Bahamas Crime Watch: How Do You Manage a Country's Reputation With Stories Like These?

News accounts of violent crime against both tourists and residents in the Bahamas continue to be regularly published in the international and local press. 

David Jessop, the Managing Director of the Caribbean Council, has written insightful articles this year regarding the damage to the image of the Bahamas caused by articles in social media regarding such crime. He states that that the Bahamas, like other Caribbean islands, doesn't have the social media skills necessary to promptly and effectively minimize damage to the country's reputation when tourists become victims of violent criminal acts. I suggest reading his articles: Social Media and Managing Mitchell Nini Crime BahamasReputation published in January, and Reputational Damage published a few days ago in the Bahamas Tribune.

But how does the Bahamas manage its reputation when its newspapers are regularly filled with gruesome stories of violence virtually every day?

On April 30th the local newspapers in the Bahamas reported that a jury acquitted three Bahamian men in their 20's of the "near-fatal stabbing" of a Canadian tourist, Mitchell Nini. Mr. Nini was stabbed 7 times in the chest, back and stomach when the thugs robbed a gold chain from Mr. Nini's friend. 

I have written before that tourists injured during violent crimes in Nassau cannot find justice in the archaic Bahamian legal system, although the Bahamian tourist police seem effective in boarding cruise ships at the wharf and arresting U.S. citizens for small amounts of pot

I first learned of the acquittal of Mr. Nini's attackers when his friends and family posted the news of the acquittal on Facebook and Twitter.  The articles posted by his mother on Twitter indicate that the three men confessed to the crime but later claimed that the police beat them into signing the confessions. 

The Canadian press published New Brunswick Man Warns of Traveling After Being Stabbed in Bahamas. The newspaper article shows a photo of Mr. Nini recovering from the vicious attack in the hospital while saying that tourists should stay clear of the island. He told the Global News "Whether you feel like you’re safe on the resort, as soon as you step off the resort you’re in a war zone.”

Mr. Nini's reference to a "war" is appropriate.

Bahamian Prime Minister Perrie Christie told that Tribune newspaper last week that the government is "developing new crime fighting strategies to win the 'war' that they are fighting against the 'hostile young men' in the capital."

Meanwhile, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Branville McCartney made the news stating that he does not feel safe given the ongoing scourge of crime in the Bahamas. He told the Tribune “I don’t feel safe in this country . . . We live in paradise, but we are paralysed by fear. We are in prison in our own homes because of the criminal element running amuck in this country.”

There is good reason for even the politicians to be afraid of crime in Nassau. In December, the Acting Prime Minister Philip Davis was robbed at gunpoint. Then in January a police officer assigned to guard a residence of the Prime Minister Christie was arrested on suspicion of stealing a television at the residence. The latter is a petty crime I know, but you have to shake your head when the bad guys are bold enough to stick up the Acting Prime Minister and the police are stealing from the Prime Minister.

What's the response from the Bahamas to these and many other stories about trouble in paradise?  I have received many comments from the citizens of the Bahamas chastising me for suggesting that the out-of-control crime in Nassau also exists throughout the many islands which make up the country. But there are too many stories about crime against tourists outside of Nassau as well.

Last month Edgar George Dart, a 56-year-old British citizen who lived in Canada, was shot and killed and slowly died in front of his family after three masked intruders burst into his mother's home in Freeport. And a 14 year-old U.S. girl was raped on one of the out islands just ten days ago.   

Violent crime is a part of life in Nassau. Dangerous young men with knives and guns are menacing the residents and tourists alike. Do the families on Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise ships know that a war is raging in Nassau and even the top politicians in the Bahamas are afraid of crime and have been victimized themselves? How can a country even attempt to manage its reputation as a paradise for tourists when the local residents are paralyzed by fear? 

Watch the video of Mr. Nini below: 

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

Bahamas Weekly: The Bahamas - Still Paralyzed by Fear: "Over the past two weeks, newspaper headlines have recounted horrific stories of violence, murder and mayhem which have gripped communities here in New Providence and on Grand Bahama Island; cementing crime and the fear of crime as one of the country’s most pressing national issues."

Have a thought? Leave a message below or join the discussion on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Global News

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

America Now: Cruise Ship Crime

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: NBC

 

 

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

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

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

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

A governmental official told the Tribune:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruise passengers traveling to Nassau should read these articles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexual Perverts & Pedophiles on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

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

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

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

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

Groping on the High Seas? John Travolta - Fabian Zanzi Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Over, Finally

Fabian Zanzi - Royal CaribbeanA year ago. Cruise Law News was the first one in the U.S. to report that a Royal Caribbean crew member, Fabian Zanzi, claimed that movie celebrity John Travolta sexually harassed and assaulted him during a cruise.  We had first heard of the alleged incident several years ago from a crew member client who worked on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship. 

We were told that a Royal Caribbean crew member claimed that Travolta came-on-to-him during a cruise on the Enchantment in 2009.  

Zanzi's lawsuit claims that after he served Travolta room service, Travolta disrobed, "forcibly embracing" Zanzi while naked, and engaged in "nonconsensual, inappropriate, extreme and outrageous" contact. 

Zanzi reported the incident to his supervisors at the cruise line. Royal Caribbean then punished Zanzi and kept him confined to his cabin. Travolta ended his cruise early and took a jet back to the U.S.    

Travolta denied everything of course. 

Travolta's lawyers responded to Zanzi's lawsuit by moving to dismiss it and to send the case to arbitration. This way Travolta could avoid the publicity of a jury trial. Arbitration usually results in lower damages awarded to the aggrieved party. This is how cruise lines respond to lawsuits by injured crew members.

A federal court judge recently denied Travolta'a motion to arbitrate the case. You can read the well reasoned opinion here. This means that the case would head toward a jury trial.

But yesterday, the Hollywood news reporters said that Zanzi's lawsuit had been "dropped," after the John Travolta - Fabian Zanzi - Cruise Shipparties had stipulated to a dismissal.  Sounds to me like Travolta paid a settlement, after losing his arbitration motion, in order to avoid the prospect of all of his dirty laundry being aired out before a jury in Los Angeles. The parties probably agreed to keep the settlement terms secret.  A good move by Travolta to put this spectacle to bed.

Meanwhile, Zanzi is proceeding with his claim against Royal Caribbean that it falsely imprisoned him in retaliation for reporting the alleged sexual harassment.

The Zanzi - Royal Caribbean false imprisonment claim is in arbitration, so there will be no jury trial for the Hollywood reporters to attend. My prediction is that eventually the cruise line will agree to a settlement, subject to a confidentiality agreement.

Then the case will end like it began, with everyone trying to keep what happens on cruise ships secret. 

 

Photo credit - John Travolta - WENN

Rape on the Love Boat? Two Crew Members Arrested for Sexually Assaulting Woman Aboard Grand Princess Cruise Ship

Newspapers in Bermuda are reporting that two Italian crew members age 26 and 27, aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, are charged with raping a female crew member.  Both of the men are believed to be officers.

The sexual assault at issue allegedly occurred on January 12, 2013, but there is no information where the cruise ship was located at the time of the alleged crime.

The remarkable thing about the story is that the crew members were actually arrested. Bermuda has been a complete joke about holding crew members legally accountable when they rape women on Grand Princess Cruise Ship Sexual AssaultPrincess cruise ships.  No crew member has ever been convicted and imprisoned for sexually assaulted a woman aboard a Princess cruise ship although multiple sexual crimes have been alleged over the years.

The charges are being heard in Bermuda because Princess Cruises registers its cruise ships there to avoid U.S. taxes and labor laws.

The two men were granted bail of only $5,000 each which is not much more than a passenger has to pay for possessing a few marijuana joints aboard a cruise ship in Bermuda

The last Princess rape case ended with the alleged rapist going free.

It is doubtful that the cruise-ship-beholden island of Bermuda will ever bring justice to a cruise ship rape victim.

Stay tuned.

Leave a comment below or discuss the incident on our Facebook page.

Bad Times Aboard the Fun Ships: Passenger Alleges Rape Aboard Carnival Victory Cruise Ship

A lawsuit recently filed here in Miami illustrates the danger of cruise ship rape which most families who cruise do not realize.

The lawsuit filed last week alleges that Carnival served a young woman two margaritas, a Mojito and three double vodka drinks. Weighing only 118 pounds, the passenger was visibly intoxicated but the Carnival bartenders kept pouring drinks to the woman and her friends, one of whom was so drunk that she vomited on her.

Carnival crew members and officers were observed openly fraternizing and drinking alcohol with women in the ship's bar and disco club. The lawsuit alleges after the woman was intoxicated, two Carnival Cruise Ship - Rape - Sexual Assaultupper level Carnival ship employees, both large men, physically pinned down the wrists of the petite, small framed woman and took turns raping her. One Carnival employee sodomized her. The lawsuit states that the two men humiliated the woman and laughed at her when she resisted and protested.  

The theory of liability against Carnival is that the cruise line routinely over-serves alcohol to its passengers in order to increase profits and it does not maintain an adequate level of security to protect women on its cruise ships. While Carnival encourages excessive alcohol consumption, it does not enforce its alleged "zero tolerance" policy against crew - guest fraternization. In addition to the negligence allegations, the lawsuit asserts that the cruise lines is vicariously and strictly liable for the criminal conduct of its employees.

We first mentioned the incident last March - Was a Passenger Sexually Assaulted on the Carnival Victory?

The correlation between excessive alcohol and sexual violence against women is a topic we have discussed often here on this blog. 

Serving a young women what turns out to be 9 drinks, permitting crew members and officers to mingle with the drunk women in the disco, and providing no real security or warnings to passengers about the risk of being raped is a recipe for disaster.

Carnival nonetheless continues to aggressively advertise the sale of virtually unlimited booze. Just recently Carnival announced that it would impose a "limit" of 15 alcoholic drinks as part of its all-you-can-drink package. Of course fifteen (15) drinks is no limit at all.  

If a bar or restaurant served a woman 10 or 15 drinks and then employees of the restaurant raped the guest, the local police would probably end up arresting the bartenders and restaurant owner in addition to the employees who committed the crime. But on Carnival cruises, this seems to be part of the "fun ship" experience.

In 2006, I attended a Congressional hearing where a subcommittee listened to testimony where bartenders of Carnival-owned Costa Cruises served a 15 year old girl 10 drinks. A newspaper in Ireland wrote that in a period of 45 minutes the 15-year-old girl "was served 10 drinks in a bar on the cruise ship, two Sex on the Beach, four Woo Woos, two vodka and mixers, a shot of vodka and liqueurs." The young girl went overboard while trying to vomit over the railing. She has never been found.    

If you are a woman sailing on a cruise ship, watch how much you drink. Bartenders earn their living on tips and the food and beverage employees are under pressure to meet drink quotas. If you drink too much, stay with your friends. If you are a parent with teenage daughters, don't think that the cruise line will strictly enforce a drinking age of 21 or that it is safe to leave your children unattended. 

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

U.S. State Department: Crime In Nassau, Bahamas Is Critical

Bad news for our friends in the Bahamas and cruise passengers intending to vacation there. 

The U.S. State Department's 2012 "Crime and Safety Report" has labeled New Providence island's (including Nassau) criminal threat level as "critical" with Grand Bahama's island's (including Freeport) level as "high."

"In previous years, most violent crimes involved mainly Bahamian citizens and occurred in 'over-the-hill' areas, which are not frequented by tourists," the report stated.  "However, in 2011 there were numerous incidents reported that involved tourists or have occurred in areas in tourist locations.

Nassau Bahamas - Cruise Ship - Crime "In late 2011, there have been numerous reports by cruise ship tourists and others regarding incidents of armed robberies of cash and jewelery. These incidents were reported during daylight and nighttime hours. In several cases, the victims were robbed at knife-point, and gold necklaces and jewelery were taken. "Cash for Gold" is a new business in the Bahamas that may have resulted in the increase of these type of crimes."

Criminal threat levels are ranked as low, medium, high or critical. Other countries in the region also categorized as "critical" are: El Salvador, Guyana, and Ecuador.

"The US Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships. In several incidents, the victim had been reportedly drugged."

Unlike the secretive cruise lines, the newspapers in the Bahamas do a very effective job reporting on issues of high crime.   

The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape in the world according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime and violence.

Our firm has represented five women sexually assaulted on cruise ships in port in Nassau or ashore in the Bahamas. All of the women raped ashore ranged in age from 17 to 23 and were in seemingly safe locations in downtown Nassau near bars or stores within sight of the cruise ships.  

$200,000,000 False Imprisonment Lawsuit Filed Against Royal Caribbean, in Wrong Courthouse

There are lots of strange things that happen on cruise ships. I've written many articles about excessive alcohol consumption and aberrant conduct during cruises.  I even created a category of "weird" cruise stories. 

This morning I read an article which fits squarely in the "weird" category.

The New York Post writes about about "two pals" who jetted from New York to Fort Lauderdale to board Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship.  But instead of a fun cruise with stops in Jamaica and the beautiful private cruise destination of Labadee, the two men found themselves locked away in the Liberty of the Seas - False Imprisonmentcruise ship's brig, accused of raping a young woman.   

The case involves Eviatar Mor, celebrating his 22nd birthday, and his "buddy," fellow New Yorker David Amsalem, age 26.

After the two men went to bed on the first night of the cruise, Royal Caribbean's security personnel woke them up around 5:00 AM.  The two men claim that they were forced into wearing "prison garments issued by Royal Caribbean" and paraded "through public areas of the ship to a lock-up facility. The Post tells us about their allegedly "grueling" treatment in a “small, windowless cell” after they were accused of raping a passenger.  

The Post quotes Mor saying: "I was in such stress. I can't explain how scared I was."  

The men allege that the alleged victim "recanted" and the ship doctor allegedly found no evidence of a sexual assault, but they were still held in the brig. 

They hired a lawyer, Paul Batista, who filed suit in Manhattan seeking what is described as "at least $100,000,000 each" on allegations including false arrest and imprisonment, assault and battery, and “outrageous conduct causing emotional distress.”

So, what's my take on these allegations?

I don't like to hear about attorneys inserting astronomical demands for money in lawsuits. $200,000,000 for a week in the cruise ship slammer?  This isn't torture in the dungeon in Midnight Express.  The public hates to read about trial attorneys trying to make their clients overnight multi-millionaires based on dubious or overblown allegations.  It's a publicity stunt and it's a bad idea.  Just last week another lawsuit against a cruise line seeking $200,000,000 for 4 crewmembers was filed in New York.  So in one week 6 people are seeking $400,000,000 from 2 cruise lines?

Secondly, the forum selection clause in the men's ticket requires that the lawsuit be filed in Miami, not Manhattan. There is a 100% certainty that the case will be dismissed from the New York court.

Now, let's turn to the men's allegations.  They claim that they were "dressed in prison garments" and "paraded through the ship? Royal Royal Caribbean Prison - Liberty of the SeasCaribbean doesn't have "prison" attire. Even if the cruise line put the men in striped zoot suits, it was 5:00 AM and no one is up that early in the morning anyway. 

For some strange reason, the article makes a point of describing them as "both Orthodox Jews from Israel," with their lawyer accusing the cruise line of "Gestapo tactics inflicted on two innocent men." Nazi-Jew analogies are disrespectful in this context, particularly considering that Royal Caribbean hires many, many security guards from Israel.  I hardly think that cruise line president Goldstein hires Nazi's to oppress Orthodox Jews on his fleet of ships.  

The most disturbing thing about this messy case is the refusal by the two men to state whether they had sex with the woman. If you're really looking for $200,000,000 you better be prepared to talk about some embarrassing issues. Plus consider their lawyer's comments that the rape claim “came from a woman who was drunk and who was plainly goaded into making it by a group of people with whom she was traveling.”

Of course it is highly relevant whether the woman was so intoxicated that she could not consent to sex. Since when is claiming that the alleged victim was drunk a defense to a rape allegation?

The Post quotes Amsalem reminiscing on his experience saying: "The next time we go on vacation, no girls."

Meanwhile, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said the men had been accused of “a serious crime,” and that the company “takes all allegations of crime seriously."

Just yesterday I blogged about out-of-control drinking on the Liberty of the Seas and the correlation to sexual assault allegations.  This is the type of mess that comes out of that environment.

Cruise booze.  Allegations of rape, recanted or not?  Allegations of false imprisonment, worth $200,000,000, filed in the wrong jurisdiction?  

Whoever you believe, this is an ugly story.     

May 19, 2012 Update:  Video interview of the two men by local TV station.

Read Sun Sentinel's Cruise Crime Database (and Don't Forget the Cartoons)

With cruise safety hearings coming up later this month in Washington, the debate will resume regarding how many crimes really occur on cruise ships.

The cruise lines will say that crime is rare but will not refer to any database to support their their self-serving conclusion.  Cruise lines do not reveal their own internal crime statistics, except when ordered to do so under the threat of sanctions by a court.

But there are some on-line sources of information.  In addition to this blog, there is of course the web site Cruise Junkie by cruise expert Ross Klein who tracks cruise ship crimes.  

Another interesting source is a database by the Fort Lauderdale newspaper, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, which listed cruise crimes from December 2007 to October 2008.  You can look at the hundreds of various crime allegations, some petty and some very disturbing, here.

Unlike the Miami Herald which is beholden to the cruise lines which advertise in the Miami newspaper, the Sun Sentinel has maintained a sense of journalistic integrity when it comes to reporting on things that go wrong during cruises.

The Sentinel also has a sense of humor about the cruise industry.  Take a look at the cartoon which ran last week after several Princess cruise ships returned to Fort Lauderdale filled with passengers sickened by norovirus:

Chan Lowe - Cruise Ship Norovirus

" . . . viral diseases, crimes of violence, theft, seasickness, weight gain, liver damage, possibly getting stuck at the dinner table for the entire journey with people who deny the theory of evolution … sounds like the kind of vacation from which lasting memories are made . . ."

The cartoon and comments are by Chan Lowe who has been the Sun Sentinel’s editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years.  

 

Cartoon credit:  Chan Lowe / South Florida Sun Sentinel / Tribune Media 

Cruise Ship Rape: A No Man's Land On The High Seas?

Cruise Ship Rape - Victim Anika MarksA newspaper in South Africa published a disturbing story today about the defense raised by the lawyers for a passenger who is accused of raping a woman during a cruise aboard  the MSC Sinfonia cruise ship.

The case involves South African national Anika Marks who sailed on the MSC Cruises ship in November 2009.  Ms. Marks was on what is described as a three-day business trip with 40 work colleagues when another South African passenger, Sindhu Ramanandh Bhogal, allegedly drugged and raped her. 

The cruise ship regularly sails between Durban and Mozambique. On the cruise in question, Ms. Marks says that she awoke two hours after the alleged rape.  She accompanied her colleagues to the South Africa - Portugese IslandsPortuguese islands (see map), one of the ship’s stops on the cruise.  She reported the rape during the cruise the day before the cruise ship was due to return to Durban.  

Rather than using a Jane Doe pseudonym, Ms. Marks is using her own name because she believes that this will encourage other rape victims to take action.

After two years of legal wrangling, defendant Bhogal's lawyers have a new defense - the South African state courts cannot try him for the cruise ship rape because the incident happened in international waters.  The defense lawyer even obtained a statement from Sindhu Ramanandh Bhogal - Cruise Shipthe cruise ship's captain (how interesting) that the incident did not occur in South African waters.  At a hearing last week, Mr. Bhogal’s lawyer cited a provision in the South African Criminal Procedures Act that if the alleged crime occurs in international waters, the South African state courts have no jurisdiction. 

Ms. Marks, on the other hand, alleges that the alleged rape took place the same night the ship left Durban such that the vessel was still in  territorial waters.

If the court concludes that the alleged rape occurred on the high seas, then Mr. Bhogal may walk free.  The prosecution would then have to obtain authority from the National Prosecuting Authority to try and prosecute Mr. Bhogal.  

Cases like this reveal the dilemna which many women face after they have been raped on cruise ships around the world.  Sometimes they find themselves in a no man's land.

In the U.S., only the state of Florida has a law which permits the prosecution of rapists on the high seas.  The Florida law is unique because it permits the state to exercise jurisdiction over crimes which occur on cruise ships even if the rape occur in international waters, provided the ship leaves from a U.S. port and the majority of the passengers are residents of Florida.  

Regarding rapes which occur on cruises in international water which leave from ports in other states, only the U.S. Department of Justice may prosecute such crimes provided that the FBI is interested in investigating the incident.

But if the rape does not involve a U.S. victim or assailant and is against a citizen of another country and occurs on a foreign flag vessel on the high seas, the FBI has no jurisdiction.  This means that the criminal can avoid prosecution on technical terms, citing a lack of jurisdiction.      

MSC Sinfonia Cruise Ship

 

Photo credit:  Photos nos 1 and 3 - International Newspapers via Saturday Star

Accused Royal Caribbean Cruises Rapist Sues Bahamas for Spending Four Nights in Jail After Acquital

One of the categories I have for my Cruise Law News blog is "weird cruise news." 

Why such a category? 

For stories just like this:

Soveriegn of the Seas Cruise Ship - RapeThe Nassau Guardian published an article today about a Royal Caribbean crewmember, employed as a stateroom attendant, who was accused of raping a young woman on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas cruise ship. 

The incident involved a student from Florida State University who reported being raped back in 2006 on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship while it was docked in Nassau. 

The accused crewmember was Ruel Lockwood from Nicaragua.  He entered the young woman's cabin with a key card, which he used to enter cabins to clean them.

Why Royal Caribbean lets single men have key cards to women's cabins on their cruise ships remains an unpleasant mystery for me. 

I was young Jane Doe's Miami counsel, appointed by the Washington D.C. law firm of Winston & Strawn to act as co-counsel for Jane Doe after the shipboard rape.

The job of prosecutors in foreign countries of convincing juries to convict a cruise ship employee for raping an American woman is a daunting task, especially when the cruise line sent its defense lawyers to Nassau to assist the Bahamian criminal defense lawyers defend the case - which we alleged in the lawsuit filed against Royal Caribbean.

Yes, as expected, the jury in the Bahamas acquitted the cruise line employee accused of the rape.  The legitimacy of the verdict should be considered with the fact that Royal Caribbean paid $1,500,000.00 to settle the civil case where we alleged that the crewmember raped our client.

In my opinion, cruise lines don't pay that type of compensation if a rape did not occur.

Now here comes the weird part. 

After crewmember Lockwood was acquitted, he remained in jail for 4 days in Nassau.   For that, he sued the Bahamas for "unlawful detention."  Although he spent months and months in jail for the rape charges, he is now seeking damages for the 4 days he spent in jail after the jury acquitted him.  

Crewmember Lockwood should count his blessings for not spending the next 20 years of his life in the bowels of the Nassau jails.

Seeking compensation for 4 days in jail after his "acquittal" of raping an innocent coed during a cruise is a sick joke.

 

Photo Credit:  usscusk.com

Cruise Rape Case Begins - Bermuda Press Tries to Conceal Connection to Princess Cruises

Today the Royal Gazette newspaper in Bermuda is reporting on the beginning of a criminal trial in Bermuda where a 40 year old crew member is accused of raping a female crew member on a cruise ship flagged in the Bermuda.

The newspaper reports that the case involves a crew member who is accused of raping a younger crew member.  The newspaper does not identify the name of the accused crew member althought it states that both crew members are Filipino nationals who worked on the same vessel."  The newspaper does not even name the cruise line or the cruise ship.

Rape - Sexual Assault - Caribbean Princess - Princess CruisesLast month we reported that the alleged crime occurred on a Princess cruise ship and Filipino crew member Johnwill Reyes Abdon, age 40, was the Princess Cruises crew member who allegedly committed the crime.

The incident occurred on the Caribbean Princess, a Bermuda-registered vessel, on December 28, 2010.

It is not unusual for the press in the flag state to try and conceal the name of the cruise line, the cruise ship and the cruise line employee involved in alleged crimes like this, in order to avoid embarrassment to its cruise line customer.  

The 26-year-old crew member became pregnant after the incident.  She testified that Ms. Abdon sexually assaulted her.   Ms. Abdon denied the charges and said that the  encounter was consensual. 

As we previously reported, sexual assaults on cruise ships are common, notwithstanding the efforts of the cruise industry to convince the public otherwise.  We attended five Congressional hearings since 2005 where Congress was provided with evidence of literally hundreds of incidents of sexual assaults on cruises. 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein studied cruise crime statistics provided to the U.S. Congress and concluded that passengers run nearly twice the risk of being sexually assaulted aboard a ship than they do on land.

We have written about rapes on Princess Cruises before in articles:  Unsafe on the "Love Boat?" - Sexual Assaults on Princess Cruise Ships and Princess Cruises Sexual Assault Trial Begins.

The unusual thing about this case is that the police in Bermuda (where the ship is flagged) actually traveled to South Florida and arrested crew member Abdon, and then flew him to Bermuda to face the charges.  Getting the local police from the flag state to arrest crew members on cruise ships around the world is rare.  Extremely rare. 

Whether a jury in Bermuda will convict a Filipino crew member who commits a crime against another Filipino crew member seems questionable.  Given the deplorable conviction rate aboard foreign flagged cruise ships in Princess Cruises' fleet, it is questionable that Mr. Abdon will receive jail time - even if he committed the crime.  Heck, the press in Bermuda will not even mention that one of the cruise ships flagged in Bermuda is even the location of the alleged crime. 

 

Photo credit:  raflucgr.ra.funpic.de

ABC News Nightline Covers Sexual Assault of Minor on Carnival Cruise Ship

Tonight, ABC's Nightline will cover the story of a 14 year old child who was sexually assaulted by a Carnival crew member aboard the Freedom cruise ship. 

Krispiyanto Rape Carnival Freedom Cruise ShipThis is a story which we covered last May:

Carnival Cruise Ship Bartender Arrested On Charges Of Raping 14 Year Old Passenger

Hery Krispiyanto, age 30, from Klitren, Yogykarta (Indonesia) worked aboard Carnival's Freedom as a bartender.  The 14-year-old girl, identified only as "Taylor" to protect her identity, was vacationing with her parents during the Carnival cruise which left Fort Lauderdale in April 2009.  During the cruise, the minor and her parents became acquainted with Krispiyanto who waited on the family.  When the minor was alone on the upper deck of the ship one night, Krispiyanto walked up behind her, grabbed her arm and pulled her into a nearby employee-only room and closed the door, court records disclose. 

We have written many articles about the problem of crew members preying on children on cruise ships:

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

Why Cruises are NOT the Best Vacations with Kids

Should Travel Agents Be Liable For Falsely Representing That Cruises Are Safe For Kids?

Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship

Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise: No. 1 - Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

 

Krispiyanto Statutory Rape - Carnival Cruise Line - Cruise Ship

 

Photograph top   Seminole Co. Sheriff's Office (via Palm Beach Post)   

Photograph bottom    Hery Krispiyanto's Friendster page

Carnival Cruise Ship Bartender Arrested On Charges Of Raping 14 Year Old Passenger

The Orlando Sentinel reports today that a thirty year old Carnival crew member will be arraigned this week on allegations that he raped a 14 year old passenger aboard a Carnival's cruise ship.   

Hery Krispiyanto, age 30, from Klitren, Yogykarta (Indonesia) worked aboard Carnival's Freedom as a bartender.  A photograph from his Friendster page is below.

Hery Krispiyanto - Carnival Crew Member - Rape Allegations The newspaper reports that the 14-year-old girl was vacationing with her parents during the Carnival cruise which left Fort Lauderdale in April 2009.  During the cruise, the minor and her parents became acquainted with Krispiyanto.  When the minor was alone on the upper deck of the ship one night, Krispiyanto walked up behind her, grabbed her arm and pulled her into a nearby employee-only room and closed the door, court records indicate.  

Krispiyanto began to touch the minor inappropriately, and she repeatedly told him to stop. The minor said she tried to fight him, but Krispiyanto raped her, according to the criminal complaint lodged against the crew member.

The minor reported the incident to her mother in August, and it was then reported to the FBI.  A FBI agent interviewed Krispiyanto in April of this year and arrested him earlier this month.   

According to court records, when an FBI agent questioned Krispiyanto in April, he first denied the incident. But after a polygraph exam indicated Krispiyanto was being deceptive, he confessed to having sex with the minor in a pantry area on the cruise ship.  Krispiyanto is being held at the Hery Krispiyanto - Carnival Cruise - Rape Allegations Seminole County Jail.

June 1 Update:

The arrest of the Carnival crew member is now receiving wide media coverage. The Palm Beach Post contains a story today "Carnival Cruise Ship Bartender Accused of Raping Girl, 14, During Cruise With Her Parents."  The Post's article contains what appears to be a mug shot of  Krispiyanto (right),

We have written many articles about the problem of crew members preying on children on cruise ships:

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

Why Cruises are NOT the Best Vacations with Kids

Should Travel Agents Be Liable For Falsely Representing That Cruises Are Safe For Kids?

Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship

Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise: No. 1 - Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

 

Credits:

Photograph top       Hery Krispiyanto's Friendster page

Photograph bottom    Seminole Co. Sheriff's Office (via Palm Beach Post)

Update: Sexual Assault Of Children On Cruise Ships

The Vancouver Observer published an interesting article today which addressed, as the newspaper called it, the "moral dilemmas associated with cruise tourism."

The article was entitled the "Cost of Cruising," by Dr. Ross Klein.  In addition to addressing the effects of cruise pollution, it raised the issue of crime aboard cruise ship - particularly sexual assaults:

Cruise Ships - Sexual Abuse - Child Predator  "The rate of sexual assault and sexual harassment on Royal Caribbean International’s ships in the period 2003 – 2005 was approximately 50 percent higher than the rate in Canada.  

The rate of sexual assault on Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships from October 2007 - October 2008 similarly was 50 percent higher than the rate in Canada.  These assaults were perpetrated by crew members as well as by passengers, and the victims were both crew members and passengers.

It is astonishing that more than 17.5 percent of the sexual assault victims were minors – children under the age of 18.  While Royal Caribbean International appears to have improved its record between 2003 – 2005 and 2007 – 2008, the problem still exists.  Passengers need to be aware that cruise ships are not as safe as purported to be, and that they (and their children) need to take the same precautions on board a ship as they do in any major city." 

Dr. Klein's resarch led him to conclude at least 79 minors were sexually assaulted from 2003 - 2005 on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

We recently discussed the issue of sexual abuse of children on cruise ships.  This is a very real risk.  The cruise industry tries to keep these crimes secret from the U.S. public.

 

Photo Credit:             Mail Online

Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise: No. 1 - Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

Cruise Critic ran an article last week about the Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise  When Cruise Critic claimed "Cruise Ships are Family Friendly" and posted the photographs from a Royal Caribbean teen center (below), I had heard and seen enough.  I responded with my article "Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise." 

Here's reason no. 1:

Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

The purpose of my article is not to convince anyone not to cruise, but to educate consumers regarding the dangers inherent in and the consequences of cruising.  It you want to cruise, that's your business not mine.  But at least educate yourself before you expose your family to danger. 

Sexual Abuse - Children - Cruise Ships - Sexual PredatorsSome Facts:

The cruise industry is big, rich, and growing.  It is a real juggernaut.  Cruises are cheap and considered to be "good deals."    

Close to fourteen million passengers will sail this year on cruise ships from companies based in the U.S.  The cruise industry claims that 95% of the passengers believe that cruising is a positive experience.  And I have no reason to dispute that figure.  But that leaves 5%, or around 700,000 people, with a negative experience.  Included in this group are parents whose children were raped or sexually molested on cruise ships.

Cruise lines are not legally obligated to report sexual assaults of children, or any crimes for that matter.  Currently pending before the U.S. Senate is the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, which will require - for the first time - that crimes be reported to the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard. When this law is enacted, cruise lines will also be required to reveal the crimes to the U.S. public via a link on their web pages.

But at the current time, the only sources of information are when courts order the cruise lines to reveal the crimes during lawsuits.  One good source of information is Dr. Ross Klein's CruiseJunkie.  Dr. Klein testified before our U.S. Congress several times and concluded that "Your Risk of Being Sexually Assaulted is Much Higher on a Cruise Ship Than in the Average American City."  Based on data we obtained in court cases, Dr. Klein concluded that at least 79 children were sexually assaulted or harassed on Royal Caribbean cruise ships alone from 1998 to 2005.

Our Experiences:   

The first case I handled involving sexual abuse of a minor on a cruise ship was in 1999.  A pedophile crew member gave a 14 year old boy a dozen glasses of champagne and took him back to his cabin.  He shaved the boy's pubic hair off and molested him when was was unconscious.  The cruise line responded by offering the family 50% of their cruise fare for their troubles.

Since then, we have handled over 70 cases involving sexual assault, with many children as victims.  We obtained, via a Court order, several secret internal studies by Royal Caribbean which concluded that sexual misconduct on cruise occurs "frequently."  At the same time, the cruise line's PR people were telling the American public that sexual assaults during cruises was "rare."  We also obtained spread sheets which revealed that there were 273 incidents of sexual Teen Activity Center - Sexual Assault - Sexual Abuse - Childrenmisconduct on the Royal Caribbean fleet for a period of three years, including rape and sexual abuse of minors.

A False Sense of Security

Parents believe that they can turn their children over to the "teen activity centers" or that the kids are safe alone in their cabins or walking the hallways and decks of the ship.  Parents are encouraged to let their guard down, grab a cocktail or two, and relax. 

The number one crime we see on cruise ships is when the parents stay out late at the disco or casino, and they leave their 12 year old son or 14 year old daughter alone in the cabin.  Many kids get tired after a fun day at the pool or after an excursion ashore, and they don't want to go to the second seating at dinner.  There are far too many cases where the cabin attendant will use their key card to access the cabin when the parents are away. 

Victim organizations, like International Cruise Victims (ICV), have proposed good recommendations to address this problem.  The ICV proposes deactivating the key cards of crew members after hours so they can't use them to get into the passenger cabins, using female cabin attendants rather than 25 year old males, or assigning supervisors to monitor the passenger cabins.  Most cruise lines have ignored these recommendations, and conduct business as usual.  Just last week we were contacted by the parents of a 16 year old sexually abused by a crew member who used a key card to get into the cabin when the parents were away.   

The other most likely scenario is when men or older teenagers target 13 and 14 year olds in the youth programs or confront them when they are trying to make their way back to their cabins.  To get an idea of how this happens, consider reading Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship.

No Background Checks, Too Much Alcohol and Too Little Security

Cruise lines do not perform background checks on their crew members.  They rely on the hiring agents around the world to (hopefully) do that for them.  But what kind of a pre-employment investigation can be done in Nicaragua, India, St. Vincent, or Belize?  There are no computer databases or depositories of information for criminals or sexual predators in countries like these.  The other problem is that cruise lines do not share their crime data.  When Royal Caribbean fires a sexual predator, he can find work on another cruise line, like Princess Cruises, within a few months.  We have seen it happen. 

Sexual Abuse - Children - Cruise Ships - Sexual PredatorsA major problem on cruise ships is alcohol.  Cruise lines earn literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year selling booze.  Older teenagers or young men can entice 15 and 16 year old girls to go back to their cabins and drink.  Parents who have zealously watched over their children for 15 years can find themselves with no clue where their kids may be during much of the cruise.  The Oasis of the Seas, for example, has several thousand cabins.  A lot can go wrong by behind these closed cabin doors.   

Compounding matters is that cruise ships have few security guards. Sometimes as few as two guards are on duty at night, and they do not actually patrol the passenger hallways.  Most cruise ships have hundreds of waiters, assistant waiters, bar tenders and bar servers who work on only $50 a month plus tips, and whose job it is to push alcohol sales.  But security guards?  Maybe 2 or 3 are on duty at any one time, and they are responsible for the safety of 2,000 - 3,000 guests? 

Cruise Ships Hide Information and Destroy Evidence

In the U.S., you can obtain a crime grid for every business and residential address in the U.S.  If you want to know whether the local child care facility or sleepover camp has had a crime in the past, just ask the local police to run a crime report and the information is there for the asking.  But cruise lines keep the crimes secret.  Trust us, they say.  We will take care of your kids.  Don't worry, have fun.

But when things goes wrong, the cruise line will treat your family like criminals. There is no independent security or police authorities aboard the ship. You are on the high seas - a no man's land - often thousands miles from the closet FBI office.  Cruise lines are notorious for covering crimes up.  They do not want the legal liability or public spectacle of a crew member being led off their cruise ships in handcuffs.  They will defend their employee and accuse little Susie of making things up.  That's why some cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, have never had a single crew member convicted of sexual assault of a minor in the company's 40 year history.

And as long as no one gets convicted, sexual predators know that nothing will happen to them if they go on a cruise.  Its the perfect place to sexually abuse a child.   

We have written many articles about the problem with children being sexually assaulted during cruises:

Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships 

Cruise Ship Passenger Sentenced in Child Porn Case

Another Crew Member Arrested for Child Pornography  

Why Cruises are NOT the Best Vacations with Kids 

Should Travel Agents Be Liable For Falsely Representing That Cruises Are Safe For Kids?

Tomorrow, we will discuss reason no. 2 not to cruise: Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It!

 

Do you agree, disagree, or have a comment to make?  Let us hear from you in the comments below.

 

Credits:

Teen center photograph        Royal Caribbean Cruises (via Cruise Critic)

Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe?

The U.S. Department of State has issued a warning of dangers while traveling to the Bahamas, including sexual assaults on cruise ships in the port in Nassau:

Nassau Bahamas - Crime - Cruise Passengers"CRIME: The Bahamas has a high crime rate .  .  .  the U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as in casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships. In several incidents the victim had reportedly been drugged."  

This type of warning, although certainly warranted, is not what the Bahamas wants to hear.  Nassau is a preferred port of call for many cruise ships, which line up like cars in a crowded parking lot.  

Today's the headline in the Washington Post's travel section is also not what the Bahamas or the cruise lines which sail there wanted to hear: "Violent Crime Is Up In The Bahamas"  Here is a portion of the article:

"Bahamas-bound travelers, beware.

Crime in the popular tourist destination is on the upswing, especially on New Providence Island, where the capital city, Nassau, is located. And we're not talking just petty thefts or purse-snatching, but far more serious violent crime.

This island nation finished 2009 with a record 87 murders -- a statistic tourism officials probably won't be trumpeting in their next "It's Better in the Bahamas" ad  .  .  .

The criminal activity has prompted the operators of the world's largest cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, to warn its passengers to "be mindful of their personal safety," the Nassau Guardian Senor Frogs - Nassau Bahamas - Alcohol - Sexual Assault newspaper reported  .   .   .

Some Bahamians attribute the crime wave to high unemployment (hovering around 15 percent on New Providence Island, according to the Guardian) and the nation's status as a gathering spot for drug traffickers."

We have warned passengers cruising to Nassau about crime for the past 6 months:

Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau 

18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level

The problem with crime in Nassau is real.  Many passengers let their guard down and think Nassau is safe for no reason other than the cruise line is sailing there.  But we have represented passengers raped in Nassau, passengers raped on cruise ships in the port in Nassau, and multiple passengers robbed in Nassau.   

A major problem is when young women go into Nassau and drink at the popular bars near where the cruise ships dock.  Many women have been sexually assaulted after leaving the bar even though it is a short distance from the cruise ships.  The cruise lines do not provide security at the port nor do they warn about the dangers of date rape drugs and sexual assaults while in Nassau.

The U.S. Department of State warns about young women being sexually assaulted after leaving the cruise ships in Nassau:  

"Visitors should exercise caution and good judgment at all times.  Engaging in high-risk behavior such as excessive consumption of alcohol can ultimately be dangerous as it greatly increases the vulnerability of an individual to accidents or opportunistic crime.  Visitors should not accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers."   

Nassau Bahamas - Crime - Cruise Passengers

 

Credits:

Oasis of the Seas - Nassau          Bahamas Press

Senor Frogs                                      Casch52 Flickr photostream

Cruise ships in Nassau                 Elenor Snow

Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship

A newspaper in Rochester, New York reported yesterday that a passenger was indicted for sexually abusing a thirteen year old girl during a cruise back in December of 2006.  The passenger is alleged to have threatened to throw the child overboard if she called for help.

Lucas George Wickes - Sexual Abuse - Disney Wonder Cruise ShipTwenty-four year old Lucas George Wickes (photo left), of Rochester, New York, was indicted for the felony offenses of sexual abuse and aggravated sexual abuse of a minor on the high seas. 

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York issued a press release last September entitled "Rochester Man Charged In Aggravated Sexual Abuse On High Seas Case." 

According to the press release, "on or about December 31, 2006, a 13-year-old female boarded a cruise ship departing from Port Canaveral, Florida to embark on a cruise with her family. In the early morning hours of January 1, 2007, after attending the teen nightclub, the female was walking around the decks with a couple of other teenagers when they were approached by the defendant who indicated that they should be returning to their cabins. The female followed defendant who took her to another deck and then forced her to take her pants off and perform oral sex on him, threatening to throw her overboard if she screamed . . "

We have written about the sexual assault of children in prior blogs:

Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships

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

Why Cruises are NOT the Best Vacations with Kids

Should Travel Agents Be Liable For Falsely Representing That Cruises Are Safe For Kids?

Disney Wonder - Sexual Assault - Sexual Abuse - Minors  What is striking about the U.S. Attorney's press release and the news articles "covering" this story is that the name of the cruise line is not mentioned.  We see this quite a bit.  Law enforcement and/or reporters sometimes try and protect the cruise lines from bad press.  

Another website identifies the cruise ship as the Disney Wonder.

It is a real disservice when the name of the cruise line is kept secret.  Many parents have a false sense that their kids are safe on cruises.  We have learned of sex crimes like this on cruise ships, even on cruise ships which cater to families.   

 

Credits: 

Disney Wonder Kid's Club           MPR529 Flickr Photostream via Hub Pages

Should Travel Agents Be Liable For Falsely Representing That Cruises Are Safe For Kids?

Cruise Ship Crime Today I read a travel agency's twitter feed "Safety for Children on Cruise Ships."  I am interested in this issue after representing 60 clients sexually assaulted on cruise ships, including children.

I was hoping to see some good safety tips in the article to keep children safe. Boy was I disappointed.  Not only were there no useful safety tips but the travel agents made the following comment:

 . . . most parents also like the fact that a cruise also allows you to spend some time apart from your kids, knowing that they are well taken care of.

Royal Caribbean, Disney, Celebrity and many other cruise lines have special programs for children, supervised by crew members who are specially qualified and trained to work with kids.

Unfortunately, this is simply not true.

We have represented many families whose children have been molested by youth counselors on cruise ships.  Other children have been victimized by crew members or even other passengers when they were suppose to be under the supervision of the counselors.  Others have been taken into cabins by older teenagers and men and raped when they were trying to walk back to their cabins after the kid's activities ended.  

Another dangerous situation is when parents leave their kids in the cabin to see a show, or they want to stay up late in the casino or disco. A cabin attendant can open the cabin door with his pass key when the parents are away. As I have said in a prior article, 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.  

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 Children - Molestation - Cruise Shipscomputerized 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. 

Many travel agents shy away from unpleasant facts.  But it is another thing to affirmatively represent that children are safe and crew members are "specially qualified and trained." 

Exactly what "special qualifications" does the crew member you entrust your child have?  Why don't you ask the crew member before you drop your child off in the "kid's club."  Don't be surprised when they look at you with a puzzled face. 

If you are a travel agent reading this - do you think that you face liability if you make a representation that kids are safe to a client and a crew member molests your client's child during the cruise you just sold?  I know the answer.  Do you?  

Before you make a false statement in the hope of making a sale, take a moment and read the following articles:

Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships 

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

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

Cruise Ship Passenger Sentenced in Child Porn Case

Why Cruises are NOT the Best Vacations with Kids

U.S. Customs Arrest Rape Suspect Trying to Board Carnival Cruise Ship in Miami

Cruise Passenger - Rape Suspect - Arrested Before the CruiseYesterday, U.S. Customs and Border Protective Services arrested a rape suspect who had flown to Miami to go on a Carnival cruise aboard the Destiny.

The Georgetown Times newspaper reports that 32-year-old Tyrone Green has been on the run for two years after he allegedly brutally attacked and raped a 77-year-old woman in her home in South Carolina during the week of Christmas 2007.  But his freedom came to an end Monday when he tried to board a cruise ship in Miami yesterday.

Green was recently placed into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computers after evidence matched him to the scene of the Dec. 22, 2007 attack.  When the Customs agents checked Green’s name in the NCIC database, they realized that he was wanted in Georgetown for the rape.

The case is reminiscent of the arrest of another passenger who was arrested in Tampa earlier this year.

Cruise Passenger - Rape suspect - Arrested after CruiseSteven Mark Anthony Requena, 28, was arrested while on the Carnival Cruise Ship "Inspiration" at the Port of Tampa.

His name was flagged by a sweep of the manifest of passengers by Homeland Security officials who determined that the passenger was wanted for sexual assault in addition to assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. 

Unlike Mr. Green who was nabbed before he boarded the Carnival cruise ship, Requena was arrested after he cruised for a week.  The U.S. Marshals arrested him only after the cruise ship returned to port.

What was interesting about the Requena arrest was that the U.S. Marshall's office brought a photographer and videographer and filmed the rape suspect as he was forced to make a "perp walk" down the crew gangway and along side the ship.  The Tampa Tribune then blasted a headline "Breaking News: Marshals Arrest Rape Suspect at Tampa Cruise Terminal," complete with photos of the arrest.  

What a production!  Hey, don't get me wrong - our U.S. Marshals deserve the recognition! 

Perp Walke - Cruise Passenger - Rape SuspectBut the problem remains that arrests of rape suspects are rare on cruise ships.  You will never see a photograph or video of a cruise line employee who is accused of raping a passenger making a "perp walk."  

The cruise lines would never let that happen.

Our government does a pretty good job of arresting U.S. citizens trying to board cruise ships who are accused of raping a victim ashore, but a terrible job arresting rapists who attack victims on cruise ships.

   

 

Credits:

Tyronne Green     Georgetown Times newspaper, Georgetown South Carolina

Steven Mark Anthony Requena   United States Marshal's Office

Congresswoman Matsui Advocates For Safety Aboard Cruise Ships

The success of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2009 (HR 3360) can be traced directly to Congresswoman Doris Matsui of Sacramento California.

Congresswoman Matsui's constituent, Laurie Dishman, called upon her three and one-half years ago after Ms. Dishman was a victim of a crime on a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises. 

We have discussed Ms. Dishman and Congresswoman Matsui in prior blogs - Congress Passes Cruise Crime Law and Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4

The following video is of Congresswoman's comments on November 17, 2009 shortly before Congress passed the cruise crime law: 

 

 

 

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:   

 

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 . . .    

Another Crew Member Arrested for Child Pornography

Canadian Border Patrol arrested another crew member after finding child pornography on his cell phone. NCL crew member Menandro Lim Lanzar, age 31, from the Philippines was arraigned in Halifax on a charge of importing child pornography.

Mr. Lanzar is employed as a quarter master on the NCL cruise ship Norwegian Jewel.

Canada's Chronicle Herald reported on the incident is a story "Cruise Ship Worker Caught with Child Porn, Police Say."

In an article last week entitled Perverts, Child Predators and Cruise Ships, I reported on a nearly identical case where a Carnival crew member from the cruise ship Triumph was arrested in Halifax for child pornography which was found on his cell phone and on his computer on the cruise ship.

Parents who take their children cruising need to realize that cruise ships are not immune from perverts and child predators.  The "background checks" performed by the cruise line's hiring agents are a joke.  Families that cruise need to be particularly careful with male cabin attendants around children.  Don't leave your kids alone in the cabin.

Congress Passes Cruise Crime Law

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2009.  This is a remarkable event.  For the first time in the history of the cruise industry, cruise lines are now required to report crimes which occur on cruise ships to the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI.  There has been an epidemic of rapes on cruise ships over the years, and the cruise industry is notorious for its lack of transparency and its cover up of such crimes.

This is quite a milestone. No one in South Florida has the courage to take on the cruise industry and enact legislation like this. Victims had to look 3,000 miles away from Miami - the Cruise Capital of the World -  to a leader in Sacramento, California to get the job done.

Thank You Congresswoman Matsui and the International Cruise Victims Association

The bill is the result of the hard work of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") association, led by Laurie Dishman Doris MatsuiKen Carver whose daughter Merrian disappeared on a cruise ship operated by Celebrity Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises. The legislation was introduced by California Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) whose constituent, Ms. Laurie Dishman was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  Ms. Dishman is a client and good friend of the firm.  She has worked tirelessly with the other ICV members to make sure that legislation like this is enacted to protect the traveling public.

The new cruise law also requires that rape victims on cruise ships be promptly given anti-retroviral medications in order to prevent the victims from developing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. 

Our firm is representing a woman who was recently raped on a Princess Cruises ship.  The ship doctor and the Princess Cruises fleet medical department refused to provide the victim with such medications.  The cruise line's recklessness needlessly endangered the young woman's health and life. Now, there will be culpability when cruise lines act irresponsibly following a cruise ship crime.   

The ICV issued a press release today:

Press Release of the International Cruise Victims     

international cruise victimsThe International Cruise Victims Association (ICV) applauds House passage today of critical language authored by Congresswoman Doris O. Matsui (D-CA) ensuring the safety of cruise ship passengers on the high seas. Matsui’s Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2009, included in H.R. 3619, the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2010, requires cruise lines to report all crimes aboard cruise ships to both the United States Coast Guard and the FBI. The first measure of its kind, this legislation represents a historic step toward securing the safety all passengers need and deserve.

“I recognize today as a milestone in our fight for justice,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “I originally became involved in this issue because of a young woman, Laurie Dishman, from my hometown of Sacramento. Laurie was sexually assaulted while on a cruise ship, and was left to fend for herself. international cruise victimMy legislation will not only help protect and empower future victims, but it contains important reforms that will help change the culture of the cruise industry and prevent future attacks from happening.”

ICV has been advocating for these measures to be adopted since 2006, participating in countless meetings with members of Congress, and three Congressional hearings. The hearings were held at the urging of Rep. Matsui, with the support of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced corresponding legislation in the U.S. Senate, which also held hearings, and the bill was passed unanimously out of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Now that the bill has passed the House, the bill will need to pass the full Senate before being sent to the President to be signed into law.

international cruise victimsAs this crucial legislation moves forward, it serves as a sign to many among the ICV’s community of followers that progress is being made toward ensuring the safety of Americans abroad. The measure approved today is a major victory in the fight for cruise passengers’ rights. ICV President Kendall Carver expressed his hopeful outlook as the legislation has been approved by committee in the Senate. “Adoption of this bill would be proof to the world that our small group of volunteers with limited funds has been able to make a difference in the safety of Americans. 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.”

“Congresswoman Matsui has taken the lead in the House on this issue, and her efforts have made the difference in moving this legislation forward,” Carver continued. “Her efforts are appreciated by myself and all other victims and their families that are members of International Cruise Victims Association. Without Ms. Matsui’s efforts in the House and Sen. Kerry's efforts in the U.S. Senate this legislation would have not moved forward and we are forever indebted to both of them. I look forward to the upcoming Senate floor vote and the President’s signature as soon as humanly possible.”

Currently, cruise ships operating under foreign flags of convenience are not required under U.S. law to report crimes occurring outside of U.S. territorial waters. Legislation approved today will ensure that crimes committed while aboard cruise ships do not escape the jurisdiction of international cruise victimsAmerican law enforcement. Title IX requires cruise ships to comply with design and construction standards, such as specific rail heights, peep holes, warning devices and cabin security measures. The bill also requires that vessels are equipped with a video surveillance system to assist in documenting and prosecuting crimes, and it requires vessels to maintain a log book to record reports on specified complaints. Finally, once enacted, vessels will be required to contact the nearest FBI office as soon as possible to report incidents involving homicide, suspicious deaths, missing U.S. nationals, kidnapping, assault, and other serious occurrences.

The International Cruise Victims Association, Inc. (ICV) is a not for profit corporation formed by victims and families of victims of cruise crimes.

 

Photo Credits      International Cruise Victims ("ICV")

1. Honorable Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Laurie Dishman, Bill Dishman

2. ICV members Mark Brimble, Ken Carver, Son Michael Pham

3. ICV members in Washington DC

4. ICV members Ron and Sue DiPiero 

5. ICV members Lynnette Hudson, Ken Carver      

 

Sexual Assault Reported on P & O Cruises' Pacific Sun Cruise Ship

ABC News in Australia reports that police are investigating a sexual assault which occured on the cruise ship Pacific Sun operated by Princess Cruises' sister company P & O Cruises. The alleged crime took place on the P & O cruise ship during a seven day cruise of the South Pacific near Noumea. Australian police boarded the Pacific Sun when the ship returned to Brisbane today.

At this time there is little information other than the ABC News report.  The newspapers in Australia resemble, at least to me, the British press. They are aggressive in reporting stories like this.  I expect there to be numerous articles on line soon.

In a post earlier today, I commented on the risk passengers face of sexual assault on cruises, both by crew members and other passengers. I have commented extensively on the sexual assault of P & O Cruises passenger Dianne Brimble who died on the Pacific Sun

Cruise lines have suffered from terrible publicity due to the irresponsible way that they have responded to shipboard crimes.  For example, after Ms. Brimble died, the P & O brand (a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation which also owns sister company Princess Cruises), began running a highly sexualized marketing campaign touting an image of booze and sex. 

A commenter to a previous post commented that P & O "pimped out their female passengers, with the 'Seamen Wanted' promotional postcard, depicting a deck full of women wearing bikinis, accompanied by a tag line 'More girls, more sun, more fun. There's nothing else a guy needs to know.' "  

In a post last week, I praised the leadership of P & O's CEO Ann Sherry who inherited this mess but seems to have brought a professionalism and air of transparency to the cruise line.

In the past, P & O Cruises issued a press statement following a sexual assault on the Pacific Star. 

The last time the press reported a sexual assault on a Princess Cruises or P & O cruise was earlier this year. A Princess Cruises waiter assaulted and attempted to rape a passenger aboard Princess Cruises' Coral Princess. The Princess Cruises' employee,  identified as Jorge Manuel Teixeira, 38, of Portugal, was arraigned on three counts each of aggravated sexual assault and sexual abuse.  He is awaiting trial. 

A  P & O passenger was also raped aboard the Pacific Star earlier this year as well. A newspaper in Australia reported that the P & O ship's crew found a 46-year-old female passenger in a state of shock and suffering bruises in the early hours following a New Year's Eve party.  She alleged that a 37-year-old Australian passenger raped her while she was sleeping in her cabin.  Like the instant case, the attack happened near Noumea.

Regarding this latest report of sexual assault, I expect that we will soon hear from Ms. Sherry, probably via YouTube if her lawyers will "let her do her thing."  Otherwise, the Australian press will be the only ones commenting on yet another sexual assault on a Princess or P & O cruise ship.

October 11, 2009 Update:

P & O Cruises has not issued a press release or provided an update on their website or ship blogs yet.  An online newspaper in Australia, News.com.au, reports that the alleged victim is  believed to be a juvenile.  Queensland police are investigating and have interviewed "people allegedly involved in the incident." But a police spokesperson indicated that no one had been arrested or charged. The spokesperson also "refused to say how many people were involved in the incident, or where they were from." 

 

 

   

Photo credit       Jim Walker, Star Princess, Seattle, July 4, 2009

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.          

 

Princess Cruises and its General Counsel, Mona Ehrenreich, Win First "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award

When I started this blog, I announced that I would be awarding what I am calling the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award. 

This is a special award, reserved only for the cruise line or cruise line executive which demonstrates the worst in corporate malfeasance towards cruise passenger safety and crew member rights.  The award, like MSNBC's "Worst Person in the World" award, goes to that cruise line or cruise person engaging in underhanded conduct. 

And the Winner Is  . . .

Without question, September's award goes to the Princess Cruises and its General Counsel, Mona Ehrenreich. 

Princess Cruises operates 17 cruise ships and is headquartered in Santa Clarita, California.  It also has a substantial base of operations here in South Florida. Like other cruise lines, it incorporated itself in a foreign country and its cruise ships fly foreign flags of convenience in order to avoid U.S. taxes, laws and regulations.

Ms. Ehrenreich joined Princess in 1993 after working at a law firm defending cruise ships. Ironically, she credits attending a college course in U.S. "constitutional law" as a motivating reason to become a lawyer.  One of her responsibilities is to oversee the company's interests when Princess crew members sexually assault passengers or other crew members.

The Love Boat

Princess Cruises was popularized by the television series "The Love Boat" which ran in the 1970's. The TV Love Boat theme is so interwoven with this cruise line that it marketed the slogan "it's more than a cruise - it's the Love Boat!" through the 1990s. Princess built on the "Love Boat" slogan with its current high powered marketing theme "Department of Romance" which caters to young couples with illusions of romantic getaways and honeymoon cruises.  

PR - Perception and Reality

The unique thing about cruise lines is that there is often a disconnect between the slick image created through advertisements and what really goes on behind the scenes.

Date rape drugs. Rape. Malpractice by the Princess ship doctor.  Destruction of evidence.  Lying.  Unauthorized release of confidential information of its employees. Princess Cruises has touched all of the bases. Let me start with just one example.

Crew Members and Cruise Crime Victims Have Privacy Rights

I have represented over 60 women and children who have been sexually assaulted on cruise ships. Not a pretty topic.  Many of our clients have appeared before our U.S. Congress at hearings on cruise ship crime.  This is something the cruise lines like to keep secret.  Not good for ticket sales.

One of our cases involved a young woman from Mexico who had been sexually harassed while working on a cruise ship operated by a Miami based company.  While investigating the case, I learned that my client previously worked for Princess Cruises.  I sent an email to Princess Cruises' General Counsel, Mona Ehrenreich. I explained that I was pursuing a case against a cruise line here in Miami and needed to obtain my client's personnel and medical records from Princess. 

Records of this type are confidential and cannot be released without a signed and notarized authorization or a lawfully issued and served subpoena. California, where Princess is headquartered, has the strongest constitutional privacy rights in the U. S.  Ms. Ehrenreich obviously knows this after living in California her whole life, and being a student of "constitutional law."  

I requested that Ms. Ehrenreich  provide me with the particular type of authorization Princess required to release these confidential records.  My client would execute the authorization and, in turn, I could obtain the records.  I wanted to be certain that I was in full compliance with the Federal and State laws and regulations which govern records of this type.

Double Crossed

Ms. Ehrenreich quickly emailed me back and - to my surprise - claimed that there were no records reflecting that my client ever worked for Princess.  I knew this was not true, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I double checked the spelling of my client's name and I also sent her my client's Princess crew member identification number!  This would easily permit the records to be identified and retrieved. 

Ms. Ehrenreich then refused to respond to my requests. 

I continued on with the case against the cruise line in Miami. But it soon became apparent by the type of questions asked by the defense lawyer that his law firm had somehow obtained my client's confidential records from Princess in California. How could this be possible? Princess absolutely needed a signed and notarized authorization. To release medical records, the cruise line needed a HIPAA compliant release. Or Princess needed to be served with a subpoena.  But the cruise line never obtained an authorization nor received a subpoena.    

The Truth Comes Out

I asked the cruise line defense lawyer if Princess secretly sent him the records.  He refused to respond.  I served him with requests for my own client's records from Princess and any emails or letters from Princess.  He objected.  I pressed the issue further and threatened a Court hearing and sanctions.  He caved in, admitting that Princess surreptitiously sent him the records behind my back. 

I subsequently obtained evidence that when Ms. Ehrenreich received my email and told me that my client never worked at Princess, she sent an email to the defense lawyers in Miami and began communicating with them about my client. Then Princess sent all of my client's records to these lawyers, without a signed authorization or receipt of a subpoena!              

A Cruise Line Without A Moral Rudder

If the top lawyer for a large corporation will flaunt ethical rules and Federal and State privacy rights, what does that say about the culture of that corporation?  Who will protect the rights of cruise line employees, particularly crew members from foreign countries who can be easily exploited?  Who will enforce a code of honesty and ethics?    

Things are not as they seem on the Love Boat.  Cruise lines like this develop an arrogance over the years.  They don't pay U. S. taxes.  They abuse their foreign crew members. They usually get away with things. 

Duplicity and a lack of transparency characterize  Princess Cruises.  What can be expected from a cruise line whose General Counsel acts like this?

You will hear about this cruise line and Ms. Ehrenreich in the future, no doubt. 

This month's award was won in a landslide.  Princess Cruises and its General Counsel, Mona Ehrenreich, have more than earned their place as the first recipients of the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award.     

 

Photo credits:

Worst Person Logo MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann

Photo of Star Princess Cruise Ship   Jim Walker, Seattle WA July 4, 2009

"Crawfishing" - Passengers in P & O Cruises Death Case Can't Remember A Thing

The criminal trial in Australia regarding the death of Dianne Brimble on P & O Cruises' Pacific Sky continues with key witnesses having a complete lapse of memory. 

In a previous article, I commented on the danger of passengers, like Ms. Brimble, being given "Fantasy" or other date rape drugs on cruise ships.

Dragan Losic (with goatee), one of "8 persons of interest" in Ms. Brimble's death, appeared in Court. Over the course of three hours of his testimony, he could not even remember meeting Dianne Brimble on the first night of the cruise, just hours before she died in his friends' cabin. 

Australia's "The Age" newspaper reports that Mr. Losic previously testified in what is called a "coronial inquest." At that time, he clearly recollected that he was the first to meet Ms Brimble in a disco on the cruise ship and he later observed her in his friend's cabin.  He also remembered "Fantasy" on the cruise ship.  But now with his friend on trial for Ms.Brimble's death, Mr. Losic can't remember a thing.

Another key witness, Matthew Graham Slade, who testified today also changed his story. Australian news website news.com.au reports that Mr. Slade originally told police that  he awoke on the cruise and  saw a naked body on the floor of his cabin. But at trial, he claims that he can't remember this at all. 

In New Orleans where I went to law school, we called this "crawfishing."  This is a term which characterizes a crawfish (or other crustacean) which crawls backwards, usually into a hole, when confronted with danger. 

Date rape drugs.  Crawfishing witnesses.  A devastated family.  The trial continues. 

 

Photo credit      Sydney Morning Herald 

 

 

Cruise Law Services for Passengers and Crew Members

Cruise ship accidents, injuries, crimes, disappearances, fires, and collisions on the high seas involve issues of maritime law.  Jim Walker graduated from law school in 1983 and has been handling maritime law cases for the past thirty-one years. He handles a wide variety of cases from serious injuries to the highest profile sexual assault and cruise crime cases.

Cruise Passenger Injuries and Accidents - Carnival - Royal Caribbean - Jim focuses his maritime law practice on representing cruise passengers and crew members in cases against cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America Line, Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line among others. 

The firm handles cases on a "contingency" basis - meaning that you do not send us a retainer and we do not bill you for our fees or expenses. 

We advance all costs and are reimbursed for our time and costs only if we are successful in reaching a settlement or we win the case for you. 

PASSENGER CASES:

Jim's firm represents passengers throughout the United States, Canada, England and Europe.  95% of his U.S. clients live outside of Florida, from New York to California.  

Jim handles the following types of cases: 

  • Slip and fall accidents on wet decks, buffet floors, and slippery pool decks. 
  • Sexual assaults on cruise ships, by crew members or other passengers.
  • Physical assaults and battery, often due to intoxicated passengers.
  • Overboard passengers and “disappearances” at sea.
  • Injuries during shore excursions.
  • Injuries and deaths on tour excursion vehicles and open "safari" buses.  
  • Injuries while boarding tenders to and from the cruise ships.
  • Cruise ship catastrophes - fires, sinkings and collisions.
  • Injuries and deaths arising from terrorist and pirate attacks.

CREW MEMBERS CASES

Jim has handled many hundreds of cases against cruise lines like Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Oceania, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Silversea.  The types of cases include:  

  • Delayed and improper medical care on the cruise ship.
  • Failure to provide medical treatment ashore.
  • Jim Walker - Cruise Ship Law - Maritime Law MiamiMedical negligence by doctors hired by the cruise lines in foreign countries
  • Failure to pay wages and living expenses in a timely manner.
  • Abandoning the crew member in their home country after becoming injured or ill.
  • Neck, shoulder and back injuries to waiters due to lifting heavy trays.
  • Slip and falls in the galley.
  • Injuries to stateroom attendants.
  • Accidents handling luggage during embarkation day.
  • Sexual harassment and sexual assault.     

Jim is handling cases of crew members from countries like Jamaica, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Nicaragua, Serbia, Croatia, India, Canada, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.

With recent widespread incidents of cruise ship fires, collisions and sinkings, the world-wide media has called upon Jim for legal commentary and analysis.  In 2013 alone, Jim has appeared in over 150 television, cable news, radio, documentary, and newspaper articles and programs