I had not previously heard of the specific incidents of crimes against U.S. citizens listed in yesterday’s advisory from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. The embassy said that "over the past several weeks there has been an increase in the level of crime in areas where U.S. citizens live and frequent." The embassy listed seven recent violent crimes against U.S. citizens:

  • "three armed robberies of U.S. citizens . . . in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas;" 
  • "a U.S. citizen who resides in The Bahamas was kidnapped and violently raped while walking home;" and
  • "three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island."

I read the Nassau Tribune, Nassau Guardian, Bahamas Journal, Bahamas Weekly and Bahamas Press on a daily basis. There is no mention of any of these crimes in the newspapers in Nassau. I find the press in the Bahamas to be transparent. There are a lot of newspapers in New Providence. With a Cruise Port Nassau Bahamaspotential readership of only 250,000, the newspapers compete against one another for the top story. There is no doubt that the press in Nassau would report the crimes against Americans if the Royal Bahamian Police Department (RBPD) released the information to them.

The Nassau Guardian even seemed surprised by the embassy advisory, saying that "there were no reports to the media" that Americans were recent crime victims.

I also read the crime reports in the RBPD web page on a daily basis. There is no mention of these recent crimes in the official on-line crime data-base, even though the criminal offenses are extremely violent (kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and sexual assault of children). 

Is the Bahamian police department in cahoots with tourism and governmental officials to suppress information regarding crimes against tourists?

Certainly, there’s no doubt that admitting that U.S. girls are being sexually assaulted by jet ski operators on Paradise Island is bad for tourism. It’s not the image tourism officials wish to portray. What family would ever travel to Nassau if they knew that perverts were targeting their children and sexually assaulting them on the beach or in the water?

Unfortunately, the police department in Nassau appears to be receiving cues from the tourism officials on what not to disclose to the public. Rather than announcing the crimes committed against tourists and bringing attention to them in order to locate witnesses and demand accountability, the police seem motivated to keep the embarrassing information secret. 

The police in Nassau have been accused of covering up crimes mentioned in previous warnings this year from the U.S. Embassy.  Listen to how one cruise tourist robbed in Nassau several years ago characterized the Bahamian police.

Bahamian Police Superintendent Paul Rolle is sensitive to issues of tourism. He understands the negative effects of crime on tourism. When a U.S. crew member was shot and killed in Nassau last year, Rolle defended his office’s failure to solve the crime saying "We aren’t no play-play cartoon police force." He told the Nassau Guardian that "tourism is our life blood.”

Just last week gunmen pretending to be policemen murdered 44 year-old Andre Cartwright as he tried to defend his elderly parents after the gunmen kicked their front door in. Superintendent Rolle refused to reveal the name of the hotel where the police found one of the gunmen hiding.  He mentioned only Central Police Station Nassau Bahamasthat the suspect was apprehended "in a hotel room over the bridge” and was hiding in a "Paradise Island hotel."  Is it really too potentially distressing to tourists to hear that the murderer might be holed up in a room next to them in a tourist attraction, like Atlantis for example?

The only time a U.S. citizen is mentioned by the police seems to be when they arrest a cruise passenger at the cruise wharf for possession of a small amount of pot. But when a U.S. tourist is jacked up at gunpoint or violently assaulted, no official information is available to the press or the public.

Certainly U.S. tourists are not the only visitors who are being victimized; however, the Bahamian police data-base is completely lacking any crime data when the victims are tourists from Canada, the U.K., Europe, China or South America.  

The Bahamas is in the business of selling an illusion of a tropical paradise to tourists. Unfortunately, the police department appears to be more interested in being a part of the country’s tourism team rather than preventing or solving violent crimes against the country’s guests.   

November 7 2014 Update:  

The New York Times covered the story and quotes Cruise Law News: U.S. Embassy Warns of Crime in Bahamas.

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau picked up this story as well: Blogger: ‘Is There Cover-Up Of Crimes Against Tourists?’ 

Meanwhile the police in Nassau defend themselves. But DNA Leader Branville McCartney said:

“The crime issue is out of hand. You’ve got all sorts of things happening in this country that we don’t even hear about. I don’t want to hear no foolishness from this government or from the police department talking about ‘crime down.’ I’m scared in my own country. The fear of crime is not down. Don’t talk fool around my head about the crime is down, when it isn’t. This crime is out of control and I ask the government to deal with it."

Crime in Nassau Bahamas 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / TampAGS, for AGS Media Creative Commons 3.0; Wikipedia / Ritchie Sieradzki Creative Commons 2.0.

WPTV Cruise Ship CrimeWPTV West Palm Beach aired an interesting program last night indicating that the cruise industry reports only a small percentage of crimes committed on cruise ships.

Last year the cruise lines reported only 78 crimes on cruise ships.  However, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the news station located reports of more than 300 crimes on just cruise ships leaving from Florida ports. 

In 2013, the cruise lines disclosed only 14 thefts from cruise ships. However, WPTV’s Dan Krauth stated that a FOIA request uncovered 75 thefts on cruise ship on Florida-based cruise ships alone. Under current U.S. law, cruise lines have to report only thefts involving property worth $10,000 or more. So if $9,999 of a passenger’s stuff is stolen, the cruise lines keep it secret.

Jewelry, computers, money and other valuables were stolen essentially on every single cruise leaving Florida last year but only a tiny fraction of the thefts were reported by the cruise lines to the police. 

The cruise industry conceals the vast majority of physical assaults, sexual assaults and thefts which happen during cruising. It also touts crime statistics based on the incomplete database, creating a false and misleading impression of what really happens on the high seas. 

 

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WPTV interviewed me during the program. The news station also cited a publication by our firm’s former law clerk, Caitlin Burke, explaining that cruise ships evade U.S. law by incorporating in foreign countries and registering their cruise ships in places like the Bahamas. “Flags of convenience” date all the way back to the 1920s, according to Caitlin E. Burke, an advocate for cruise victims. “Flagging a ship under a foreign flag for the convenience of the cruise line is nothing new, nor is it rare,” Burke wrote in A Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships.

Interested in this issue?  Read Cruise Industry Launches False Crime Statistics Campaign

Credit: video and photograph WPTV

Yesterday several passengers from the Holland America Line Veendam contacted us because they were upset that a passenger went overboard during a cruise to the Mexican Riviera. They returned from the cruise knowing that someone had died at the end of the cruise as the ship sailed back to SanDiego, but they did not know why the passenger went overboard, or whether it was a murder or a suicide. Some passengers thought that a child went overboard. They were very concerned.

Without exception, these passengers told us that there was no information available from the cruise line or anywhere on the internet about the overboard.  Its was like there was a blackout imposed.

These individuals  seemed genuinely concerned about the passenger who died. These were not "rubberneckers" wanting to take part in some type of morbid gossip. They had seen bits and pieces of Cruise Critic Monkeysa sad spectacle during what was otherwise a pleasurable cruise.  They were worried when they went home. They wanted basic information about what happened around them and, in many ways, what happened to them to the extent that they and their children had witnessed an unsettling tragedy.  

Some of the people who contacted us said that there were initially some comments posted on the message boards at Cruise Critic.  But, according to the people contacting us, these comments were quickly deleted by Cruise Critic.

I have heard of these type of criticisms of Cruise Critic before. Message boards which contain information of potential embarrassment to the cruise lines are often pulled from the cruise-friendly Cruise Critic.    

So I went online to see if anyone was reporting on the HAL overboard other than this blog. 

What I found was interesting, 

There were several links indicating that there were a number of people who left comments on the Cruise Critic message boards. But when I clicked on the links, all of the links were disabled. First, there was the link on Google "Veendam-New Years cruise sad ending reported by a passenger …" There was the link "We had a strange last sea day, with a report of somebody falling past a window, a man-overboard signal, dropping a smoke flare and life ring, …" And there was the link "Person overboard on the Veendam New Years cruise??"

But clicking on all of these links led to an error message: "Invalid thread specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator."

The index to the threads under Holland America Line also contained no messages about the overboard. It had also apparently been scrubbed clean.

In my view, the Expedia-owned Cruise Critic is still the same online community of cruise fans who were exposed several years ago for being paid cruise line cheerleaders and shilling for Royal Caribbean on cruise reviews and message boards.

The cruise industry has suffered through lots of bad press in the past couple of years. Travel writers, most cruise bloggers, and other friends of the industry have leaned over backwards to give the cruise lines a break. But censoring cruise passengers who make legitimate inquiries on a message board relating to the cruise lines is a disservice to the cruising public. It perpetuates the lack of transparency which is part of the the cruise lines’ problem in the first place.

One of the passengers on the Veendam left us the following comment to our article:

"Thank you for the post, Jim. As a passenger that witnessed part of the discovery I do feel entitled to an explanation. While the crew seemed to handle this professionally, this was indeed a disturbing event. An explanation did not have to include the details, but may have at least provided some closure for at least those humans who were traumatized by "the incident" (to which it was referred by the captain). To carry on like nothing happened–on ship and in the media–was and continues to be even more disturbing."

The parents of a 30 year-old passenger who disappeared from a ferry sailing between Calais and Dover are petitioning for legislation requiring ships to install closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

Richard Fearnside, son of Marianne and Bob Fearnside, of Whitstable, Kent (U.K.), disappeared from the Pride of Kent ferry last May. He was last seen going to an exterior deck to smoke a cigarette. An alarm was not raised until the ship docked at Dover at the end of the cruise when his girlfriend could not locate him.

Richard Fearnside - Missing - Pride of KentThe delayed search and rescue efforts, conducted by ships and helicopters, were unsuccessful.

Richard’s mother was quoted in a local newspaper stating "we don’t know whether Richard slipped, fell, jumped or was pushed – we have no idea what happened to our son. He just vanished."

The ferry company, P&O Ferries, has been indifferent to the family’s plight.

Mr. and Ms. Fearnside corresponded with P&O Ferries asking it to install cameras on passenger decks, but the ferry line rebuffed them. 

P&O Ferries crisis management spokesman Chris Laming wrote back to the Fearnsides claiming that it would be impossible for the ferry company to:

  • "Cover all of the open spaces with CCTV, 
  • Monitor such cameras 24 hours a day, or
  • Make and retain such recordings in perpetuity."

As anyone with a minimum understanding of the affordable technology readily available to the maritime community knows, these statements made on P&O Ferries behalf are patently false and misleading. It is easy to position CCTV cameras to cover all of the public areas, especially in small ferry boats like this. Reputable operators retain the electronic data for 30 days and automatic sensors do not require the cameras to be manned 24 hours. 

We have attended over a half-dozen U.S. Congressional hearings about cruise ship safety. There has been extensive debate about the need for CCTV cameras covering the public areas of cruise ships and automatic man-overboard systems to alert the bridge that a person has gone overboard from the ship. 

Automatic man-overboard systems exist and are easily installed. It is preposterous to suggest that it is not possible to cover all of the public spaces with CCTV cameras and man-overboard technology. Small ferries have limited open decks and no private balconies (see photo below). Watch this recent video which includes a former Coast Guard engineer who designed such systems.

Norwegian Cruise Line, for examples, has installed literally over a 1,000 cameras on its newest cruise ships. It can track every single inch of its cruise ships.

The only reason that a cruise line or ferry operator would refuse to install such systems is that they do not want to spend the money. They prefer profits over safety. Ironically, companies like P&O Ferries install cameras in their liquor and duty free shops to deter theft (cruise lines always install cameras in casinos to protect their money); however, they will take no steps to use cameras in other public spaces to deter sexual assaults and violence against passengers.

Protecting booze bottles and casino chips seems more important than protecting people on the high seas.

The result of such irresponsibility and greed is delayed rescue attempts of passengers and crew members who go overboard. Just like in Mr. Fearnside’s case, the Coast Guard is typically called in late.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer’s money is spent to search unnecessarily wide areas of the sea looking for the overboard person. It’s like searching for a needle in the haystack.

Maritime operators like P&O Ferries would prefer taxpayers foot the bill rather than spending its own money on CCTV cameras and automatic overboard systems to protect its passengers and crew in the first place.

Cruise Expert Professor Ross Klein has documented 208 persons overboard from cruise ships and ferries since 2000.

The Fearnsides are doing something about this problem. They have started a campaign to require these irresponsible cruise and ferry operators to install CCTV cameras. BBC recently discussed the family’s efforts to protect the public. Click on the link here and consider signing the petition.  

Also, please join our discussion on our Facebook page.  Please share the information with your friends and ask them to support the petition.

February 29 2013 Update: Think that cases of overboard passengers from ferries are rare? Hardly. read: P&O Ferries Plagued By Overboard Passengers & No Safety Systems

Photo credit (bottom): Wikipedia / Fabian318

Miami Port - Cruise ShipThis weekend, KHOU news station reports from Galveston, Texas that the Carnival Triumph returned to port Saturday afternoon "after a passenger had a medical emergency."

KHOE didn’t explain the medical emergency but reported that the U.S. Coast Guard said the medical emergency was not life-threatening, "so they did not fly out to the cruise ship." The cruise ship then told the Coast Guard that it would be "just easier for the ship to return to port and drop the passenger off."

That’s the end of the reported story.

If that’s not sufficiently uninformative, here’s another one from Canada’s Herald News: the police are investigating a "sudden death" aboard Holland America Line’s Eurodam after a woman was found dead. 

The police in Canada said that the death of the 59-year-old passenger “is not considered suspicious at this time.” 

The newspaper also reports that medical examiner’s officer was called to the scene and "no further information is available."

Are you satisfied with this type of "news?"

Do you believe that the details of stories like this are any of your business? 

Do you think that the cruise lines and official authorities will tell you all you are entitled to know?

 

 Photo Credit: AP Photo / Andy Newman

The following is an editorial / opinion piece by the Miami Herald which was published tonight:

"Crime on the high seas isn’t just about illegal commercial fishing practices, drug-running and Somalian pirates. Unfortunately, it also comes in the form of sexual assault, theft and suspicious disappearances on what are supposed to be pleasure cruises.

Under pressure from Congress, specifically, a consumer-safety bill introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, the three largest cruise lines, Miami-based Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, agreed to release the data of alleged crimes reported on their ships. Combined, they make up 85 percent of the industry. The crime stats will allow potential passengers to make better-informed decisions, just as the flying public can access information on airline safety and car buyers can find out which are the most road-worthy.

The crime data’s release should also propel cruise lines to take the problem as seriously as their CEOs say they do. In South Florida, cruises are a bread-and-butter industry, boosting the economy and luring tourists back again and again.

Given the multitude of cruises that depart annually, there isn’t anything akin to a crime wave on cruise ships. However, Sen. Rockefeller is right to be perturbed by how many cruise lines handle — or fail to handle — crime reported on board. Cruise-industry leaders announced their crime-data release agreement last week during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation.

It’s been a rough 18 months for the cruise industry. The public has heard unsettling news of cruise ship fires, read published messages sent from frightened and beleaguered passengers adrift in the dark and, most disturbing, seen dramatic photographs of the Costa Concordia, beached off the Italian coast, lying on its side, swamped with water, 32 passengers dead. Because of the public nature of these incidents, cruise-line leaders were equally as public in taking responsibility for what went wrong.

Less so, however, when it comes to crime aboard cruises to exotic locales. Legislation in the U.S. House and Senate would require the information be made available to the public. Before, only crimes that no longer were being investigated by the FBI were made public. As a result, potential passengers only had misleading information to go on. A report showed that 130 alleged crimes in categories specified by the cruise safety act had been reported to the FBI in 2011 and 2012, but only 31 of those had been reported to the public during that time. Cruise lines reported a total of 959 alleged crimes overall to the FBI, the document says.

There’s another serious problem that lawmakers should address: Some cruise lines egregiously help crew members accused of sexual assault and other crimes elude prosecution. Unfortunately, it’s an old story being given new life in an awful case reported by WKMG-Channel 6 in Orlando. A crew member on a Disney cruise was caught on video molesting an 11-year-old girl while the ship still was in port. Ship authorities waited a full day before reporting the crime to the FBI. By that time the ship was on its way to the Bahamas, where the alleged perpetrator was allowed to disembark, out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement. Disney then did the guy a further favor and flew him home to India.

According to the website cruiselawnews.com, “Disney was able to avoid the U.S. investigation into the incident while making certain that any investigation was handled only by the Bahamas which, theoretically can investigate shipboard crimes because Disney cruise ships fly Bahamian flags of convenience.” But the Bahamas has a lousy record of investigating such crimes.

Lawmakers must pressure guilty cruise lines to confront and end this deplorable practice. Merely reporting the number of onboard crimes brings little comfort if perpetrators are not brought to justice." 

Disney Cruise Line Sexual PredatorRead other articles regarding this problem with Disney Cruise Line:

"Sickened" By Molestation of Child on Disney Dream, Brevard County Attorney General Vows to Zealously Prosecute Cruise Ship Crimes

Images of a Disney Nightmare: Are Your Kids Safe Sailing With Disney?

Did Disney Cruise Line Really Sail a Crime Scene from the U.S. to Nassau? International Press Focuses on Disney Child Molestation Case
 

The cover up is always worse than the crime, the saying goes.

When we first contacted SilverSea Cruises earlier this month, we asked the cruise line for an explanation regarding the Silver Shadow’s failed CDC sanitation inspection. This was before the CDC report was issued and before the CNN story aired. We specifically asked for a comment about the tactic of hiding food and pot & pans in the crew quarters, which we learned from a number of different Silversea crew members.

We received no response, of course, just like crew members who had directly notified senior Silversea management ashore of the unsanitary ship practices long before contacting the CDC in frustration.    

Silversea’s first public response was rather tepid, indicating only that that the cruise line was Silver Shadow - Silver Shadow CDC"disappointed" in the failed score. But Silversea offered neither an apology nor an explanation regarding who ordered the food and galley equipment to be hidden in the cabins or what steps it took in respond to the serious violations of the USPH standards and the public’s trust. 

It was not until CNN aired a special program about the mess aboard the Silver Shadow (watch video here), did Silversea finally release more detailed statements on its Facebook page about what happened.  

Are these statements truthful? Was this really just an isolated event, or part of an ongoing systemic scheme to trick the USPH inspectors?   

Let’s consider a couple of Silversea’s claims:

The cruise lines says:

"Silversea Cruises has fully investigated this matter and the accusations of a previous crew member."

Is the public to believe that only one single former crew made the accusation which resulted in the verification by the CDC that food and galley equipment from fifteen trolleys were hidden in several cabins shared by 10 crew members?

Before we first broke the story two weeks ago, we had communicated with several crew members who informed us that the "hide & seek’ games were widespread, not only on the Silver Shadow but other Silversea cruise ships as well. Some crew members showed us emails sent to the upper management complaining abut the situation long before the CDC inspection. After the CNN took the story to an international audience, additional crew members contacted us and verified the complaints. And remember, the Silversea crew member interviewed by CNN is not one of the crew members who first contacted us or reported the disgusting circumstances to the CDC in the first place.    

The cruise line also says: 

"The unannounced inspection on June 17 occurred at the end of the breakfast period where pots, pans and utensils were on working stations and items to return to the galleys were on Shilver Shadow Cruise Ship CDCtrolleys as were stores from the fridges ready for use. It is clear that when the galley staff heard that inspectors were on board, instead of continuing their work in the understanding that they were in the middle of a meal service, they tried to quickly remove all trolleys and any items not in the fridges and place them in cabins out of the way."

This is an absolutely fantastic claim. Silversea blames the galley cooks for deciding to hide the food without any instructions from their supervisors?  We know this to be untrue based upon what both low level crew members and managers tell us.

Silversea’s tactic of throwing the lowest level ship employee under the bus reveals that instead of being transparent, the cruise line chose to bamboozle the public.  Isn’t this exactly what got Slversea in trouble in the first place?

One other thing to keep in mind is that the photographs which CNN aired (and which are on our Facebook page) were taken by several different Silversea crew members on various occasions in 2012 and early 2013. They are not photos of the failed inspection in June 2013.  

After the crew members sent the photos to the CDC this year, a CDC epidemiologist thanked the crew members and wrote:

"The pictures and information you provided were very accurate and reflected what was seen and experienced by the inspectors yesterday on the ship . . ."    

If photographs taken in 2012 accurately reflect what the CDC inspectors discovered 6 to 12 months later, the unsanitary practices clearly date back at least a year.

Silversea wants you to believe that just a few panicked cooks took it on themselves to push fifteen large trolleys out of the galley, through the hallways, down the elevator, and hid food under bunk beds in the bowels of the ship without any order to so so. Do you believe that this was just a secret, spontaneous, isolated event?

Other crew members obviously witnessed this circus parade of food and cutlery and pots & pans clanking on trolleys which rumbled through the hallways.  And security officers and guards could not help but to observe this Silversea Cruises Silver Shadow CDCspectacle which was captured on closed circuit television cameras throughout the ship. This was no aberration; this was business as usual.   

I just returned from Washington D.C. where I attended the eighth Congressional hearing about the cruise industry since 2005. This hearing was called for by Senator Rockefeller who has studied the industry and judged it not to be trustworthy of cruise passenger safety.  

For the first seven hearings, I watched and listened to the cruise lines executives say that crime is rare and the lines transparently report all crimes committed against passengers. But Senator Rockefeller is no fool. He issued a report at this latest hearing which revealed that only 3% of crimes on cruise ships are reported to the public. 97% of cruise ship crimes are hidden. 

Hiding food and galley items in crew member cabins may seem unbelievable to the American public, but as many crew members may tell you, it’s a part of "ship life."  And lying when caught is another part of a cruise line culture which has never been broken.    

 

Photo Credit:

Top – Wikimedia / Petey21

Middle and bottom – Silversea crew members 

The  Philippine Daily Inquirer reports on the case of a Filipino crew member who alleges that her supervisor raped her while she was working on board the MV Costa Classica last year.

The victim worked as a security guard on the cruise ship. She alleges that she was summoned to the security office on the cruise ship where she observed two security officers drinking alcohol. The men are of Indian nationality: Joseph Chacko (Chief Security Officer) and Anoop Palatty (Assistant Security Officer).

The crew member claims that Palatty made indecent advances, but she left the office and continued with her security patrol. Later that night, she was summoned again, this time to Chacko’s cabin, where Costa Classica Cruise Shipshe went believing it was official business. She claims that the two officers were still drinking when she arrived at the cabin.

According to the crew member, Chacko then allegedly sexually abused her as soon as Palatty left the cabin. The victim alleges that she tried to resist but she was overpowered.  

She reported the incident to the ship’s captain, Italian Pierre Paulo Gallastroni, who told her to make a statement. She also reported the alleged crime to the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong where she was medically and physically examined.

The newspaper article states that the two security officers disembarked in Hong Kong and escaped before the police police could begin their investigation.

This case illustrates a problem in the cruise industry we have seen over the years. When crew members commit crimes, there is a conflict of interest in having shipboard security being involved in the ship’s investigation. The problem is really bad when a security guard or security officer commits a crime.  Security personnel are suppose to provide law and order on cruise ships.  But cases like this illustrate the need for laws requiring independent police officers to be present on all cruise ships.

Two weeks ago we wrote about a 34 year old waiter sexually molesting an 11 year old girl on the Disney Dream while the cruise ship was at a port in Florida. But Disney Cruise Line refused to report the crime to either the local police or the FBI and then sailed to the Bahamas where it knew that the police would not do anything. Disney flew the waiter back to India rather than return him to the U.S. where he would have been arrested and prosecuted.

A trial involving the Costa case is scheduled to begin in Genoa, Italy on June 18th. Costa has some explaining to do, like why didn’t the company apprehend the security officer? Why did the cruise line permit him to leave the ship? Who paid for the two men to fly back to India?

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / 663highland

A police officer in Nassau, Bahamas finds himself in the middle of a controversy regarding another botched investigation by the Bahamas into a Bahamian-flagged cruise ship matter.    

Nassau police superintendent Paul Rolle is quoted in an article in the Nassau Guardian about the molestation of an 11 year old girl by a 33 year old crew member aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship, saying: "As far as I am concerned there is no complaint in the Bahamas and there is no issue."

These remarkably insensitive comments by police officer Rolle in the Bahamas are an insight into how indifferent many law enforcement officials are in the flag-of-convenience countries where cruise lines register their cruise ships to avoid the scrutiny of the United States.      

Disney Dream Cruise Ship Molestation CaseJust today an article appeared in the Australian press discussing how cruise ship passengers who fall victim to serious crime may find their cases handled in countries like the Bahamas with poor human rights records. The articles states: "More than half of the world’s cruise ships are registered in Panama, Liberia and the Bahamas . . . passengers could have their case heard in countries with a poor human rights records and a history of ignoring crimes against women."

In the Disney Dream case, the shipboard video clearly shows the Disney crew member stalking the child and following her into an elevator. The child promptly reported to cruise ship security that the Disney crew member grabbed her breast and kissed her. This occurred an hour and one-half before the ship’s departure time. (The Nassau Guardian erroneously reports that the incident occurred on the cruise "shortly after it left Port Canaveral.")  But Disney decided not to promptly report the crime to the Port Canaveral police, choosing instead to sail out of the U.S. jurisdiction. It reported the matter the next day to the Bahamas which permitted the crew member to fly home to India.

In an article "Police Defend Action in Cruise Ship Matter," Officer Rolle says:

"The Americans already have their laws as to how they deal with matters on-board any ship that is owed by Americans or an American company. The fact is that the individuals at the time did not wish any complaint and no one has since come forward and indicated that they wanted to make a complaint."

Rolle is wrong on both counts.

Disney Cruise Line is not an "American" company. It legally operates as the "Magical Cruise Line" and incorporated itself in the U.K. and registered its cruise ships in the Bahamas to avoid U.S. taxes, labor laws and oversight. 

Regarding the victim’s alleged decision not to make a complaint, the fact is that the little girl and her Disney Cruise Sexual Assault - Child Molestationgrandmother did make a complaint to the security personnel of the Bahamian-flagged cruise ship. A victim does not have to make multiple complaints on and off the ship over multiple days. The girl cooperated in answering the security officer’s questions (in tears), completing forms and identifying the Disney perpetrator. The girl and her grandmother demonstrated courage by pressing criminal charges when they should have been enjoying the beginning of a cruise of a lifetime. 

If Disney had reported the crime immediately to the police in Port Canaveral or provided the child’s grandmother with the local police’s telephone numbers, the case would have turned out differently. As the Brevard County Attorney General said: "the decision to prosecute that serious a crime in Florida rests with a prosecutor, not a grandmother."

Plus, there are many reasons why a child and her grandmother may have decided not to make a second complaint in the Bahamas. How was the child treated after making the first complaint?  The Disney perpetrator should have been handcuffed and taken off the cruise ship and the girl should have seen a counselor. Instead, the girl was forced to sail on the ship with the perpetrator still aboard.

The reporter investigating the crime, Tony Pipitone, said that the cruise line repeatedly provided him with false information. Did Disney also lie to the child and her grandmother?  In many cases, we see the cruise lines and police officers at the next port of call intimidate the victim’s family. They tell them that they will have to travel back to port of call repeatedly for criminal hearings and trial. By the time the cruise ship arrived in Nassau, the little girl and her grandmother were undoubtedly tired and traumatized. They had not been permitted to speak with U.S. law enforcement, a social worker or counselor, or their own legal representatives.  Instead they had to deal with Disney and the Bahamas which have their own agenda to keep matters like this quiet.

Rolle is sensitive to issues of tourism. He understands the effects of crime on tourism both in the Bahamas and on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships. When a U.S. crew member was shot and killed in Nassau two weeks ago, Rolle defended himself saying "We aren’t no play-play cartoon police force." He told the Nassau Guardian "Tourism is our life blood.”  

Nassau Bahamas Paul Rolle Police Superintendent Bahamas police officer Rolle is also no stranger to Disney cruise ship controversies and protecting Disney’s image. When a Disney crew member, Rebecca Coriam, disappeared from the Bahamian-flagged Disney Wonder two years ago under disturbing circumstances, it was Rolle who the Bahamas tasked with flying over to Los Angeles to briefly board the cruise ship to investigate what happened.  Rolle conducted a quickie investigation which of course exonerated Disney. The international media characterized Rolle’s efforts as a "farce" designed to assist Disney in covering the matter up. 

Rolle promised the Coriam family that he would release the results of his "investigation" into their daughter’s disappearance. But he has persistently refused to do so. To date, the Bahamas refuses to cooperate with the Coriam family and has kept Rolle’s report secret from the family. Disney and the Bahamas have erected a wall of silence when the Coriam family seek information about Rebecca.      

With the likes of tourism-sensitive Officer Rolle responsible for official cruise ship investigations, it is no wonder that Disney refused to timely report the child molestation to the U.S. police in Port Canaveral. By sailing the crime scene over to the Bahamas, media-sensitive Disney assured that its police friends in Nassau would do nothing. Disney could then fly its child-molester employee home with Rolle’s blessings.  

 

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Photo Credit:

Top: WKMG Channel 6 in Orlando

Middle: Jim Walker

Bottom: Nassau Guardian

In a case likely to have long term ramifications for the image of Disney Cruise Line (Magical Cruise Company), the story of Disney-flying-a-child-molester-back-to-India which was broken by a local news station in Orlando last night has already reached a national and international audience.  

The case is essentially no different that an airline learning that one of its flight attendants, age 33, molested an eleven year old child on an airplane and then flying the crime scene, the assailant, and the victim to a foreign country where it knows that criminal prosecution is impossible. Then, to top it off, paying for the crew member to fly home to the other side of the world rather than returning him to the U.S. for prosecution.

Disney Dream Cruise Ship Sexual Crime Cover UpDisney’s outrageous conduct is not lost on reporters from around the world. 

Daily Bhaskar (India) reports Caught on camera: Disney Cruise Line employee molests 11-year-old in ship elevator.

The U.K.’s Daily Mail published The Shocking Moment Disney Cruise Line Dining Room Server, 33, Molested Girl, 11, in Ship Elevator.

The International Business Times reported: Did Disney Cruise Line Let A Child Molester Go Free?

News Beat (Greece) reports Ship worker sexually harassed 11 year old girl

The New York Daily News published Disney Cruise Line Failed to Promptly Notify Police that Crew Member Molested an 11-Year-Old Girl.

The highly respected travel writer Peter Greenberg wrote: Cruise Scandal: Did Disney Cover up Employee Sexual Misconduct?

The Stir (a popular blog catering to moms) got it right in the article Disney Cruise Employee Caught on Camera Molesting 11-Year-Old But Goes Free Anyway

There are other news articles on line from China, Romania, Turkey, and Germany about the case.

Expect others in the news media to cover the disturbing story of how the family-friendly Disney Cruise Line responds to crimes against kids on its cruise ships.  

 

Read our other articles on the case:

Images of a Disney Nightmare: Are Your Kids Safe Sailing With Disney?

Did Disney Cruise Lines Cover Up Sexual Molestation of 11 Year Old Girl on Disney Dream? 

Image credit to WKMG Channel 6 in Orlando.