Yesterday Royal Caribbean and a couple of other cruise lines "voluntarily" posted a limited amount of data on their websites regarding cruise crimes and disappearances of people from cruise ships.
Of course there was nothing remotely "voluntary" about the cruise lines' conduct.
Last week Senator Rockefeller convened a hearing where he introduced legislation intended to compel, under penalty of law, all of the CLIA cruise lines to divulge incidents of disappearances from cruise ships and theft, homicide and sexual assault on ships. On the day of the hearing, the president of Royal Caribbean, Adam Goldstein, announced that his cruise line, as well as Carnival and NCL, would agree to post crime data without the necessity of legislation. Cruise executive Goldstein said that his cruise line would begin posting the crime and man overboard information on August 1st.
The cruise lines have been resisting and dodging disclosing truthful crime statistics over the course of the last 7 Congressional hearings I have attended. Cruise CEO Goldstein's new promises of transparency were made for PR purposes to try and stave off the tough legislation introduced by Senator Rockefeller.
Senator Rockefeller is skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted to self-report accurate crime statistics. The Associated Press quoted Senator Rockefeller stating: “If we’re really going to make a difference for consumers, I believe it’s going to take legislative action to make sure this industry is required to give customers the information they need and deserve when they’re making a decision about taking a cruise."
The CEO of the International Cruise Victims organization, Ken Carver, is also skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted, The AP quoted Mr. Carver's belief that crimes reported by cruise lines are vastly lower than reality, because the initial investigations are handled by cruise line security personnel rather than law enforcement officials.
The skepticism by Senator Rockefeller and cruise victim advocate Carver is well founded. There is a well documented history of the cruise lines providing incomplete and misleading crime data to Congress and the American people. In some instances the information released by the major cruise lines is patently false.
In January 2007, the LA Times published an article looking into the problem of crime on cruise ships, entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters." The article points out that Congressman Shays previously called for Congressional hearings where he requested crime statistics from the cruise industry. The cruise lines resisted the legislation arguing that it can be trusted to provide honest information. At several points in the hearings, when cruise line representatives extolled their safety statistics, Congressman Shays seemed skeptical. "I do not think we have all of the statistics," he told representatives of major cruise lines.
Royal Caribbean informed Congressman Shays that 66 sexual assaults occurred over a three year period on its cruise ships. However, in a case we handled against Royal Caribbean involving 12-year-old twins who alleged that a crew member molested them, the cruise line was forced to hand over the internal records requested by our firm after a judge threatened to fine it $1,000 a day if it failed to comply.
The Royal Caribbean data revealed not just 66 incidents, but 273 reports from passengers who said they were victims of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period. The LA Times quoted me saying that Royal Caribbean "redefined things and in the process, magically, poof, what used to be a crime no longer existed. Then they served up these numbers and thought they could get away with it."
So with this history in mind, let's take a look at what Royal Caribbean just posted yesterday as part of its "voluntary" disclosure on its website.
It disclosed just three persons overboard for the time period beginning October 2010 through the end of June 2013. There is no information regarding these incidents on the cruise line's skimpy website chart. There is no way a consumer can understand what happened. One of the three incidents involved a young woman who went overboard in September 2012. You can read about in detail on our website here, here and here.
What's even more troubling is that Royal Caribbean did not reveal that 8 other people went overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships and the ships operated by its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises for the time period in question. Consider the following man overboard incidents which occurred in the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity fleet:
January 2011 - Passenger disappeared from the Liberty of the Seas
March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Grandeur of the Seas.
March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Constellation.
May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Eclipse.
May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Millennium (see cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's database)
December 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Summit.
January 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Monarch of the Seas.
February 2012 - Passenger disappeared from the Allure of the Seas.
September 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.
October 2012 - Another crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean's website indicates that the cruise line intends to reveal only those overboard situations involving U.S. citizens. But there is no reason to hide man overboard incidents involving passengers of other nationalities and crew members. Disney Cruise Line, for example, discloses overboard cases involving non-U.S. citizens.
The truth is that at least 11 people went overboard for the time period in question. But Royal Caribbean disclosed only 3 incidents. That's only around 27% of the true number. If a cruise ship is a floating city, why exclude all of the crew members and non-U.S. citizens who are members of the city? Royal Caribbean includes crew members and non-U.S. passengers as part of its population in determining crime ratios, but then excludes crew members and non U.S. citizens when they are victims. That manipulation of the data distorts the true crime ratios.
The only explanation for doing this is that the cruise line wants to present an image that is markedly different from the truth.
Royal Caribbean's "voluntary" disclosure reveals exactly why the cruise industry cannot be trusted. Senator Rockefeller, like Congressman Shays long ago, has every reason not to believe the cruise lines' "voluntary" statistics.
The American people and citizens of countries around the world deserve to know the truth about crime and overboard cruise passengers and crew members. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean like to keep the public in the dark.
A well drafted law with stiff penalties is the only way to shed light on what really happens on cruise ships far out at sea.