A cruise passenger is accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl during an eastern Caribbean  cruise, according to a newspaper in West Virginia where the young man resides.

U.S. Federal prosecutors reportedly filed a motion for a guilty plea hearing in U.S. District Court in Charleston, West Virginia yesterday. Judge Joseph Goodwin scheduled the motion for hearing on Monday, July 16 at 10 a.m.

If convicted, Mr. Morrison faces up to 15 years in prison. The newspaper articles state that he is being prosecuted via a criminal information rather than a grand jury indictment, “which usually indicates a suspect plans to enter a guilty plea.”

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Joshua Morrison, of Kenova, West Virginia, who was 18 years old a the time of the cruise and is now age Alleged Sexual Assault Cruise 21, is accused of coercing a girl from Utah, then just age 12 years old, into performing sexual acts while the two were on a cruise aboard the Carnival Conquest. The alleged crime reportedly occurred during the cruise on January 8, 2016, when he was 18 years old.

According to the criminal complaint, Morrison reportedly instructed the young girl to perform oral sex on him and eventually forced her into having intercourse. The girl reported suffered physical injuries as a result of the encounter.

The newspaper states that the child was able to remember the first name and first initial of the last name of the suspect, and that he was from West Virginia. The girl’s mother reported the alleged crime to authorities about a year after it occurred. The newspaper states that:

“The criminal complaint states the suspect was aware of the girl’s age, even telling her he had experience with women below the age of consent. The alleged assault took place in a bathroom aboard the ship. After the incident, Morrison told the girl not to tell anyone, because he could go to jail. He also threatened the victim that he would find her if she did alert the authorities . . ”

The criminal complaint (see below) filed in federal court in West Virginia alleges that Mr. Morrison violated 18 U.S.C. 2243(2) involving sexual abuse of a minor, and was verified by a FBI agent. The crime occurred on the Carnival cruise ship on the last night of the six day cruise. The incident occurred in the men’s bathroom located below the teen club on the cruise ship.

According to the complaint, Mr. Morrison pressured the child who said “no” or “I don’t know” when he asked her to have sex. Mr. Morrison told the girl that she was not the first 12 year old that he had sex with. She “felt pressured to do something with him and did not feel like she would be able to leave the restroom without engaging in sexual activity . . . ”  But he reportedly blamed the child to the FBI agent, saying: “it was her idea and I was stupid enough to go along with it. . . she did not look that much younger, but the braces gave it away . . . she was just a little kid . . .”

Like many child victims, she told her mother about the incident only after the cruise (about a year after it occurred), after first disclosing the sexual abuse to a church official. The mother then notified the FBI.

Last summer, NBC aired a special on sexual assaults on cruise ships. Approximately one-third of sexual crimes during cruises are committed against children. The crimes are perpetrated by both crew members and other passengers alike. Parents should be on heightened alert for pedophiles and perverts during cruises and should not assume that their children are safe because they are on a cruise ship.

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July 16, 2018 Update: Man pleads guilty to sexual abuse in cruise ship incident. “Morrison admitted that the sexual abuse took place on board a cruise ship in international waters on or about midnight on Jan. 9, 2016. He admitted that he was 18 years old at the time, the minor was 12 years old at the time, and he knew the minor’s age.”


Photo credit: Busted newspaper.

USA v Morrison by James Walker on Scribd

Carnival SpiritAn Australian cruise passenger, Mr. Sun, sued Carnival Australia after the cruise line falsely accused him of exposing himself to two young girls on the Carnival Spirit.

According to an Australian new station, the incident occurred during a cruise from Sydney to New Caledonia in December 2016.

Ship security personnel were notified that a man had "exposed and then touched himself" in front of young girls on the Carnival cruise ship. 

The security staff showed one of the girls, and the parents of the girl, photographs of Mr Sun. The girl apparently misidentified Mr. Sun as the culprit. The girl’s father then took matters into his own hands, accusing Mr. Sun of exposing himself to his daughter as he physically assaulted and battered Mr Sun in his own stateroom in front of Mr. Sun’s wife and child. 

The news report article states that when Mr. Sun called security for assistance, they instead escorted him to a room where they interrogated him for one-and-a-half hours and intimidated him from leaving.

The ship security finally showed Mr. Sun CCTV footage of the incident footage of the incident, which showed that the pedophile in the video was not heavily tattooed like him and exhibited other “obvious physical differences” from Mr. Sun.

Security eventually allowed Mr. Sun back to his room but denied him medical attention for the physical assault. 

Carnival was recently in the news following a series of brawls on its cruise ships leaving from Australian ports. Its security guards are shown in certain trending videos violently kicking passengers and trying to stop bystanders from videotaping the melees.  The lack of training and heavy handed tactics of the Carnival security are painfully obvious in the videos.

This latest fiasco seems again to be due to a lack of training by Carnival of its shipboard security personnel. 

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May 21, 2018 Update: Carnival offered the innocent guest a complimentary dinner with an apology for the disruption to his holiday. Carnival said we "are disappointed that the father of one of our guests decided to take matters into his own hands." According to Mr. Sun, "the security guy kept on saying it was because I was Asian and that the person who assaulted the girls was Asian, so it was an easy mistake . . . "   Mr. Sun was quoted as saying "you guys are incompetent, you guys are idiots."

Photo credit: Hpeterswald – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Jim Walker Cruise Law Sexual AssaultLast night, NBC Nightly News aired part 2 of its investigation into sexual assaults on cruise ships.

NBC interviewed me during the investigation. We have handled over 100 cases of sexual assault; approximately one third of the victims have been children. This is essentially the assault rate of minors that experts testified to during prior Congressional hearings.  

The common comment we hear is that parents need to supervise their children while on cruises. This may be true, but sexual assaults can take place even when the most attentive parents are involved. Children have been assaulted during cruises in shipboard childcare facilities as well as in their cabins by cabin attendants who meet the children and their family members during the cruise.

Another common scenario is older passengers who have access to alcohol and target underage girls during the cruise.

When an assault occurs, the FBI routinely does not follow up with their initial investigation and interview of the victim. Prosecutions of shipboard predators by the U.S. Department of Justice are rare.   

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Photo credit: NBC Nightly News  

Ths week NBC News published an article titled Sex Assault Victims on Cruise Ships Are Often Under 18. Over three months, NBC News spoke with ten victims of sexual assaults and/or members of their families. The news organization found that a significant number of victims of rape and molestation on cruise ships are under 18 years of age.

NBC reported:

"Of the 92 alleged on-board crimes reported by cruise lines in 2016, 62 were sexual assaults. When sexual assaults occur at sea, it may be hard for victims to get justice on land. Some assaults were barely investigated, according to the victims and families who spoke to NBC. Most were never prosecuted.

And perhaps most troubling, many of the sexual assaults on-board cruise ships involved minors. A congressional report in 2013 found that minors were victims in a third of the assaults."

NBC interviewed me during its investigation.  We have represented 100 women and children, including families of  boys, who were sexually assaulted on cruise ships; around 35 vcitims were teenages and children with many victims under the age of ten with some as young as three years old. 

You can read more about sexual assault of children on cruise ships here

Interested in this issue? Read the recent article Sexual assault victims on cruise ships are often minors.

NBC will be airing its special on TV this weekend on the NBC Nightly News. Below is a portion of the special. 

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Last fall, the Arizona Republic reported that cruise travelers for the first time can see what crimes are being reported aboard cruise ships operating in U.S. ports.

The newspaper commented on improvements once the Department of Transportation replaced the Coast Guard as the agency responsible for reporting crimes on cruise ships leaving US. ports. Consumers previously needed to check the websites of each cruise line to try and find out what crimes occur on which cruise line. Carnival Corporation bundled the crimes of its brands (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Princess Cruises)  together under one name, HAl Veendamso that it was impossible for consumers to identify on which cruise line the reported crimes occurred.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act ("CVSSA") of 2010  was supposed to provide the public with reports of certain crimes aboard cruise ships, such as deaths, sexual assaults, thefts and missing-person reports.

But the cruise-friendly agencies responsible for disclosing the crime statistics requested changes to the wording in the CVSSA which rendered crime-reporting provisions useless.

Language added before its passage altered the CVSSA bill so that only crimes "no longer under investigation by the FBI" were reported on the website. An Arizona Republic investigation in 2012 revealed the language was altered at the request of the FBI and the Coast Guard, apparently with pressure from the cruise industry

The problem is that the FBI often refused to open files when crime occurred on cruise ships or, when it did, the FBI often kept its files open long after it has decided not to investigate the case. So any crime that the FBI didn’t investigate – or when it technically kept its investigation files open – was not included in the Coast Guard database.

The language of the statute was changed which resulted in far more crimes, particularly sexual assaults, being disclosed to to the public by the DOT. In the first six months of 2016 far more sexual assaults were disclosed (39) than during the same period in 2015 (6) when the reporting was disclosed on the Coast guard portal.  

You can see the DOT’s portal here.

But a major problem remains.  The cruise lines are the one which determine whether an incident constitutes "sexual assault." Many cases of sexual molestation of minors are mis-classified as "groping" or as "inappropriate touching," neither of which is a crime under the CVSSA .

The same is true regarding the sexual offense which the HAL waiter was arrested for on the Holland America Line Veendam last week. The CVSSA does not include "lewd and lascivious" conduct with a child as a reportable offense. 

Cruise expert Professor Dr. Ross Klein, who has testified regarding the issue of crime on cruise ships Gede Sukrantara, HAL Veendambefore the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate, pointed this problem out on his website last October. Dr. Klein has reviewed hundreds of incident reports submitted by cruise lines and has observed a tendency for cruise lines to report incidents of sexual assault as either "sexual contact" (which is not reportable under the CVSSA) or as "molestation" or as "groping" or "inappropriate touching" or "lewd and lascivious conduct" (none of which are reportable pursuant to the specific language of the statute). 

The cruise victim’s group, the International Cruise Victims, has tried to introduce legislation requiring the cruise industry to disclose when children are victims of crime.  Several years ago, Dr. Klein determined that between 17.5 and 30 percent of the sexual assault victims on cruise ships are minors. The cruise industry vigorously opposed the legislation and refuses to disclose when children are sexually assaulted on their ships.

The crime that occurred on the Veendam when a 26 year old Indonesian HAL waiter (photo right) locked himself in a bathroom on the cruise ship and engaged in oral sex with a fifteen year old girl is exactly the type of sexual misconduct that families need to understand happens all too often on family cruise vacations, no matter how hard the cruise industry tries to parse words to keep it secret.

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Photo credit: Top: Fletcher6 – CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia. ; bottom: Gede Sukrantara Facebook page.

Royal Caribbean is now advertising that it is hiring lifeguards on its cruise ships. The cruise line posted the availability of the lifeguard position as of December 21, 2016. 

The posting (below) indicates that the lifeguard "will need to perform rescue of Guests in danger of drowning and be vigilant to potential accidents. Will be trained to administer first aid, CPR, Oxygen & AED as required. This position will open, close, monitor and operate aquatic recreational spaces including but not limited to Swimming Pools, H2O Zones / Splashaway Bay and other designated water attractions . . . " 

This reflects a change of position with this cruise line which previously did not employ lifeguards on its cruise ships. 

Like other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean has seen several children drown or nearly drown on its cruise ships. An 8 year old child died in a June 30, 2016 incident aboard the Anthem of the Seas, after he was found unresponsive in a pool. 

The cruise line has now apparently reconsidered its policy of only posting “swim at your own risk” signs and providing life jackets for children.

Last December, another eight year old child drowned in an unattended swimming pool on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas. The child was pulled unconscious from one of the cruise ship’s pools by a passenger.

In January last year, a 4 year old boy nearly drowning aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas on January 3, 2015. The Miami Herald published Near-Drowning on Royal Caribbean Cruise Raises Concerns About Lack of Lifeguards after that incident. In May 2014, a 6 year old boy nearly drown on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas and left the child fighting for his life in a hospital.

Lifeguard are also needed for adults who have been known to drown or nearly drown while cruising with this cruise line and others.

Last year, in an article titled Cruise Ships Are Unregulated Trouble on the High Seas, the New York Times wrote that Congress exempted cruise ships from virtually all regulations. The Times characterized the last death of a child in a pool without a lifeguard as a problem with letting cruise lines regulate themselves.

Most cruise lines, with the exception of Disney Cruises, do not employ lifeguards on their ships. Many passengers believe that it is solely the obligation of parents to supervise their children. My thought is that children are best protected from drowning only through a combination of well trained lifeguards and attentive parents working together to keep kids on the ships safe.

December 24, 2016 Update:

Miami New Times Miami-Based Royal Caribbean to Add Lifeguards on Cruises.

TravelPulse Is Royal Caribbean International Adding Lifeguards to Its Ships?

Royal  Caribbean Lifeguards 

A young passenger, reportedly a 10-year-old girl, drowned in a swimming pool aboard NCL’s Norwegian Gem while the cruise ship was 75 miles east of Myrtle Beach yesterday afternoon. 

I first learned of the incident on Twitter from CNBC’s @RyanRuggiero who tweeted "The Coast Guard is investigating a death that occurred aboard the Norwegian Gem off the coast of NC. The investigation is still ongoing." He mentioned that the death involved a child drowning on the Gem.

This incident will rekindle the debate whether cruise lines should employ lifeguard their ships.

Norwegian GemThere have been a number of drownings and near-drownings of minors on cruise ships in the last couple of years. 

This is not the first time a child has drowned on a NCL cruise ship.

Last year, two small children were pulled from a pool on NCL’s Norwegian Breakaway as the cruise ship was sailing from New York to the Bahamas. Both children were unresponsive. The younger child (age 4) died on the cruise ship. The other child (age 6) was medevaced by the Coast Guard. Read our article: Drowning Tragedy Aboard the Norwegian Breakaway: Where Are the Lifeguards?

All of the major cruise lines without lifeguards have seen children killed or seriously injured in the cruise ship swimming pools. You can read about the incidents:

A four year old on the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas January 2015.  

A six year old on Carnival Victory October 2014

A six year old boy on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas May 2014. 

A four year old on Disney Fantasy March 2013.

The child on the Disney cruise ship was permanently and seriously injured. Disney paid a multi-million dollar settlement and began employing lifeguards on its ships. No other cruise lines have followed Disney’s lead.

Inclined to always blame the parents and give the cruise line a pass?  Think again. Read: Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

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Photo credit: Captain-Tucker via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

NBC’s Today show aired a special program this morning titled Why do some cruise ships lack lifeguards to watch children?  

In my opinion, the answer is simple: cruise lines are cutting corners to increase profits. Plus, cruise lines face no legal consequence if the child dies. The cruise industry doesn’t face financial accountability because a child’s life has no financial worth under the Death on the High Seas Act.

Lots of cruise fans like to assign 100% fault on the parents. However, that won’t prevent children from drowning in unattended cruise ship pools in the future. Cruise lines have a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care to keep kids safe. Not hiring a lifeguard is reckless.  A warning sign by itself won’t work. Kids don’t pay attention to signs. Some kids can’t even read. Small children can’t comprehend the risks involved, especially if they can’t swim.  

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) says that it attempts to manage pool safety for kids only by using signs. It’s a flawed policy that will ensure that children drown while on cruise vacations.

       

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32545640

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USA TODAY published an article today entitled "Baby on board: Best cruise ships for infants, toddlers." 

Like most USA TODAY articles, it was mostly a "puff piece," trying hard to praise all of the cruise lines while writing nothing provocative or controversial.

The article picked four Disney cruise ships, three Royal Caribbean ships, two Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ships and one ship from Cunard.

The factors for being the best were not identified. The article mentioned things like providing baby Cruise Ship Kids formula, diapers, organic baby food, cribs, high chairs, booster seats and strollers.

But are these really the issues that parents of minors should be worried about? 

The articles doesn’t mention serious issues that parents should be concerned with – like minors drowning in swimming pools without lifeguards or little kids being molested by predator crew members or perverted passengers.

Swimming Pools Without Lifeguards:

Disney is the only cruise line that assigns lifeguards to all of its cruise ship pools. It took this step only after a six year child slipped under the water and is now severely brain injured.

NCL and Royal Caribbean haven’t bothered to employ lifeguards to protect little kids in and around the cruise ship pools even though several minors have drowned or been seriously injured in pools without lifeguards.

The USA TODAY article picked the NCL Breakaway as one the best cruise ships for minors but two children were pulled from a swimming pool on this cruise ship by other passengers just last February. One child is dead.

The article also selected a Royal Caribbean ship too, but last month a child nearly drowned on the Independence of the Seas

If you are worried about the potential that your little kid could drown in the ship’s pools, Disney is the only cruise line that I would recommend.

Sexual Perverts and Predators:

Minors including toddlers have been sexually abused on cruise ships. Take a minute and read:

Sexual Perverts & Pedophiles on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Royal Caribbean is hardly the only cruise line with this problem. You can search this site and read of minors being victimized on cruise ships operated by Disney, Celebrity, and the Carnival brands. Yes, even cruise ship baby-sitters have been accused of molesting minors.

The article mentions "play zones" or "kid zones" on cruise ships.  Before you leave your minor kid in one of these places, do your homework. Don’t assume all of the employees have been carefully vetted. 

Child pornography is also a problem on cruise ships.  There are frequent arrests by custom officials of crew members whose iPhones and laptops are loaded with hundreds/thousands of photos and videos of child pornography. You can read our many articles about this problem here

Have a Healthy Skepticism of Paradise:

Don’t trust best-cruise-ships-for-kids articles written by cruise fans and travel writers. They are often given free cruises and other perks. They will go out of their way to avoid embarrassing the cruise lines. They do the public, who doesn’t know any better, a disservice. Read other sources of information. Check around. Educate yourself as a parent before you take your child unwittingly into danger. And once you’re on the cruise ship, keep your eyes on your kids at all times. 

 

Photo Credit: Frommers

WKMG Local 6 (ClickOrlando) aired a special report last night on the issue of children drowning on cruise ships. In the last year, four children 6 years old or younger have drowned or nearly drowned in the pools of Carnival, Disney and Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ships. 

In all cases, the cruise lines did not employ lifeguards.   

The news station interviewed the parents of a 6 year old child, Qwentyn Hunter, who drowned during a Carnival Cruise Ship Drowning cruise aboard the Carnival Victory.  

I believe that it’s clear negligence for a cruise line not to employ a lifeguard to supervise cruise ship swimming pools. Yes, it a matter of personal responsibility of the parents to supervise their children, but its also a matter or corporate responsibility of the cruise lines to staff their pools with trained lifeguards.  A sign saying things like "swim at your own risk" or "no lifeguard on duty" is not only meaningless to a child, but it’s legally insufficient to exculpate a cruise line.  

The cruise lines are able to hide behind a maritime law also known as the "Death on the High Seas Act" which prohibits the recovery of emotional damages such as pain and suffering, grief, bereavement, and mental anguish. As matters now stand, the cruise line face virtually no financial consequence when children die in cruise ships pools with no lifeguards.

The news station interviewed me during the program. Here’s what I said:

"’Children are not wage-earners and because of this archaic law pertaining to cruise ships there’s no financial incentive for cruise lines to do the right thing,’ said Jim Walker whose law firm deals exclusively with legal issues on cruise ships.

Walker called it the cruise industry’s dirty little secret.

‘The cruise lines love that law that doesn’t permit any recovery so they’re completely isolated and when you isolate a large corporation from all legal and financial consequence basically what you’re saying to them is it’s OK if children die in your pool because it doesn’t really affect your bottom line. That’s a terrible situation. That needs to change,’ said Walker.

. . . Walker contends there’s another troubling issue. He says no cruise employees, other than medical personnel are trained in CPR.

‘If you’re going to assign someone to a pool deck to hand out the towels and take drink orders, you’ve got to train them on basic CPR because CPR can save a life,’ said Walker who also says he believes the cruise line industry could pass the cost of employing lifeguards on to the passengers.

‘If you charge each one a dime you’re going to have enough money for a lifeguard. How about a dime for each person? Isn’t a child worth a dime?’ said Walker.

Walker believes it is going to take some type of legislation really to force the cruise lines to take added safety precautions."

We have discussed this issue in prior articles:

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships? (Disney now has lifeguards on its cruise ships).

Dangerous Cruise Ship Swimming Pools: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

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Photo Credit: Ariza Talent & Modeling Agency via CBS News