After a 31 year old passenger went overboard from the Carnival Fascination cruise ship into the dark waters off of the Florida coast last night around 2:00 AM, all of the major news sources and cruise friendly bloggers all lined up to dutifully repeat verbatim what the Carnival PR people fed to the public:

  • A passenger jumped overboard; and
  • A security guard witnessed the jump and immediately threw life rings overboard. 

End of story.

Sounds like a suicide to me, everyone thought. How sad, a man overcome with the weigh of the world’s Cruise Ship Overboard - Suicide?  pressures. What a pity. Pray for his family.

But was this a suicide as the cruise line wants you to believe?

The first thing that struck me strange about the story is that a security guard just happened to be at the precise spot where a passenger chose to jump overboard from the top deck of the Carnival cruise ship.

One thing i have learned over the past 29 years as a maritime lawyer is that there are virtually no security on duty and patrolling at two in the morning on a cruise ships. Perhaps a guard or two around the bars and discos where drunken fights break out, but a guard patrolling randomly on a top deck who just happened upon a passenger choosing to end his life?  No way.

The International Maritime Organization (‘IMO") regulations suggest that cruise lines have just two security personnel on duty on the entire ship at night.  This is a ridiculously insufficient number of security guard to maintain order and safety on a cruise ship, particularly aboard the drunk fest atmosphere associated with the anything goes attitude on Carnival’s "fun ships."  

There must be more to the story, I thought. What really happened to the Carnival guest who fell 90 feet into the deep waters 25 miles off of the coast of Florida?

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has studied cruise overboard cases over the past decade. He has documented some 185 passengers and crew who have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000. Most are never found. Most cases remain "mysteries."   

That’s the way cruise lines want it.  The cruise line PR people trot out the it-must-be-a-suicide-so-let’s-blame-the-passenger game.  90% of the public accepts the first thing they hear or read and lack the healthy cynicism to look behind the curtain.

When the cruise ship returns from the cruise at the end of the week we will see passengers returning to their computers and commenting about what they heard or saw on the cruise ship.  A different story will emerge. Already there are comments on Cruise Critic’s boards that this was no suicide but what is being called a strange situation where a Carnival security guard was chasing the passenger who grabbed a life ring and then jumped overboard.

Was excessive alcohol involved?  It would be surprising if not given the late hour and Carnival’s booze cruise reputation.  

But in a week from now, will anyone be concerned with what really happened?

Overboard number 185.  Carnival’s PR people have done their work.  Another mystery it seems.

Does anyone really care?      

August 30, 2012 Update:  Looks like the initial information released by Carnival is misleading.  Cruise Critic has this information today:

The case involves an "U.S. Army sergeant who was taking a vacation before shipping out to duty in Afghanistan. Sergeant Ronald Kemp, our source tells us, was intoxicated and had entered a crew-only area of the ship. There he was confronted by a female crewmember, who told him to leave. A physical confrontation ensued, during which time a security officer pepper sprayed Kemp, who then fled. Security gave chase, and Kemp ran up to the Verandah deck, one deck above the Lido deck. In order to evade security, he jumped over the railing, falling one level and landing on the Lido, and then continued to flee before grabbing a life ring and leaping overboard."

Cruise lines face liability when they serve passengers alcohol to the point of intoxication.

In the case of Hall v. Royal Caribbean, an appellate court here in Miami held that the cruise line can be sued in the following circumstances:

"  . . . a paying passenger on the defendant’s cruise ship, was injured on the high seas when, after having been served alcohol by the vessel’s employees to and obviously past the point of intoxication, he staggered from a lounge, and while unable to look after himself fell down two flights of open stairways." 


Art Credit:   CruelKev2’s blog

  • seaman

    BULLSHIT!!! again, BULLSHIT! this is the stupidest post I can possibly read! the guy just simply decided to jump for whatever reason! you CANNOT STOP anyone from doing it! ONLY if you had literally a fence of security guards around the ship!!! the alcohol, or so called “boose”… that’s what you americans want!!! To get drunk and get layed! that’s what Carnival gives you! and you PAY for it! WHAT science are you making out of it! how many people die in america every night coz of drugs, robberies, etc. come on mr. Walker… relax… take a cruise! 😉 regards from a former Carnival employee!

  • mark freeney

    does anyone really care? are you serious? he had a bigger family than most mind you. he is deeply missed, cruise lines should tighten up there act.

  • Stephanie Brown

    I mean no disrespect, but you are mistaken about how security works on a ship. That night during that time there were about 6-8 guards on duty including a supervisor (asst chief). some guards are assigned nightclub duties while ithers have duties that include patrolling crew areas as well as passenger deck areas. So I do not find the “story” as you refer to it as odd. Try not create more drama then there need be and next time get your facts straight before spreading your propaganda! This is a Fantasy class ship and is considered small.

  • well i care..its sad..i am glad i found your page though.i read it every day.i like to cruise and your page is interesting.i never knew just how much stuff really goes on while at sea…thank you for your info.

  • Mark;

    It’s a rhetorical question, no disrespect intended – does the cruise lines really care about this?

  • rcl crew

    Cruise lines really care ? Any one with doubt come forward working as a waiter,bar waiter and you will
    see what happen if you dont reach the sales target.
    To be sincere i dont care,my concern is my rating
    my revenue the only way to look good to my manager
    and my pocket,this is the sad world of today …
    We have sales targets without excuses…

  • Andrew

    To address the Carnival Employee’s previous statement is while yes Carnival is a fun Ship and they do sell large quantities of alcohol to its patrons, like any bar they should be responsible to cut people off if they have hit their limit. That’s the overall problem is cruise lines will just continuously see regardless on wether people should continue to be served.

    Your argument comes across as incoherent and petty. I understand company pride don’t judge everyone, we are not all drunkards with no higher goal that getting laid (I think is what you meant) … Most Americans really just want a safe and memorable vacation.

    As for what Stephanie said… 6 or 7 guards to monitor 2,000 averages 285 people to keep track of per guard. That’s really terrible odds. Jim only means if they had more robust staff, events like this may more easily avoided. I understand when that’s their end goal not much can stop it, but still more security never hurt anything.

    While this is a Fantasy class ship, it’s only considered small because the new standard of ship hold about 3500 – 4500 passengers. You’re just splitting hairs about the size. 15 years ago when this ship was still new it was considered very large.

  • Joe Smith

    Simple make a review of past similar cases and look for conclusions.
    Problem should be a solution but since cruise lines have a lot benefits,shortcuts will be there forever.

  • Michael

    Taxpayers feeding obscure business,that’s your choice!

  • Jim Gram
  • name withheld

    My very close friends with crew on this ship, there are cameras. Jim Walker need to get his facts straight, there are more than 2 on duty. And find out what this guys “friends” were doing the night after he jumped…it wasn’t mourning, it was more like the ex-employee stated. I also think the 31 year old in question was in the military.

  • zach

    I served with sgt Kemp and he is a great American hero. And if its true that he was being chased and that’s why he jumped we will have lawyers get those tapes. A lot of people loved and cared for sgt kemp. And if he was being chased that guard should be ashamed of himself. And I hope he goes over next.

  • mike

    I’ve known kemp for many years and to be honest this story has a very “kemp” like feel to it. reguardless if he is to blame or the cruise ship is, he will be missed. your brothers are praying for you man.

  • Greg

    As my experience working in Canival’s sister company ‘COSTA’, these secruirity guards oftenly looking for some crew mischiefs. Not looking after the public areas of the ship.

  • Josh

    I knew kemp personally as well and had many wild party nights with him. The cruise ship should tell the damn truth and not make up a cover story. Suicide would never enter kemp’s mind as a solution to anything. The PR sullied his name and dishonors his memory by spreading such deliberate lies. You burden his family with the constant battle of always wondering why he did it. He didnt do it. They need to rectify it by apologizing and telling the actual story. A wild chase ending in tragedy sounds much more kemp like than suicide. —-SSG Smith

  • wmt

    I understand that people are mourning Sgt. Kemp and that he has served in our military. I have nothing but respect for our armed forces, however, he wasn’t serving our country while on this cruise. There seems to be alot of comments about him being a hero, but on this cruise he was an intoxicated passenger,who went to an area that is not for passengers (which I am sure is against the cruise ticket contract he signed), and he got into a physical confrontation with a FEMALE crewmember when asked to leave. When the security tried to stop him he ran and jumped overboard through his own choice. All of this has been stated above. As far as the bars cutting him off, who knows that they didn’t? Who knows whether a family member or friend traveling with this guy didn’t get more drinks for him? He’s 31 years old and, as everyone is in such a frenzy to point out, in the military, wouldn’t he have the common sense to not drink himself to a point where he would endanger himself and others? Shouldn’t he be responsible for his own actions? Am I sorry that it is looking like he wont be found? Absolutely! Am I going to place blame on a security guard for trying to stop an unruly passenger? No way! But I am sure lawyers will get involed as someone will be looking for a payday.

  • Andrew

    Hew shouldn’t have gotten drunk past the point of being able to take care of himself, shouldn’t have accosted an employee and shouldn’t have ran from security. It looks like he in fact jumped over the boat on his own. Death may not have been his goal, but he certainly achieved it. Natural selection at work.

  • susan erlich

    I was a passenger on this ship, the same nite I heard the captain, say *Brava/brav0* 2x around 2am in the morning. I am not a worker on the ship, but I knew instantly that something terrible had happened and awoke my kids to pray. I feel badly for the family, but know that the ship turned and began the search for him, because as I said, I was on this ship, and felt it turning.
    Whatever happened, my prayers are for his soul and his family. May his spirit rest in peace

  • SPC Davidson

    SPC Davidson B-brt 2-29FA 4/1 AD i served with the man who went overboard in Iraq and i’m telling you this now even after 2 tours in Iraq and on his way to a third in Afghanistan he was not one to commit suicide . . . he was an American soldier who served his country with honor, dignity, and distinction. the fact is no well never know what truly happened and that’s the way carnival want it. and your right “seaman” this is BULLSHIT signed a combat vet who personally knew the victim not another jackass that worked for the company that wants to keep it hush hush.

  • Thanks for your service SPC Davidson.

  • Oldseadog

    My daughter, her fiance, and my nephew were on deck when all of this went on. They witnessed the suspect running from security and jumping on the Lido deck and then grabbing the life ring and heading overboard. They all gave statements and did what was expected of them. IT WAS NOT A “POOR ME” SUCIDE!!!! This was a case of an idiot wrapped inside a moran with to much alcohol.

  • JW Deese

    Our government is not doing enough for our troops with post tramatic stress. Sgt Kemp was being redeployed shortly and had already been shot, shot at and stresseed out. Don’t blame Carnival. Every thing possible was done to find Sgt Kemp. As far as witnesses, there were at least 10 people saw him jump. The area he jumped from was an enclosed area with open windows and rails. I was on-board that ship.

  • Bryan

    I too served with my good friend sgt.Kemp. This was in no way a suicide his friends and family know this! And @ oldseadog I think you should watch your Damn mouth about who you choose call a moran and an idiot!!! Kemp may have been a lil wild but how dare you disgrace my brothers memory!! As far as him lookin for a payday he was a soldier its not about the money!! Id like to see some video of Kemp supposedly assaulting this Female crewmember too!! And for all those asking the question does this matter or does anyone care?? Yes!!! More than you could Ever Imagine!! Black Knights!! You Know!!

  • Kw Patel

    First off on land there is about 3 police officers per 1000 citizens so some of the above comments are flawed. Also I have seen guards on open decks in the middle of the night, so it does happen.

  • I don,t believe army sgt ronald kemp jumped overboard,I believed he was thrown overboard by some white racist security gaurd because he was seem having a disagreement with a so call carcasion security female gaurd. The reason I feel so strongly about this statment is because of the lies that was stated by security gaurds when first question.this was not an accident nor a suiside,but an intentional criminal act.

  • Allie C

    I was on that cruise with my fiance, earlier that evening before dinner my Fiance` and I sat a few tables away from the young man and his friends, they were cutting up and having a good time, He DID NOT show any signs of depression or seem in any way sucidal, thats just absurd! He was a very well mannered young man as well!! My Son is a Marine and has been for 14 years, and I can tell you once a Marine always a Marine, Im sure other branches of the Military are the same! So to say he wasnt serving his country that night , or on the cruise is a false statement! When you are Military, you are always serving your country 24/7, that doesnt mean you are not allowed to have a good time! What is wrong with you people! If you are not willing to stand behind our Military, feel free to stand in front of them….. Any Takers!??? Its a shame this had to happen, my heart goes out to his friends,family and Brothers!

  • Tracy Carpenter

    I was on that cruise ship when the guy jumped overboard. It was a tragic thing that happened. They were pushing alcohol a lot on the cruise. Since then i have taken another cruise with carnival and noticed the drastic change in the push of alcohol. It is a person’s choice to accept alcohol that is offered but there is a time when the cruise ship notices a person is intoxicated and denies them anymore. My heart is still saddened by the traffic loss and prayers go out to his family

  • Carolyn Matthews

    My husband & I were on the ship that night. My husband &I were in bed. I could tell something had happened. Shortly after I woke up, I knew for sure something was wrong. The Captain made his announcement, we turned around, and went back to see if they could find him. They did not find him. Lots of rumors were being talked about. It was very sad for me. Every cruise we’ve been on since then is a reminder of what can happen.