Ken Carver is the unlikeliest of people to become the founder of a grassroots victims’ organization. Mr. Carver is a conservative businessman and the past president of an insurance company in New York City.
But in 2004, his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during a cruise she took to Alaska. No one should have to cope with the disappearance of their daughter on a cruise vacation, but Celebrity Cruises put Mr. Carver through living hell when he searched for answers.
Celebrity learned that Mr. Carver’s daughter, Merriam, disappeared early during the cruise. But the cruise line did nothing. It didn’t notify the FBI or the Alaskan State Police. It didn’t preserve evidence or security video. It disposed of Merriam’s clothing and personal items. It stonewalled Mr. Carver and lied to him. Mr. Carver had to hire investigators and lawyers and spend $75,000 to try and find out what happened to his daughter.
Mr. Carver attended his first Congressional hearing about the problem of passengers disappearing at sea in 2005. He has been involved in an additional seven Congressional hearings, in an effort to make cruising safer. He co-founded the International Cruise Victims organization in January 2006.
Mr. Carver’s goals were to create transparency in crime and missing passenger reporting, install man overboard systems, and implement rape protocols and evidence handling procedures on cruise ships. The cruise lines fought back vigorously. The cruise industry treated Mr. Carver like a villain and essentially painted a bulls-eye on his back. The cruise lines spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress to oppose Mr. Carver’s proposed legislation. But ultimately Mr. Carver won.
Congress recently passed a cruise safety law which requires cruise lines to publicly disclose all crimes on a new Department of Transportation website. Mr. Carver was previously successful in having the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act passed into law. This law requires cruise lines to install automatic man overboard systems on their ships.
Over the past decade, I’ve seen dozens of cruise executives come and go – cruise presidents, PR crisis managers, and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing, and cruising is safer because of him.
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Video Credit: Local 3 Phoenix AZ Family