Looking for People and Answers
Writing in his blog Cruise Law News, maritime lawyer Jim Walker reports that, while cruise lines sell an idyllic image of care-free tropical vacations, in reality they know or should know that there are dangers on shore awating their passengers. In particular, he cites Mexico, where drug-related crime is increasingly infesting port cities, such as Cozumel.
"Gang violence will increasingly pose a threat to cruise passengers traveling to Mexico unless things turn around quickly in the future," he writes. "But a real threat to female passengers sailing to Mexican ports is violence, including sexual assault, against teenagers and young women."
Walker cites a case currently in the courts in which a young woman went ashore from Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas cruise ship in Cozumel to shop. The lawsuit alleges that the cruise line provided her with a map of the shopping locations recommended by Royal Caribbean. A gang of men brutally raped the young woman while she visited one of the recommended stores. The lawsuit further alleges that it is believed the men who raped the cruise passenger worked in the subject shopping area.
"Like most crimes against cruise passengers in ports of call," he writes, "there have been no arrests. Does Royal Caribbean warn cruise passengers of this danger? No..... In fact, the cruise line touts Cozumel as one of the safer ports in the world."
Five months after the gang rape, a Royal Caribbean crewmember was found murdered and floating in the water off Cozumel. The cruise line did not alert her or any other crewmembers or passengers of the earlier crime.
"Indeed," Walker writes, "after the murder Royal Caribbean issued a press release characterizing the crime as 'isolated and uncharacteristic for Cozumel.'"
Royal Caribbean seems to place as little value on reporting cruise ship crimes as Sen. John Kerry, sponsor of cruise ship safety legislation who -- at the last moment and without informing the families who had done the heavy lifting to get the legislation through Congress -- significantly watered down the legislation. Kerry's office indicates that the changes were made at the behest of the FBI and U.S. Coast Guard -- but might it be that cruise line industry dollars had an influence? We'll never know unless people who matter begin to ask the right questions.