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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo credit:  Fotki / Mark Chatfield

  • Guy

    Perhaps this is a matter of timing, but how could RCL credibly argue it is/was ignorant of Cozumel’s risk of violent crime?

    Readers of this blog may recall that on Feb 6, 2011, Jim reported the Feb 4 murder in Cozumel of RCL crew member Monika Markiawicz, including a report that Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said the information the company had received indicated she [Markiawicz] was the victim of violent crime, and did not drown accidentally.”

    Seems to me this specific history should have torpedoed RCLs contention, reported in today’s blog, that RCL “was unaware of instances of sexual assault or violent crime specifically involving passengers or crew members in the shopping area depicted on the map or in Cozumel.”

    Prior to this kind of ruling adverse to the plaintiff, is plaintiff’s attorney permitted to present evidence to refute RCL’s claim of ignorance of violent crime in Cozumel? If so, did plaintiff’s attorney properly represent their client?

    If in fact the gang rape in this case occurred prior to Feb 4, 2011, then on the thinnest of ice, perhaps RCL can legally — but not logically — claim ignorance of the risks of going ashore in Cozumel.

  • Sofia

    Nice to know rcl tactics again women,very disturbing case and more to come for sure.

  • Dyna

    What to expect from a low profile business ,i am sure a very wrong place for underage family’s.

  • Tina

    Lets hope that the appeal courts see sense. Although I can’t comment for RCL I know that the cruise line I worked for often warned the crew not to go out alone or to go to certain areas at different ports of call. To say that they are unaware of the risks is unbelievable, has this poor woman not suffered enough.

  • Toby

    I am not shocked to hear of a rape at Senor Frogs in Cozumel. A few years back my wife and I were there having a drink with another guest we met on the cruise and the bar staff slipped her a roofy in her drink. Within minutes of taking a few sips of her first and only drink she was completely incapacitated. She had to be taken back onto the cruise ship on a wheel chair and slept for the rest of the day and the whole night. And mind you we were there at around 12pm. I sent emails to both the cruise line and senor frogs but I never heard back. The cruise lines and senor frogs both are aware of what goes on there. However because they have big shot lawyers they can afford to turn their heads and laugh it away.

  • che

    I think cruise line needs to banned all ports that has already a lot of cases of danger to passengers and crew.Safety is the no. 1 policy of cruise lines on board the ship but in the ports that have cases like this, are we still safe?!? Passengers are paying a lot of money to go for a cruise, I think we can go to see more places that we can be safe.To the ports of calls, They need to enforced peace and order.Tourism has a lot of impact to the economy of all the ports of call that cruise ships docking into.The responsibilities of this town,municipalities or city will be the safety of all the tourist to have a very safe and relaxing vacation.

  • Richard

    My wife and I just returned from a cruise with NCL. The cruise itself was awesome, however, it was completely obvious that other than our safety aboard the ship, and our complete satisfaction aboard the ship, anything on shore was not their responsibility. No matter how great the return is for shopping in the designated/suggested stores/areas is, the made it known they would not be held accountable for things in port. Cozumel was a lot of fun for us, but we were not told anything of these dangers. Though our excursion was red flagged we decided to continue with it. Thank God we did, because all of these places would have attracted us as they are given loads of advertisements by teeshirts and known all over the world for great parties. I was looking forward to returning, but if the cruise lines can’t step up their game, be honest to passengers, and help pay for the cost of making it safer for all of us then I feel unimportant to them and refuse to subject my wife or myself to such dangers.

  • Bobby

    Good. The gold-digging idiot should use some sense and take responsibility for her own mistakes. The cruise line isn’t responsible for anything bad that happens. She and her lawyer are scumbags.