News sources are reporting that a 23-year-old woman, Neha Chhikara, went overboard from the Monarch of the Seas cruise ship near Nassau, Bahamas, around 4 a.m. this morning. 

The Monarch of the Seas is operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises which has had more than its Monarch of the Seas - Missing Passenger  share of overboards in the last few years.  The cruise ship left Port Canaveral, Florida on Tuesday for the Bahamas and was scheduled to return to port on January 2, 2010.

Royal Caribbean issued a press statement which is as follows:

“The guest was last seen at 3:45 a.m. At that time, the ship was sailing from Nassau to CocoCay, Bahamas. As soon as the guest was reported missing, various public announcements were made onboard and a complete search of the ship, as well of CocoCay, was initiated.”

“Shipboard closed-circuit camera footage captured the guest going overboard on deck 11, port side at approximately 4:11 a.m. Government officials have reviewed the footage and determined that the guest jumped overboard.”

The Royal Caribbean PR spokesperson, Cynthia Martinez, is quoted by Florida Today as stating that the passenger was reported missing by her husband at 12:15 p.m. 

The popular cruise on line community CruiseCritic reports that the "passenger" was the wife of a Royal Caribbean crew member.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that although Ms. Chhikara went overboard a little after 4:00 a.m., the cruise ship did not report her missing until around 2:00 p.m. – almost 10 hours after she went overboard.   

There is no explanation why it took this long for the cruise line to report her overboard, nor is there any explanation why her husband, Ankit Dalal, waited until 8 hours later to report her missing.

There is technology available to the cruise industry for surveillance cameras to be triggered by motion with an alarm being immediately sent to the bridge to alert the cruise ship’s officers that a passenger has gone overboard.  This system would capture the video and permit immediate notification of the emergency. Tracking devices would drop into the water so that the exact location Monarch of the Seas - Missing Passengerof the passenger overboard could be determined.

Some – but certainly not all – cruise lines employ "surveillance camera operators" whose job descriptions require that the cameras be monitored 24 hours for passenger safety and security. 

Are the cameras on the port and starboard sides of the cruise ship actually monitored by operators?  Or are only the cameras in the casino or other similar locations being monitored to prevent theft of the cruise ship’s money?

Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise lines which does not monitor its closed circuit cameras on the decks and hallways.  This negligence causes an incredible waste of resources when the Coast Guard was finally notified 10 hours later.  The Coast Guard assigned an HU-25 Falcon jet crew from Air Station Miami, an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) on Andros Island, Bahamas, a C-130 Hercules aircraft from Clearwater, and the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Cormorant to search for Ms. Chhikara.

Due to the cruise line’s delay, this made the Coast Guard’s job of locating Ms. Chhikara nearly impossible.



Monarch of the Seas   Jonathon_V Flickr photostream

Monarch of the Seas


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