According to The Straights Times, sometime in the very early hours of Monday, July 31st, Royal Caribbean cruise passenger Jakesh Sahani, age 70, woke up to find his 64 year-old wife, Reeta Sahani, missing from their cabin on the Spectrum of the Seas as it sailed back to Singapore. The Royal Caribbean ship was returning from a four day cruise to ports in Malaysia.

Wife Allegedly Sitting Atop A Railing?

The article originally states that the “retiree tried to locate his 64-year-old wife on the sprawling cruise ship but did not succeed, so he informed the ship’s crew, who later told him that his wife was (allegedly) seen sitting atop a railing at about 4 am, according to closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage.” (emphasis added). The next sentence originally stated: “The ship’s overboard detection systems meanwhile had been alerted that something had fallen from the vessel into the Singapore Strait.”

The newspaper was subsequently “updated,” without explanation, to omit any reference to the allegation that the wife had allegedly been “seen sitting atop a railing at about 4 am . . . ”

No Mention of “Sitting Atop A Railing” But A MOB “Detection System” Alerting A Fall?

The revised sentence now reads: “The retiree tried to locate his 64-year-old wife on the sprawling cruise ship but did not succeed, so he informed the ship’s crew, who later told him the ship’s overboard detection systems had been alerted that something had fallen from the vessel into the Singapore Strait.”

Putting aside, for the moment, that The Straights Times subsequently abandoned the claim that Ms. Sahani was allegedly “sitting atop a railing,” the article fails to state when her husband first noticed her to be absent from her cabin, or how long her husband looked for her, or when he finally reported her missing from the ship. Assuming that crew members told Mr. Sahani that his wife was seen on CCTV sitting on a railing (as the newspaper first claimed), there’s no indication when or who allegedly saw her on CCTV or when the cruise line first reported her missing from the ship.

The other curious issue raised by this questionable reporting is the reference to the alleged “overboard detection systems”(“MOB system”) on the ship. To my knowledge, Royal Caribbean is one of many cruise companies which has steadfastly refused to install state-of-the-art automatic MOB systems for the past thirteen years. If there were such a system on the ship which was allegedly triggered because “something had fallen from the vessel in the Singapore Strait” why didn’t Royal Caribbean immediately initiate search and rescue efforts shortly after the woman was allegedly seen on CCTV at 4:00 a.m. on the rails? Why did it wait for nearly an hour (until 7:50 a.m.) after it arrived at port in Singapore (at around 7:00 a.m.) and many hours after she went overboard to notify maritime authorities identified as the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Singapore?

And who at Royal Caribbean, if anyone, reportedly told the newspaper that this cruise ship allegedly has a overboard detection system?

News reports are that the Spectrum of the Seas left Singapore for its next cruise (to Vietnam, China, Taiwan and Japan) at some time after 9:00 p.m. As matters now stand, reports are that a (belated) search is underway for the missing passenger. Meanwhile, her family naturally has expressed confusion about these events. Her son, who lives in India, is “still in the dark about his mother’s status.” He added “We’ve asked to see the CCTV footage, but so far we’ve not received anything yet for us to confirm that it was her.”

The Strait Times asked Royal Caribbean for a comment and the cruise line was quick to tell the newspaper that it allegedly reported the overboard passenger to local authorities “immediately.”

That claim seems far fetched if the MRCC wasn’t notified until the ship had been in port for nearly an hour after the ship had returned to Singapore and several hours more after she went overboard. The automatic information system (AIS) tracking data shows no movement of the ship consistent with searching for an overboard passenger.

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Image Credit: Spectrum of the Seas – Singapore Cruise Society via TodayOnLine

August 1, 2023 Update: Channel News Asia (CNA) reports in an article titled “I had no idea”: Spectrum of the Seas Passengers in the Dark After Person Falls Overboard Cruise Ship that “Several passengers told CNA that there were a few announcements paging for a woman to report to guest services sometime between 5.30am and 6.30am on Monday (Jul 31) morning.”

This is consistent with the passenger going overboard earlier in the morning (around 4:00 a.m.) and the cruise ship searching on the ship for several hours after her husband reported her missing until Royal Caribbean finally notified the MRCC around 7:50 a.m. – a delay of around 3-4 hours.

Also, it appears clear that notwithstanding some reports to the contrary, Royal Caribbean did not conduct a search for Ms. Sahani in the water. Her son stated in an Instagram post that cruise staff “didn’t carry out any full rescue operation and off boarded my dad to carry on with their next cruise.”

The Straights Times, citing an Instagram post, reports that the son of Ms. Sahani states that the family “has seen closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage from the Spectrum of the Seas” which confirms that she went overboard.