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

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) announced yesterday that a grand jury indicted a man  from Jacksonville, Florida for aggravated sexual abuse by force of a young woman on Carnival cruise ship. The FBI announced the news via a press release.

The indictment arises out of a incident which occurred on February 27, 2018 on the Carnival Elation when a 23 year old man  reportedly sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman with special needs during a cruise to the Bahamas. The incident occurred in a hot tub aboard the Carnival cruise ship.

According to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), cruise lines are required to report Carnival Elationcrimes to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Last year, 35 passengers and crew members reported being victims of sexual sexual attacks on Carnival Cruise Line ships, for an an average of three a month.

The FBI identified Brian Holland as the assailant.

The FBI earlier released a statement about the incident, saying: 

. . . agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation were notified by the security department of the Carnival Cruise Line vessel Elation that a passenger onboard the ship had been involved in an incident of sexual abuse on February 27, 2018. The victim stated that she was in the Jacuzzi with Holland on the cruise ship when he kept attempting to put his arm around her and she attempted to move further away from him. Holland then tried to put his hand on her shoulder and pull her back toward him. The victim stated that Holland touched her on her genitals over her bathing suit and then under her bathing suit, digitally penetrating her by force. The victim left the Jacuzzi and immediately reported what happened to family, who then reported it to ship security. The victim was examined by medical personnel on the ship, who found abrasions on her genitals consisted with digital penetration by force.

The FBI states that Mr. Holland faces  a maximum penalty of life in federal prison and a potential lifetime of supervision.

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Photo credit: WFTS ABC News

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.

The United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security issued another warning to U.S. tourists about the danger of sexual assault in Nassau , Bahamas yesterday.  The warning states:

Avoid Jet ski operators: Jet ski operators continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists. U.S. Embassy personnel are instructed not to use jet ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands, including Cabbage Beach and Cable Beach. We strongly recommend you also avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations.

The warning also advises tourists to drink responsibly due to the foreseeable risk of being drugged and Nassau Bahamas Crimethen sexually assaulted:

Stay in a group of friends who have your safety in mind when in clubs, bars, out walking in dimly-lit areas, or in a taxi at night. Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated individuals may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault.

The warning is targeted to students traveling via cruise ship or air to the Bahamas for spring break to be on the alert for these dangers. 

We have reported many times on jet ski operators in the unregulated jet ski business in the Bahamas, who have raped tourists near Cable Beach or Paradise Island. Two years ago, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau states that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 tourists over the course of in 18 months.

We reported on four prior warnings about crime this year alone for Nassau, Bahamas by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau as well as by Canada.

In the past decade, there have been more crime warnings for Nassau, Bahamas than for all of the other Caribbean cruise ports combined. Nassau earned the title of the most dangerous cruise port in the world in 2014.

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Photo credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Carnival Cruise Sexual AssaultYesterday, a male passenger aboard the Carnival Elation reportedly sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman with special needs during a cruise to the Bahamas. The incident occurred in a hot tub aboard the Carnival cruise ship.

A Jacksonville, Florida news station reported that that the mother of the victim said her “18-year-old daughter has the mental capacity of a young teen.” She believes the man “watched her then targeted her in the hot tub.”

CBS-47 Jacksonville reported that the young woman says her daughter left on a birthday cruise / girl’s trip with her grandmother. The woman, who has the mental capacity of a 13-year-old, was excited according to her mother – “This was really her first time experiencing a little freedom, you know?”

According to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), cruise lines are required to report crimes to the U.S. Department of Justice. Last year, 35 passengers and crew members reported being victims of sexual sexual attacks on Carnival Cruise Line ships, for an an average of three a month.

Carnival was last in the news regarding a series of brawls that took place on the Carnival Legend. The ship’s security guards, who added to the violence, were shown to be poorly trained.

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Video and photograph credit: CBS-47 Jacksonville

Sexual Assault Royal CaribbeanSurveillance video on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas shows an attack on a 13 year old boy by two adult passengers.

The men, identified by local Miami news station NBC 4 as Martinez and Lawson, corner the teenager in the ship’s library, before pinning him against the bookcase. The boy had apparently made an inappropriate comment earlier during the cruise to to Lawson’s daughter (Martinez’s niece).

In retaliation, the men confronted the minor, with Martinez taking off his shirt and sexually assaulting the minor, according to the article titled Teen’s Assault on Cruise Ship Caught on Surveillance Camera.

The minor’s mother reportedly said about the attack on her son: “He physically punched him, choked him, smothered his face in the pillow, pulled his clothes off, was on top of my son.”

The Sun Sentinel covered the disturbing story shortly after it occurred back in January of 2016.

The family of the boy is represented by another maritime lawyer here in Miami.

Royal Caribbean said “the ship’s crew has no duty to monitor the cameras . . . ”

A criminal judge sentenced Martinez to three years in prison for lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 16, and sentenced Lawson to two years in prison sentence for child abuse.

The article mentions that in 2016-2017, 69 percent of crimes committed on board cruise ships were sexual assaults. The chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), Ken Carver, told NBC 4 that “a third of all the rapes on cruise ships are on minors, if you can believe that.” You can read the 2013 Congressional cruise crime report with this alarming statistic here.

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Photo credit: Broward Country Sheriff’s Office via Sun Sentinel; video credit: NBC 4.

There are around 750,000 (some say the number is over 850,000) sexual offenders registered in the United States. Many thousands of these sexual offenders go on cruises each year. Some cruise lines do not permit registered offenders to cruise, but many if not most cruise lines do. 

Another lawyer here in Miami recently wrote an interesting article for the Huffington Post about this important issue, titled Should Cruise Ships Allow Sexual Offenders to Sail? 

The article points out, believe it or not, that there is a travel-related resource which caters to registered sexual offenders called Resources for RSO Travels, which published a blog post Can Registered Sex Offenders Go on a Cruise? The article answers its own question, writing "the answer is YES!" but further explains that there are some cruise line which block sexual offenders from cruising:

" . . . here are the two cruise lines that are notoriously known for denying registered sex offenders: Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Here are the cruise lines that allow registered sex offenders to board the ship: Norwegian, MSC, Holland America."

When I read the article, I find it disturbing that the registered offenders’ blog characterized Royal Caribbean and Carnival as "notorious" for prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising and not characterizing NCL, MSC and HAL as "notorious" for permitting sexual predators to board their cruise ships. I suppose that’s part of the problem with many sexual offenders. Even after being criminally convicted of their sexual crimes and placed on the National Sex Offender Public Website, they think Sexual Offender Cruise Shipthat they really didn’t do anything wrong and they should be entitled to the same privileges as people who didn’t commit sexual crimes. 

I have represented far too many people sexually assaulted on cruise ships, including dozens of children sexually abused during cruises, to have any tolerance for sexual offenders protesting that they were not permitted to cruise. 

Some men go on cruises for the primary purpose of abusing children. A couple of years ago, I wrote about a 71 year old man from Pennsylvania (photo left) who cruised on the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas and went went into the cruise ship’s water zone and fondled a 6-year-old boy. He attempted to fondle a second child in an adjoining Jacuzzi. At a hearing before a Federal Magistrate in Pennsylvania, an FBI agent testified that the pedophile admitted that he went on the cruise to "have a sexual encounter with a young boy." (There was no indication that the man was on a sexual offender database at the time of the cruise; shortly after this incident Royal Caribbean starting performing background checks of passengers).  The man was convicted, served jail time and when released from jail he attempted to molest other children

But don’t expect the U.S. government or port authorities (at either the state or national levels) to perform background checks and prevent sexual offenders from cruising.  Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection may arrest sexual predators who have an outstanding warrants but they usually do so only after the cruise ship returns to port. 

For example, a 28 year-old man (photo right) was arrested while disembarking the Carnival Inspiration at the Port of Tampa a few years ago. His name was flagged by a sweep of the manifest of Sexual Assault Outstanding Warrantpassengers by Homeland Security officials who determined that the passenger was wanted for sexual assault in addition to assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. The U.S. Marshals arrested the passenger only after the cruise ship returned to port. Regretfully, our federal government routinely looks at the ship passenger list only after the bad guys have already boarded the cruise ship.

If you take a cruise, you may be cruising with at least one felon aboard. U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested five passengers on outstanding warrants only after the Carnival Magic returned to port in Galveston several years ago. 

Cruise lines should do everything possible to keep pedophiles, sexual predators and sexual offenders  off of cruise ships. Yes, I realize that all sexual offenders are not pedophiles or technically "sexual predators" (who by definition must have been convicted of a first degree sexual crime or multiple lesser sexual crimes). But it is a step in the right direction for cruise lines to perform background checks on passengers to screen out such people convicted of sexual crimes.

Over the years, I have received many questions from people wanting to go on a cruise asking whether registered sexual offenders are allowed to cruise.  Usually, their inquires are anonymous. They claim that a "friend" is thinking of going on a cruise. They explain that their "friend" is a "really nice guy" who made a mistake a "long time ago" and is now "no threat to anyone" and other similar gobbledygook. 

A particularly annoying occurrence is when a registered sexual offender complains to me that they booked a cruise and received an email at the last minute that they are prohibited from going on the cruise. I have received many of these type of inquiries over the last several months from men convicted of sexual crimes and listed as registered offenders wanting to cruise with Carnival.  Although the cruise line always refunds their fares, several people have complained that they have been "inconvenienced" and want to see if they a lawsuit for being a victim of "discrimination."

I do not respond to such inquires, which have involved to date only people who had booked cruises with Carnival and Royal Caribbean and were notified by these cruise lines that they had been identified on a sexual offender database. The registered offenders who contact my law office remind me that most families who cruise have no idea who they are cruising with.  So kudos to Carnival and Royal Caribbean for keeping known sexual offenders off their ships and trying to keep their guests safe. Shame on the other cruise lines who don’t perform such background checks.  

The bottom line is that there is no law to my knowledge prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising. Even if there were such a law, our federal government does a poor job vetting passenger manifests and probably would not find out until after the cruise ship leaves port. Its up to the cruise lines to screen their passengers and most cruise lines don’t. It seems like only Carnival and Royal Caribbean do. 

Keep in mind that most of the sexual assaults of passengers are committed by crew members.  Few countries other than the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia have sexual offender databases, and very few countries have any online databases permitting any cruise line or hiring agents from knowing whether job applicants from the countries where crew members are hired (India, Indonesia, and the Caribbean islands) have been arrested or convicted of sexual or violent crimes. (And of course passengers from non U.S. countires without sexual offender databases cannot be screened). 

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November 4, 2017 Update: A reader on our Facebook page commented that Carnival is already partnering with INTERPOL for enhanced security screening using INTERPOL’S I-Checkit global security system . . . Read the link here.

Photo credit:

Top –  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bottom – U.S. Customs and Border Protection

MSC OrchestraThe German newspaper, Bild, recently published a blockbuster article tilted Child Molester on Dream Boat which reports that MSC Cruises rehired a crew member who had been accused of sexually molesting a ten year old child. MSC is accused of flying the crew member back to India rather than turning him over to law enforcement.

The newspaper states that the sexual molestation occurred in 2015 on the MSC Orchestra. The 45 year old cabin attendant is alleged to have sexually abused a 10 year old boy traveling with his German parents on the MSC cruise ship during a Baltic cruise. The minor’s parents were reportedly at a performance in the ship’s theater when the Indian crew member entered the cabin “supposedly to change towels.”

Another German newspaper, the Berliner Kurier, reported that the steward tried to entertain the boy by folding towel animals before pulling the child’s pants down. The cabin attendant told the child not to tell his parents anything. However, after his parents return to the stateroom the boy told them what happen and they immediately reported the assault to the ship’s captain.

But after the cruise ended in Tallinn, the cabin attendant was not arrested but instead, on the same day, was flown at MSC’s expense back to India.

The newspapers state that, a few months later, MSC rehired the steward, but he was subsequently arrested on a European criminal warrant in May 2017 when the MSC cruise ship called on Dubrovnik, Croatia.

The judge sentenced the MSC crew member to 22 months imprison, and added that “I find it strange that the cruise company rehires someone who is accused of sexual abuse to MSC Cruises Sexual Crimea child . . . ”

The popular Crew Center website asked these basic questions:

  • Why did the captain not hand over the crew member immediately to the police authorities in Estonia, instead of sending him to India?
  • Does the company check the records before rehiring a crew member?

Berliner Kurier reported that its editorial staff asked MSC to explain why the captain did not hand over the crew member immediately to the Estonian police instead of flying its employee out of the jurisdiction. MSC refused to comment.

We have also asked for a statement from MSC which has not responded to date.

This case follows a pattern which we have discussed many times, where parents leave their children in what they believe is the security of their cabin to attend a dinner or show, and a cabin attendant enters the cabin during their absence. Sexual assaults by cabin attendants in staterooms are the most frequent type of shipboard sexual crimes on cruises, in our opinion. And it’s not uncommon for cruise lines to immediately fly their employees accused of such crimes back to their home country like this, as this infamous case clearly reveals.

The crew member reportedly worked for MSC as a cabin attendant for 13 years. The question arises how many other times this pedophile abused children in this manner.

This summer, NBC News aired a special program regarding Hidden Dangers for Children on Cruise Ships. Earlier this month, we reported on the arrest of a U.S. passenger, age 30, who is accused of raping a 15 year old boy on a NCL cruise ship.

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Photo credit:Top – MSC Orchestra in Tallinn – Bin im Garten, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; bottom – Bild.

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.