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).
Although 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."