Crew Member Overboard From Celebrity Cruises' Constellation Cruise Ship

Numerous news sources are reporting that a Celebrity Cruises' crew member went overboard from a cruise ship sailing off of the coast of Mexico.

Crew member Inyoman Bagiada, age 45, reportedly disappeared from the Celebrity Constellation at around 2:30 AM today, according to a press release by the U.S. Coast Guard. He was employed on the cruise ship as a cook.

The Constellation was returning from Cozumel, Mexico, to Port Everglades, Florida, after a five-day cruise. The incident reportedly occurred between Mexico and Cuba.

Celebrity Constellation Man OverboardThis is the sixth cruise ship disappearance in the last 5 weeks.

Royal Caribbean and sister company Celebrity have recently lost 4 people overboard. In addition to this latest overboard, people went overboard from the Rhapsody of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Independence of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise lines which is in violation of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) which requires the installation of automatic man overboard systems. Four years ago Congress passed the CVSSA nto law, over the cruise industry's objections, most cruise lines have not installed the required systems.

What typically occurs is that a person goes overboard without anyone seeing the passenger or crew member.  The cruise ship then sails on, often for many hours. Eventually the person's absence is noticed, but the ship is many miles away. At that point the cruise ship will notify the Coast Guard, which must then search vast areas of the ocean at the cost to U.S taxpayers of $1,000,000.

The Coast Guard sent a HC-130 Hercules aircraft Clearwater, Florida and the Charles David Jr., a 154-foot cutter from Key West. 

A man overboard system would result in an immediate notification of the person going overboard and a rapid search and rescue. Sending Coast Guard airplanes and vessels from long distances away could be avoided with the man overboard systems. Lives could be saved which are now being lost.

Royal Caribbean experienced 8 crew members going overboard from its fleet of ships in less than 2 years between January 2011 and October 2012. You can read about those cases here.

It's my belief that unless the cruise lines face steep fines, or are responsible for paying for the Coast Guard's search, they will continue to flaunt the law.  

January 30 2014 Update: The Daily Mail reports that "according to the Coast Guard, the cruise did not report Bagiada missing until eight hours after he fell overboard." 

 

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

Photo Credit of Celebrity Constellation - Wikipedia / Megadri   

Person Overboard From Holland America Line's Veendam?

HAL VeendamThis weekend we received inquiries from passengers who had been on the Holland America Line Veendam cruise ship about a passenger who apparently went overboard. Passengers indicated that the incident apparently occurred off the coast of Mexico on January 3, 2014 as the ship sailed back to San Diego. 

Here are two of the comments:

"Was on the MS Veendam (Holland America) 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise and a woman mysteriously fell or jumped off the top deck the early afternoon of day 6 (last Friday, Jan 3) off coast of Mexico (coming back to San Diego). She had to be dead (body floating face down in water), as we were sent to cabin for an hour. But no news was shared or online. Crew was working on top rail, which someone (the crew?) had disassembled even before the FBI showed up Sat morning to inspect before disembarkation. Do you have any info on this?  Strange that there hasn't been any news. Rumors were suicide, but I'm really wondering."

"On MS Veendam (HAL) (Jan. 3, 2014) when we had a man overboard called. We were ordered to our cabins but never offered an expiation as what happened. Only rumors that it was murder, suicide or accident . . . How can we find out the truth?"

Anyone with information please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Update: Why is there no information about this overboard on the internet

Photo Credit: Holland America Line via L.A. Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Mazatlan - AOL / Gadling

Passenger From Carnival Elation Drowns in Cozumel

A newspaper in Jacksonville reports that a local resident sailing on a Carnival cruise died earlier this week during a stop in Cozumel Mexico.   Andrew Wooten, age 50, was reportedly swept away by an undercurrent and drowned. 

Mr. Wooten was the president of Safety Awareness Firearms Education, a firm that conducts training. He was providing continuing education courses on the cruise. 

According to the newspaper, Wooten apparently drowned during an  excursion after sailing to Mexico on the Carnival Elation cruise ship. 

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

Royal Caribbean Cruise Passengers Killed During Dune Buggy Excursion in Mexico

A number of newspapers including the Orlando Sentinel are reporting on the death of a young couple who cruised to Cozumel and died during a dune buggy accident last Saturday.  

Jim Melillo and Susan Borges sailed from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas and signed up for a dune buggy excursion with a number of their friends. They were killed when the dune buggy in which they were riding (driven by another cruise passenger) apparently lost control and struck a metal guardrail. 

The Orlando Sentinel quotes the group members commenting that the dune buggies had poor safety conditions and many of the buggies did not even have seat belts. A Mexican newspaper identifies the dune buggy rental company as "Paraíso" car rental. The dune buggy excursion was not sold through the cruise line.

Even if the excursion were sponsored by Royal Caribbean, there is case law indicating that the cruise line may not be liable in a case like this. In John Morrell & Co. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 534 F. Supp. 2d 1345, 2008 AMC 936 (S.D. Fla. 2008), a company paid for twelve of its employees to go on a cruise on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. When the ship was in Cozumel, Mexico, several employees went on a dune buggy expedition that Royal Caribbean made available, but was owned and operated by a Cozumel company. A dune buggy was involved in an accident which caused it to swerve and flip, causing serious injuries to one of the employees resulting in $170,000 in medical benefits and disability benefits.

The court found that Royal Caribbean was not liable for the accident. The cruise ship did not supervise the operation and had no duty to warn passengers of possible dangers in such a trip, as the dangers are obvious the court held. 

 

The couples's family and friends set up a facebook tribute page and a website, Jim and Susan Fund, where you can donate in their memory.  

Royal Caribbean Smears Crime Victim & Gets Cozumel Rape Lawsuit Thrown Out Before Trial

A trial scheduled this month involving a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger who alleges she was gang-raped while ashore in Cozumel was averted when the federal court judge granted a motion filed by the cruise line to end the case.

The order granting Royal Caribbean's motion was posted on line by Leagle yesterday and can be read here

The case involved a young woman from Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas who was shopping in an area recommended by the cruise line. Royal Caribbean derives many millions of dollars in income when cruise passengers shop Oasis of the Seas - Cozumel Mexicoat the cruise-line-recommended stores.   

The passenger left the ship and went to a shopping areas which Royal Caribbean recommends. After walking a few blocks down the main strip to a store called "Viva Mexico," the passenger turned around and subsequently encountered a man selling jewelry from a cart. The cruise line literature does not mention shopping cart vendors.  

The man with the jewelry cart told her that he had other jewelry in his store and led her to a store not identified on the cruise line map but under the same roof of other cruise-advertised stores. The man then pushed her down a hallway and into a restroom where he forced her to perform oral sex on him. Four additional Mexican men then raped her orally and vaginally.

The victim hired lawyers here in Miami who sued Royal Caribbean for failing to warn her of the danger of sexual assault in Cozumel and recommending a shopping area where she was raped.

Royal Caribbean moved to end the case arguing that it had no duty to warn of dangers ashore off of the cruise ship - an argument the court quickly rejected.

The cruise line then argued that it had taken millions of passengers to the port of Cozumel but it was unaware of instances of sexual assault or violent crime specifically involving Royal Caribbean passengers or crew members in the shopping area depicted on the map or in Cozumel.

The court held that the case could not proceed without such evidence.  The ruling is rather strange because there was no showing by the cruise line that it was unaware of rapes and violence against women other than passengers and crew in the shopping area and in Cozumel in general. When the victim's lawyer served subpoenas on the other major cruise lines (Carnival, NCL, etc.) to obtain evidence of how many other cruise line passengers and crew were crimes victims in Cozumel, all of the cruise lines objected.     

The court also essentially ignored affidavits submitted by the victim's lawyers that there were other violent assaults in the area and crew members are aware of the dangers ashore in Cozumel and tell their supervisors, but the cruise line keeps the passengers in the dark.

The court also gave little weight to evidence submitted that to monitor security risks in places to which Royal Caribbean directs its passengers to in Cozumel, Royal Caribbean relies on United States State Department travel warnings, reports from its passengers and crew, the local police, and its port agent.

Just last week in a case involving a Royal Caribbean passenger who alleges she was raped at Senor Frog's in Cozumel, the local press reported that there were 7 cases of rape in the preceding six months.  If Royal Caribbean claims that it didn't know of rapes in Cozumel, the cruise line is not doing a good job of staying informed of the crime in this Mexican port where it takes its guests and encourages them to shop ashore.

In addition, two travel warnings issued by the State Department were in existence at the time of the gang rape, which refer to Cozumel, rape, and sexual assault as a "serious problem" in resort areas. 

The disturbing thing about the case is that Royal Caribbean went to great lengths to argue that before the rape, the young woman allegedly attempted to purchase "illegal drugs" while she was ashore shopping.  Legally, it is irrelevant to the cruise line's duty to warn whether the passenger was previously trying to buy pot or some other "drug." No woman deserves to be raped - regardless of whether they are looking to smoke reefer, drink a pitcher of margaritas, or buy some over-priced jewelry in Cozumel.

Unfortunately this is one of the tactics cruise lines use to destroy the credibility of women raped on cruise ships and in ports of call.    

This is a case certain to go on appeal, and may be reversed by the appellate court. 

 

Photo credit:  Fotki / Mark Chatfield

Royal Caribbean Passenger Reports Rape at Senor Frog's in Cozumel

A newspaper in Mexico and cruise expert Professor Ross Klein report that a young woman from Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas cruise ship was apparently drugged and sexually assaulted by employees of Senor Frog's in Cozumel, Mexico last Friday, August 10, 2012.

The article states that the woman (reportedly around 19-20 years of age) was cruising on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship which called on Cozumel. Her family went on a tour and ended up at Senor Frog's which is a popular bar frequented by cruise passengers and other tourists. The newspaper explains that the young woman and other family members drank and she danced with one of the employees who worked Senor Frogs Cozumelwith several other men as disc jockeys (DJ's).  

The young woman ended up being invited into the DJ's "cabin," an enclosed area of the restaurant from where music is played. The DJ's gave her a drink and she thereafter lost track of things but just remembers vague images of the four men attacking her and trying to fight them off. 

The circumstances were particularly brutal with reports that other employees went into the booth to watch, and some men were beating the victim.  

She was taken back to the cruise ship and experienced pain and burning in her genital area and had bruises on her body.  Her family decided to leave the cruise and stay on the island to report the incident to the Mexican police. 

Another newspaper reports that the four Senor Frog employees were taken to a local magistrate who promptly released them. We are not referring to this newspaper because it mentions the victim's name. The newspaper also indicates that police records indicate that from January to June 2012 there were seven complaints of rape.  It is less than clear whether the article refers to the bar or Cozumel.  Women raped in Mexico rarely obtain justice.

This is not the first report of rape of a cruise passenger in Cozumel or the first rape of a Royal Caribbean passenger who went to a Senor Frog's during a cruise.

In June, we mentioned a lawsuit filed against Royal Caribbean arising out of a gang rape of a young woman in Cozumel from the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas.  The cruise line provided the passenger with a map of the shopping locations recommended by Royal Caribbean. A gang of men brutally raped the young woman while she visited one of the recommended stores.

Royal Caribbean does not warn cruise passengers of the danger of being sexually assaulted or violently attacked in Cozumel.  Cozumel is one of the few ports capable of accommodating the Genesis project ships like the Allure and the Oasis and it is my opinion that the cruise line doesn't want to scare anyone off from traveling to this Mexican port.

Last year a young woman from Poland, working aboard the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas, was murdered while ashore in Cozumel.  

Royal Caribbean knows that bars ashore in ports of call present dangers of date rape drugs and sexual assault. 

Last year a Royal Caribbean passenger was raped and severely beaten after drinking at a Senor Frog's in Nassau.

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas Cruise Ship - Sexual AssaultCruise lines have an obligation to warn of dangers ashore in the ports of call that they sail to and where there guests are reasonably likely to frequent such as local bars near the cruise ships.  

Royal Caribbean in particular, acknowledges that it has a duty to inform cruise passengers of dangers like this. The cruise industry publication 'World Cruise Industry Review" interviewed the head of "Global Security" at Royal Caribbean, Gary Bald, about the cruise line's obligation to warn cruise passengers of dangers in ports of call.  In an article entitled "Safe Harbor," Mr. Bald stated that as far as looking for dangers to passengers in ports of call, "I’m locked in and tuned in around the clock, 24/7.”   

The article states that "Bald is happy to share security information with both the crew and the passengers. “All guests are my responsibility,” he says, “and I don’t want some more prepared than others.” 

It will be interesting to see whether Mr. Bald and his cruise line warned this latest victim and her family about the prior rapes and attacks in Cozumel and other Royal Caribbean ports of call.  

 

Photo credit: Top: Senor Frog's - Julián Miranda/SIPSE; bottom - Wikipedia / Andres Manuel Rodriguez

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Gang Rape in Cozumel

Cozumel - Cruise Ship CrimeCrimes against women in ports of call is a topic which I write about on a regular basis on Cruise Law News. Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn about the danger of crimes in the ports of call that they sail to on a regular basis.  Cruise lines sell an idyllic image of a care-free tropical vacation, but in reality they know or should know that there are dangers ashore waiting for their passengers.

One country I write about all too often is Mexico.  Drug related crime is increasingly creeping into the port cities. Gang violence will increasingly pose a threat to cruise passengers traveling to Mexico unless things turn around quickly in the future.

But a real threat to female passengers sailing to Mexican ports is violence, including sexual assault, against teenagers and young women.

A case pending in our court system should serve as a wake up call to cruise lines sailing to Mexican ports.  After Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas sailed into Cozumel, a young woman went ashore into the port to shop.  The lawsuit alleges that the cruise line provided her with a map of the shopping locations recommended by Royal Caribbean.  A gang of men brutally raped the young woman while she visited one of the recommended stores.  The lawsuit further alleges that it is believed that the men who raped the cruise passenger worked in the subject shopping area.

Like most crimes against cruise passengers in ports of call, there have been no arrests.  Ostensibly the alleged rapists may still be working in and / or around the shopping area in question.

Does Royal Caribbean warn cruise passengers of this danger?  No.  Cozumel is one of the few ports capable of accommodating the Genesis class cruise ships like the Allure and the Oasis.  No way will Royal Caribbean risk scaring its customers away from Cozumel when it has to sell 11,000 tickets for these two monster ships.

In fact, the cruise line touts Cozumel as one of the safer ports in the world.

Five months after the gang rape of the Royal Caribbean cruise passenger from the Oasis, a Royal Cozumel - Cruise Chip CrimeCaribbean crewmember from the Allure of the Seas was found murdered and floating in the water off of Cozumel.  The cruise line did not alert her or any other crewmembers or passengers of the earlier crime.  Indeed, after the murder Royal Caribbean issued a press release characterizing the crime as "isolated and uncharacteristic for Cozumel."   

It seems that Royal Caribbean forgot about the gang rape a few months earlier? 

The murder, like the rape, remains unsolved.

I have never heard of anyone in Mexico being tried or convicted of a crime against a tourist or a ship employee going ashore. There are several web sites discussing the reluctance of Mexican police to get involved in investigations in cases like this, such as Mexican Vacation Awareness which chronicles crimes and violence against tourists in Mexico.  Some of the local police in Mexico have even been accused of participating in crimes against tourists.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean conceal these dangers from their cruise guests.  It appears that even the stores on the cruise line's recommended shopping list may not be safe to visit.

 

Photo credit: AP Photo/Angel Castellanos

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

"10 Murdered in Mexican Pacific Resort City" reads the headline in Acapulco today, with a photo below of a bloody body lying in from of a scenic beach resort.  After such a horrific headline and photo, no one needs to read the actual article about the mutilated, dismembered and often decapitated bodies dumped in public areas of the Mexican city.

Two weeks ago, some 50 or so headless bodies were dumped on a highway near Monterrey, Mexico. The corpses had been mutilated with the dead's heads, hands and feet all cut off.

The official word from the Mexican authorities is always the same statement, carefully tailored not to scare the tourists and their U.S. dollars away - its just drug violence; don't worry the Zetas drug gang Violence Acapulco Mexico - Cruise Vacationdon't target cruise passengers; violence like this doesn't happen in cruise ports.

Perhaps it's true that there is more violence in a northern land-locked city like Monterrey, but how about a resort and cruise port like Acapulco?

A year and a half ago, USA Today asked the question in an article "Will Cruise Ships Bypass Acapulco Because Of Drug Violence?"  

Which cruise lines today are still sailing to Acapulco or, for that matter, Puerto Vallarta?  

I've written a number of articles about the dangers presented by violence in Mexico:

Two month ago, armed banditos robbed 22 Carnival cruise passengers who were traveling in a bus back to the port in Puerto Vallarta during a Carnival sponsored excursion.

Last November, armed robbers stuck up a Puerto Vallarta jewelry store while a Holland American Line cruise ship was in port.  The U.S. press didn't mention the story.

In October of last year, I posted this article: "Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas: Is it Safe to Cruise to Mexico?" after an unbelievable gun fight in broad daylight. 

Two years ago, I wrote: "Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Ships From L.A. Due To Crime In Mexico."

After I wrote my article about the crazy shoot-out in Cabo last year, I received hate e-mails for a couple of weeks. Not from Mexicans, but mostly from U.S. citizens who moved south and are selling real estate or involved in small businesses in places like Cabo or Puerto Vallarta.

There is no question that drug-related violence is out of control in Mexico.  But do U.S. passengers who have never traveled to Mexico really take the time to distinguish Monterrey from Mazatlan when there are reports of a dozen violent murders in a single day?     

An AP article last year said that although port officials and cruise industry representatives have tried to emphasize that most violence in Mexico takes place away from cruise destinations, the message has a hard time "competing with images of beheaded bodies on the news."

Working for the Mexican tourism board or as a travel agent in LA selling cruises to Mexico seems like impossible jobs in the face of such violence.  

My view?  There are a lot of safe cruise itineraries leaving out of Seattle to Alaska I would consider taking long before sailing my family south of the border.  

 

For additional information, consider:

Photo Blog - Drug Related Killings on the Rise in Acapulco

Five People Killed at the Port of Acapulco (March 2012)

How safe is Mexico for Tourists?

In Acapulco, It's Mayhem by the Beach

 

Photo credit: Latin America Herald Tribune / Reuters (photo taken August 2011)

Celebrity Cruises Passenger Missing Off Coast Of Mexico

Christina Cassin - Celebrity Equinox - MissingThe Atlanta Constitution Journal reports that a 49 year old woman from Georgia disappeared last week while diving on a reef near Cozumel

The newspaper states that Christina Cassin, age 49, and her husband, Scott Turco, were passengers on the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship, which docked in Cozumel on March 28th.  The couple were diving with a group on a reef about a kilometer from the coast when she disappeared.

"They were about 10 minutes into the dive when Cassin decided to return to the surface. She said Turco turned to tell the dive master, who was right next to them, that she was going back to the surface, and when he turned back around, Cassin was gone."

The newspaper suggests that Ms. Cassin may have been caught in a strong downward current along the reef wall. 

Ms. Cassin worked as a nurse and lived with her husband in Acworth, Georgia, which is northeast of Atlanta.

 

Photo credit:  Atlanta Constitution Journal 

Robbing Cruise Passengers in Bulk - Yes, It Happens!

Yesterday I talked about the recent armed robbery of 22 Carnival cruise passengers who were traveling in a bus back to the port in Puerto Vallarta during a Carnival sponsored excursion.

I mentioned that the cruise lines and tourism officials would quickly start a PR campaign to convince the public that robberies of large groups of passengers is rare.  But it's not.

There have been at least 100 passengers robbed at gunpoint (or machete) during excursions over the last 3 - 5 years; the majority of them were traveling in large cruise excursion groups. 

In 2007, 17 passengers from the Carnival Conquest cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint during a cruise line sponsored excursion after sailing to Montego Bay, Jamaica. The excursion was to Cruise Excursion Bus - Cruise Ship Crimethe Lethe Estate, an old banana plantation.  The Carnival passengers were riding in a trolley when several bandits jumped out of the bush and robbed the 17 cruise tourists. cam. The passengers were terrorized as the gunmen pointed guns at the children on the trolley and took off with the passenger's jewelry, wallets, purses, cameras and money.  You can read the account in the USA cruise blog here.

Since I started Cruise Law News two and one-half years ago, I have reported on 4 armed robberies of cruise tourists in groups between 11 and 18 people. 

In November 2010, 17 Celebrity cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in a tour bus.  While the buds was heading toward a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path.  When the bus stopped, armed robbers threw a large rock into the front window and rushed into the bus and robbed the excursion group. 

In December 2009, 14 NCL passengers were robbed during a "safari" excursion in Anese-La-Reye by 4 masked men armed with guns and knives. The robbery occurred at beautiful waterfall advertised as a "perfect place to spend several hours in quiet reflection." 

In October 2009, a Bahamian newspaper reported that two "vicious robbers" held a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship by gunpoint in Nassau.

In November 2099, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during an excursion in the Bahamas during an excursion into a remote natural preserve.  The passengers were part of a large Segway excursion which contained passengers from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships.  

In addition to these incidents, there are dozens of other robberies of smaller groups, involving couples and families, which occur while the passengers are ashore.

When cruise experts and the tourism bureaus in Mexico and the Caribbean islands tell you that such crimes are "rare," take the time to educate yourself.  Don't trust your family's safety on representations from those who are trying to sell a product.  As the saying goes, those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it. 

Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico

The issue of the safety of cruise passengers in Mexico is again in the news with the armed robbery of twenty-two cruise passengers in Mexico on Thursday.

The passengers had sailed to Mexico on the Carnival Splendor and were on an excursion near Puerto Vallarta which was advertised and sponsored by the cruise line.

A Mexican newspaper reports that masked men robbed the passengers at gunpoint when they were returning to the cruise ship in a bus after touring "El Nogalito," a natural park.  The gunmen took off with the passengers billfolds, watches, cameras, cellphones and jewelry.  The newspaper reports that the local authorities initially tried to downplay the incident.

The Puerto Vallarta Robbery is Just Latest Crime Targeting Cruise Passengers

Puerto Vallarta - Cruise Ship  - Crime MexicoCruise lines and the local tourism boards usually respond to these type of crimes against tourists by claiming that they are rare.

In the video below (KCAL-9 / CBS Los Angeles) you can hear travel expert Peter Greenberg, say (excitedly) that armed robbery of cruise tourists in buses is "highly unusual" and an "aberration," while mentioning that he has plans to vacation in Mexico next week. 

But the truth is that crimes like this are not rare at all. U.S. passengers disembarking into Mexico and the Caribbean Islands are increasingly being targeted by criminals in groups.  We hear of virtually no crimes against passengers disembarking in Canada, Alaska or European itineraries.  But Mexico and the Caribbean ports of call, plagued by poverty and drugs, are a different story. The banditos go after the money and jewelry and cruise tourists have both.  Why target a single tourist when you can rob cruise passengers in bulk in buses in remote areas?  

Cruisers are sitting ducks.  Consider that over 100 cruise passengers have been robbed at gunpoint or murdered just in Mexico or the Caribbean islands in the last couple of years:

Eleven Royal Caribbean Cruise Passengers Robbed In Nassau

Eighteen Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Passengers Robbed at Gunpoint in Nassau

Fourteen Passengers Robbed at Gunpoint at Anse-La-Reye Waterfall in St. Lucia

Seventeen Celebrity Cruise Tourists In Bus Robbed in St. Kitts

Royal Caribbean Crewmember Murdered in Mexico 

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues 

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

Violence Strikes Puerto Vallarta Jewelry Store While HAL Cruise Ship in Port  

More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Cruise Passenger Killed in St. Thomas  

NCL Cruise Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

Passenger From Star Clipper Murdered in Antigua

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

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Cruise Ships From L.A. Due to Crime in Mexico

Does the Cruise Industry Monitor Crime in Ports of Call? 

Is the cruise industry providing adequate warnings to families of the dangers ashore in the ports chosen by the cruise lines?  It seems to me that unsuspecting cruise guests are being disembarked into increasingly dangerous ports of call in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Expect a lively debate where Mexican officials will understate the problem and the cruise industry defenders will chant "crime occurs everywhere."  But it's only in Mexico and the Caribbean ports where cruise passengers are robbed at gunpoint, literally by the busload.

 

Violence Strikes Puerto Vallarta Jewelry Store While HAL Cruise Ship In Port

There has been a very public debate about the safety of cruise passengers while in Mexican ports.  In June of this year, Princess Cruises pulled out of Puerto Vallarta (and Mazatlan) stating "as the safety and security of our passengers and crew is our highest priority, and based on the continued violence in these areas, we’ve made the decision to cancel our calls to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan.”

Puerto Vallarta was not pleased and responded with an accusation that the crime rate was actually higher on Princess' cruise ships  than in this Mexican port. 

Last month Princess announced that it would add these two ports back to its itinerary next year but Puerto Vallarta Mexico Crimewill monitor the violence in Mexico to determine if it would continue to serve the two ports.

Well now we have another violent crime which struck pretty close to apparently unsuspecting Holland America Line cruise passengers as they visited a shopping square near the cruise terminal.  (HAL and Princess are both owned By Carnival).

A Cruise Law News reader brought to my attention that a newspaper in Mexico reports that when a Holland America cruise ship was in port in Puerto Vallarta earlier this month, six armed criminals robbed a jewelry store right across from the ship pier.

The November 1, 2011 article states that six heavily armed men robbed a jewelry store, located at the exclusive Plaza Galleries and got away with millions of dollars of diamonds.

The robbery turned violent as the gunmen repeatedly beat the store manager in the head with a pistol.

The incident occurred around 1:00 in the afternoon while cruise passengers from the HAL cruise ship were in the shopping plaza where the jewelry store is located.  The news article reports "several tourists from Holland America cruise ship, docked at the Maritime Terminal, located across the street, were in the square."

There is no indication that any of the HAL cruise passengers were in danger or even knew of the robbery.  Nonetheless, it is unsettling that heavily armed banditos can stick up an exclusive jewelry store in a shopping square on a port day across from the terminal and get away scott free. 

I wonder if Princess Cruises or HAL even know that the crime occurred?

 

November 25 2011 Update:  "Radio Silence"

"Cruzi" @CruiseCritic had an interesting comment on this story:  " . . . these days there is more "stuff" going on of concern to tourists right in the tourist zone in PV than ever happened in Mazatlan in the tourist zone.  Difference is almost nothing gets press in English from Puerto Vallarta, and no "incident" chatter on forums permitted.  The city relies on tourism nearly 100%.  I also wonder if Holland America is even aware of what went on.  Probably, because it happened under their noses in a mall frequented heavily by passengers.  I just happened across this article searching for something else that just happened there.  Was anyone on the HA ship in Puerto Vallarta on November 1st?  This group has struck again, more than once, alluding capture, but that's not all that's going on there.  Yet, radio silence."  

Photo credit:  informador.com.mx

Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas: Is it Safe to Cruise to Mexico?

Violence Cabo San Lucas - MexicoNew sources report today that hundreds of people cowered for hours inside a shopping mall in the resort town of Cabo San Lucas today while security forces traded gunfire with armed criminals at the Plaza Sendero shopping center.

A local newspaper in Mexico, Milenio, reports that 12 men armed with high powered rifles (AK-47's), were traveling in three vans (other articles say 3 - 4 men).  When they were observed by police, they retreated into a store at the mall. They were suspected of killing a marine the night before.  There are conflicting stories whether they held 200 of the 600 shoppers hostage.  After a shoot out, three men were arrested according to Borderland Beat.  

This dangerous event occurred after cruise lines like Princess Cruises, its parent company Carnival Cruise Line, and Disney Cruise Line pulled out of Mexican ports such as Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta in the last few months because of fears of violence.

Is it safe to cruise to Mexico when places like Cabo San Lucas turn into a scene from the Wild West?

You can see the gun battle and arrests in the video below:

 

 

October 29, 2011 Update:  The incident may be related to another gun fight broke out late on the night of October 28, 2011 between 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM in Cabo San Lucas "between Mexican military and assumed narco trafficantes."  One soldier and a gunman are dead and two police officers are seriously injured.  A video of the nighttime shooting is below: 

 

 

Video credits: Top - TheRasek79 (YouTube); bottom - BajaWhistleBlower (YouTube)

Photo credits:  Pat Garcia / La Paz, Mexico

October 30, 2011 Update:  Photographs are emerging of the criminals holding hostages (above) and the military responding to the situation (below).  Photos courtesy of Now Public / Pat Garcia, La Paz, Mexico. 

Cabo San Lucas - Crime - MexicoFor other articles about crime in Mexico:

U.S. Travel Warnings to Mexico

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

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Tells Princess Cruises: "We're Safer Than Your Cruise Ships!"

Frommer's Is it Safe to Travel to Los Cabos? 

LA Times: Mexico Woos Tourists as U.S. Advises Travelers to Avoid Parts of the Violence-Plagued Country

Fox News: Cruise Ships Avoid Mazatlán Due to Crimes Targeting Tourists 

Cabo San Lucas Heats Up

Passenger Missing From Carnival Conquest Cruise Ship

A local television station in Galveston, Texas is reporting that a 39 year old passenger is missing after going overboard from the Carnival Conquest after the cruise ship left Cozumel, Mexico. 

Carnival Conquest Cruise Ship - Overboard Passenger The incident occurred Friday evening.

ABC affiliate Channel 13 Eyewitness News' article states that  "according to a statement from Carnival Conquest, a 39-year-old male was seen jumping overboard around 6:30pm Friday while the ship was in the Gulf of Mexico, shortly after departing Cozumel."

This statement likely indicates that other passengers observed the passenger go overboard and/or ship personnel observed him jump overboard.

The article indicates that the cruise ship returned to the location where the passenger was seen going overboard in order to conduct search and rescue operations.  

Mexican vessels apparently were also in the search efforts.

The Carnival Conquest is returning to Galveston today.

This cruise ship has had passengers go overboard in the past.  In October 2006, a 48 year old woman apparently committed suicide by jumping from an upper deck.  You can read about that incident here.  Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's website mentions another incident in November 2006 when a 42 year old passenger fell/jumped from his cabin and was not found. 

Professor Klein's website lists 167 incidents (not including this one) where passengers and crew have gone overboard from cruise ships in the last 10 years.  

Were you on the cruise?  Do you have information, or photos or video of the rescue attempts, to share?  Please leave a comment below.  

September 24, 2011 Update:

The passenger has been identified as Clint Wayne Markham of Forney, Texas.

The Carnival cruise ship captain, Antonio Sammartano, sent a letter to the passengers stating:

“We’re sorry to say that at this time, the missing guest has not been located. However, the Mexican navy remains on site and continues with the search.  We continue to provide support to his family and friends during this difficult time.  We ask that you please continue to join us in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers."

A Fox News station in Dallas has accounts from friends and family of Mr. Markham that he was a fine son, father and husband and that he would not have voluntarily gone overboard.  He apparently sailed on cruises every year to celebrate his birthday.  He would have been 40 years old today.   

 

Photo credit:

Wikipedia/Wikimedia Klobetime

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Tells Princess Cruises: "We're Safer Than Your Cruise Ships!"

I ran across an interesting article written from the perspective of a Mexican port which one of the cruise lines labeled as too dangerous to visit.

It seems like Princess Cruises has incurred the wrath of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico after the cruise line dropped the port from its cruise itinerary citing "continued violence" as the reason.  USA Today quickly picked up on the story and conducted a poll asking its readers whether cruise lines should Puerto Vallarta - Crime? - Princess Cruises - Mexicopull of of this port which Princess Cruises painted with a broad brush that all-of-Mexico-is-unsafe

Princess spokeswoman Karen Candy told USA Today:  “As the safety and security of our passengers and crew is our highest priority, and based on the continued violence in these areas, we’ve made the decision to cancel our calls to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan.”

But the good people in Puerto Vallarta are pointing out that their city is a heck of a lot safer than the city where the cruise line is headquartered in Southern California or most of the destinations visited by Princess cruise ships such as Bermuda, Bahamas, and Jamaica.  The article is entitled "Princess Cruise Lines: Stop Slandering the Safety of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico."

The article also points out that Carnival Cruises, its owner, as well as Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruises still include the Mexican port on their itineraries.

The article points out that there is a high rate of crime on cruise ships and Princess has had more than its fair share of incidents of sexual assault against women, both passengers and crewmembers, on its fleet of cruise ships.  Are Princess Cruises ships more dangerous than this Mexican port of call?   Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

Fishing Tour Boat "The Erik" Capsizes in Mexican Waters

ABC News is reporting that a chartered fishing boat with 44 tourists aboard capsized and sank off Mexico's Baja California peninsula.  A 115 foot long vessel called "The Erik"  was reportedly struck by a storm and then capsized early yesterday 87 miles south of San Filipe, Mexico, in the Sea of Cortez

There are conflicting reports regarding the number of survivors. The ABC report states that  one person drowned and six others are missing. 

The U.S. Coast Guard sent a helicopter from San Diego to search for the missing.  A Coast Guard spokesperson said that the fishing boat "was close enough to shore that some people were able to swim to shore.  Other people were picked up by good Samaritan vessels that were in the area. Others were rescued by the Mexican Navy."  A Coast Guard press release indicates that the incident occurred around 2:30 in the morning on Sunday.

The ABC report indicates that the fishing boat was operated by Baja Fishing.  Other newspapers identify the operator as Baja Sportsfishing.  Internet advertising indicates that "Jig Stop Tours" of Dana Point California is the booking agent.   

Although the vessel capsized around 2:30 a.m., no distress signals were apparently sent from the vessel. 

The El Mexicano Newspaper released a list of the first 20 survivors, which included  crew members and paying passengers.  Photographs of the survivors ashore can be viewed here.

Erik Jaba Sportsfishing - Capsize - Mexico

July 5, 2011 Update:  The Dana Point Times reports that Jog Stop Tours did not book this particular fishing trip.  Seven U.S. citizens remain missing.  A news station in California reports that the "California Secretary of State website says Baja Sportfishing's business license has been suspended. It doesn't state a reason or give a date."

Photo credit:  bajasportfishinginc.com via CBSNews.com  

Is Alleged Murderer of Royal Caribbean Musician Innocent?

Nelson Pérez TorresThe press in Mexico is raising questions about the criminal charges leveled against Nelson Pérez Torres, who is jailed and awaiting trial for the murder of Royal Caribbean crewmember, Monika Markiewicz.

Ms. Markiewizc was an accomplished musician employed as a violinist aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.  In February, she disembarked in Cozumel from the Allure and did not return to the cruise ship which left and sailed back to Miami.  Her body was located the following day. 

An autopsy determined the cause of Ms. Markiewicz's death was "drowning" but noted that she suffered a blow to the head.

Mexican police arrested 24 year old Nelson Perez Torres, who worked at a restaurant / bar near the port.  He reportedly confessed to striking Ms. Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean, according to the chief prosecutor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo where Cozumel is located.  You can read our articles about this case below: 

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

Monika's Last Recital

A newspaper in Mexico is reporting today that the case against Torres is "riddled with contradictions and irregularities."  SIPSE.com  reports that the "star witness" for the prosecution has not only retracted his statement but alleges that he was theatened by the police to sign the declaration.  The Torres family has always contended that their son was beaten and "confessed" to the crime under duress.  We previously blogged about this: Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

The Mexican newspaper also states that videos taken at an intersection near the crime scene, and which should depict the identity of the murderer walking with Ms. Markiewicz, have not been produced.  The article also alludes that there will be defense witnesses who will testify to Mr. Torres being at a different location at the time of the murder. 

 

Photo credit:  estosdias.com.mx

Video credit: VOZTVCOZQROO (YouTube)

First Mexican Cruise Ship Catches on Fire

Ocean Star Cruises - Ocean Star Pacific Cruise Ship - MexicoFirst impressions are everything.  The first Mexican cruise line has already earned a dubious reputation.    

The Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevara Manzo, said that the cruises are key to the expansion to tourism in Mexico. 

Mexico is off to a rough start. 

Ocean Star Cruises had just its second cruise this week.  Cruceros Ocean Star had a disastrous start.  A  generator fire knocked out power to the Ocean Star Pacific cruise ship, forcing the evacuation of its passengers and crew Saturday.  Some 522 passengers and 226 crew members were reportedly evacuated by catamaran to the port of Huatulco with the intention of flying them to Mexico City.

The Ocean Star Pacific was built in 1971 for Royal Caribbean Cruises and sailed as one of Royal Caribbean first cruise ships as the Nordic Prince.

We wish our Mexican friends better luck with their new cruise line!  

 

Foto: Alfredo Guerrero Flickr

Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Monika MarkiewiczNelson Perez Torres, age 24, reportedly confessed to striking Royal Caribbean crew member Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean, according to the chief prosecutor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo where Cozumel is located.

As we reported in a prior article, Ms. Monika Markiewicz, a 32-year-old Polish musician who worked aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship was found last Saturday in the waters off the southern part of Cozumel.  Her employer, Royal Caribbean Cruises, indicated that she was a victim of foul play.  

This morning, Royal Caribbean took the unusual step of issuing a statement via PR Newswire, claiming that the killer and Ms. Markiewicz were "casually acquainted for several months."  The cruise line also made a point of characterizing the crime as "isolated and uncharacteristic" for Cozumel."  Royal Caribbean also congratulated its security department for assisting in the investigation which led to the arrest of the alleged killer.

Meanwhile, a newspaper in Mexico Por Esto is reporting that the parents of Mr. Torres are complaining that their son had been falsely accused of the crime and allegedly intimidated into a confession.  Nelson Perez Torres - Murder - Monika MarkiewiczThey claim that he had never been in trouble before and he had worked at a bar near the cruise pier for the past eight years.  They claim that because they are a humble family of little means, their son was railroaded into a confession.  Friends and family members picketed at the pier with signs saying Mr. Torres is innocent.   

There are several Mexican newspapers indicating that Mr. Torres gave different statements to the police, initially stating that he did not know Ms. Markiewicz and had never seen her, or that they had walked together to a location and he left after she resisted his advances, or that she had slipped and then he hit her with a rock to end her suffering.   

 

Photo credits:    Por Esto newspaper

Another Royal Caribbean Death In Cozumel

The AP is reporting that a second person has died after arriving in Cozumel on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship last Friday, February 4, 2011.  We previously reported on the death of Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, whose body was recovered Saturday from the sea off of Cozumel and is believed to be the victim of foul play.

The AP reports that a 24-year-old American tourist died Monday in a Cancun hospital from internal bleeding "after ingesting a safety pin that punctured her organs."

Samantha Page (Paige) ThomasThe state prosecutor in Quintana Roo, where both Cancun and Cozumel are located, apparently released two different names for the woman neither of which were released by the AP.  The prosecutor also released information regarding the dead woman's medical history and autopsy findings.  A patient apparently has no medical privacy rights in Mexico.

The passenger's death is apparently completely unrelated to the death of crew member Ms. Markiewicz.

We have reported on six deaths of Royal Caribbean passengers and crew members in the last 10 days.

February 9, 2011 Update:  The Latin America Herald Tribune identifies the cruise passenger as Ms. Samantha Page Thomas (this article confuses the name of the cruise passenger and crew member).  A newspaper in Mexico also identifies the passenger and contains a strange explanation of events.  A press conference of the Mexican prosecutor is available on line.  Warning, the video contains graphic post mortem images of Ms. Paige as well as a photograph of Ms. Markiewicz  face down in the water when she was found.

Mexico, Cruise Ships & Crime Against Women

Thirteen years ago I represented a young woman from St. Augustine, Florida.  She was employed as a cook on a private yacht owned by a multi-millionaire tycoon.  She went ashore to Cabo San Lucas with a group of fellow crew members.  They ended up leaving her in a nightclub and returned to the yacht.  When she tried to walk back to the marina late that evening, four Mexican men abducted her in their car.  They  drove her outside of the city to a remote area.  They then raped her and burnt her naked body with cigarettes.  When the men passed out after drinking tequila and smoking weed, she ran to a highway, flagged down a car, and escaped from her hell in the Mexican desert. 

Her maritime employer, asshole as he was, not only refused to provide her with medical treatment but fired her from her job.  He blamed her for staying out late and drinking at the club.  The kindest thing I can say about the local police in Mexico is that they were indifferent to the young woman's plight.  

When I traveled to Cabo San Lucas, I found the surroundings hostile.  The area surrounding the marina and cruise port seemed menacing.  I have lived outside of the U.S., including in North Africa, but Mexico seemed utterly lawless to me.  The police authorities seemed no different than the banditos.    

My client's situation ended up in litigation based on the yacht owner's failure to warn her of the dangers ashore in Mexico and his refusal to provide her with medical treatment after she was victimized.  After a long protracted battle, she obtained a settlement and tried to move on with her life. 

Her ordeal has always haunted me. 

Cozumel Mexico - Crime - Cruise Ships Ever since then, I have been hyper-sensitive to the vulnerability of women employed on ships sailing around the world. I am apprehensive of the dangers which  await young women as they unsuspectingly walk down the gangplanks into the tropical ports of call which seem so appealing but - in truth - are so, so dangerous.

The recent story about the Royal Caribbean crew member, Monika Markiewicz, from the Allure of the Seas, who disembarked her cruise ship in Cozumel and never returned, brings me back to my client's tortuous ordeal over a decade ago.

There is no indication that Ms. Markiewicz was sexually assaulted, but her employer has publicly stated that she was a "victim of a violent crime while ashore in a remote area in Cozumel."  Did the cruise line warn her and other crew members of dangers ashore in Mexico?   What did the cruise line do once they realized that she did not return to the cruise ship last Friday afternoon?  Did they abandon her as my client was abandoned 13 years ago?  Did they notify the young woman's family in Poland when the cruise ship set sail and left her in Mexico?  Did they contact the Polish Embassy or Consulate?  While heading back to Miami, did the cruise line call the emergency contact telephone numbers which all crew members provide when they join Royal Caribbean?

Is Royal Caribbean going to do anything now?  Its PR spokesperson stated yesterday that the cruise line has no intention of suspending its trips to Cozumel.  Full steam ahead, they say.  When the disastrous earthquake struck Haiti and killed 100,000 people a year ago, Royal Caribbean said that sailing back into the Haitian destination of Labadee was a "no brainer."  So the loss of one of its crew members due to a violent crime in Cozumel is not going to slow it down one bit.  

Royal Caribbean is directing all inquiries regarding the crime to the Mexican police authorities.  But the police have a reputation for incompetence at best and corruption at worst.  I have never heard of anyone in Mexico being tried or convicted of a crime against a tourist or a ship employee on shore leave.  There are several web sites discussing the reluctance of Mexican police to get involved in investigations in cases like this, such as Mexican Vacation Awareness.  And some of the local police in Mexico have even been accused of participating in crimes against tourists.

Many naysayers reading this blog will say "it could happen anywhere."  Others will say "what is a cruise line to do?"  Well we know what Royal Caribbean is doing - sailing to Mexico as if nothing happened.  And pretending the Mexican police will solve a crime against a young woman from Poland victimized in a remote location in a dangerous country. 

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

Numerous news sources are reporting that the body of crew member from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was recovered from the ocean near Cozumel. 

Allure of the Sea - Cruise Ship - Crew DeathPolish national Ms. Monika Markiewicz, age 32, was employed by Royal Caribbean as a musician.  She disembarked from the Allure on Friday and did not return to the cruise ship.  The cruise ship then left Cozumel and sailed back to Miami.   

Her body was recovered on Saturday.   

An autopsy determined the cause of Ms. Markiewicz's death was "drowning" but noted that she suffered a blow to the head.  According to the Canadian Press, Royal Caribbean spokesman Cynthia Martinez said the information the company had received indicated "she was the victim of a violent crime, and did not drown accidentally."  "Tragically, we recently became aware that the crew member was a victim of a violent crime while ashore in a remote area in Cozumel," the statement said.

Royal Caribbean has had many deaths in the last two months.  Last week, a crew member was killed and the safety officer injured during a fire drill aboard the Allure's sister ship Oasis of the Seas.  A passenger's husband filed suit over his wife's death on the Brilliance of the Seas.  Three Monika Markiewicz - Cozumel Mexicoweeks ago, a passenger fell to his death from the Liberty of the Seas.  Two months ago a young cook was found dead on the Oasis of the Seas.  

This most recent death comes at a time when some cruise ships have pulled out of some of the ports in Mexico, citing concerns with crime.

Are you a crew member aboard the Allure?  If you have information about this incident, please leave a comment below. 

February 8, 2011 UpdateMexico, Cruise Ships & Crime Against Women

February 9, 2011 Update:  There are a number of articles which are confusing the names of the Royal Caribbean crew member, Ms. Markiewitz, with a cruise line passenger who also died in Mexico after leaving the cruise ship last Friday.  The Latin America Herald Tribune identifies the cruise passenger as Ms. Samantha Page Thomas.  This newspaper also indicates that Monika Markiewicz was also known as "Monica Warshal." 

February 10, 2011 Update:  A newspaper in Mexico also identifies the passenger and contains a strange explanation of events.  A press conference of the Mexican prosecutor is available on line.  Warning, the video contains graphic post mortem images of Ms. Thomas as well as a photograph of Ms. Markiewicz  face down in the water when she was found.  The prosecutor is quoted as saying that they were also reviewing the cruise ship's surveillance camera imges to see who the crew member was seen leaving the ship with or whether she may have gone overboard. 

A Mexican man was arrested today in Ms. Markiewitcz's death. Nelson Perez Torres, 24, who worked in a restuarant in Cozumel, reportedly confessed to hitting Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean.

Read our updated article:  Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

Resources:

Mexican Vacation Awareness

 

Photo credits:  

Top - Runekrem Flickr page

Bottom - AP Photo/Angel Castellanos

 

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/

British Passenger Stuck In Mexican Hospital Following Heart Attack on Princess Cruise Ship

Most cruise passengers who sail on luxury cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico or Europe have a false sense of security.  They think that if anything goes wrong during the cruise, the cruise line will take care of them.  But when passengers get sick, the reality is that the cruise line will dump them off of the cruise ship as soon as possible, and the passengers will be left to fend for themselves in foreign ports. 

So it is heartbreaking to read of a healthy 67 year old passenger from the United Kingdom who suffered a heart attack while cruising on the Sea Princess cruise ship.  The cruise line disembarked her ashore in Mexico where a hospital charged her over $125,000 in medical expenses so far.

Heart Attack - Cruise Ship - Valerie KingThis story involves Ms. Valerie King who was sailing with her husband, Tony King, on the Princess cruise ship from San Fransisco to Barbados after leaving on October 9th.  Ms. King suffered a heart attack while on board the cruise ship.  The ship doctor informed her that she had to disembark at the next port which was Cabo San Lucas in Mexico on October 12th.

A newspaper in the U.K., the Warrington Guardian, reports that after being sent from the cruise ship, Ms. King has been stuck in the hospital and has incurred over $125,000 in medical expenses.  Ms. King's daughter, Anita, flew from England to Cabo San Lucas to try and support her father as her mother's stay in the intensive care unit is now approaching three weeks. 

The newspaper quotes daughter Anita as stating that the hospital is "pressing for payment and the account manager followed us into a cafe after we had visited my mother to ask about settling the bill."

This case reveals a problem that many passenger do not understand when considering a cruise.  We have been contacted by many cruise passengers who end up in hospitals in Mexico and the Caribbean ports of call.  The hospitals in Mexico are the worst when it comes to running up medical expenses on cruise passengers. The first thing these hospitals want to know is your Visa card numbers and the expiration date.  This is in stark contrast to healthcare providers in some European ports, such as Sweden or Norway, where the medical treatment is outstanding and the passengers are not charged for anything.

When reading about this case, I thought of my own family experiences.  My father had a heart attack in London. He received good medical care in the British health care system and was charged nothing.  I can not imagine having to experience a nightmare like the Knight family where your parent is essentially a hostage in a sub-standard medical facility with the hospital administrator following you around like a over-zealous bill collector trying to collect over $125,000.     

Mexican Hospital - Cruise Ship - Heart AttackCruise lines need to warn passengers that if they become ill while sailing into Mexico, the local medical system is designed to suck the patients like a lime at a tequila party. 

In addition to the big bill from the Mexican doctors, the cruise line handed Mr. Knight with a bill for his wife's overnight stay in the cruise ship's sick bay of around $5,000 dollars. This took his credit card just about to the limit and left him with no funds to give a deposit to the hospital.  

Cruise lines should not use their limited medical facilities as a profit center to gouge passengers in distress.

What a predicament.  Vacationing passengers spend thousands of dollars for a cruise only to be charged $5,000 by the cruise line and dumped in a Mexican hospital which charges over $125,000!  The Knight's travel insurance in the U.K. also denied coverage citing exclusions for pre-existing conditions. 

Please take a minute and help the Knight family.  Please e-mail anita@andalan.plus.com and consider sending her a donation of $100 to help the family with this plight.

 

Photo credits:  Knight family via Warrington Guardian

Crimes in the Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call

I have written many articles about the high crime rates in many of the Caribbean islands frequented by cruise lines - Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers.  Consider the following articles in the last year alone: 

Antigua - Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet and Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Bahamas 18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the BahamasEleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau, and Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe?

Guatemala - Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala  

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

St. Lucia - Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia and 14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia

St. Thomas - More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

 

Cruise lines have port agents in all of these destinations and are familiar with the crime which exists in these beautiful, tropical locations.  Do you think that cruise lines should warn passengers of the substantial dangers which exist in the ports they select to disembark their passengers?

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