A crew member reportedly went overboard from the Celebrity Reflection last night, according to a passenger on the cruise ship.

The Celebrity cruise ship was sailing from Mykonos, Greece to Rhodes, Greece.

The passenger posted comments about the incident on her Twitter page and also on Instagram:

The majority of crew members who go overboard often do so intentionally. The incidents usually occur late at night or early in the morning.  The persons going overboard are typically not observed by other crew members or by passengers. We are not aware of any Celebrity cruise ships which are equipped with automatic man overboard systems which immediately notify the bridge when a person goes over the rails and tracks the person in the water, even at night, via infrared, heat sensor / motion detection / radar technology.

The usual scenario involves a crew member who is overworked during a long (6-7 month) contract and becomes demoralized and decides to end his life. Another crew member may notice that the crew member has not reported to work. The ship will eventually conduct a search of the ship and will look through the ship’s CCTV.  Unlike other cruise lines (like NCL), Celebrity / Royal Caribbean do not actively monitor the CCTV cameras on their  cruise ships. I have written about the problem of crew members going missing from Royal Caribbean cruise ships without explanation.

During a three year period between 2009 and 2012, at least thirteen crew members went over the rails of Royal Caribbean (and Celebrity) ships, including the Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas (twice), Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Summit, and Monarch of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas (two). Most of these cases were never investigated by the flag state, which, it seems, could not care less.

Any investigations conducted after the fact by the cruise company or the flag state are usually done to exonerate the cruise line.

The masters on these cruise ship must notify the cruise line’s security and marine operations departments in Miami by telephone regarding any “suspected overboard situation.” Unless there is an actual and reliable sighting of the person going overboard, the company’s procedures prohibit the master from turning the ship around to conduct searches in the water. The ship turns around only after the master first notifies the cruise line’s marine operations department in Miami.

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein’s website, at least 322 crew members and passengers have gone overboard since 2000.

If you have any information about this latest overboard, please leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Update: A Greek news source identifies the crew member as a 36 year-old from the Ukraine. The news source says that the man went overboard around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night but the search efforts did not begin until “early on Wednesday” (at around 5:00 a.m).

Read: Misery Machine and Crew Member Suicides

October 20, 2018 Update: The popular Crew-Center website identified the crew member as  Alex Heleta, a well liked young man who was “working as a bar server for several contracts on different Celebrity ships, and had just embarked on Reflection. Some sources say that Hellenic Coast Guard found Alex body near the Island of Santorini, and they will send it back home for his family and friends to commemorate.”

Image credit: AIS image of Celebrity Reflection – MarineTraffic

Rowan Moore, a journalist for The Guardian newspaper in London, used the words “misery machines” in describing giant cruise ships in an opinion piece last Sunday. He writes:

Giant cruise ships look to me like misery machines. They don’t make residents happy in the places they visit. They don’t make their crews happy, if you are to believe the recurring allegations of mistreatment of staff . . .”

I posted the article on Facebook and Twitter. The push back from cruise passengers was instant. “Cruise lines enjoy 93+% customer satisfaction. That’s better than chocolate companies!!” posted a Facebook follower, echoing the common view of cruising from the perspective of cruise fans.

That’s the common reaction on social media whenever I write about the harsh employment conditions which crew members face on cruise ships. Many cruise passengers who read this blog could not care less.

Unfortunately, the same seems to be true when it comes to members of the U.S. Congress. If the problem does not involve a local constituent, most members of Congress will not give you the time of day. The nativist / anti-immigrant mentality promoted by the current administration has made it more difficult to defend the rights of “foreign” (i.e., non-U.S.) crew members who comprise the overwhelming majority of cruise ship employees.

I’ve attended hearings in Washington D.C. regarding the issue of cruise safety where the cruise industry has testified that that 95% of people who cruise have a positive experience. No doubt. Pampered by cabin attendants, waiters and bartenders, cruise guests enjoy the unrealistically inexpensive cruise fares offered by a cruise industry which pays no taxes and escapes U.S. wages and labor regulations by registering their businesses and ships in places like Liberia, Panama and the Bahamas.

As long as the cruise leaves and returns on time and doesn’t break down in between, most cruise guests are not concerned about what happens behind the scenes, whether it is overworked, underpaid and stressed-out crew members or sludge illegally dumped at sea.

No one cares to take a satisfaction survey of crew members.

Life on board a foreign flagged behemoth is no box of chocolates for the crew, despite the high guest satisfaction rating. The Guardian’s “misery machines” expression was the first thing I thought of earlier this week when I read the articles which several readers of this blog sent me about the death of a twenty-two year old Serbian man on the Carnival Fascination.

The man was described as a 22 year-old Serbian man named Nikola Arnautovic.

How unbelievably sad that a young man of only 22 years, just one year younger and one year older than my own two boys, would end his life at such an age.

But anyone who follows the cruise industry knows that suicides of crew members are hardly rare.

A British chef was found hanging in his cabin aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship several years ago.  Two weeks earlier, a safety officer on the Disney Dream committed suicide in a similar manner. And the day before that, a woman in Carnival’s entertainment department was found hanging in an officer’s quarters on the Carnival Sensation.

The popular Crew Center website, which first indicated that the recent death on the Carnival Fascination involved a crew member, reported that an Indian dishwasher on the Costa Magica was found hanging in his cabin in February 2017. A galley worker also committed suicide a few years earlier on the Island Princess by hanging.  He reportedly died in the first month of his first contract on the Princess Cruises’ ship. The Crew Center reported that, according to some crew members, he committed suicide because of the “enormous stress and pressure by his supervisors.”

Of course, most crew members do not end their lives by hanging themselves. Most ship employees who choose to end their lives do so by jumping overboard.  During a period of less than three years between December 2009 and October 2012, at least twelve crew members jumped overboard or simply disappeared from cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises. I wrote about the problem in an article titled “Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?”  The grueling schedule and long hours crew members are required to work 7 days a week, 30 days a month with no days off over the course of a 6 to 10 month contract, for far less than the U.S. minimum wage, often leave ship employees, who are already isolated from their families, exhausted and demoralized.

In the past decade, many dozens of crew members have jumped into the sea. The common reaction by guests is pointlessly “you can’t fall from a cruise ship” as if casting blame on the dead crew member will somehow solve the problem.

Mental health services for cruise ship employees are non-existent. And the  emotional well being of crew members is not a topic that is discussed in the U.S. Few Americans seem concerned with the working conditions on cruise ships faced by citizens of the greater world community. Most U.S. citizens respond to the exploitation of crew members from India or Jamaica with the rationalization that whatever pittance the “foreign” crew members receive is more than the workers can receive back home. “If they don’t like the work, they can quit” is the common saying.

For a U.S. based cruise industry whose mantra is the “safety of our passengers and crew is our highest priority,” there seems to be little genuine expression of such a sentiment when a crew member disappears at sea.

In the last week, yet another crew member disappeared from another cruise ship. He was a Filipino, by the name of  Rezan Monteroso from the M/S Amsterdam. Mr. Monteroso had been aboard the Amsterdam for just 5 days when he went overboard, leaving behind a wife and family with young children.

There are no news articles anywhere mentioning Mr. Monterosa’s name (or the names of dozens of other crew members who have gone overboard before him), or explaining the circumstances surrounding his last days or hours.

Mr. Monterosa’s disappearance seems altogether too familiar – the ship had no automatic man overboard system and the notification to the Coast Guard and ensuing search were unreasonably delayed; there were no discussions about the need for mental health counselling or support from the cruise line following the soon-to-be-forgotten story; HAL reportedly shut off the feeds to the monitors on the ship when the ship finally realized that Ms. Monterosa went overboard, leaving the passengers in the dark as to what happened to the crew member; there seemed to be more guests asking about compensation for the “inconvenience” of a delayed arrival at the next port than any inquiry regarding why the Filipino employee went overboard in the first place. And no one seems to be making any efforts to even discuss making changes to reduce the likelihood of losing additional crew members at sea like this.

As matters now stand, crew members from around the world, from places like Serbia and the Philippines, have little support from the cruise industry and none from the U.S. government. It seems that when crew members jump overboard or hang themselves, the cruise lines couldn’t care less either, as long as it doesn’t affect their customer’s satisfaction rating.

Rest in Peace Mr. Monterosa and Mr. Arnautovic and prayers to your surviving families and friends.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo credit: M/S Amsterdam – Crew Center

On December 8, 2017, a crew member went overboard from the Vision of the Seas cruise ship operated by Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises. I reported on the incident at the time based on what passengers were stating about the cruise.

The Vision sailed out of Galveston on December 4, 2017 on a seven day cruise, leaving and returning to Galveston, to ports in Progresso and Cozumel, Mexico.  During the return cruise to Galveston, a crew member could not be accounted for. He apparently checked into his job in the early morning hours but had disappeared from the cruise ship sometime thereafter. A ship-wide search was conducted without success.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

I wrote at the time that there was no indication that the ship stopped or turned around to conduct a search in the water. Unfortunately, the scenario fits a typical pattern when a crew member goes over the rails un-witnessed late at night or in the early hours of the morning on a Royal Caribbean ship. Royal Caribbean has not invested in the available automatic man-overboard technology (using heat sensors, infrared, motion detection and/or radar technology) which can send a signal to the bridge, capture the image of the person going overboard, and track the person by radar in the water. Instead, the ship will eventually review closed-circuit television images, conduct a search of the cabin on the ship, often not perform a search at sea, and belatedly notify the U.S. Coast Guard.

Royal Caribbean registered the Vision of the Seas in the Bahamas which is responsible for conducting investigations when passengers or crew members go overboard from cruise ships registered in that flag of convenience (“FOC”) country. The Bahamas Maritime Authority (“BMA”) just published its investigation into this man overboard situation on the Vision. You can read the report here.

The BMA report offers a rare insight into how Royal Caribbean responds to and investigates man overboard situations. The report also attached internal security summaries and portions of Royal Caribbean’s safety and quality (“SQM”) manual which outline the cruise line’s written policies and procedures regarding a “missing person.”

The report reveals that Royal Caribbean repeatedly failed to inquire into the missing crew member’s whereabouts and failed to timely report his absence from the ship to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean register their cruise ships in countries like the Bahamas in order to avoid U.S. labor regulations and U.S. income taxes. They are used to having FOC states look the other way and not criticize them in situations like this, but the BMA report reveals very disturbing information about the shoddy operations of this cruise ship.

The BMA report indicates that the crew member was a 24 year-old citizen of Mauritius. The report  mentions that the crew member was a facilities cleaner who worked at the pool area on deck 9. He woke up around 4:30 A.M. in a cabin which he shared with his girlfriend who was also from Mauritius. He reported to work at 5:00 A.M. He walked to elevators which took him to deck nine and then he took an elevator to deck five. He walked to the stern on deck 5, placed his cleaning bucket on the deck, climbed over the stern rail and then climbed back onto the deck, and then walked toward the port side where he apparently jumped overboard.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

CCTV images (which officers on the ship first reviewed approximately eight and one-half hours later) show the crew member’s movements on decks 9 and 5 but do not show the crew members actually going overboard because a floodlight blocked the CCTV camera on the port/aft side on Deck 5 with a view of the stern of the ship.

There was no mention in the report of an automatic man overboard system which would have immediately sent a signal and alarm to the bridge that the crew member went over the rails.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

Unlike other cruise lines (like NCL), Royal Caribbean does not monitor the CCTV cameras on its cruise ships.

The BMA reveals the following chronology:

  • 04:30 – Crew member awakes and leaves cabin which he shared with his girlfriend;
  • 05:00 – Crew member reports to work and his supervisor assigns him the deck 9 pool deck to clean;
  • 05:09 – 5:14 – Crew member shown on CCTV heading to and walking on deck 9 and then goes to deck 5 where he climbs over the stern railing near the crew life-raft canister area which does not provide direct access to the sea and then he climbs over the rail back onto deck 5;
  • 05:14 – Crew member walks to port side of the stern which has direct drop to the water and apparently jumps overboard (although CCTV camera is blocked);
  • 09:30 – Crew member fails to attend mandatory safety training;
  • 12:00 – Designated safety officer responsible for training goes to lunch without noting that the crew member was absent from training;
  • 12:40 – Crew member’s supervisor, the Facilities Head Cleaner, notes that the crew member is missing from his work station;
  • 12:45 – 1st Announcement made in crew areas;
  • 13:05 – Bridge was informed;
  • 13:16 – 2nd announcement made in crew areas;
  • 13:40 – 3rd announcement made in crew and areas;
  • 13:40 – 14:45 – Officers review CCTV footage; take statements from the facilities head cleaner and head cleaner; staff captain and master interview the crew member’s girlfriend and isolates her in a different cabin with a security guard posted outside the door;
  • 14:45 – Security officer notifies Global Security department in Miami of a “possible missing person;”
  • 15:20 – Search of ship begins;
  • 15:45 – Security Officer seals crew member’s cabin, locks cabin door with padlock and “crime scene tape;” officers conclude that there is no clear view of crew member jumping overboard because the area of the railing is not covered by CCTV (blind area) but concludes that “CCTV clearly showed a CM …. entering the area where he possible jumped over board and did not return back;”
  • 15:47 – Master notifies U.S. Coast Guard in Galveston by telephone about “missing person” situation;
  • 16:49 – “Whole ship search” completed but missing crew member not found.

Royal Caribbean Overboard Vision of the Seas

There are a couple of conclusions which can readily be made from this chronology:

It took seven and one-half hours before the supervisor noticed that the crew member was missing from his work station.  It took eight and one-half hours before the safety officer reviewed the CCTV images. It took over nine and one-half hours after the crew member went overboard (and two hours after the first public announcement of the missing man were made on the ship) before the security officer finally notified the security department in Miami that a crew member probably went overboard. It then took over another hour to finally notify the U.S. Coast Guard of the overboard crew member. At this time, it Royal Caribbean SQM Safety and Quality Manual was then over ten and one-half hours after the crew member went overboard.

It appears that the officers on the Royal Caribbean ship were indifferent to whether the Coast Guard even conducted a search after this extraordinary delay.  The Security Officer wrote in his report (attached to the BMA report) that “we are not aware if a search was carried out by USCG.”

The Royal Caribbean SQM (blurred in original) requires the master of the cruise ship to “immediately” notify the cruise line’s security and marine operations departments by telephone in any “suspected overboard situation.” Unless there is an actual and reliable sighting of the person going overboard, the SQM also prohibits the Master from turning the ship around to conduct searches in the water and even then only after the Master first notifies the cruise line’s marine operations department in Miami.

Notably absent from the flag state report is any mention of the fact that the cruise ship lacked an automatic man overboard system. The report’s conclusions and recommendations do not discuss the obvious problem that the bridge was not immediately aware that the crew members went over the rails. The only conclusion of significance was that if the security “trainer had reported him absent when training was to commence (i.,e., at 9:30, over four hours after the crew member went overboard) then his own work supervisor may have raised the alarm considerably earlier.” The only recommendation in the report was to review “possible impediments to all cameras should be made and rectified where found.”

Vision of the Seas SQM Safety and Quality Manual Royal Caribbean

This is hardly a reasonable conclusion or recommendation. Eliminating blind spots in CCTV cameras (to be reviewed only after-the-fact when crew members have already gone overboard long ago) or requiring diligence in requiring attendance in crew training (again with the hope that a person not attending a training session will somehow result in a supervisor learning that a crew member went overboard hours earlier) will not possibly achieve immediate notification of a man overboard.

A couple of year ago, I wrote about the problem of crew members going missing from Royal Caribbean cruise ships without explanation. During a three year period between 2009 and 2012, at least thirteen crew members went over the rails of Royal Caribbean (and Celebrity) ships, including the Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas (twice), Radiance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Summit, and Monarch of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas (two). Most of these cases were never investigated by the flag state, which, it seems, could not care less.

Until the United States Coast Guard becomes concerned with the absence of automatic man overboard systems on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports and institutes serious action against the companies for the extreme delays in reporting overboard crew and passengers (like preventing the ships from sailing), cruise lines like Royal Caribbean will continue to act in this irresponsible manner.

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Image credits: Bahamian Maritime Authority

The disappearance of a 47 year-old woman last week from P&O Cruises’ Pacific Dawn was one of 213 people overboard from cruise ships in the last decade and one of 7 disappearances in less than 4 months this year alone. The incident raises the fundamental issue whether it is, in fact, possible for someone to fall off a cruise ship. 

I have written about nearly 200 overboard incidents since I started this blog eight and a-half years ago.  The single most common comment which I hear is that it’s impossible for someone to fall off of a cruise ship. When I reported on the recent overboard incident on the Pacific Dawn, the first comment was passengers don’t just fall off of a cruise ship.

But based on some of the eye-witness accounts, that is exactly what might have happened on the Pacific Dawn. 

The 47-year-old passenger from Brisbane, Australia, was reportedly with her husband on an exterior Pacific Dawn Overboarddeck, about 15 feet away from where other passengers were playing table tennis inside the cruise ship. Several passengers said the woman "went outside to vomit as she was seasick," according to an Australian newspaper the Courier Mail.

One eye-witness told the Courier Mail that the woman began to vomit while leaning over a railing when she lost her footing and went overboard.

Another passenger, who expressed condolences to the family of the woman, posted a somber photograph (right) of an empty deck and the railing where the woman apparently went overboard. The low railings immediately caught my eye. 

A standard sized life-ring, which you can see mounted slightly above the deck, is only 28-30 inches in diameter, which suggests that the top of the top of railing is probably no more than a total of 40 to 42 inches in height. 

One of the eye-witnesses took a photograph of the railing (below right) which was published in several newspapers. The photo shows four crew members standing around the deck railing. Two of the crew members are leaning on the railing with one crew member is standing in the middle nearby the railing, which appears to barely come to the crew members’ waists and the middle crew member’s hips.

Several years ago, when I attended a series of Congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. on proposed legislation to require the cruise lines to raise the height of railing on their ships, the cruise lines refused to consider raising their ships’ railings Pacific Dawn Overboardto more than 42 inches.

The cruise industry has known for years that passengers who have puked (due to being either sick or intoxicated) over the railings on cruise ships sometimes have fallen overboard in the process. Yet, the cruise lines consistently resisted agreeing to higher railings. They felt that a higher raising would have been too expensive to retrofit on their fleet of ships.

Eventually, when the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) was finally passed into law in 2010 in the U.S., the cruise industry successfully had lobbied for the lower (42 inch) provision.

Before the Pacific Dawn even finished its cruise following the woman’s disappearance, news reports announced that P&O Cruises already intended to argue that the woman intentionally went overboard. MSN reported that although "early reports suggested the woman was suffering from sea sickness and had been vomiting over the side," a representative for P&O said "there was nothing to suggest anything of this kind" despite the fact that there were high waves and strong winds at the time. Another newspaper reported that: "9NEWS understands cruise liner P&O will claim its early investigation has concluded that ‘it appears the missing person has jumped with the husband attempting to catch her unsuccessfully.’"  9News reported that a ship’s security camera footage allegedly showed the passenger "deliberately launching herself over the side" of the ship, according to P&O.

By the time that the ship had returned to Brisbane, the cruise line had already revealed the woman’s name to the press and implied that she may have committed suicide. 

It’s troubling to see a cruise line dispute eye-witness accounts, state that it intends to prove the passenger intentionally went overboard even before law enforcement boards the ship, and then reveal the name of the victim to the media.

Police "investigators" have apparently now reviewed the surveillance film and agreed with P&O’s pre-determined conclusions. But notably absent in the media statements, from either the police or the cruise line, is there any mention that the video shows the woman climbing up on the railings. 

Whatever occurred on the Pacific Dawn, this would not be the first time that a cruise line may have falsely reported that an overboard passenger committed suicide.

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

We suggest reading: "Suicide" – One of the Cruise Lines’ Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Photograph credit: Top – Twitter via hashhag @vviivviieennnne and Fox News; bottom – Channel 10/Twitter via Courier Mail and Associated Newspapers Limited via MSN.com

Le Télégramme reports that a British chef was found hanging in his cabin aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship.

The ship left Bordeaux yesterday for Brest. The crew member was found in his cabin Saturday morning.

The investigation and the autopsy reportedly will be held in Bordeaux. 

Crystal SerenityThis is the third alleged suicide by hanging of a crew member on a cruise ship in the six weeks.

On June 2nd we reported on the apparent suicide of a safety officer on the Disney Dream.

On June 3rd we mentioned the apparent suicide of a young woman employed in the Carnival entertainment department on the Carnival Sensation.

On July 3 we mentioned a Brazilian crew member who disappeared from the Norwegian Sun in Alaskka. NCL suggests that it’s a suicide.

Four crew member suicides in just 6 weeks?

Under U.S. maritime law, cruise lines are legally required to provide medical treatment to all crew members who suffer from any type of physical or emotional injury or sickness while working on the ship. The ships are required to provide psychiatric and.or psychological treatment, including ashore, if a crew member is suffering from depression or anxiety. The treatment must last, by law, until the crew member reaches his or her maximum medical improvement.

In our experience, the medical treatment for physical injuries is spotty at best. Ibuprofen is often the only "treatment." Medical care for emotional issues is virtually non-existent. 

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Face book page.

Hat tip to Professor Ross Klein who first mentioned this incident on his CruiseJunkie site

 

Photo Credit: D.strutting via Wiped Creative Commons 3.0

Multiple crew members are confirming that a young woman employed in the Carnival entertainment department was found dead on the Carnival Sensation

The cruise ship was last in Nassau, Bahamas. Bahamian news sources reported that "on Monday 1st June 2015 shortly after 6:00am, police received information that the lifeless body of a female crew member was reportedly found dead on board a cruise ship while in Bahamian waters." The Bahamian police never disclose the specific name of cruise ships involving such incidents. 

The woman was reportedly found hanging in an officer’s quarters. We are withholding the crew Carnival Sensationmember’s name and other details.

This is the second apparent suicide within a 24 hour period involving a crew member. Yesterday, we reported on the death of an officer on the Disney Dream

Like the Disney Dream, the Carnival Sensation is flagged in Nassau, Bahamas in order for the cruise line to avoid U.S. taxes and labor laws. Any investigation into this incident will be conducted by the Bahamas. Unfortunately, it is our experience that the Bahamas refuses to cooperate with the families of crew members who die or are missing from cruise ships flagged in the Bahamas.

There is always mixed reaction and debate when we report on crew member deaths on cruise ships. Cruise lines don’t like there to be any mention of it. There have been literally dozens of crew members who have gone overboard and lost at sea in apparent suicides since we have been writing this blog over the past six years. 

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Photo Credit: Sensation in Nassau – WikiEK via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Disney Dream Several people informed me that there has been a death aboard the Disney Dream.

An officer was reportedly discovered dead on the cruise ship yesterday. The officer reportedly was discovered hanging, in what I am told is an apparent suicide. His body was located in an air conditioning room reportedly on deck seven.

The body of the Disney officer was reportedly removed from the cruise ship in the Bahamas.

The cruise ship was last in Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. It returned to Port Canaveral and is now heading back to Nassau.

The Dream is registered in Nassau Bahamas. Any investigation will be conducted by the Bahamas Maritime Authority.

We made an inquiry to Disney Cruise Line but it has not responded.

June 1 2015 Update: Bahamas Police Probe Deaths of 2 Employees of Cruise Lines

June 2 2015 Update: There has been a second crew member death, on a Carnival ship, within a 24 hour period – Suicide on the Sensation.

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Photo Credit: Nozzleman75 via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Yesterday a cabin attendant discovered two cruise passengers dead in their cabin on the Holland America Line (HAL) Ryndam.

The proper  procedure for the cruise line to follow is for the crew member(s) to immediately leave the cabin, lock the door and call security who, in turn, will secure the cabin and assign a security guard to safeguard the crime scene until the FBI team boards the ship. 

The cause of death of the couple cannot possibly be determined until the FBI has conducted its forensic work, the bodies have been removed from the cruise ship, and a medical examiner has concluded a thorough examination of the bodies with the assistance of other forensic experts, pathologists and toxicologists. This is a time consuming process (we are still Ryndam Murder Cruise Ship WKBNawaiting medical examiner reports from cruise deaths last summer).

There’s no information regarding how, why or when the deaths occurred, but HAL quickly announced that the case "appears to be a murder-suicide." The cruise line didn’t bother to wait for a medical examiner’s report or for the experts at the FBI to perform their work. 

So how can a cruise line make an instantaneous determination of the cause of two dead people in a cabin? It can’t, certainly not without violating protocols and entering the cabin and conducting a quick amateurish attempt at acting like a crime scene investigator where it is likely to accomplish little other than spoliating the evidence.  

HAL announced to reporters that it was an apparent "murder-suicide" strictly as part of its PR strategy. That’s what it wanted the press to report.  There are now literally hundreds of newspapers using this phrase in their reports of the cause of the cruise ship deaths. Many newspapers and news sources, including the Associated Press, have dropped the word "apparent" and said that the husband murdered his wife and then committed suicide based on HAL’s rush to judgment. 

HAL’s PR people wanted to dispel any notion that a crew member may have been involved in the couple’s death. HAL is still reeling from the bad publicity created when a crew member violently beat, raped and tried to throw a woman off her balcony on the Nieuw Amsterdam last year.

This is not the first time HAL has pulled such a stunt.

Washington resident Amber Malkuch was 45 years old when she disappeared from the HAL Zaandam in 2009 while sailing to Alaska. But before the Alaskan State Troopers concluded their investigation, a member of HAL’s PHolland America Line Cruise DeathR department and CLIA’s PR team, Sally Andrews, announced to the media that it appears that Amber took her own life. The "suicide" conclusion was reported on major news stations. 

This surprised not only Amber’s friends and family, but it dumbfounded the Alaskan State Troopers who had yet to review photographs and video, conduct interviews or analyze toxicology reports. The Anchorage Daily News reported "Troopers Miffed at Cruise Line’s Rush to Judgment." The Seattle Post Intelligencer quoted a representative of the Alaskan State Troopers saying: 

We’re the people actually looking into the exact cause of death . . . We’re the ones doing the interviews and looking at the evidence . . . And if we haven’t been able to make a determination, how can the cruise line who isn’t trained?"

Investigators never concluded that Amber took her own life. Her family continues to search for answers. Meanwhile you can still read the headline on FOX News: Cruise Passenger Goes Overboard in Apparent Suicide, six years later.

Does Holland America Line care about what the evidence in death cases reveals? In the world of cruise line PR (perception vs. reality), what matters most to the cruise lines seems to be the public’s perception that cruise ships are safe rather than the reality that perhaps they are not.

Determining the cause of cruise ship deaths is the role of experts – the FBI, medical examiners, and other qualified forensic specialists – not the cruise lines’ PR departments.

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Photo Credit: WKBN 

Cruise Law News has been told that a person allegedly went overboard from the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas as the cruise ship was returning from Bermuda to Baltimore earlier this week. 

The incident reportedly occurred around 3:00 AM late Wednesday night / early Thursday morning, August 7th.

According to a person on the cruise ship who wishes to remain anonymous, a state room attendant found a note when he entered the cabin on Thursday. The ship was searched, the CCTV Grandeur of the Seas cameras reviewed, and the overboard was eventually discovered.

The passenger was reportedly a U.S. citizen, 70 years old and traveling alone. The missing person alert was raised 12 hours or so after the overboard (from the CCTV review).

The cruise ship continued on to Baltimore. It didn’t go back. There appears to be no search.

If this information is accurate, it appears that the incident may have involved a suicide. However, it also illustrates that the cruise line has still not installed automatic man overboard systems as required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. The cruise safety law requires such technology regardless of whether the passenger or crew member intentionally jumped, accidentally went overboard, or was thrown into the ocean. 

There are lots of questions which remain unanswered. Did the captain of the cruise ship make any announcements?  Why didn’t the ship turn around much earlier and conduct a search? Did the cruise ship notify the U.S. Coast Guard?

We have written about people going overboard from the Grandeur before.  

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein have documented 235 people (in addition to this one) going overboard from cruise ships since 2000. 

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August 10 2014 Update: This is the second overboard passenger from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the last two months who was not reported in the press or discussed in social media. Three weeks ago, we reported on a passenger who went overboard from the Splendor of the Seas. Fortunately the cruise line personnel quickly rescued him. You can read about that incident here

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Citking

A newspaper in Brazil reports that a passenger went overboard on Friday February 7, 2014 from the Splendor of the Seas cruise ship while it was sailing in the waters of Uruguay.

The vessel reportedly docked later at the Port of Santos, São Paulo, on Sunday, February 9, 2014. The local police investigated the incident and believe that it was a case of suicide.

Witnesses indicate that the passenger, a 47 year old Brazilian man, was wearing a life vest when he jumped into the water from the 7th floor of the cruise ship. Ship passengers who disembarked at the Port of Santos on Sunday state that the cruise ship searched for the man and managed to locate his body.

Royal Caribbean said that the guest threw himself overboard. The ship stopped and conducted a search, and alerted  Uruguayan Coast Guard.

According to the newspaper, the cruise line says the Splendor of the Seas left Santos on February 2, with stops in Punta del Este and Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Splendor of the Seas DeathRoyal Caribbean also says it is focused on providing support to the man’s family.

This is the fifth person overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in less than 2 months.

In addition to this latest case, crew and passengers have gone overboard from the Celebrity Constellation, Rhapsody of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Independence of the Seas.

 

Photo Credit:

Top: Wikipedia / Exequiel Pérez Millán / GNU Free Documentation License,

Bottom: Globo newspaper / Santa Casa de Santos / G1 Santos)