Contributors

Charles R. Lipcon
Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years. Read More »
Jason R. Margulies
Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Ricardo V. Alsina
Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Michael A. Winkleman
Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes. Read More »

Articles Posted in Cruise Line Crimes

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HalloweenWho doesn’t love a good treat? Especially those covered in chocolate… or sprinkles…or caramel…well, you get the picture. Halloween is a great holiday for those of us who enjoy unleashing our spirited sides – and those of us with a sweet tooth. Between the outrageous costume ideas, ghoulish parties, and decadent sweets, there’s no limit to what you can do to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve – including a special Halloween cruise vacation.

This year, Halloween falls on a Friday, which is pretty ideal for cruise lovers. There are tons of three and four day holiday getaways, and best of all, many cruise lines feature themed Halloween parties and even let guests dress up. If you’re into cruising, then this is definitely your kind of treat.

But while it’s easy to get lost in the spirit of the holiday and the endless festivities on board a theme-cruise, it’s important to remember that it’s also easy to become a target of cruise ship crime – especially sexual assault.

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HandcuffsJust a few weeks ago, a former Holland America cruise ship worker confessed to brutally beating, raping, and attempting to throw a passenger overboard. Our firm reported on the disturbing cruise ship rape and attempted murder incident, which happened on February 14 aboard the MS Nieuw Amsterdam. The assailant, a 28-year-old Indonesian man, obtained a key to the victim’s stateroom and waited in the balcony area of her cabin until she returned to her cabin. Once she was inside, the crew member proceeded to attack her.

While on trial, the perpetrator claimed he that the passenger had incited him prior to the incident by insulting his mother and calling him names. This was his excuse. After stewing over the alleged exchange all day, the crew member then decided to plot the attack and upon entering her room, lunged at the victim, striking her with a laptop and a curling iron, and even attempting to strangle her with a telephone cord. After raping the victim, he then tried to throw her overboard from the cabin’s balcony. Miraculously the woman escaped, but this horrific crime serves to further highlight the lack of safety for passengers on cruise ships.

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Caribbean cruiseIn our last blog, our maritime attorney discussed some of the ways Caribbean cruises can pose threats for cruise passengers. Many destinations in the Caribbean, especially the Bahamas, Honduras, and Belize, are wrought with danger and skyrocketing crime rates. But while it’s impossible to completely eliminate these hazards, there are a few things cruisers can do to reduce their chances of becoming the victims of a crime while on a cruise to the Caribbean – or any foreign destination in general.

One way to stay as safe as possible in foreign ports is to avoid areas that are very far from port, where it can be difficult to find fast transportation back to the ship. It is also advisable to visit areas that are out in the open, such as restaurants close to port or beaches close to port. Passengers should avoid alleys and small areas, where it is much easier to fall victim to a criminal attack than in wide open spaces. Additionally, passengers should avoid traveling alone – especially women. Criminals tend to focus on easy targets, and there’s nothing easier than a single traveler. Traveling in large groups means there’s a much greater chance cruise passengers can defend themselves against one or two assailants and the assailants, usually, will prefer to make a quick getaway and avoid large groups that may pose trouble for them.

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Cruise ships in Grand TurkThe Caribbean has long been one of the most popular cruise destinations, and for good reason. The allure of basking beneath the warm sun, swimming with dolphins, or just kicking back with a cocktail beneath a swaying palm is not something anyone can easily deny. But as any offshore injury lawyer at our firm can tell you, even the Caribbean, with all its splendor and promise of adventure, can pose a threat to cruise travelers.

Both journeys to the Caribbean aboard a cruise ship and experiences ashore can be dangerous for several reasons. On board a ship, accidents and crimes can happen at any moment just like they do on land. Though cruise lines have a responsibility under maritime law to protect those onboard from harm, again like land based hotels and resorts, they don’t always do a good enough job at fulfilling this duty. The ratio of ship board security people, surveillance equipment and monitoring and the level of training, experience, and resources that the ship board security staff has is considerably less than that available in most land based hotels and resorts. Remember, once that vessel is at sea, getting outside help to assist the shipboard crew can take hours to accomplish if it is accomplishable at all.

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Alcohol on cruise shipsLast time, our cruise ship rape lawyer discussed how alcohol can play a large role in sexual assault crimes on the high seas. Alcohol can lower inhibitions, and given the new unlimited alcohol packages that cruise lines are now offering passengers, the chances that a sexual assault or rape will occur on a ship are much higher. Let’s explore the reasons why.

These new alcohol packages allow cruise passengers to pay a flat fee and enjoy an unlimited number of alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, and other assorted cocktails. Knowing that the drinks can just keep on coming means that passengers are much more likely to order more than their usual number of alcoholic drinks and get much more intoxicated than even they would expect.

Several cruise passengers have had their drinks spiked by sexual assailants, and the fact that these unlimited alcohol packages are available means two things: 1) there is a much higher chance for assailants to spike drinks because more drinks are being ordered in general, and 2) the fact that unlimited drinks can lead to over intoxication means that a potential victims’ judgment is much more impacted, preventing them from being able to notice their drinks being spiked to begin with.

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cruise ship drink packagesAny cruise ship rape lawyer at our firm can tell you that sexual assault has long been a problem for cruise lines. In fact, sexual assault is the highest reported crime on cruise ships. And the worst part is that victims can be of any age.

There are many reasons as to why there are frequent sexual assaults on ships. For one, cruise ships are extremely confined. Attacks can easily occur because there are dozens of hidden corridors and spaces that make an assault that much easier. Additionally, surveillance on a ship is poor. Though most cruise ships are equipped with surveillance cameras, they aren’t always monitored to ensure passengers are kept safe. Also, there are no actual police officers on board ships to help detect the signs of a possible assault in progress or to assist with investigations. Sexual crimes are far more complicated than an average incident on a ship. These terrible crimes impact victims for their entire lives, causing unspeakable trauma and pain. Yet, in spite of the alarming statistics regarding sexual assault and rape on the high seas, cruise lines haven’t done much to reduce these horrible crimes from occurring.

Perhaps one of the most common factors that many sexual assaults at sea have in common is the fact that many of the victims are drugged. Perpetrators often spike a victim’s drink with dangerous substances that can lower their inhibitions or make the victim unconscious, facilitating the assailant’s ability to assault the victim. Given that many cruise lines push for high sales of alcohol, as alcohol is one of the cruise industry’s leading forms of revenue, could all these new “booze packages” be contributing to the rise in sexual crimes on ships?

From the standpoint of an experienced cruise ship rape lawyer , the answer is yes.

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Senator John Rockefeller Cruise Ship Safety HearingIn a previous blog, our cruise ship rape lawyer Rick Alsina discussed the recent Senate committee hearing, where the prevalence of sexual assault crimes on cruise ships was addressed. The language Senator John D. Rockefeller used was strong and to the point. He was “fed up” with the cruise industry and said that the industry too frequently treated its injured or assaulted passengers and crew with “callousness and disregard,” (U.S.A. Today reports).

Rockefeller has recently introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act to the Senate. This act, when passed, will require passenger vessels to provide more transparent cruise passenger ticket contracts. The act will also place stricter safety requirements on cruise lines and passenger vessels. This proposal seems like a win for passengers. Let’s examine the act in further detail.

One of the many provisions of the act includes requiring cruise lines to summarize key terms of their passenger ticket contracts to ensure that passengers know what they’re getting into (and what rights they are foregoing) before they step on-board a cruise ship. The act will also require cruise lines to summarize the key terms of their passenger ticket contracts in all of their advertising. This would ensure that potential cruisers will be informed about their rights before they decide to purchase a ticket.

Unfortunately, until the Cruise Passenger Protection Act goes into effect, cruise ship passenger ticket contracts will continue to remain murky and contain ambiguous loopholes. As it stands, these contracts limit a cruise line’s liability when someone is injured on a cruise or involved in a crime, even if the incident is as serious as sexual assault or rape. For this reason, it is imperative that you contact a cruise ship rape lawyer if you happen to be injured or sexually assaulted while in international waters. Trying to fight the cruise lines on your own is extremely difficult, but an attorney experienced with the ins and outs of the cruise passenger ticket contract can help you fight for your rights and receive compensation for your injuries.

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Justice ScaleWhen you board a cruise ship, the last thing you are thinking of is what could possible go wrong. You’re there to relax, have fun, and explore new destinations, not to worry about whether or not the ship is safe and whether you will be at risk for an accident or crime. But unfortunately, these are concerns every cruise passenger should have. Not only are cruise accidents and crimes occurring in greater frequency and at a rapid pace – despite technology that’s available to reduce the number of incidents and despite the maritime laws that are in place to protect passengers from harm.

Even if something does go wrong on a cruise, no one really books a cruise vacation thinking that anything more than just a couple of bumps and bruises will occur. Unfortunately, the reality of the fact is that accidents and crimes do happen and when they do, they aren’t usually minor. Many would be surprised to learn that sexual assault is the number one crime on cruise ships. It is also one of the most underreported crimes, with cruise lines often failing to document incidents to avoid liability and failing to report incidents to the public to avoid bad publicity.

One of the reasons sexual assault is so common on cruise ships is because there are dozens of hidden corridors that perpetrators can use to their advantage. Another reason is that, despite the fact that many cruise lines are equipped with surveillance cameras, tapes aren’t monitored as much as they should, allowing criminals to get away with their wrongdoings. By the time many sexual assaults are reported – and counting the hours it can take for cruise lines to investigate the incident (if at all) – the assailant will already likely have disembarked the ship at the nearest port and avoided persecution. There also aren’t any actual police officers on board cruise ships who can provide victims the protection they need from harm, or who can assist once a sexual crime is reported. The fact that there aren’t real police officers on ships means that critical evidence can be lost or destroyed, possibly hindering the victim’s case.

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Laurie Dishman Cruise Ship Safety Senate HearingIn Part 1 of our blog, we discussed how sexual assaults are an ongoing problem within the cruise industry and how cruise lines have continuously failed to provide accurate reporting of the numbers and the facts surrounding these crime and have also failed to improve ship board safety aimed at addressing it, despite the fact that they have a responsibility under maritime law to the health and welfare of their passengers and crew. As a result, Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller recently held his second hearing to discuss the lack of passenger safety.

Sen. Rockefeller has continuously tried to improve the safety of passengers on cruise ships yet, cruise lines have been very slow to respond to his concerns. Last year, he introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act and held a Senate Committee hearing to discuss the lack of safety within the industry. The hearing, titled, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection,” was aired publicly on the senate website and showed just how large of a discrepancy there was between the crimes cruise lines report and the actual number of incidents that take place.

Shortly after the hearing, four of the world’s major cruise lines, “Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corporation, Disney Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines, “voluntarily” published crime reports, which included statistics on the number of passengers who reported sexual crimes dating back to 2010. We say “voluntarily” in quotation marks because the disclosure was mostly a response to the Senator’s bill, which mandates reporting compliance and also standardizes the way reports are revealed to the public.

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Senator John Rockefeller Cruise Ship Safety HearingSexual assault is an issue that has plagued the cruise industry for several years. Unfortunately, as each maritime lawyer at our firm knows all too well, not very many people are aware of this.  For years, the cruise industry has been allowed and worked very hard to hide the number of crimes that occur on board, as a result only minimal about this has gotten out to the public.

Though maritime law requires crimes to be reported to the FBI, Coast Guard and other appropriate law enforcement agencies, the fact that most cruise ships are registered in foreign countries and fly foreign flags results in a kind of loophole – one that has allowed the cruise lines to get away with not reporting these crimes. By flying these “flags of convenience”, cruise lines until recently, had been allowed by the U. S. government to not have to report these crimes.

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