Carnival Passenger Regina Gilliam Located The cruise passenger reported missing last week after she disembarked from the Carnival Splendor in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, has been located. We wrote about the incident – Passenger From Carnival Splendor Missing in St. Thomas, USVI.

A family friend left a message on this blog, stating that " . . . she was kidnapped and managed to escape. She ran to the local authorities and now help is on the way . . . "  A post on an article in a Virgin Islands newspaper (which has not been verified) explained that "she was allegedly "kidnapped by gun point somewhere close to where it docked."

This account, if true, has not been confirmed by the local police in St. Thomas. 

This morning, a local newspaper in St. Thomas, published an article reporting that yesterday (Sunday):

". . . at around 11:05 a.m., Regina Gilliam approached a Virgin Islands Port Authority (V.I.P.A.) officer at the Cyril E. King Airport and identified herself as the missing person from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship. The V.I.P.A. officer was able to verify that she was indeed Ms. Gilliam, and notified 911 immediately . . . "

The article continued:

"Ms. Gilliam was subsequently interviewed by the V.I.P.D.’s Investigations Bureau as part of the force’s standard procedures for missing persons. An investigation was launched to locate Ms. Gilliam on Thursday, when she did not reboard the ship before it was scheduled to depart St. Thomas at 4 p.m.

Mr. Dratte (the V.I.P.D. Public Information Officer) said the force was working with all relevant authorities to ensure Ms. Gilliam’s health and wellbeing, and to protect the integrity of the investigation . . . "

The official account, or course, raises more questions than provides answers.  Was Ms. Gilliam really abducted? And if so, when and by whom?  Carnival reported her missing when the Splendor left port on Thursday afternoon and she was located on Sunday morning, three days later. Some people are questioning whether she was really kidnapped. At the same time, the Virgin Islands has motivation to downplay the incident; the islands obviously do not want the bad publicity of cruise passengers being abducted playing out in the international press.

Women going ashore from cruise have been victims of foul play in the past, such as in Mexico and in Bonaire, where Royal Caribbean crew members were murdered after going ashore in ports of call. If Ms. Gilliam was in fact kidnapped, this is obviously is a serious matter that should be acknowledged by the police in St. Thomas; those responsible for the crime should be arrested and help responsible, and the USVI tourism people and the cruise lines have a duty to warn the public.

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Photo credit: vifreepress.com

Newspapers in the United States Virgin Islands are reporting that a Carnival cruise line passenger has gone missing in St. Thomas after disembarking from the Carnival cruise ship on Thursday, August 31, 2017. 

The missing passenger has been identified as 26-year-old Regina Gilliam, who is reportedly 5 ft 4 inches in height.

Photographs released by the Virgin Islands Police Department and available online at the Virgin Island Free Press are below.

Ms. Gilliam left the Splendor, after it reached St. Thomas, at 8:19 A.M. last Thursday, but did not to the cruise ship by the time it left port on Thursday afternoon. 

Comments posted on the Virgin Islands Consortium are expressing hope that Ms. Gilliam has not been met with foul play, with one person commenting that " . . . we don’t need the cruise ship industry to have yet another reason to pull out."

Carnival pulled out of St. Thomas after one of its guests was shot and killed during a shore excursion there in 2010. We represented the young girl’s family. The case resulted in one of the leading decisions explaining the cruise line’s legal obligation to warn of dangers ashore in the ports of call where it frequents – Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call.

There have been a few cases where cruise ships have left ports of calls without their female crew members who have met with foul pay like this case and this one as well. 

Fortunately, most passengers who "disappear" at ports of call in the Caribbean (it seems like most such cases occur in Jamaica like these three, and this one, and these two, and these two as well) eventually turn up safe and sound.  

Let’s hope for the best with Ms. Giliam. 

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September 3, 2017 Update: According to the comment below, a friend of Ms. Gilliam reports: " . . . she has been found and is awaiting a ride to get back home. She was kidnapped and managed to escape. She ran to the local authorities and now help is on the way . . . " There has  been no formal announcement from the Virgin Islands Police Department. 

September 4, 2017 Update: The St. Thomas Consortium in an article today states that:

"… on Sunday at around 11:05 a.m., Regina Gilliam approached a Virgin Islands Port Authority (V.I.P.A.) officer at the Cyril E. King Airport and identified herself as the missing person from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship. The V.I.P.A. officer was able to verify that she was indeed Ms. Gilliam, and notified 911 immediately, Mr. Dratte (Public Information Officer)said.

Ms. Gilliam was subsequently interviewed by the V.I.P.D.’s Investigations Bureau as part of the force’s standard procedures for missing persons. An investigation was launched to locate Ms. Gilliam on Thursday, when she did not reboard the ship before it was scheduled to depart St. Thomas at 4 p.m.

Mr. Dratte said the force was working with all relevant authorities to ensure Ms. Gilliam’s health and wellbeing, and to protect the integrity of the investigation."

Of course, this account, which does not explain why she went missing, raises more questions than provides answers. 

Photo credit: vifreepress.com

Regina Gilliam Carnival Passenger St Thomas Virgin Islands

 

 

Today a cruise passenger reported that the Carnival Splendor lost power as it was sailing to St. Thomas, United States Virgin Island (USVI). 

Carnival responded to the passenger by saying that that the Carnival cruise ship "has not lost engine power. It’s only a technical issue affecting the ship’s maximum cruising speed."

Automatic information systems (AIS) show the ship’s current speed at 13 – 14 knots, although it was sailing at one to two knots earlier today. 

We have requested an explanation from Carnivval but have not yet received a response. 

The Carnival Splendor was disabled after an engine room fire in November 2010 in a highly reported case.

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Update: We received the following statement from Carnival:  

CARNIVAL SPLENDOR STATEMENT
March 2, 2017 – 11 a.m.

"Carnival Splendor is currently experiencing a technical issue that is affecting the vessel’s maximum cruising speed. The ship’s technical team is currently working on assessing the repairs.

Due to current speed limitations, the remaining calls at St. Thomas and Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic have been cancelled so that the ship can return to its homeport of Miami on Sunday on schedule.

All guests on the current voyage will receive a $100 per person shipboard credit and a 25 percent credit toward a future Carnival cruise.

Carnival Splendor is on fourth day of a seven-day cruise that departed Miami on Sunday and returns this Sunday."

March 3, 2017 Update: Shortly after 6:00 P.M. today, Carnival modofied its offer of compensation to its guests: "50 percent refund, 50 percent future cruise discount, and a $100 shipboard credit."

Carnival LibertyThere are reports that the Carnival Liberty cruise ship sustained an engine room fire today.

The fire took place when the cruise ship was docked in St. Thomas USVI.  Cruise passengers were reportedly evacuated ashore, some wearing life vests.

John Heald, the popular blogging cruise director for Carnival, posted this statement in his Facebook page:

"Earlier today, while the Carnival Liberty was docked in St. Thomas, there was a fire in the ship’s engine room. There were no reported injuries to guests or crew. All guests are ashore in St. Thomas. Crews are working to confirm the fire has been completely extinguished." 

Please leave a comment if you have information, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Think cruise ship fires are rare?  Think again. Read:

Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires – Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?

What cruise lines don’t want you to know.

Update September 8, 2015 @ 5:00 P.M

CARNIVAL LIBERTY STATEMENT September 8, 2015 – 5pm EDT The Carnival Liberty continues to remain in St. Thomas following an engine fire that occurred yesterday while the ship was docked there during a scheduled port of call visit. The ship’s command is presently awaiting permission from authorities to sail. Once the vessel departs, it is scheduled to return to its homeport of San Juan. Guests will have the option of remaining on board through the rest of the week and exploring San Juan or disembarking and traveling home. If clearance to depart St. Thomas is not received by later this evening, the company will move forward with arrangements to fly all guests home from St. Thomas. All guests are being provided with a full refund of their cruise as well as a 50 percent discount on a future cruise. This is in addition to a $150 per person credit that has already been applied to guests’ shipboard accounts. There were no injuries to guests or crew as a result of the fire which was extinguished by the ship’s automated suppression system. All hotel services including air conditioning, elevators, toilets, galleys, etc. are fully functional and the ship’s normal array of activities, entertainment, dining options and programming are being offered. We apologize to our guests for this unexpected disruption to their vacation and the inconvenience they are experiencing. Carnival Liberty departed San Juan on Sunday for a seven-day Caribbean cruise with 3,346 guests and 1,150 crew on board.

Photo Credit: Chargarther licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

US Virgin IslandseTN Global Travel Industry News recently published an article about  tourism issues in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the USVI Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

In its original publication, eTN cited several sources of information for the proposition that the USVI has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. The territory has a staggering homicide rate around 35.5 per 100,000 people, whereas the United States as a whole has a rate around 4.7 per 100,000 people. (In 2012, the per capita murder rate in the USVI was even higher, around 56 per 100,000 people). 

We selected the USVI as the eight most dangerous cruise destination in the Caribbean in 2014. Earlier this year, I wrote that there are "way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI is a place for a family to vacation."

The leading maritime case involving a cruise line’s duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves a young girl murdered while visiting St. Thomas during a cruise ship stop.

eTN concluded that "the discrepancy between the socioeconomic status, ethnicity and colonial history of the local population stands in contrast to that of the tourist, straining the relationship between residents and visitors which is evidenced, in some cases, by poor service and worker hostility. Negative employee behavior combined with infrastructure decline pushes tourism to other destinations and creates a downward spiral for USVI visits." This is an accurate insight in to the crime and tourism problems in my opinion. 

But then eTN received a phone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). CTO claimed that the article "had many errors" and disputed that the USVI is dangerous. CTO failed to provide eTN with any evidence or statistics to indicate that the USVI is safe.

Inexplicably, eTN published a second article in which it wrote "of course it should be acknowledged the US Virgin Islands is one of the safest travel and tourism destinations in the world when it comes to U.S. Virgin Islands Crimecrime."  It cited no evidence to support this conclusion which was 180 degrees opposite of what it concluded in its original article.

Tourism officials in the Caribbean are in the business of selling tropical vacations to their islands. To accomplish this feat in an ever-increasing dangerous environment, tourism bureaus often suppress crime statistics and dispute the statistics when they are released.

There’s no dispute that the USVI murder rate has been 8 to 12 times higher than the U.S. rate in the last couple of years. It’s dangerous for families cruising to St. Thomas not to understand this.

It’s disappointing to see a reputable publication like eTN flip-flop so dramatically after receiving a single telephone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. 

 

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Photo Credit: Top – Wikipedia / Charlotte Amalie Creative Commons 2.5; bottom – Virgin Islands Daily News

Carnival Valor St. ThomasWe have been notified that there was a fire which affected a "few cabins" this afternoon on the Carnival Valor, which is currently docked at port in St. Thomas U.S.V.I.

A person on the cruise ship informed us that the cruise ship was supposed to depart St. Thomas at 5:00 P.M. but the captain of the ship announced that the departure was delayed due to the fire which apparently (reportedly) went from one cabin to another. The cause and type of fire has not been explained to us.

The ship reportedly will sail later tonight. 

We are awaiting confirmation and an explanation from Carnival which we contacted upon receipt of the information.

If you have information about the incident, please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page .

Update: Here’s the statement which we received today from Carnival at 6:21 P.M.:

CARNIVAL VALOR STATEMENT

February 10, 2014 – 5:15 pm EDT

Earlier today while the Carnival Valor was docked in St. Thomas, a small fire was detected in one stateroom located on deck 8. The ship’s automatic sprinkler system activated and quickly extinguished the fire. All of the ship’s hotel and safety systems continued to function as normal.

Although there was smoke in the area, there were no injuries to guests or crew. Other than the one affected cabin, all other cabins in the area are undamaged.

The ship, which departed on a seven-day cruise from San Juan yesterday, is scheduled to sail from St. Thomas later this evening and arrive in Barbados on Wednesday.

Carnival Valor operates year-round seven-day southern Caribbean cruises from San Juan.

###

Update: The Cruise Critic message board includes comments from passengers, including this one:

"No power at lido buffet and still have not left port and we are a hour late. Some aft stairwells have been block of and aft elevators are not operating." 

  

Photo Credit: Wikipediia / ckramer

Twenty-seven years ago, a state appellate court in Florida held that a cruise line owes its passengers a duty to warn of known dangers beyond the point of debarkation in places where passengers are invited or reasonably expected to visit. Carlisle v. Ulysses Line Ltd., S.A.,475 So. 2d 248, 251 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1985). 

The Carlisle case involved a horrific incident involving four passengers aboard the S.S. Dolphin on a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. They were attracted to this particular cruise by promotional brochures advertising the beautiful beaches of Nassau. Upon arriving in Nassau, the two couples rented a jeep and headed for the beaches. Following the advice of the ship’s cruise director, they traveled to a secluded beach and were ambushed by three masked gunmen who opened fire on them with shotguns. All four of them were wounded. Mr. Carlisle later died from a gunshot wound to his head. After the incident, the survivors learned from members of the ship’s crew that other tourists and a member of the ship’s crew had been victims of violent acts perpetrated in various places on the island. Bahamian police reported that the particular beach where plaintiffs were attacked was "very bad."

The cruise line denied that it had any obligation to passengers off of the cruise ship and further denied that it had a duty to warn of crime in the ports of call where it disembarked its passengers.  The appellate court in Carlisle disagreed, holding that the cruise line’s legal duty to its passengers does not end at the gangway and it must warn of dangers where the passenger is invited to, or may reasonably be expected to visit. 

The court drew a distinction between "point to point" travel offered by an airline which clearly has no obligation to its passengers once they leave the airplane, and a cruise vacation where the cruise lines advertise (and profit from) the ports of call.  Cruise lines have an ongoing duty to their passengers throughout the cruise experience.  The decision makes sense.  The cruise lines frequent the ports of call on at least a weekly basis; they have agents in the ports; and accordingly they are in a position to know far more about the ports than a passenger. 

The federal trial courts in this jurisdiction have applied Carlisle, but the cruise lines have been trying to chip away at it for years.  Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have been trying to convince the federal judges that cruise lines should have no liability to the passengers once they step foot in port and they don’t have to warn of dangers that they know about but their passengers don’t.   

Recently, Royal Caribbean was successful in obtaining an order ending a case filed against it after a young woman was sexually assaulted by men in Cozumel.  The passenger alleged the cruise line knew that there Carnival Victory Cruise Ship were rapes and violent crimes against its passengers in this port but failed to warn them. You can read about this case, which is now on appeal, in our article: Royal Caribbean Smears Crime Victim & Gets Cozumel Rape Lawsuit Thrown Out Before Trial.    

Last week, in a case we are handling, the cruise lines received a major set-back when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the rationale of the Carlisle decision and stated that cruise lines do in fact have an obligation to warn cruise passengers of the danger of crime of off the ships.

The case involved a 15 year old girl who was celebrating her quinceanera with her parents and brother on a Carnival cruise. A gang-related shoot out ended up with the girl being killed in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Carnival successfully argued at the trial court level that it had no obligation to the young girl or her family, but the federal appellate court reversed the lower court. The pertinent portions of the 11th Circuit’s opinion are below:

"Liz Marie and Appellants (her parents and brother) took a vacation aboard a Carnival cruise ship, the M/V VICTORY. Appellants allege that an unidentified Carnival employee encouraged Liz Marie’s father and brother to visit Coki Beach and Coral World upon disembarking the ship in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. On July 12, 2010, Appellants left the ship and traveled to Coki Beach independently of the ship’s sponsored excursions in St. Thomas. On their way back to the ship from Coki Beach, Appellants and Liz Marie rode an open-air bus past a funeral service of a gang member who recently died in a gang-related shooting near Coki Beach. Cars of funeral attendees were parked along the narrow road, blocking the bus’s passage. While stuck in traffic, gang-related, retaliatory violence erupted at the funeral, shots were fired, and Liz Marie was killed on the bus as an innocent passerby.

                                                             *                  *                   *

Appellants’ complaint alleges the following: a Carnival employee encouraged Appellants to visit Coki Beach in St. Thomas; Carnival was familiar with Coki Beach because it sold excursions there; Carnival generally knew of gang violence and public shootings in St. Thomas; Carnival knew of Coki Beach’s reputation for drug sales, theft, and gang violence; Carnival knew or should have known of the gang member’s shooting and funeral taking place near Coki Beach; Carnival failed to warn Appellants of any of these dangers; Carnival knew or should have known of these dangers because Carnival monitors crime in its ports of call; Carnival’s negligence in encouraging its passengers to visit Coki Beach and in failing to warn disembarking passengers of general and specific incidents of crime in St. Thomas and Coki Beach caused Liz Marie’s death; and Appellants have suffered various damages, including the loss of Liz Marie’s life. This negligent failure-to-warn claim is more than a mere recitation of the elements of the cause of action. The facts alleged in the complaint are plausible and raise a reasonable expectation that discovery could supply additional proof of Carnival’s liability. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S. Ct. at 1965. We consequently conclude that the district court erred in dismissing Appellants’ negligence claim under Iqbal."

You can read the entire decision here.

This is a significant decision because crime in the Caribbean islands (as well as Mexico) has been increasing over the years. We have written several dozen articles over the last couple of years about the murder, robbery and rape of cruise passengers ashore in ports of call in the Caribbean. Take a minute and read about the rash of crimes where cruise passengers are targeted: Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico.   

Our firm retained appellate specialist Phil Parrish to write the winning brief. Carnival was represented by Curtis Mase and Valentina Tejera.  You can read the lawsuit our law firm filed here.

 

The case is receiving national and international coverage:

ABC News: Vacation danger: Is cruise ship liable for perils on shore excursions?

Virgin Islands Daily News: Court rules lawsuit over slain teen tourist should be heard.

 

Photo Carnival Victory cruise ship bajan.wordpress.com

A cruise sponsored open safari bus excursion from a Royal Caribbean ship crashed in St. Thomas, resulting in injuries to cruise passengers. 

The passengers were traveling from the Serenade of the Seas cruise ship in the safari bus when the open air bus lost control going down an embankment.

Royal Caribbean stated that eleven of the passengers were immediately transported to a local area hospital.  The Royal Caribbean PR person, Cynthia Martinez, stated that "ten were treated for minor injuries, two were uninjured, and one was seriously injured."  Twelve of the 13 passengers Serenade of the Seas - St. Thomasreturned to Serenade of the Seas and will continue on the sailing.

One passenger sustained a fractured hip and remains in St. Thomas for further medical treatment.

Royal Caribbean stated that the cruise passengers were participating in the "Best of St. Thomas and Shopping" shore excursion. 

Accidents like this are not as uncommon as the cruise lines will admit.  Two years ago a young man from a Princess cruise ship was killed and numerous passengers were injured in a cruise bus excursion in Tortola – Excursion Tour Bus Crash In Tortola Injures Princess Cruises’ Passengers From Caribbean Princess.

The previous year, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises’ Summit cruise ship were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica.  We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident.  Information on the Dominica excursion accident is contained in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

"Open air safari" buses and other similar vehicles in the Caribbean are often designed without seat belts or shoulder harnesses, and the vehicles are also often substandard and poorly maintained. 

It remains to be seen whether this vehicle was properly equipped and maintained.

Update:

The Virgin Islands Daily News reports that there was much more to the accident than admitted by Royal Caribbean.  The newspaper reports that a "safari taxi carrying 13 cruise ship tourists on a shore excursion darted from Skyline Drive on Friday morning, levelling mailboxes, striking a parked SUV, launching itself over the ridge and plunging 65 feet into thick bush.   . . . The crash broke one woman’s hip and caused a cut on one passenger’s forehead that required stitches."

Taxicab Commission Executive Director Judith Wheatley said that there have been several recent accidents which have "put safari safety into the spotlight."

The Virgin Islands Daily News reports today that the U.S. Coast Guard continues to investigate the  fatal parasailing accident in St. Thomas which killed a Celebrity Cruises passenger and seriously injured her daughter on November 15, 2011.

We discussed this incident in our article Celebrity Cruises Passenger Killed in Parasailng Accident in St. Thomas.

The incidents resulted in the death of Bernice Kraftcheck, age 60 who the newspaper identifies lived in Round Lake, Illinois.  Her daughter, Danielle Haese, age 34, is identified as living in  Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.

The Virgin Islands Daily News states that it is "unclear what caused the tandem riders to fall from the parachute and harnessed rig."  In its first article about the mishap, the newspaper cited speculation that winds gusts may have played a part in the accident.

A Coast Guard representative mentions that ten Coast Guard members from St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. are conducting a maritime casualty investigation. The investigation checked the operators from the excursion company,Caribbean Watersports and Tours, for drug and alcohol shortly after the accident. 

Coast Guard investigations like this may take many months to complete.

A news source in the U.S. Virgin Islands reports that two passengers from the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship were involved in a serious parasailing accident on Tuesday in St. Thomas.

The incident occurred late Tuesday afternoon while the passengers were on an excursion.  One of the passengers died, and the other was seriously injured and remains hospitalized.

There are comments from an online cruise community suggesting that the deceased passengers was celebrating  her 60th birthday and her daughter was the one seriously injured.     

Celebrity Cruises Parasailing Accident - St. ThomasCelebrity Cruises advertises parasailing "400 feet over St. Thomas" on its website.  You can watch’s Celebrity’s brief  video about parasailing in St. Thomas here which describes the excursion as an "experience of a lifetime." 

A number of agencies are apparently involved in the investigation into this incident, including the Virgin Islands Police Department, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Last year we reported on the death of a Carnival cruise passenger parasailing in Cozumel during an excursion. 

 if you know how the accident occurred, please leave a comment below.

November 17, 2011 Update:

Caribbean Water Sports and Tours - Parasailing DeathThe Virgin Islands Daily News published an article this evening stating that "squalls and wind gusts Tuesday afternoon may have factored into the death of Bernice Kraftcheck, 60, and the serious injury of her daughter Danielle Haese, 34, who was hospitalized overnight at Schneider Hospital." 

The mother and daughter purchased a parasailing shore-excursion from Celebrity Cruises which was conducted by Caribbean Watersports and Tours.  The excursion company conducted the parasailing trip aboard the 31-foot powerboat Turtle.  The newspaper reports that two crew members operated the Turtle, which was carrying five passengers. 

"All parasailing shore excursions in the Caribbean have been cancelled indefinitely, pending the outcome of the investigation," said Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez.

Cruise lines face legal liability when they fail to vet the safety policies and procedures of the excursion companies which the cruise lines select to do business with. 

For example, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises’ Summit cruise ship were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica.  We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident.  Information on the Dominica excursion accident is contained in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

December 3, 2011 Update:

Coast Guard Continues to Investigate St. Thomas Parasailing Accident

 

Photo credit:  Celebrity Cruises