Neha Chhikara - Ankit Dalal - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship OverboardA newspaper in India is reporting that there are developments in the sad case of Neha Chhikara, who died after going overboard from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Monarch of the Seas on New Year’s Eve.  Ms. Chhikara was sailing aboard the cruise ship with her husband, Ankit Dalal, who is described as working on the Monarch as a "manager" of some type.  She was about to start working as a guest relations manager.

Ms. Chhikara’s family accuses Mr. Dalal and his family of abusing their daughter as part of a "dowry dispute."  She is alleged to have jumped overboard because she could not stand the physical and emotional abuse caused by her husband.  In return, the Dalal family accused their daughter-in-law of being emotionally imbalanced.  We have written many articles about the incident.

The Sify News is now reporting that a "vigilance department" in India, which is investigating the complaint of "harassment for dowry," has received a report from "U.S. officials" regarding the death.  It is less than clear who in the U.S. is investigating Ms. Chhikara’s death; perhaps it is the FBI.  The newspaper mentions that the U.S. report allegedly "indicts" Mr. Dalal, at least according to the Chhikara family. 

It is also unclear why the U.S. is investigating an incident involving two Indian nationals on a foreign flagged cruise ship in international waters.  Uncertainty of who will take jurisdiction is one of the problems which families of crew members face when their loved ones disappear from cruise ships.  


The Indian Express reports that the report was a "joint report" by the the "U.S. authorities and the Bahamas government." 

The Monarch is registered in Nassau, Bahamas and the cruise ship was sailing from Nassau to CocoCay, Bahamas at the time of her disappearance overboard.  There is no information being reported now that was not contained in the initial reports of the incident.  See our report on January 1, 2010 – Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard.



Photograph of Neha Chhikara and Ankit Dalal           FaceBook    

Neha Chhikara - Royal Caribbean - Missing - OverboardThe India Times is continuing to follow the case of Neha Chhikara.

Ms. Chhikara disappeared from Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas on December 31, 2009 following allegations that her husband, Royal Caribbean crew member Ankit Dalal, physically and emotionally abused her.

In an article entitled "Search Operations Off, Gurgaon’s Woman’s Family Says Husband Has Gone Missing," the Chhikara family alleges that Mr. Dalal has gone “missing” after the Royal Caribbean cruise ship returned to port in Port Canaveral. 

The story reflects the struggle to obtain information which families experience when they lose a loved one from a cruise ship.

The investigating authorities (the Bahamas Maritime Authority and the FBI) have apparently provided no information to the family or the police in India.  The cruise line is not cooperating with the family who does not even know where the Royal Caribbean crew member is at this time.  Meanwhile, the article reports that the police in India are waiting on information from the U.S. before they proceed with their investigation.

Cruise line investigations are highly secretive.  The investigation conducted by Royal Caribbean is designed to protect its own legal interests and its marketing image.  Getting information from the FBI is like squeezing blood from a stone.  And the investigation by the Bahamas – which is the flag country for the cruise ship – will likely be slanted in favor of the cruise line.        

The Chhikara family has not even spoken to their son-in-law.  Certainly Royal Caribbean has interviewed him multiple times.  The cruise line should send these statements to the family now, and not subject them to further torture after losing their daughter on Royal Caribbean’s watch.


Photograph of Ms. Chhikara     India Times

Asleep Security Guard - Royal Caribbean Cruises - Cruise ShipThe tragedy of Neha Chhikara’s disappearance from the Monarch of the Seas raises a lot of issues.    
Why did her husband, described as a Royal Caribbean "manager," wait 8 hours before reporting his distraught wife missing?  Why almost a ten hour delay from the time of Ms. Chhikara going overboard until the cruise line reported the incident to the US Coast Guard?
Ms. Chhikara was picked up on CCTV video when she went overboard.  But does Royal Caribbean monitor its own video cameras? 
Were any security guards awake?
When finally notified, the US Coast Guard scrambled an HU-25 Falcon jet crew, an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, a C-130 Hercules aircraft and the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Cormorant to search for Ms. Chhikara. But this was 10 hours after she went overboard.

The cost of this search could have easily paid for 10 camera operators and 10 more security guards. The technology has long existed for a computerized system using motion detectors tied in with the video cameras to signal an alarm to the bridge when the cameras/detectors are triggered by a person going overboard (whether they jump or are pushed). The video image would be captured on a bridge computer screen and the exact location of the overboard would be documented. Then the Coast Guard would at least have a chance to save the day. 

Royal Caribbean needs to spend some of its billions investing in security guards, surveillance camera operators and bringing its security technology up to the standards of the 21st century.
But this is a game of money and Royal Caribbean is behind the 8 ball.  It’s still scratching its head trying to figure out how it can pay for both the Oasis of the Seas and her sister mega-ship Allure of the Seas which will arrive in less than a year.
Royal Caribbean is content on letting the U.S. Government foot the bill for the rescue which was doomed by the cruise line’s delay. This is unfair, particularly considering that Royal Caribbean pays no Federal income tax for the almost $6,000,000,000 (billion!) in annual ticket sales and onboard revenues (alcohol, casino, excursions, you name it) which the cruise line collects from tax paying U.S. passengers.
So if you buy a cruise with your after-tax-dollars, and a wife of an allegedly abusive Royal Caribbean crew member jumps overboard to end her suffering, and Royal Caribbean calls the U.S. Coast Guard 10 hours late – U.S. taxpayers get to pay for the $600,000 or so spent by the U.S. Coast Guard flying jets and helicopters and patrolling cutters around in circles looking for a needle in a haystack.
To make matter worse, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean know they are not going to pay any real Asleep At The Wheel? - Royal Caribbean - Securitydamages even if they get sued for their malfeasance.  Royal Caribbean’s ultimate exposure to damages is limited by the Death On The High Seas Act – which we have written about in prior articles.
This scenario of overboard passengers and delayed reporting will repeat itself unless the cruise line faces financial accountability – or Congress gets involved and mandates some meaningful safety improvements on these foreign flagged cruise ships.    
The story also raises larger issues regarding passenger safety.  If someone can go over a rail and into the water "undetected" by Royal Caribbean security, someone (like a terrorist) can come over the rail and onto the ship just as easily and hold the ship’s crew and passengers hostage.    
These types of stories reveal that there are not enough security guards patrolling the decks of Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  And no one looks at the surveillance cameras – until it is too late.
Is anyone awake at Royal Caribbean?
Photographs credits:
Oluniyi D. Ajao Blog
Charles James Wright Blog

The sad case of Neha Chhikara who jumped from the Royal Caribbean cruise on December 31, 2009 continues to receive widespread attention in India.  Her friends have expressed condolences to the Chhikara family for her untimely death.   

Newspapers in India are now reporting that the family of the accused crew member Ankit Dalal has responded to the charges.  In an article "Accused In-Laws Speak Out," the HinduTimes states that Mr. Dalal’s father, Dr. Satyavir Dalal, released a statement stating that his daughter-in-law was depressed and took anti-depressant medications.  He suggested that this may have led her to suicide. 

Dr. Dalal is the chief medical officer for the Gurgaon Civil Hospital.  His statement raises issues whether there is a confidentiality privilege in India for medical information of this type.

The Indian newspapers are suggesting that an investigation may be underway in the Bahamas (which is the law of the flag, and the incident may have occurred in Bahamian waters).   

It is also reported that Ms. Chhikara (a former "air hostess" for Indigo airlines) came to the U.S. in mid December.  She had been accepted to work as a crew member aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  At the time of the incident, she had apparently not yet begun to work and her status was technically that as a "passenger."

Star News in India – which offers viewers "24-hour Hindi news" – has posted a video interview of the family of Neha Chhikara regarding the death of their daughter.

The family claims that Ms. Chhikara’s husband, Ankit Dalal, tortured her.  This alleged mistreatment led to her suicide on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Chhikara family contends.    

The video contains photographs of the married couple and family members in earlier times, e-mails sent by Ms. Chhikara from the cruise ship to her brother complaining of abuse, the tearful comments (in Hindu) by the grieving family, and video of the police commenting on the dowry complaint against the Dalal family.  

None of the news sources have obtained comments by the Dala family so far.

This sad story continues to dominate the news in India.


For other articles on Cruise Law News regarding this story, please read:

Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard

A Bride’s Despair – Did Dowry Dispute Lead to Death?

Dowry Complaint Filed Against Royal Caribbean Crew Member



Video             Star News YouTube

Neha Chhikara - Dowry Harassment - Ankit DalalThe Press Trust of India reports that the police in the city of Gurgaon lodged a "FIR" (dowry complaint of harassment) against Royal Caribbean crew member Ankit Dalal (and his family) after his wife Neha Chhikara apparently committed suicide by jumping off the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Monarch of the Seas on December 31, 2009.

Dowry is an agreement where the bride’s family agrees to pay a certain amount of money and/or goods in kind to the groom’s family as part of the arrangement of marriages in India. 

The complaint police lodged against the Dalal family also includes charges of  beating and criminal breach of trust.

This story raises issues of what happens to young women whose families are accused on not paying sufficient dowry.  There are numerous reports of violence in dowry related disputes.  Consider reading and reviewing the Flickr photographs of "Roopas Story – the Voice of One Dowry Victim."  

International cruise lines like Royal Caribbean employ crew members from 80 countries around Dowry - Dowry Harassmentthe world, including many crew members from India who work in the food and beverage departments of the cruise ships.  

This cruise line is suppose to have a "zero tolerance" program against harassment of women.  If the reports of abuse in the press are accurate, the issue arises why the crew member’s supervisors or other crew members did not intervene before this tragedy occurred.

We previously reported on this story:

A Bride’s Despair – Did Dowry Dispute Lead to Death? 

Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard   



Photograph of Neha Chhikara    IBN Live "Woman on cruise ship jumps to death; in-laws booked"

Drawing           Women Project

Three newspapers in India are reporting that a Royal Caribbean employee, Ankit Dalal, abused his wife, Neha Chhikara, shortly before she apparently jumped from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Monarch of the Seas on New Year’s Eve.  

Mr. Dalal is identified in a newspaper articles as a manager for Royal Caribbean on the cruise ship. 

Neha Chhikara - Royal Caribbean - Monarch of the Seas - Overboard We previously reported on this story – Wife of Royal Caribbean Crew Member on Monarch of the Seas Goes OverBoard

The newspapers report Ms. Chhikara married Mr. Dalal in 2008.  His family reportedly demanded additional dowry and was allegedly abusive toward her. 

According to an article entitled "Air Hostess Death at Sea: Kin Cry Foul" in the Times of India, Ms. Chhikara’s husband physically and mentally tortured her for additional dowry – as alleged by Ms. Chhikara’s family.  Ms. Chhikara previously worked as a flight attendant. 

Ms. Chhikara’s father filed what is called a "dowry complaint" with the police in India.

The family alleges that Mr. Dalal mistreated her.  "She was asked to bring cash and jewelry every now and then and when she refused, they would beat her up. Once she was beaten so badly by Dalal that her jaw got dislocated and she also lost her job as air hostess,” Atul Ahlawat, Ms. Chhikara’s cousin, alleges.

The Times of India reports that shortly before she went overboard, Ms. Chhikara emailed her family: 

"I don’t think he wants me to work here on the ship  . . .  he keeps threatening to call up security and get me detained by US authorities so that I can never come to the US.  He threatens to handcuff me and lock me up in a cell on the ship  . . ."

The Tribune in India also reports that Ms. Chhikara sent what is called a SOS shortly before her death complaining of being abused.  The India Express, in an article entitled "Gurgaon Woman Jumped Off Cruise Liner," also reports that an e-mail she sent an hour before her death said:

"Ankit has been beating me up every day  . . .  I have lost the strength to live and am very depressed.  I do not think he wants me to work on this ship.  He has threatened me that he would get my appointment canceled  . . .  I am under extreme torture  . . ."

None of the newspapers were able to obtain quotes from Mr. Dalal or his family.

These articles suggest that Ms. Chhikara was about to begin work as a crew member for Royal Caribbean.  Previous PR statements by this cruise line characterize Ms. Chhikara as just a "passenger."  She apparently had applied to Royal Caribbean and been accepted for employment aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.    

This is a sad story to see a young beautiful person’s life end, under these alleged circumstances, at the beginning of a new year. 




News sources are reporting that a 23-year-old woman, Neha Chhikara, went overboard from the Monarch of the Seas cruise ship near Nassau, Bahamas, around 4 a.m. this morning. 

The Monarch of the Seas is operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises which has had more than its Monarch of the Seas - Missing Passenger  share of overboards in the last few years.  The cruise ship left Port Canaveral, Florida on Tuesday for the Bahamas and was scheduled to return to port on January 2, 2010.

Royal Caribbean issued a press statement which is as follows:

“The guest was last seen at 3:45 a.m. At that time, the ship was sailing from Nassau to CocoCay, Bahamas. As soon as the guest was reported missing, various public announcements were made onboard and a complete search of the ship, as well of CocoCay, was initiated.”

“Shipboard closed-circuit camera footage captured the guest going overboard on deck 11, port side at approximately 4:11 a.m. Government officials have reviewed the footage and determined that the guest jumped overboard.”

The Royal Caribbean PR spokesperson, Cynthia Martinez, is quoted by Florida Today as stating that the passenger was reported missing by her husband at 12:15 p.m. 

The popular cruise on line community CruiseCritic reports that the "passenger" was the wife of a Royal Caribbean crew member.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that although Ms. Chhikara went overboard a little after 4:00 a.m., the cruise ship did not report her missing until around 2:00 p.m. – almost 10 hours after she went overboard.   

There is no explanation why it took this long for the cruise line to report her overboard, nor is there any explanation why her husband, Ankit Dalal, waited until 8 hours later to report her missing.

There is technology available to the cruise industry for surveillance cameras to be triggered by motion with an alarm being immediately sent to the bridge to alert the cruise ship’s officers that a passenger has gone overboard.  This system would capture the video and permit immediate notification of the emergency. Tracking devices would drop into the water so that the exact location Monarch of the Seas - Missing Passengerof the passenger overboard could be determined.

Some – but certainly not all – cruise lines employ "surveillance camera operators" whose job descriptions require that the cameras be monitored 24 hours for passenger safety and security. 

Are the cameras on the port and starboard sides of the cruise ship actually monitored by operators?  Or are only the cameras in the casino or other similar locations being monitored to prevent theft of the cruise ship’s money?

Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise lines which does not monitor its closed circuit cameras on the decks and hallways.  This negligence causes an incredible waste of resources when the Coast Guard was finally notified 10 hours later.  The Coast Guard assigned an HU-25 Falcon jet crew from Air Station Miami, an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) on Andros Island, Bahamas, a C-130 Hercules aircraft from Clearwater, and the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Cormorant to search for Ms. Chhikara.

Due to the cruise line’s delay, this made the Coast Guard’s job of locating Ms. Chhikara nearly impossible.



Monarch of the Seas   Jonathon_V Flickr photostream

Monarch of the Seas


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