When I started this blog, I included a section where I award cruise lines and cruise executives the title "worst cruise line in the world" for the company or person in the cruise industry engaged in the most outlandish conduct.
Some months it has been hard to award just one cruise line or person because there have been so many outlandish things happening lately in the cruise industry. When the Costa Concordia disaster struck, I discontinued the practice because there were not enough award trophies to pass out.
But today I decided to return to the "worst in the world" award after reading a news account involving a woman arrested after cruising with her family because of $85 in court costs which she didn’t pay twenty-two years ago.
The story involves a forty-one year old woman from Connecticut who sailed on the Disney Dream cruise ship with her husband and two kids. When the cruise ship returned to Port Canaveral today, the Brevard County Sheriff’s office was waiting to handcuff her and haul her off to jail.
It turns out that the woman, whose name I will not mention because she has been humiliated enough, owed the state of Florida $85 in court costs for an misdemeanor arrest for the theft of a pack of cigarettes in 1991 when she was 18 years old.
Over the last two decades, she became married, paid for college, received a degree in architecture, had two kids, and is gainfully employed designing jet engines for a major aircraft manufacturer.
A cruise for 4 aboard a Disney cruise ship is a pricey ticket. And I bet she is a good mom who planned to take her kids to Disney World as well. Certainly the economy of Florida benefits from her paying for the cruise out of a local port, flying into a local airport, renting a car or taking a taxi, paying tolls, buying food and staying in hotels.
But instead we’ll let the taxpayers pay for her to sit in jail in the Brevard County jailhouse which will not let her post bail because the court costs were levied in Orange County and she has to be transferred from Brevard County before she can be bonded out. It looks like she may spend as long as 4 or 5 days in jail before she is transferred to Orlando and released.
Arresting a mother of two for non-payment of $85 in court costs is ludicrous. Why not arrest grandmothers for library books returned late? Yes, personal accountability is important but an arrest for $85 in court costs after 22 years given the significant amount of violent crimes on cruise ships today?
I thought about giving the "worst in the world" award to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office because it does such a poor job arresting child predators and rapists on cruise ships. The port police and sheriff’s department in Brevard seem to look the other way when foreign crew members steal jewelry and iPhones and computers from passengers on the high seas.
But I thought that the award should go to the news station, WESH-2 in Orlando, which ran the preposterous story. In addition to its article on line which you can read here, the news station aired a sensational piece showing the woman’s mug shot, video of the woman in hand-cuffs, images of her being placed in the jail cell, photos of barb wire and high fences of the jail house, and the woman sobbing in contrition.
In a cruise industry with an alarmingly bad record for drunken shipboard violence and un-prosecuted sex crimes against women and children, we have the action team at WESH-2 grilling a mother over $85 dating back to when she was a teenager.
The news station included video of the news reporter, Dan Billow (resembling Will Ferrell in his role as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman), chastising the poor woman in jail with these comments:
So, you know, isn’t that just tough luck? This is your, er’, problem. Uhm, I mean, you’re the one who did this . . .
Billow ends the nasty little segment with a friendly reminder to his viewing audience:
So it’s worth remembering, before taking a cruise, pay any unpaid traffic tickets or any other outstanding legal matters, or a dream vacation might wind up like ****’s.
Thanks Dan, asshole!
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News story & images: WESH-2 Orlando