than "in the George Town area."  

A reader of my blog alerted me that an article from another media source in the Cayman Carnival Elation Cruise Ship - Cayman Islands - Sexual Assault Islands, Cayman News Service, contained a bit more information. The article "Visitor Sexually Assaulted" states that the only cruise ship in the Cayman Islands was the Carnival Elation and the cruise passenger was a "teenage visitor (who) was assaulted during an onshore tour."

There are some interesting comments to the article written, presumably, by people in the Cayman Islands.  The first two comments are "Been here 30 years. Not new" and "Alot of rapes happen here and not reported or covered up."  

Other comments raise the issue why this crime was not reported earlier and why the police is not disclosing exactly where it occurred. I find it fascinating that the police did not disclose the name of the cruise ship, and it was only by deduction that the Cayman News Service figured out that the victim was from a Carnival cruise ship.

Last week I wrote an article about a case we are handling where a federal appellate court re-instated a lawsuit against Carnival arising out of its failure to warn a family of dangers ashore in St. Thomas leading to the shooting death of their 14 year old daughter.  The 11th Circuit Court of Appeal held that cruise lines like Carnival owe a duty to warn passengers of crime in ports of call that they are aware of or should be aware of. 

Crime in the Caribbean islands is a problem. Cruise lines promote the ports of call as tropical paradises. Passengers who are lured into the world of cruise fantasies often lower their guard. Cruise lines and the tourism bureaus in the islands are notorious for covering up crimes so as not to hurt their business. 

Did the alleged rape in the Cayman Islands occur during an excursion advertised and sold by Carnival? Has the cruise line warned other families of the crime over the course of the last two months?  Are other cruise lines which unload passengers in the Caymans warning their guests?

 

Photo credit: Jim Walker

Police in Cayman Islands Investigating Sexual Assault of Cruise Ship Passenger

Cayman Islands - Cruise Ship A newspaper in the Cayman Islands is reporting that the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is investigating a reported sexual attack on a female cruise ship passenger.

The incident happened on Friday July 27, 2012 according to the local police in the Cayman Islands. The newspaper account is very vague. The newspaper states only that the incident involved a female cruise passenger "in the George Town area" that led to the arrest of a 43 year old man on August 18, 2012 on suspicion of attempted rape.  No charges have been filed and the suspect was reportedly released on bail. 

The newspaper states that the incident "was not proactively reported by the police service."

The newspaper did not identify the name of the cruise line or the cruise ship.  This is quite common in the Cayman Islands and other Caribbean countries which do not wish to cause embarrassment to the cruise lines which call on their ports.  

If anyone knows which cruise ships were in the Cayman Islands on July 27, 2012 please leave a comment below.

April 29 2014 Update: A Caymans newspaper states that Shawn Mourao, 45, the owner of Cayman Shaun Mourao Caymans RapeStyle Ocean Adventures, was charged with three counts of indecent assault in the case and is the subject of an Interpol warrant seeking his arrest after he failed to appear in court and fled the Caymans. He is believed to be in South Africa.

The woman was a Carnival cruise ship passenger who had booked a seven-day “Exotic Western Caribbean Cruise” that included stops in Mexico, Belize, Roatan and Grand Cayman. She paid $79.99 for a “beach party and snorkeling shore excursion” in Cayman. Cayman Style Ocean Adventures was the tour operator that provided the tour for Carnival. 

The newspaper states that woman went on the excursion around 1 p.m. on July 27, 2012, and returned at 4:30 p.m. to George Town harbor. She asked the tour boat captain where she might find a restroom. He led her to a small room in nearby shopping center where she was assaulted. The woman repeated pleas for the suspect to stop, and she eventually escaped, running off half-naked to find her friend with whom she was on the cruise.   

In addition to the owner fleeing the jurisdiction, the tour operator in the Caymans dissolved as well apparently to avoid legal liability for the rape.

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.  

Can the Cruise Industry Keep Up With Bad Cruise News?

The Costa Concordia in January disaster set off a seemingly endless avalanche of stories on cable news this year about ship fires, sinkings and other cruise disasters, as well as a steady stream of articles and videos about sexual assaults during cruises, drunken brawling passengers, and the disappearance of women at sea.

I'm just one of probably 100 maritime attorneys in the United States who handle cases against cruise lines. But just this year alone I have appeared on ABC's 20/20, Dateline, PBS, Canada's CTV and CNN, as well being quoted in newspapers and magazines like the Wall Street Journal, Slate, The Daily, London's Financial Times, Newsweek Magazine, Newsweek's The Daily Beast blog, Fund Web, Reuters, Consumer Affairs, Australia's Herald Sun, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times, Sun Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Business Insider, and Greenwich Magazine.

I Love Lucy - Chocolate FactoryEven Perez Hilton quoted one of our stories about a cruise crime for goodness sakes. 

The cruise lines' PR have been working overtime to respond to hundreds of stories from the U.S. and international media about cruise ship mishaps and dangers.

The cruise industry's trade organization (CLIA) has been pumping out press release after press release, touting that cruise crime is "rare" and trying to explain that the Concordia debacle was an isolated incident caused by one bad-apple captain.

But stories about ship fires, engine failures and children being sexually assaulted on cruises keep coming and coming.

A lot of pressure has fallen on CLIA to salvage the cruise industry's reputation. That's a daunting task.

There's the pesky image of the Concordia lying on its side in Italian waters as a daily reminder that 32 people are dead and yet the cruise line did not even have a procedure in place to require life boat drills before sailing. Plus the cruise industry has the visual disadvantage of having to compete with the dramatic images on television of the panicked passengers trying to save their own lives, as well as teenage rape victims explaining the horror of being raped during a vacation cruise.

Slick corporate gobbledygook after-the-fact PR statements about the "safety of our guests is the cruise lines' highest priority" are not going to cut it.           

The victims' stories are too compelling. Belated PR statements from an industry with a major credibility problem won't work.

The cruise industry has picked the CEO of CLIA, Christine Duffy, to combat the bad press.  CLIA just launched a new blog and opened a twitter account for Ms. Duffy to fight the bad news. 

One of MS. Duffy's first blogs was "Sailing with Respect" where CLIA touted itself as a steward of the marine environment. It included a beautiful stock photo of colorful tropical fish and pristine water. But today a story broke about what is believed to be cruise ship garbage and feces drifting ashore on a quaint beach in Massachusetts. Local officials believe a HAL cruise ship emptied its bilges after sailing from Boston last month. The story was covered in the local press, a television station in Boston and USA Today's travel section.

Faced with these images, its hard for anyone to believe the cruise industry statement that it is "extremely committed to protecting the waters and surrounding environments where we operate to preserve their natural beauty, minimize impact on native species and protect the waters upon which we sail."  Happy talk won't persuade the public faced with plastic bottles, used hygiene products and condoms washing ashore covered in a gooey brown mass of human excrement.

Also breaking today was a story from a local station in Houston about a woman from Texas raped during a cruise out of Galveston.  CLIA responded with its usual PR statement that crime is "rare," which seems cold and callous juxtaposed against a video of a woman sobbing that no one helped her after she was raped on the last night of the cruise. 

I don't see how Ms. Duffy can keep up with the continuous bad news.

An image comes to mind of an "I Love Lucy" episode of Lucy working at a chocolate factory.  Pieces of chocolate come out of the kitchen on a conveyor belt. It's Lucy's (and Ethel's) job to tie the chocolate up in an attractive wrapping (not unlike Ms. Duffy's job to wrap the bad news with a pretty bow). 

But the conveyor belt picks up speed. Soon Lucy is overwhelmed. She tires to eat or hide the chocolate but makes a mess of herself and the chocolate in the process. Finally, she exclaims "I think we are fighting a losing game." 

    

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.  

 

 

Is CLIA CEO Christine Duffy Really Ready For Twitter?

Today the cruise Industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), sent out a press release announcing that its CEO, Christine Duffy, now has a Twitter account: @CLIACEO 

I could not help but think, oh boy is this going to be fun.  

Ms. Duffy began her tenure at the helm of CLIA in January of last year.  She started her employment with a bang when she answered some friendly questions from a travel magazine about lobbying Congress for the cruise lines. Somehow she managed to criticize the U.S. automobile industry while trying to promote the cruise lines.  Listen to this whopper:  

CLIA CEO Christine Duffy - Cruise Line International AssociationPart of the message we delivered in D.C. is that the travel industry employs more people than the auto industry, and we didn’t get a bailout. We employ a lot more people than anybody recognized, and our impact is in all 50 states. We’re not going to offshore our jobs . . .

The fact of the matter is that all of the CLIA cruise lines are foreign corporations. Unlike Ford or Chevrolet which are U.S. corporations and employ U.S. employees, the CLIA cruise lines are 100% foreign corporations. Carnival was incorporated in Panama. Royal Caribbean was incorporated in Liberia (yes, Africa). And all of these cruise lines fly the flags of foreign countries like Panama, Liberia, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

By registering their companies and cruise ships overseas to avoid U.S. labor, wage and safety laws, the foreign cruise lines also avoid U.S. income taxes. The $35,000,000,000 (billion) cruise industry pays virtually no U.S. Federal income taxes. If the cruise lines were required to pay U.S. taxes, they would pay over $10,000,000,000 a year. The cruise industry receives a $10 billion bailout each year, year after year.

But that's not all. All of the cruise ships are manufactured and constructed in foreign shipyards, in Italy, Norway or France. And 99.9% of the officers and crew members (except some U.S. dancers, singers and an occasional assistant cruise director) are from "overseas." No U.S. workers are going to work 360 hours a month for around $545 like the incredibly hard working utility cleaners from India, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

The cruise industry is the most outsourced, non-U.S. industry in America. The industry is built on the business model of tax-paying U.S. citizens paying their hard earned wages to the foreign corporation cruise lines who pay no taxes to the U.S. 

This year, at a hearing in the U.S. Senate about cruise safety issues following the Costa Concordia disaster, Senator Rockefeller questioned Ms. Duffy's honesty when she testified about the cruise industry's failure to pay U.S. taxes.

A happy faced former travel agent, Ms. Duffy knows the importance of staying upbeat while selling cruise tickets. But the question remains whether she has the gravitas to actually discuss important issues regarding the safety of the cruising public.

Will Ms. Duffy use Twitter as just a PR platform to repeat the CLIA talking points laid out by the cruise line public relations experts and cruise lobbyists ( "cruising is safe . . . the security of our guests is CLIA's number one priority") or will she will actually engage the public and answer some tough questions about crime on cruise ships, sexual abuse of minors, and working conditions of the predominately non-U.S. crew members.

What will Ms. Duffy do when she receives a tweet from a mother whose daughter was served alcohol and taken to a crew member's cabin, or a father whose daughter disappeared overboard from a cruise ship, or a widow whose husband experienced a heart attack and was then dumped on a Caribbean island?    

My prediction?  Ms. Duffy will tweet happy gobbledygook carefully vetted by CLIA's PR consultants. She will chit chat with travel agents. But she will ignore the cries of those families who suffered death or injury.  She will avoid all spontaneous and genuine discussions of real issues. She will religiously avoid making direct comments about cruise ship fires, sinkings, deaths, disappearances, crimes and norovirus outbreaks.

And when the next disaster strikes the cruise industry, Ms. Duffy's Twitter account will go silent.    

 

Interested in other articles about CLIA?  Consider reading:

@CruiseFacts - Cruise Line Pravda

Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash

Did Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy Lie to Congress?

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

Suspect Pleads Guilty of Raping Minor on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Rape - Sexual Assault A 20 year old Brazilian man pled guilty this week to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in the rape of a 15 year old girl on the last night day of a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry sentenced Luiz Scavone to one year in jail and declared him a sexual offender.

Federal officials will then deport Scavone back to Brazil after he serves his jail sentence.  If Scavone returns to the United States, he will be required to notify corrections officials and be supervised as a sex offender. 

During the cruise, Scavone and a 15 year Brazilian teenager lured the young girl from a teen center back to their cabin where they took turns sexually assaulting her.

The crime took place on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship. 

We previously reported on this sexual assault on the Allure of the Seas in our articles Two Rapes Alleged on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship and International Media Focuses on Royal Caribbean Cruise Rape Case

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?"  

 

  

"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.

"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

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

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. 

A Lost Cruise Trial, More Cruise Crime, More Cruise Drugs and Who Wants to Cruise to Mexico Anyway?

A super busy week took me away from the computer for the last week.  What a fun week at Cruise Law and in the strange world of cruising:    

Lose Some / Win Some:  A trial involving our client, an injured passenger, ended poorly for us and well for Royal Caribbean which obtained a defense verdict after a three day trial (and two years of litigation).  The case was defended by the law firm of Horr, Novak & Skipp.  Although he got popped last year with a verdict over $9,000,000 in a cruise line case, Mr. Horr is, in my opinion, the David Horr - Cruise Line Lawyerbest defense lawyer for the cruise lines in Miami.  Supported by the usual small army of cruise lawyers and support staff, he did his usual great job.  This is only the second case Cruise Law has lost in the past ten years.  We are consoled by the fact that the cruise line probably spent over $150,000 defending the case.  A $15,000,000,000 cruise line corporation which pays no U.S. taxes has money to burn.  It's a nice feeling to see good lawyers like Horr get paid lots of money, especially by the scoundrels at Royal Caribbean.       

Another Sexual Assault on the Love Boat?:  According to the LA Weekly Blogs, another alleged sexual assault aboard a Princess cruise ship has ended up in court.  California resident Marisa Foppoli claims in her lawsuit that a crew member aboard the Island Princess sexually assaulted her while cruising from Acapulco to Florida.  The passenger alleged that the crew member had a "prior, similar incident of misconduct" while employed aboard one of Princess' ships.

We have reported on sex crimes on cruise ships operated by Princess before:  Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships.  A Princess crew member tried last year for a sexual assault was acquitted last year - Love Boat Waiter Acquitted of Sexually Assaulting Passenger.

More Drugs on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship  Two weeks ago, we blogged about three Royal Caribbean crew members (cooks) who smuggled heroin and cocaine from the Dominican Republic during a stop of the Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas and were arrested after the cruise ship reached Baltimore.  Well here we go again.  CBS News reports that $100,000 worth of cocaine and heroin were found in a crew only area on the same cruise ship which has been sailing from Baltimore to the Caribbean islands.      

Is it any surprise that Royal Caribbean galley workers earning less than $600 a month are enticed to supplement their income smuggling some smack and blow?   

Cruise, Crime, and Beheaded Mexicans is Hard to Sell:  Speaking of drugs, last week Carnival said Thursday that it is pulling the last of its cruise ships (the Carnival Spirit) out of southern California to Australia next year.

Mexico - Drug Violence - Cruise ShipsTomorrow Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas is making its final voyage from the Port of Los Angeles and will re-position to its new home base of Galveston, Texas. Norwegian Cruise Line's Star cruise ship will leave Los Angeles in a couple of months to reposition to Tampa.

The Los Angeles Times has reported that drug-related violence has meant fading interest in cruises to Mexico, the chief destination of California-based ships.  The AP reports that although the port officials and cruise industry 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."  Ugh.

But this is not new news.  Last summer we reported that Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Ships From L.A. Due To Crime In Mexico.

Sexual assaults on the Love Boat?  Drugs on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship?  And cruise lines unable to sell cruises to Mexico?    Nothing new here . . .

 

Photo credits: 

David Horr - Horr, Novak & Skipp

Mexican violence -   http://www.nocaptionneeded.com/

Cruise Crime and the Indifference of Travel Writers

This was a historic week in the world of cruising.  

Congress passed the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act, which will help make cruising safer for U.S. families.  Cruise lines will be required to install peepholes in cabin doors, maintain anti-retroviral medications and rape kits for victims, improve crime evidence handling procedures and - for the first time in the history of the cruise industry - report crimes to the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI.  

Travel Writers - Cruise - EthicsCongress also passed the "SPILL Act" (H.R. 5503) which removes the limitation of liability  for shipping companies, and amends the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) to permit families to recover compensation when they lose a loved one on the high seas - whether it is on a drilling rig or a cruise ship.  In so doing, Congress finally repealed an archaic and wicked law that has inflicted additional pain on cruise victims for the past ninety years.  

These pieces of legislation are the results of the dedication and hard work of families of U.S. citizens killed in international waters, including members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV).  The ICV is a grass roots, non-profit organization comprised entirely of volunteers who have been a victim of a crime on a cruise ship or lost a loved one during a cruise.

These two new laws are truly historic. But you would never know it by reading the hundreds of cruise websites and travel-writer blogs.    

There are literally thousands of travel agents and travel writers who I follow daily on Twitter.  But not one blogger mentioned either one of these new bills.

The problem is that many of the travel writers and most of the cruise bloggers are shills for the cruise industry.  They sell cruises or advertise cruise banners on their web sites.  Many cruise lines invite them on all-expense-paid cruises in exchange for favorable cruise reviews.

The exception is Arthur Frommer, of the famous Frommer's Travel Guides, and his daughter Pauline Frommer who covers travel stories in her blog "Daily Briefings."  Ms. Frommer covered the cruise safety law in an article entitled In the Wee Hours This Morning, Cruising Just Got a Heckuva Lot Safer.  Mr. Frommer re-printed his daughter's article, and added a few personal comments, in A Cruise Line Safety Act Has Quietly Passed the House of Representatives.      

The Frommers explain the key provisions of the new law and recognize the remarkable efforts of the ICV over the past five years. 

Mr. Frommer acknowledges that "even the travel trade press has failed to take more than the barest notice of proposed legislation in Congress that would require the cruise lines to tighten up safety . . . "

The new maritime laws were passed only after years of resistance and millions of dollars of lobbying by the cruise industry's trade organization - the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) - which is comprised of 16,000 travel agents.  CLIA has a cozy relationship with many travel writers who choose not to offend the CLIA cruise lines by writing anything negative about the foreign flagged cruise industry.  We have touched upon this subject in Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

CLIA unsuccessfully worked behind the scenes lobbying against the SPILL Act in an effort to deny the widows and children of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster from receiving compensation - a disgusting spectacle we reported on in Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

So it should come as no surprise that most travel writers and the CLIA cruise bloggers chose not to touch these stories.

But it is refreshing to see travel writers with integrity and ethics like Mr. Frommer and Ms. Frommer write about the cruise safety law which will protect the cruising public.   

July 7, 200 Update:

TNOOZ (Talking Trave Tech) has an interesting blog about my blog: "Are Travel Writers Shills For The Cruise Lines?"  A number of travel writers are commenting.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Ships From L.A. Due To Crime In Mexico

The Los Angeles Business Journal reports today that Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas and NCL's Norwegian Star are pulling out of Los Angeles because of the increasing violence in Mexico. 

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas, which had been sailing on 7 day cruises to Mexico, will leave L.A. in January 2011, and will eventually home port in Galveston, Texas.

Cruise Ship Crime MexicoThe newspaper reports that the drug war in Mexico has caused nearly 30,000 deaths since 2007. Passengers on cruises to the "Mexican Riviera" have dwindled by 21 percent.

Norwegian Cruise Line also stated that it will no longer offer cruises to Mexico from Los Angeles after May 2011.  The Norwegian Star is relocating to Tampa, Florida.

The article quotes Cruise Industry News: “People are obviously concerned about the violence and justifiably so . . . they don’t want to get caught in the crossfire.”

Royal Caribbean is quoted saying that the decision to eave L.A. was part due to violence in Mexico and part an economic one: “We’re looking to maximize our profits . . . both Europe and the Caribbean are hotter tickets than the Mexican Riviera, and there’s a stable market out of Galveston.”

The economic factor the article discusses is that the cruise lines earn a lot of money income from shore excursions.  Some passengers fear getting off the ship.

I'm not sure how this is much different from the crime in many of the Caribbean ports of call.

 

Credits:

Photograph     Time

 

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Thanks!  Jim Walker   

Senate Unanimously Passes Cruise Safety Law

Last night, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a safety bill for cruise passengers which will require cruise ships to reports crimes on the high seas to the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

The bill will require the cruise industry to comply with a number of security provisions including specific rail heights, peep holes, warning devices, and cabin security measures.  The requirment that cruise lines must inform the FBI of disappearances and sexual assaults is important, because Cruise Lines Often Don't Report Crimes.

The bill is called the "Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act" (H.R. 3360).  It was authored by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA).  Congresswoman Matsui (photo left) began convening hearings on the Cruise Safety Law - Doris Matsui - Laurie Dishmanissue of cruise line when her constituent, and our client Laurie Dishman (pictured with her father Bill), approached her after being sexually assaulted aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in 2006.

The cruise safety bill is the result of the dedication of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) (photos of members below). We reported on the ICV's hard work last fall - Congress Passes Cruise Crime Law.

The House of Representatives passed the bill last November. We reported on this historic development last year in Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4.

Congresswoman Matsui commented that the safety bill "is a critical and common-sense fix which will provide safety and security to Americans who go on cruise vacations without realizing they are not protected under U.S. laws when they leave its territorial waters."

“H.R. 3360 will improve the safety and security of all cruise ship passengers traveling in and out U.S. waters,” said Rep. Matsui. “Current law doesn’t pass the test of providing common-sense security measures to the traveling public to help protect them from crimes committed aboard ships or to adequately prevent individuals from going overboard. Moreover, current law does not provide the support victims and their families need in the event of a disaster. This legislation is critical to providing the security and safety measures that all Americans need and deserve, no matter if they are on land or at sea.”

International Cruise Victims - ICV - Cruise Safety LawSenator John F. Kerry championed the cruise bill in the Senate.  His constituent, Merrian Carver, disappeared under suspicious circumstances from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.  The cruise line, Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises, did not alert law enforcement. Her father, Ken Carver, mounted an investigation which exposed a cover up.  Mr. Carver then created the ICV to assist other passengers victimized on cruise ships.

Take a moment and read and watch the video: Ken Carver Fights for Cruise Ship Safety and Ken Carver Pushes For Cruise Law After Daughter "Disappears" From Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship

Senator Kerry issued a statement on the passing of the safety bill: “Murky lines of jurisdiction are no longer an excuse for risking the safety of millions of Americans who will board cruise ships this year. I applaud my colleagues for helping to ensure that security, safety, and accountability be strengthened to hold criminals accountable and end the cycle of serious crimes on these vessels.”

Ken Carver - International Cruise Vcitims - Cruise LawMr. Carver commented "When the cruise safety legislation is signed into law, it will serve to protect Americans across the nation during what ought to be relaxing vacations. Without Congresswoman Matsui's efforts in the House and Senator Kerry's efforts in the U.S. Senate, this legislation would not have moved forward.”

After minor differences between the House and Senate version are reconciled, President Obama will sign the bill into law by July 4th! 

Congratulations to the ICV for taking these steps to protect familes on cruise ships.  Cruising will be safer due to your efforts. 

 

For additional news coverage, read: 

"Senate Passes Historic Cruise Safety Bill: Smith Family Applauds Measure" from the Greenwich Post. 

Cruise Safety Bill Heartens Greenwich Victim's Family - regarding family of George Smith IV.

"Cruise Ship Crime Law Closer To Reality"  WCVB TV5 (ABC) - Boston.

"Senate Passes Cruise Safety Bill, 5 years After Greenwich Man's Disappearance" from the Greenwich Post.

"Senate Passes Cruise Ship Safety Measures" from the South Florida Business Journal.

Cruise Lines Often Don't Report Crimes

A local ABC affiliate in Boston WCVB TV5 recently aired a special investigation into the issue of cruise ship crime: "Crimes On Cruise Ships Often Not Reported - Local Victims Hope Laws At Sea Change."

The ABC affiliate accurately concludes that cruise lines are not required to report crimes on cruise ships in international waters.  The consequences of having no legal obligation to report a crime means that there is no consequence when the cruise line does not report the crime - such as in the case of Merrian Carver.  

Ms. Carver "disappeared" from the Mercury cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's subsidiary Celebrity Cruises.  But Royal Caribbean did not report her missing and tried to cover the incident up.  ABC PrimeTime aired a special on this disturbing case "Cruise Cover Up - Cruise Line Doesn't Notify Anyone When Woman Disappears On Second Day of Tour."  

We have written many articles about the cover up by Royal Caribbean, and the fight by Ms. Carver's Angela Orlich - Sexual Assault - Cruise Victimfather Ken Carver who continues to advocate for the safety of cruise passengers and demand transparency by the foreign flagged cruise industry.     

The ABC TV5 investigation also focused on the story of our firm client, cruise passenger Angela Orlich, who was sexually assaulted during a diving excursion while on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  The program also touches upon the well known case of George Smith IV who died during his honeymoon cruise on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas.  We represented Mr. Smith's widow, Jennifer Hagel.

After the story aired, the cruise industry's trade group, the notorious Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), complained on the station's web page that the story was "inaccurate."  CLIA George Smith IV - Missing - Cruise Victimclaimed that the story misled the public because U.S. law allegedly "requires cruise lines to report allegations of crime involving U.S. citizens no matter where the ship is in the world."  This is not true.  CLIA has no credibility and earned a reputation for bogus statements like this long ago.  Take a moment and read "Cruise Line Pravda" or learn about CLIA's dubious cast of characters here

In truth, there is absolutely no law requiring cruise lines to report crimes outside of 12 miles from shore.  

It also telling that CLIA took the time to complain about the news program, but didn't bother to apologize to Ms. Orlich or express sympathy to the parents of Ms. Carver and Mr. Smith who lost a child during a CLIA cruise. 

Unfortunately, such dishonesty and insensitivity characterizes CLIA and the cruise industry. 

 

 

 

 

Credits:

Video           ABC affiliate in Boston WCVB TV5

"Danger On The Love Boat: Cruise Ship Crimes, Disappearances & Cover Ups"

For the past three years, I have written several hundreds of pages of stories about the cruise ship cases we have handled.  The cruise lines' skill, in engaging in an endless number of stunts and cover ups before judges and juries, our U.S. Congress and the American people, never ceases to amaze me. 

I have written these stories with an eye toward incorporating these experiences into a book about cruise ship crime.  We have represented over 70 victims of sexual assault on cruise ships.  Some cruise lines are nasty and other lines are even nastier regarding how they treat the victims.  A central focus of my writing has been the extraordinary steps taken by the cruise lines to keep the public from knowing the truth about what happens on the high seas. 

"Danger On The Love Boat - Cruise Ship Crimes, Disappearances, Cover Ups"®I have released tidbits of these stories as blog articles here on Cruise Law News ("CLN") to see if there is an interest.

So far, I have received a lot of encouragement.  Most recently, I received a nice recommendation via a #FollowFriday recommendation on Twitter from a very talented paralegal, Kristina Duncan, whose Twitter page is @legalninjaKris.  A reader to her blog made the following comment:

Mr. Walker’s series is a compelling presentation of cruising’s nasty underbelly.  It should be read by everyone considering a cruise, so they will be aware of the risks before signing a contract.  It is shocking to see how much support in law cruise operators have in defense of the outrageous behavior Mr. Walker documents.  There is an obvious need for serious legislation to deal with these issues.  I hope Mr. Walker will see his series titles as chapters in a much-needed book exposing cruise operator conduct to the American public.  Thank you for publicizing this informative series.

So with thanks to Ms. Duncan, I'll admit that a cruise book has been in the works for a while.  I have a commitment from a good publishing house. There are many stories that are not well known, yet.  Like the outrageous circumstances surrounding the "disappearance" of Italian crew member Angelo Faliva (photo above), as well as other equally disturbing crimes not yet revealed to the public.  The task now is to figure out which stories are the most compelling and to turn the manuscript over to the publishing company.  

I will donate 100% of the "profits" (if any) to a non-profit organization involved in cruise safety issues.  If no one buys a copy, I'll buy a 1,000 myself and pass them out to my friends and family - and then send the other 993 copies to whoever wants one!  

I hear that most publishing companies like to make the decision to name the books they publish.  We'll see if that happens.  I am struggling with the title.  I am thinking of: "Danger On The Love Boat: Cruise Ship Crimes, Disappearances & Cover Ups."®

The lawyers and support staff at Cruise Law don't like the title.  What so you think?

Contact me on the "Ask Jim A Question" box to the left, or leave a comment below, or call me at (305) 995-5300 with your thoughts.  I'll send a couple of free copies to anyone who can think of a good name for the book.

Thanks!  

 

Credits:       vascellor.it 

Reason No. 2 Not To Cruise: Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It!

This is reason no. 2 in the series: Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise

Imagine owning a business where one of your employees drugged and raped a patron.  What would you do?   

Would you interrogate the victim before calling the police?  Would you tape record the victim without her permission?  Would you demand that the victim prepare written statements before she could receive medical treatment?   Would you scramble your defense lawyers to the scene to look for a way to build a case against the victim?  Would you refuse to provide the name and address of your Cime Rocks The Boats - Cruise Ship Crimeemployee to the victim?  Would you work with your employee's criminal defense lawyers, and meet the assailant in jail, in an effort to help him win an acquittal at the criminal trial?   

Of course not, but this is exactly what happens on many cruise ships today.

Unlike airplanes with Federal Marshals, cruise ships have no police authorities aboard.  The few security guards on the ships are loyal to their employer who pays their salary - not to the passenger. 

When a crime occurs, the cruise lines first notify their risk managements departments and their defense lawyers.  If the closed circuit television (CCTV) tapes exculpate the cruise line, the cruise line keeps the tapes.  Otherwise, the CCTV images are invariably taped over, "lost" or the cruise line will claim that the CCTV system was not working.  The cruise lines will protect their own employee's legal interests - not the passenger's rights. 

In some criminal cases we have handled, the cruise lines did not bother to notify the FBI; in other cases, the cruise lines notified the FBI only after they destroyed evidence and sanitized the crime scene. The result is that criminals on cruise ships are rarely prosecuted.

In fact, some cruise lines have never had a crew member ever convicted of a sex crime or other felony.

Most crew members know that nothing will happen to them if they commit a crime on the ship.  Because there is no criminal accountability, there is no deterrence to crimes on cruises ships.  This is not my opinion, but the conclusions reached by security and sexual harassment experts who have studied the problem. 

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.

The experts concluded that male cabin attendants and bartenders were the most likely crew members to commit a crime.  The most likely location?  The passengers cabin.  The experts recommended a number of improvements, such as placing CCTV cameras in the passenger hallways, deactivating passenger cabin key cards used by crew members after working hours, and implementing steps to collect and preserve evidence to be used against the crew members at trial.  Without having a system in place that will result in crew members being arrested, the experts concluded that the crimes would continue.    

Unfortunately, when the executives at Royal Caribbean received the reports - they did not implement any of the recommended improvements.  Instead, they chose to tell the U.S. public that crime on cruise ships was "rare."  When a crime inevitably occurred, the cruise line then sent their defense lawyers to the next port to board the ship long before the FBI arrived. 

The result is that by the time the FBI arrives or the cruise ship returns to a foreign port, the evidence is long gone. 

In an article entitled "Crime Rocks The Boats," TIME Magazine addressed this problem.  TIME reported on troubling cases involving two of our clients - Janet Kelly who was drugged and raped during a cruise from Los Angeles to Mexico, and Jennifer Hagel whose husband George Smith IV "disappeared" from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship during their honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean.  In both cases, the cruise lines scrambled their defense lawyers to the cruise ships and quickly began compromising the passengers' potential criminal and civil cases.  TIME raised the question why "only 7% of the 135 federal investigations into sexual assault over the past five George Smith IV - Missing - Royal Caribbeanyears were prosecuted.  Why were 93% of the cases dropped?"  TIME reported on the FBI's explanation, as follows:

"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."

TIME addressed the problem of crimes on the high seas and the cruise industry's efforts to cover the problem up, and quoted me in the process:

".  .  .  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 alleged 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."

TIME also quoted another maritime lawyer in Miami that cruise lines " .  .  . are silently working against the victim. They're busy trying to make sure criminal cases don't see the light of day."

The LA Times also discussed the lack of prosecutions of cruise crimes in a blockbuster article entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters - What Happens At Sea Stays There As Crimes On Liners Go Unresolved."  The newspaper reported on the cruise industry's lack of candor to the U.S. Congress during hearings on cruise crimes and the cruise lines' under-reporting of such crimes.  During one of the Congressional hearings which took place from 2005 - 2008, Congressman Christopher Shays questioned whether the cruise lines are keeping some crimes off the books:

"There's a huge incentive to downplay any incident, to sail on .  .  .  Is going on a cruise the perfect way to commit the perfect crime?"

In the last two years, some cruise lines have changed their approach to handling shipboard crimes.  Royal Caribbean, for example, stopped sending trial lawyers to the cruise ships, but other cruise lines still do so.  Royal Caribbean now has a "Global Security" team, consisting of former FBI agents, which handles the investigations.  But the FBI never had a good record investigating cruise crimes in the first place.  Will this lead to a greater number of arrests and convictions - or is this just more of the same?       

Recent incidents suggest that the problem continues. 

In November of last year, an Italian chef, Angelo Faliva, "disappeared" from a Princess Cruises cruise ship after the ship left Fort Lauderdale.  Mr. Faliva, like George Smith IV, was a healthy, happy, energetic and well-liked young man with a bright future ahead of him.  But when he went overboard between Aruba and Columbia, the cruise line's crisis management team took center stage.  Princess claimed that it was "puzzled" and didn't know what happened - a claim considered to be dubious given the hundreds of surveillance cameras throughout the cruise ship.

Angelo Faliva - Missing - Princess CruisesThe "mystery" of Mr. Faliva soon resembled  the typical case of corporate malfeasance which has characterized the cruise industry.  According to the Faliva family, Princess Cruises refuses to cooperate.  

The case also illustrates the indifference exhibited by the flag state, in this case the country of Bermuda which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminals on Princess cruise ships which fly Bermuda flags.  It took two weeks before Bermuda bothered to travel to the cruise ship.  Like the Bahamas, Liberia, and Panama where the cruise lines register their cruise ships, Bermuda has done little to investigate the disappearance.  

There seems to be a "quid pro quo" in place.  In exchange for the hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars paid by the cruise lines in registration fees, flag states like Bermuda will conduct no real investigation.  The cruise line is left to handle criminal incidents "internally."   The worst that happens is the offending crew members receives a one way ticket home.  The victim's family is left to deal with the cruise line's stonewalling and the flag state's indifference.      

Earlier last year, Bermuda refused to arrest a bar employee, aboard the Coral Princess cruise ship, who admitted raping an unconscious woman after a crew party.  Princess Cruises then flew the rapist from Seattle back to the Philippines with only a slap on his wrist. 

Where is Princess Cruises' self-admitted rapist today?  Is he working for another cruise line serving drinks to cruise passengers?   Did Princess notify Royal Caribbean, NCL, or its parent corporation Carnival about the rapist so that they would not hire a known rapist?

In the case of Janet Kelly, the cruise line flew her rapist (also a bar employee) from the cruise ship in Los Angeles back to his home country (Jamaica) after he drugged and raped her.  We learned that he then applied for a job with Princess Cruises which accepted him into its fleet of cruise ships.  He then freely interacted with the Princess passengers, who were unaware of his criminal past.

The current system of flying rapist crew members back to their home countries with no criminal accountability - only to be re-hired by another cruise line - is exactly the problem which Dr. Wunderwelt Wisen - Cruise Crimes and DisappearancesKay Krohne warned about over a decade ago.  It is a rotten and disgraceful practice.  Sexual predators are emboldened by the cruise line's malfeasance.  They will strike again.   

Given the work of victim organizations, like the International Cruise Victims, there is an increasing international awareness that cruise lines like Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean frequently cover up crimes and work to make certain that mysterious "disappearances" remain just that - "mysteries."  

Just the other week, the German magazine "Wunderwelt Wisen" discussed the string of 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 recent disappearance of Italian crew member Angelo Faliva (Princess Cruises).

Under the title "Dream Boats," the magazine analogized a tourist who boards a cruise ship as someone going on a holiday into a small town without a police station, concluding that:

"Dream ships are perfect for the perfect crime." 

 

Tomorrow, we will discuss Reason No. 3 Not To Cruise: Carnival, Royal Caribbean And NCL Are Corporate Felons  

Do you have a comment?  Let us hear from you below.

Your Dream Cruise - The Perfect Place For The Perfect Crime?

A blockbuster story has been published in Germany tracking crimes and the "disappearances" of passengers and crew members from cruise ships over the past decade.

Published in the popular German magazine "Wunderwelt Wisen," the article discusses the cases of passengers James Scavonne, Dianne Brimble, Merrian Carver, Christopher Caldwell, and George Smith IV, as well as the recent disappearance of Italian crew member Angelo Faliva.

Under the title "Dream Boats," the author, Philipp Saller, informs the reader that a tourist who chooses a cruise ship is choosing a holiday in a small town without a police station.  He concludes that "dream ships are perfect for the perfect crime." 

I first heard this analogy when I attended the December 2005 Congressional hearing regarding cruise crime issues, following the disappearance of George Smith IV.  His Congressman, Christopher Shays, raised the question at the hearing - "is going on a cruise the perfect way to commit the perfect crime?"

Cruise lines currently have no legal obligation to report crimes and disappearances which occur on the high seas to the FBI.  Not surprisingly, there have been very few FBI investigations over the course of the 40 year history of the cruise industry.  Prosecuting crimes on cruise ships is rare. 

A reprint of the article is below.  We are in the process of having the article translated and will update this article when we have the English translation.  

Cruise ship - The Perfect Place For The Perfect Crime

Cruise Ship - Perfect Place For The Perfect Crime?

Cruise Ship - Perfect Place For The Perfect Crime?

Cruise Ship - Perfect Place For The Perfect Crime?

 

Credits:

Wunderwelt Wissen (Philipp Saller) 

Ken Carver Pushes For Cruise Law After Daughter "Disappears" From Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship

A local news station in Phoenix, Arizona,  ABC-15 (KNXV), is reporting on the latest efforts by Kendall Carver to protect families who cruise in international waters.

In a video interview entitled "Valley Man Pushes for New Laws after Daughter Vanishes,"  Mr. Carver explains that his 40-year-old vanished on the second day of a seven-day Alaskan cruise aboard Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship back in 2004.  The cruise ship covered the incident Merrian Carver - Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship - Disappearance up and then lied to Mr. Carver.

ABC-15 reports that for more than a year, Mr. Carver says the cruise line "provided little information.  He hired private detectives, lawyers and spent quite a bit of money searching for any indication as to what happened.  Eventually, he said they found an employee on the boat who had some information."

"We deposed the steward to find out that he had reported our daughter missing daily for five days on that ship and his supervisor told him to forget it and do his job," said Carver.  "They had not notified the FBI, they had not notified anybody, in fact, they gathered her belongings and got rid of them."

Carver says what many people may not know is that the cruise ship industry doesn't even have to report crimes ranging from theft to a disappearance.

"You can get the crime report for any city in the country, by zip code, by name, but you can't get that for cruise ships," Mr. Carver told ABC-15.

To push for new laws and help victims of cruise ship crimes, Carver formed the organization - International Cruise Victims (ICV).  He has been working on this cause everyday for the past five years.

"We have hundreds of volunteers, with next to no money and as of this week we are now in 20 countries around the world," said Carver.  "It's one of those things as a father I couldn't walk away from, I still want answers and people need to know what's going on."

As a result of the ICV's efforts, a cruise law - called the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2009 - passed the House of Representatives last year.  The bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate this year.

"This would make it mandatory that they immediately advise the FBI," said Carver.  "They (travelers) don't realize when they get onto these ships they're going into a foreign country."

To learn more, read about the story of Merrian Carver on the ICV website. Please consider joining  the ICV and making a small donation to keep the grass root organization operating.

The ABC-15 video with Mr. Carver is below:

 

 

For additional information about Ken's fight to protect the cruising public, consider reading:

Family Wins Battle Against Cruise Ship Industry After Daughter's Disappearance

 

 

Credits:

Photograph of Mirrian Carver        Ken Carver  

Video        ABC-15 (KNXV) Phoenix, AZ  (Christopher Sign reporting)

Cruise Law Visits Stetson College of Law to Discuss Crime on Cruise Ships

Today we had the honor of being invited to speak to the maritime law society at Stetson University College of Law

Stetson Law Stetson has the oldest law school in Florida, founded in 1900.  Its campus is located on the beautiful Mediterranean style architecture campus in Gulfport, Florida.  

I discussed the topic "Crime on Cruise Ships," and explained the epidemic of cruise crimes on cruise ships over the past decade.   

Assisting me with the presentation was Caitlin Burke (bottom right), an intern at our firm.  Ms. Burke graduated from the University of Florida where she majored in Recreation, Parks and Sport Management.  Ms. Burke wrote a senior honor's thesis entitled a "Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships."  Caitlin was also a guest blogger last year when she authored Why Cruises are NOT the Best Vacations with Kids.

Stetson has a well established introductory maritime program and a well organized Maritime Law Society.  The event was well attended.  Assistant Professor Christine Cerniglia (bottom left) - who previously handled maritime litigation in New Orleans for several years - attended the power point presentation with her students.

In the past decade there have been hundreds of sexual assaults and unexplained disappearances of passengers and crew members from cruise ships.  The issue of the safety of passengers and crew has been highlighted by the International Cruise Victims organization and five Congressional Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker - Cruise Law - Crime on Cruise Shipshearings on cruise lines crimes in the past five years.

The students appeared interested in many of the issues we have discussed in prior articles on this blog:

The "disappearance" of Merrian Carver on the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.

The death of cruise passenger Dianne Brimble.

The battle for safe cruises fought by Ken Carver and the International Cruise Victims organization.

The issue of crimes against children on cruise ships.

The disappearance of crew member Angelo Faliva.

We received a nice email from Ceara Riggsthe President f Stetson's Maritime Law Society, while we were driving back to Miami: 

"Thank you very much for driving all the way from Miami to speak at our meeting this afternoon! You had many interesting stories to share and your experiences really seemed to engage and captivate everyone in attendance.

It was very insightful to hear that even though we’re only law students, we can start making a difference.

It was especially beneficial to hear from Caitlin, as well, because she could share her own experiences and how she tries to make a difference in this industry. Thank you again and we hope you will be able to visit our campus again in the future!"

Thank you Stetson Law for inviting us!  We will be back . . . 

 Stetson Assistant Professor Christine Cerniglia - Caitlin Burke      

Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty In Carnival Cruise Murder Case

Robert John McGill - muder - Carnival Cruise Ship ElationThe San Diego Union Tribune reports that federal prosecutors are considering seeking the death penalty against a passenger who is charged with beating his wife to death while on a Carnival cruise last summer.

The newspaper reports that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego charged Robert John McGill with first-degree murder and kidnapping of his wife, Shirley.

Mr. McGill is charged with beating his wife to death in their cabin aboard the Carnival cruise ship Elation on July 14, 2009. The newspaper reports that court records quote witnesses as saying Robert McGill appeared extremely intoxicated - not an uncommon occurrence on cruise ships.

Mr. McGill also reportedly admitted killing his wife to passengers, cruise ship line employees, and Robert John McGill - Carnival Elation - Cruise Ship Murder FBI agents who arrived on the cruise ship. 

The Los Angeles’ Daily News previously reported that “Defendant Robert McGill stated he killed his wife in the bathroom of their cabin with his bare hands,” according to a criminal complaint filed by a FBI special agent. 

An autopsy conducted by the San Diego County medical examiner concluded that Ms. McGill died of strangulation and blunt force injury to her head and body.

According to the Cruise Ship Forum, Carnival stated that notwithstanding the murder and the arrival of 20 FBI agents, the Elation’s scheduled departure would not be delayed.

Mr. McGill is shown to the right being escorted off the crew gangway by a FBI agent, as passengers are seen boarding the passenger gangway above to begin their cruise on schedule.  

Carnival's motto: Load em' off, load em' in.  Let the drinking begin . . .     

Carnival Elation Cruise Ship

 

Credits:

Robert John McGill with FBI      L.A. Times

Carnival Elation cruise ship      Cruise Ship Forum "FBI Involved in Carnival Elation Murder"

Royal Caribbean's "Debt of the Seas" - Ready to Sail - But Safety and Security Questions Remain Unanswered

TIME magazine's not-yet-published December 14th edition contains a story about Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas called "Floating Island."

I thought that the title of the article was rather weak.  "Floating Foreclosure" might be more accurate . . . 

The best line in the article - to cruise lines, every passenger is a potential ATM - accurately reflects the cruise line's necessity to try and suck every dime out of their customers to pay for Royal Caribbean's $1,500,000,000 heavily-financed-floating-city which might as well be called Debt of the Seas. There are many beautiful photographs of the cruise ship. 

But the Oasis looks frightening like an over-developed, largely empty, and soon-to-be-repossessed-condominium, the likes of which plague the Miami skyline.

The last time that TIME devoted a couple of pages to the cruise industry was back in March of 2006 when it discussed crime aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships in an article entitled "Crime Rocks the Boats."  That article is framed and hangs on my office wall, but not just because it mentions two of my clients.  TIME's insightful article by Julie Rawe was the first time a major periodical took a hard look at the cruise industry's nasty practice of covering up shipboard crimes. 

Janet Kelly - Jennifer Hagel - Royal Caribbean - Cruise CrimeBoth clients featured in the TIME article - Janet Kelly who was a victim of a violent shipboard crime and Jennifer Hagel who lost her husband under mysterious circumstances during a Royal Caribbean cruise - overcame their personal tragedies to help change the cruise industry.  Both ladies appeared before our U.S. Congress in 2006 and went on television to get the message out that changes needed to be made to protect American traveling on foreign flagged cruise ships, particularly Royal Caribbean's ships.     

So here we are almost four years later.  In the hysteria and hype surrounding the arrival of the Oasis of the Seas in South Florida, the media has lost all thought of the issue of passenger safety. The seemingly endless articles focus almost exclusively on the size, cost, and how-on-earth-are-we-going-to-pay-for what TIME calls a "sea monster" like the Oasis.     

Several weeks ago, I prepared "Seven Questions to Ask Royal Caribbean Executives Regarding Oasis of the Seas."  CEO Fain and President Goldstein were aboard the Oasis 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 and terrorists. 

So here are some of the questions again, and easy ones at that:

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 Royal Caribbean - Cruise Line - Executives - Richard Fain - Adam Goldsteincruise ships.  In light of these problems, how many security guards are employed on the Oasis of the Seas?

Q:  How many security guards are assigned to the seven "neighborhoods" on the cruise ship?  Are 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?

Q:  Saturday Night Live joked about the Oasis of the Seas being being bounty for pirates. Whereas the thought of a pirate attack in the Caribbean may be silly, a large cruise ship like this could be a target of a terrorist group.  Does the ship have a sufficient number of security personnel to not only protect the passengers from shipboard crime, but deter and fight off a terrorist attack?

The Oasis of the Seas will make its inaugural sailing tomorrow - Saturday, December 5, 2009.  Because Royal Caribbean won't answer any questions, ask yourself - 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.  

 

Credits

Janet Kelly and Jennifer Hagel     ABC News 

Royal Caribbean executives    Royal Caribbean via Cruise Critic

Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4

The House of Representatives passed the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act (HR 3360) today. This cruise bill was previously part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2009, but was voted on today as a 'stand alone" bill to speed up its enactment.  

Elijah Cummings - Cruise Safety LawCongress approved the bill by a resounding vote of 416 to 4.

A number of "All Star" Congressmen and Congresswomen spoke at the hearing today.  Here are the highlights of this historic event:

Cruise Ships - "Floating Pieces of Other Countries" - and the Need for  U.S. Laws to Protect Americans 

Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) explained the problem of a lack of accountability of the foreign flagged cruise ships which become "floating pieces of other countries" once the ships are outside of U.S. waters. He recognized the need for cruise lines to adopt reasonable safety measures to protect U.S. passengers.  Some of the measures are simple and a matter of common sense, such as the Doris Matsui - Cruise Crime Law requirement that all doors be fitted with peepholes so that passengers inside cabins can determine who is outside of their doors.  Congress was previously provided with testimony of passengers who opened their doors and were raped by crew members. 

Other safeguards include the requirements that cruise ships maintain supplies of anti-retroviral medications for rape victims (to prevent HIV / AIDS) and employ trained personnel to collect and preserve evidence following sexual assault.  Cruise lines are also required to report sexual assaults and other crimes to the F.B.I. and U.S. Coast Guard and maintain a link to this data base on the cruise lines' websites.  This last measure is important because cruise lines have a well deserved reputation for concealing cruise crimes from the public.  

A Cruise Victim's "Courage, Conviction & Dedication"           

Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), who introduced the crime bill, thanked her constituent (and our client) Laurie Dishman for her "courage, conviction, and dedication" after she was raped aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  Ms. Matsui explained that after the crime, the cruise line provided no assistance whatsoever to Ms. Dishman in securing the crime scene, or John Shedagg - Cruise Crime Lawidentifying the attacker, or in prosecuting the crime. The ship doctor gave Ms. Dishman a trash bag and told her to return to the crime scene and collect the evidence herself.  Congresswoman Matui characterized the need for the cruise crime bill as "urgent and necessary." 

Cruise Line "Outrageous Conduct and Callous Disregard" 

Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ) spoke of the "terrible story" of Merrian Carver who disappeared on a Celebrity cruise ship. Although this is any parent's worst nightmare, Celebrity's parent company Royal Caribbean tried to cover the disappearance up and then labeled it as a "suicide."  (We have commented on the cruise industry's nasty habit of claiming all "disappearances" are "suicides" in a prior blog "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea)  

Congressman Shadegg described Royal Caribbean's conduct of obstructing the efforts of Ms. Carver's parents to find out what happened to their daughter as "outrageous" and exhibiting "callous disregard."  He urged the adoption of the cruise law to protect other families who lose loved ones on the high seas.  A video of Mr. Shadegg is below.

"Disturbing & Startling" Large Number of Cruise Ship Crimes

Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) criticized the cruise industry for concealing the large number of shipboard rapes.  He mentioned a "disturbing and startling" article in the LA Times ("Cruise Industry's Dark Waters") which revealed  that in a period of only 32 months Royal Ted Poe - Cruise Crime LawCaribbean had over 250 incidents of where cruise victims were sexually assaulted, battered or sexually harassed. (Our firm handled the case where a Court in Miami ordered the cruise line to reveal this information under a threatened sanction of $1,000 a day).   

Congressman Poe discussed Ms. Dishman's case where Royal Caribbean did nothing to assist her but sent her a letter after the rape thanking her for her business and enclosing a discount coupon for a future cruise!  He recognized Ms. Dishman for exposing the "atrocities" on this cruise line's fleet of cruise ships.

Cruise Ship "Culture of Indifference" Toward Victims

Congressman James Oberstar, the Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also thanked Ms. Dishman who overcame her "terrible experience" with Royal Caribbean, found the "courage to testify" before Congress regarding her ordeal, and was "determined to see justice done."  He praised her for working to change "the culture aboard cruise ships of indifference" toward  crime James Oberstar - Cruise Crime Lawvictims.

On to the Senate!

The next step toward protecting the cruising public is a vote in the Senate.  

Great thanks for the tireless dedication of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") organization for supporting the introduction of this cruise safety bill!

Want to get involved in the ICV?  Contact the ICV's President Ken Carver kcarver17@cox.net

We have ordered the C-SPAN coverage of the hearing today and will be posting the ventire ideo in the next week.  Below is the video of Congressman Shadegg's comments regarding the daughter of one his constituients, Ken Carver:   

 

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.

 

Credits:

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

Why Cruises are NOT the Best Vacations with Kids

From time to time, Cruise Law News will have a guest blogger.  Caitlin Burke is our first guest author.  Ms. Burke is a recent graduate from the University of Florida.  She majored in Recreation, Parks and Sport Management.  Ms. Burke wrote a senior honor's thesis entitled a "Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships."  

She is working as a case manager for Walker & O'Neill as she prepares for law school.  We are lucky to have her at our firm.  Caitlin BurkeMs. Burke addresses the danger of parents leaving their kids in child care facilities on cruise ships:   

Don't Lose Touch With Your Kid On Cruise Ships   

A recent article, posted by a travel agent, entitled "Why Cruises are the Best Vacations with Kids," states several reasons why cruising with children is such a "great idea."

In theory, if all of the points were as fun-filled and squeaky clean as portrayed in the article, then yes, I would 100% agree that cruising with children is a great way to rid you and your better-half of all responsibility for your kids.  After all, this is a "family" vacation and you’ve earned it. What better way to spend it then drinking booze and frolicking in the sun while your kids are conveniently being monitored by untrained, overworked staff?

Parents - Don't Let Your Child Be A Cruise Crime Statistic  

This article upsets me not because I think family vacation should indeed involve the whole family. But because this "have fun while your children spend the day in the child activity center" leads parents to believe (thanks to great advertisements) that their child is indeed being monitored by qualified staff members.  After working at a small maritime law firm in Miami for only a couple months, I’ve already seen two cases involving minors who were sexually assaulted when they were supposedly being monitored at a teen activity center.

Let me restate this, 2 kids sexually assaulted in 2 months.

In my opinion, if this were to happen in a daycare or teen center anywhere in the U.S., it would be broadcasted nationally and investigated thoroughly.  Everyone would be asking how did this happen?  How did the adult get to the child?  Who was suppose to supervise the the child?  Was a background check conducted?

Caitlin BurkeYou better believe the media would be all over the story.  But because the assaults occurred on a foreign cruise ship in international waters (not to mention an effective effort on behalf of the cruise line to keep the mater hushed up), the stories hardly get covered and few questions are asked.

Cruise lines are notorious for failing to conduct thorough background checks on employees.  They are notorious for promoting the teen centers and advertising "just how safe they are."  And they’re notorious for covering up sexual assaults and rapes on their cruise ships.

Responsible Parents Ask Questions Regarding Responsibility

So before you kick back, grab a cocktail, and float away into oblivion, take a moment and ask yourself a few questions:

1.  Are the cruise line counselors who you are entrusting your kids to really qualified? Consider asking them - how long have they worked on the cruise ship, and what makes them qualified?

2.  Will your children actually be supervised? Will they stay in the activities center?  If they leave the center, will they be supervised?  How many supervisors are there?  Can the kids run wild on the ship? 

3.  Can your child use a walkie-talkie and be reached at all times?

4.  Are older teenagers permitted to mingle with the 13 and 14 year olds?  Are adults permitted into the centers?

5.  Has any child been molested or sexually assaulted on the cruise ship?

Keep your guard up.  Don't let a cruise vacation of a lifetime turn into a nightmare. 

 

Are you are interested in this issue?  Then consider reading Jim 's blog entitled: Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships.

Would you like to be a guest blogger regarding issues of cruise safety?  The rights of passengers and crew members?  The protection of the environment from cruise pollution?  Then email me at caitlin@cruiselaw.com and be our next guest blogger . . .    

Cruise Ship Passenger Sentenced in Child Porn Case

The Virginia Pilot newspaper reports that a passenger was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for downloading child pornography. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested passenger Timothy David Webb, 32, after he disembarked Royal Caribbean's cruise ship Cruise passenger sex offenderGrandeur of the Seas at the Norfolk cruise ship terminal.  Webb is a convicted sex offender and has a conviction in 2000 for sodomy in the state of Virginia.

The customs agents pulled Webb from a line of passengers disembarking the cruise ship and  searched his laptop, which contained child pornography videos.

Caught By U.S. Federal Agents - Not By the Cruise Line  

I have written about the problem of crew members, as well as passengers, with child porno on cruise ships.  They are usually caught, not by the cruise line, but when custom agents view their laptops or iPhones and discover the pornographic images. 

In an articles entitled "Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships" and "Another Crew Member Arrested for Child Pornography," I discussed crew members from Carnival and NCL cruise ships recently being arrested in Canada for pornography on their laptops and computers.

The web site "Cruise Ship Sex Offenders" lists some of the sex offenders who have worked or sailed on cruise ships. 

Miami Herald: Asleep at the Wheel Regarding the Cruise Industry

On Friday, the United States House of Representatives passed landmark legislation requiring cruise ships to promptly report crimes at sea to the United States Coast Guard and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.  Newspapers throughout the United States covered the historic legislation which finally brought some long overdue accountability to the cruise industry.  And, as usual, the Miami Herald didn't cover the story.

Plenty of Stories - No Coverage from the Miami Herald

There have been a remarkable number of high profile stories involving cruise passengers over the course of the past five years.  Shipboard crimes, ship fires, and missing passengers.  These events are covered routinely by the L.A. Times, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and other national newspapers. 

Miami Herald - Cruise CrimeBut the Miami Herald has remained oddly silent over the past many years. One reason is that the Miami Herald is best known for its puff pieces and color photographs in its Sunday travel (i.e., cruise) section.  The Miami Herald's Executive Business Editor, Jane Wooldridge, was the newspaper's former Travel Editor for the past ten years.   

The Herald's "Cruises" page resembles more of a "food and wine" or "lifestyle" section than actual news.  You can still reach Ms. Wooldridge at "Travels with Jane."  You can follow her on Twitter @JaneWooldridge, where her profile includes a reference to being a "travel addict." 

The Miami Herald - A "Cruise Travel Section" Masquerading As A "Business Section"

Does the Herald contain some interesting travel articles and happy cruise stories?  No doubt.  But undercover investigation, probing journalism, or insight into hard issues like sexual assault, cover ups of shipboard crimes, and cruise ship dumping?  No way. 

The Miami Herald depends heavily on the cruise line advertising to keep it afloat.

Look for Insightful News Regarding the "Cruise Capital of the World" from Reporters in Iowa 

So we are left with newspapers outside of Florida to cover the uncomfortable issues involving the hundreds of foreign flagged cruise ships based in Miami.  No reporter in Miami - the "Cruise Capital of the World" - will touch the stories. On Friday, newspapers like the Greenwich Post, Connecticut Post, and even the Daily Reporter from Spencer Iowa covered the new cruise crime bill. I posted articles mentioning the victims who have been responsible for pushing for this legislation over the past five years in articles "Congress Passes Cruse Crime Law" and  Cruise Safety Bill Heartens Greenwich Victim's Family.

The closest story to Miami came from the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel newspaper, in an article entitled "Legislation to Keep Cruise Passengers and Crew Safe Passes U.S. House."  The article mentioned the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), but neglected to explain that CLIA spent millions fighting the legislation over the years and threw in the towel when it appeared the legislation would pass.  The article didn't mention the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") association or any of the many cruise crime victims whose efforts led to the safety legislation. 

 

Photo credit    Daquella Manera Flickr Photostream  

Sexual Assault of Children on Cruise Ships - A Problem the Cruise Community Wants to Forget

Two stories hit the internet this weekend regarding children being raped on cruise ships.

12 year Old Raped On Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

The first article involves allegations that an adult passenger drugged and raped a 12 year old girl cruise ship rape - childrenwho was sailing on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas.  The complaint alleges that the adult met the child at a "teens-only" event sponsored by the cruise line. The information is contained in a Miami maritime lawyer's blog:

"Royal Caribbean Cruise Line advertises and markets that it has programs and caters to pre-teens and teens. In fact, the cruise line advertises on its website that it provides as 'adventure ocean youth facilities including teen only areas” and advertises and represents that 'our 12-14 and 15-17' teen groups give them the freedom to come and go as they please for sports, themed parties, movie nights, and more. Teens can also meet up and chill-out in the laid back Living Room lounge, or cut loose at Fuel, the teen only night club.

Royal Caribbean also markets, advertises and represents that 'parents don’t have to worry about you hanging out there, because every member of our team staff holds a college degree and education, recreation or a related field and has experience working with youth ages 3-17.' Their advertisement also states that this program is 'available on all ships.'

However, on this particular cruise, despite its representations, Royal Caribbean allowed an adult man to attend a teen-only event. In turn, the adult man then seduced our client, a minor child, 12 years-of-age at the time of this incident, drugged her, and raped her."

cruise sexual assaultThese type of cases are troubling because the public does not realize that there is a problem with sexual predators on cruises (both crew and passengers).  To make matters worse, the cruise lines tell the parents not to worry about their kids because the cruise line will keep them safe which is not true.  

We have handled and are currently handling cases where children from age 3 to 17 have been raped or molested after being entrusted to the cruise lines' "kid activity centers" or "teen camps."  Some of the parents of the victimized children were cruise fanatics before their lives were forever changed by the crime committed against their children.  

Juvenile Sexually Assaulted on P & O Cruises' Pacific Sun

The second  story involves the alleged sexual assault of a juvenile on P & O Cruises' Pacific Sun. The article is entitled "Sex Claims Clouds Cruise." Cruise Law News was the first to report the incident in the U.S. in an article dated October 10, 2009. I also tweeted about the incident on Twitter. 

Then silence.

Cruise Community's Indifference to Shipboard Crimes Involving Children?

cruise sexual assaultNo U.S. newspaper covered the stories.  No one in the world of Twitter re-tweeted the stories.  The cruise line did not even bother to issue a press statement about the sexual assault of a minor on the P & O cruise. No calm and reassuring statement via YouTube by cruise line CEO Ann Sherry, who I have praised in the past.  

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), whose Twitter name is humorously @CruiseFacts didn't even bother to  issue its usual crime-is-rare denials. Not a single one of the 16,000 travel agents, who are an integral part of CLIA, took a moment to inquire into the stories. 

What's more disturbing is that no one in the cruise community bothered to address these disturbing stories.  The editors of the popular CruiseMates or CruiseCritic online cruise communities couldn't find space on their blogs to mention the assault of a minor during a cruise. There are hundreds of cruise fanatics who tweet and post comments incessantly about the most trivial of cruise "issues."

But not a single mention of a minor being raped during a cruise.  

Frivolous Thoughts From a Frivolous Industry?

Instead, the cruise fanatics were obsessed with the "issue" of an Italian couple filing suit because the cruise line did not tell them that they booked a gay cruise.  Like, who cares?  Well the cruise community does.  They were so fired up about the two homophobic cruisers that USA Today's cruise community blog @CruiseLog recorded, as of the writing of this blog, 757 comments on the story.  @CruiseLog's story about some nuts suing over a gay cruise was the fifth most read story at USA Today, ahead of the story about President on Obama trip to New Orleans! 

But not a single mention of a child raped during a cruise

children - rape on cruise ships The cruise fans who blog and twitter undoubtedly use the same search words in their Goggle readers as I do or have similar RSS feeds.  They obviously see the same stories popping up about sexual assault of children on cruise ships, or the robbery of eleven cruise passengers last Sunday at a tourist attraction in the middle of Nassau, as I did. 

But they choose to ignore these type of unpleasant stories.  Is it because they sold out to the cruise lines who pay money for banners and ads on their web sites?  Or they don't want to disrupt their give-us-a-free-cruise-and-we-will-write-a nice-review arrangement? Or because they simply don't want to offend their friends in the cruise industry who invite them to the behind-the-scene parties and events?   

Which Cruise Line has the Best Steakhouse???

So we have cruise cheerleaders like @CruiseMates, @CruiseCritic and the @CruiseWhatevers  tweeting and blogging incessantly about breaking "stories," like just how big the Oasis of the Seas is!!!  Wow!!! 

I realize that those cruise fans reading this blog have more important issues to consider. Check out the debate on USA Today's cruise blog now: Which cruise line has the best steakhouse? We're debating the topic today!!  48 comments and counting!

Now that's something to blog about!

Lawyers USA Article Regarding Cruise Ship Litigation Features Firm, Clients & Friends

Lawyers USA (@LawyersUSA) just published an interesting article entitled  "Federal Cruise Ship Bill Pending in Congress but Plaintiff's Lawyers Say Measure doesn't Hold Water."  Written by Sylvia Hsieh, the article discusses what's new in the specialized field of cruise ship litigation. 

The article features our firm and our clients and friends.  

Cruise Crime

The article first mentions the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009 which will require peep holes on passenger doors, technology for overboard passengers, mandatory reporting of shipboard crimes, and training for crime scene preservation in light of the large number of shipboard rapes on cruise ships. 

Firm client Laurie Dishman, friend Ken Carver, and the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") organization are credited for spearheading the legislation.  Ms. Dishman and Mr. Carver were victimized by cruise line giant Royal Caribbean in separate cruise incidents. Ms. Dishman was a victim of sexual assault on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship in 2006.  Mr. Carver's daughter Merrian disappeared in 2004 during a cruise aboard the Mercury, operated by Royal Caribbean's subsidiary Celebrity Cruises.

In both cases, the cruise line tried to cover the incidents up and treated Ms. Dishman and Mr. Carver dreadfully.  In response, Mr. Carver created the ICV which advocates safety for passengers on cruise ships.  Ms. Dishman is on the ICV's Board of Directors. 

The cruise safety bill should be voted on by the House of Representatives as early as next week. 

The article points out that the proposed legislation falls short in a number of areas.  The bill originally included an amendment to the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), which currently deprives damages to family members of passengers or crew members who die in international waters.  I have written about DOHSA in a previous blog entitled "The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years." 

The cruise industry's trade organization Cruise Line International Association (@CruiseFacts) killed the amendment after spending millions of its tax-free-money to lobby Congress. The article refers to CLIA lawyer Michael Crye, who admits the cruise industry opposes amending DOHSA "but he could not provide a reason for the opposition."

This is typical of CLIA's lack of candor.  The cruise industry opposes amending DOHSA because families will finally be fairly compensated when a loved one is killed on a cruise.  Cruise lines simply wish to avoid paying the compensation.

The article quotes Los Angeles attorney Michael Ehline, a good friend of the firm, that foreign flagged cruise ships consider themselves to be countries unto themselves.

"Arbitration" of Crew Member Cases

A hot topic in the world of cruise law is arbitration of claims involving injured crew members, who comprise over 98% of the cruise industry shipboard work force. All cruise lines are now forcing crew members to pursue their claims in arbitration, where the crew members lose the right to a jury trial. Some cruise lines are requiring the arbitration to take place in either the country of the flag of the cruise ship or the crew member's home country.   

This is pretty much a joke, and some cruise line defense lawyers agree privately.  This is why the article states that "attorneys for Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines did not return calls seeking comment for this article."  

The Court of Appeal for the 11th Circuit recently held that, in certain circumstances, cruise lines may compel the crew member to arbitration outside of the U.S.  However, they cannot take away all of the crew member's rights by trying to apply foreign law.

Injuries and Death of Cruise Passengers During Cruise Sponsored Excursions 

The article also addresses injuries to passengers during excursions.  The law requires cruise lines to exercise reasonable care in selecting shore excursions for its passengers.  Cruise lines are required to properly investigate whether the excursion companies have a good safety record and operate the excursions responsibly.

We have handed a wide variety of "excursion cases," including cases where passengers have been sexually assaulted ashore and even during snorkeling and diving excursions.

CLIA's lawyer Mr. Crye is quoted as gleefully saying that it is  a “difficult stretch to attempt to hold a cruise line liable for activity that occurs on an excursion operated by a different company in a foreign country.” However, cruise ships collect hundreds of millions of dollars promoting cruise excursions.  Cruise lines face accountability when dangerous excursions kill or seriously injure passengers.

The article also refers to cruise line lawyer Darren Friedman, a partner with Miami's Maltzman Foreman law firm, which represents numerous cruise lines. His firm defended Royal Caribbean in the high profile cases involving Ms. Dishman and Mr. Carver.

Whenever we see Mr. Friedman or his firm involved in a case, the cruise line is usually guilty as hell. 

Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships

A Canadian newspaper reports that a crew member from Indonesia will soon find out whether he will serve additional jail time for possession of child pornography. Crew member Hendri Dharmawan, age 29, was working as a pastry chef on the Carnival Triumph when he was arrested September 1 in Halifax.  He has been in a Nova Scotia jail for the past five weeks after pleadings guilty to the child porn charges.

The crew member was caught with pornography on his iPhone as he returned to the Carnival cruise ship.  The border police then accompanied him back to his cabin where they discovered over two hours of child pornography on Dharmawan's laptop and external hard drive. The footage depicted girls as young as eight and boys as young as 10 being abused.

This type of story should serve as a wake up to parents who take their children on cruises.  Yes, there are sexual deviants and predators on cruise ships. We have had too many cases where unsuspecting parents leave their kids in the cabin when they go to the casino, or stay late at the disco. While the parents are gone, a cabin attendant enters the cabin with his pass key. Let's skip the details. Trust me, leaving a 12 year old boy or his 14 year old sister alone in a cabin is a bad idea.

Cruise lines suggest that the crew members are carefully screened before they are hired.  Nonsense.  First of all, the cruise line themselves do not perform background checks at all. They rely on the hiring agents around the world to perform all of the "screening."  But what type of background check can be performed in countries like Nicaragua, Trinidad, or India?  These places do not have computerized databases for drivers licenses or social security numbers much less a database for criminals or a tracking system for sexual predators.  Many of the hiring agencies who are suppose to be conducting background checks are paid commissions when they place employees on cruise ships.  There is a disincentive to keep the bad apples off of the cruise ships.  

If a crew member molests your child on the cruise ship, don't expect the cruise line to believe your child.  Cruise lines have a notorious and well earned reputation of covering up crimes.  Their priority too often is defending the crew members and their own marketing image. 

There is also the danger of other passengers abusing your children.  A cruise ship presents the same dangers as your home town.  You can read about the problem of  sexual assault of teenagers and child abuse during cruises here.