The popular online community Cruise Critic reports today on a disturbing incident where a 59-year-old passenger attacked another passenger who had a service dog with him aboard Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas on December 20th. 

The article is based primarily on comments by Cruise Critic member "Bloemerl" who posted:

"My heart goes out to our new found friend and his service dog Freedom. He was viciously attacked late at nite while getting a pizza in the Solarium. He was beaten because a man could not respect service dogs and felt Freedom should not be on board." (The photo to the right is not of Freedom).

Service Dog - Disabled - Cruise ShipAlthough Royal Caribbean confirmed the incident occurred, the cruise line disembarked the passenger in Antigua rather than detaining him to be arrested by the FBI when the cruise ship returned to port in Fort Lauderdale.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told Cruise Critic that the attacker was disembarked for being in violation of the line’s "guest conduct policy."  

Royal Caribbean claims that it reported the assault and battery to local law enforcement in Antigua "as well as to the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Florida." Remarkably, there is no mention of a report to the FBI which has jurisdiction over crimes on the high seas involving U.S. citizens. The FBI can make an arrest where the victim and/or the assailant is a U.S. citizen. The failure of the cruise line to report the incident to the FBI violates the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

A spokesperson for cruise line said "ship crew would have detained the man had a law enforcement agency asked them to hold him, but no such request was received."  This statement begs the question why the FBI was not notified.

Royal Caribbean also characterized the victim as sustaining only "minor injuries and was treated in the ship’s medical facility."  But according to Cruise Critic member "Bloemerl," the man was transferred to a Fort Lauderdale hospital at the conclusion of the sailing to be checked for broken ribs and possible internal injuries.

Unfortunately, this is often the way that cruise lines handle shipboard crimes. If the incident had occurred say at the Dadeland Mall here in Miami, the local police would certainly make an arrest and the case would be prosecuted. But on the high seas, the cruise lines just dump the criminal off at the next port and wash their hands of the situation. Often they refuse to notify the FBI. Prosecutions are then virtually impossible.


Photo credit: Royal Caribbean – a service dog is defined by Royal Caribbean as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."

  • Charles mathias

    Several years ago while sunning on the beach in St. Martin, we saw a cute little mixed breed dog playing on the beach and in the water. Later that night (on a Princess ship) getting off the elevator in the atrium was the same little dog now wearing a green “service dog” coat. Iam not kidding nor making light of service dogs. So sorry for the man and dog on the RCL ship.

  • I ask sorry with him/her,caused I dont know that he’s A disabled passenger and …I’m so sorry what happened

  • Madeline

    In response to the comment about the service dog previously seen playing on the beach, this poster seems to be very confused about what a service dog is. Service dogs aren’t prisoners. They aren’t machines. They are living, breathing animals with needs and rights.

    Much like human beings who have jobs but don’t do them 24/7, service dogs have every right to daily R&R. If I saw you playing on the beach and later saw you in a police officer’s uniform, is it reasonable for me to conclude that you are not a real police officer?

    A service dog is still a dog and gets to “be a dog” sometimes. Everyone deserves to have down time and play and have fun, and this definitely includes dogs!

  • Charles mathias
  • reclusivepeter

    I am Freedoms handler. There are three types of service dogs, Task Specific, Companion Service animals, both for the handler as well as a third, Therapy animal for the help of others. Also it should be known, the green vest means ‘in traning’ and says so, whereas a red vest means the animal has completed the necesary trainmg and is entitled to the red vest that says SERVICE DOG. Some situations require paperwork but you can tell. The test is in the animals behavior when working. Drop the leash and the dog should lay or sit next to the handler. I am Blessed to have Freedom. Just no one to take the case.

  • Martina

    Charles, do you not realize that some service dogs are for hearing impaired individuals or those with a seizure disorder, neither of which would have prevented the handler or their family from enjoying the beach or being in dancing in the club. Use of a service dog isn’t limited to the visually impaired or the non ambulatory.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s okay for people to claim their ‘pet’ is a service dog so they don’t have to board him/her or make care arrangements.

    But at the same time, I don’t think you understand or appreciate that for some people, there is a legitimate need for service dogs that is not readily apparent to you.

  • Tim Boyce

    I was on the cruise and was with Peter and Freedom during the attack on him. It was the most inhuman thing I have ever witnessed. We were sitting at the table when a supposed man came up and started chocking Peter. threw him to the floor and started beating his head on the floor and kicking him in the ribs. Blood was everywhere. They took Peter to the shipps medical center and stiched his head. I was unable to help Peter due too parkinsons, artery replacement,hearttransplant and prostate cancer. This man had to have no brains to do sometning like this to another human.

  • Terry Byrne

    Sorry for what happened to you an Freedom, Pete. I am a veteran with PTSD, and travel with my PTSD service dog, Harley. We have gotten looks, the occasional comment or two, but as of yet no aggressive behavior from ‘haters’. Which is a good thing for the ‘haters’, as Harley is a Doberman, and trained not only to respond to me in the event of an anxiety attack, but is also trained in Personal Protection to alleviate my nerves proactively. That jerk would have gotten his butt bit up good. Maybe Harley and I will run into him some day… I hate to admit it, but I think I’d kind of like that.

  • KS

    Just finished 4 day horrible Majesty of the Seas “dog” experience. No green or red vests for 2 pampered shizues (sp?) that pooped on carpets, floors, running track or anywhere but the dog box. Earlier when the dogs were climbing all over the furniture, I asked the owners if they were service dogs & they said not really but their doctor wrote a letter to RCC stating they needed them for “emotional support.” They laughed & said anyone can get permission for their dogs on RCC. Birthday cruise for one of the mutts that was wearing a new diamond (yes, real!!!)necklace.

    I complained to guest services & Crown & Anchor rep (others did also). No one seemed to care. Even showed them poop that was all over.

    Sailed with RCC 12 times–10 on Majesty. Probably last time. Have seen true behaved service dogs before. No problem, but no excuse for this. Fecal matter on the carpet, floor & furniture is a definate health hazard!!

  • julius

    I have seen a service dog with a young couple. They went to movies
    He did not have red or yellow vest. Attendant stopped him and as he thought is was a none working dog. Guess what is was real thing. He provided paper work
    And called police.not sure what happened after that.

  • Wendsong

    I have a mobility Service Dog, which is trained to “brace”, so I can use him to get up, should I fall. I do not look disabled, but my dog is there to help when needed. I would like to cruise and am looking for a ship that has a dog area for exercise (akin to a dog park). As “boomers” age, there will be increased need for service dog accommodation. I certainly am mortified that someone would attack a handler just because they have a dog. Now I am concerned for my safety and the safety of my dog.

  • bpreston

    I will be traveling/cruising with my service dog for the first time on Norwegian cruise, i am a “healthy” 36 female that runs marathons, plays on the beach, dances and anything else that i want to do, the difference is i have my dog/life saver with me at all times. He is a medical alert service dog, his breed is not your normal service dog as he is a Boxer mix. But he can tell me when i am going to have a medical emergency and help me to get to a safe place. He wears a blue vest most of the time, because that is what i picked for him, he does have others that he wears and they all say service dog.

  • Vince

    Yes a service dog is great but many people just go to see the doctor and get some paperwork to make there dog a therapeutic companion of some sort. I know of some people who do that. They don’t have kids they treat there dog like there kids and they have lots of money to do whatever they want at other people’s expense. That’s not right and those people should be charged. They take advantage of the situation at the expense of people that really need the service. I have allergies and if there is a half dozen dogs on a ship on every sailings there would be a problem for me. I could be allergic to the ship itself.

  • Victor ashe

    I wonder who has to clean up the crap from your “service dogs”.
    Think it’s sort of a scam. With as much of you disabled folks out there cruising the world One would wonder why don’t you get your own ship..plenty of websites out there showing how to abuse the service dog laws, just saying.