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Charles R. Lipcon

Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years.Read More »

Jason R. Marguiles

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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Prince George Wharf in Nassau Harbor

Thinking about cruising to the Bahamas? Well, you might want to rethink that decision after hearing about the latest travel warning that’s been issued.

Any maritime lawyer can tell you that some of the ports cruise lines call on are not what you’d call the model of safety. We’ve often discussed how certain destinations in the Caribbean have been wrought with crime and have posed a danger not only for cruise passengers, but for crew members as well. One of these ports is the Bahamas.

For years, the U.S. government has been trying to alert potential travelers as to the dangers of visiting the Bahamas. Crime has been escalating at an alarming rate, causing some cruise lines, like Carnival, to hand out warning letters to its guests when docking in the island nation. Both cruise lines and the U.S. government have also provided travelers with a list of areas in the Bahamas prone to crime so travelers can steer clear of them, and have advised travelers to remain as close to port as possible. But with every warning there seems to be an equal, if not greater ratio of crimes that continue to occur throughout the Bahamas. Despite all the efforts that have been made on the Bahamian government’s part, such as increasing police forces in Nassau, nothing seems to work. Crime rates are higher than ever, which leads us to wonder: If the Bahamian government is taking the crime problem as seriously as they should?

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HalloweenIt’s that time of year again. Time to get dressed up and hunt for candy. Time to enjoy friendly tricks for treats. It’s Halloween and there’s plenty of fun to be had, whether you are young or young at heart.

Some of us will be spending the holiday with our kids while some of us may decide to attend a ghoulish party or two. And then there are those of us who will be celebrating Halloween aboard a cruise ship. And, for those of us who have elected to spend the holiday on a ship, you’re in for quite the thrill. Since Halloween happened to fall on a Friday, there are several three and four day cruise sailings that are going to feature special activities for guests, anywhere from costume contests to specialty drinks to pumpkin carving. Many ships even offer trick or treating opportunities for kids. But while it can be easy to get lost in the excitement of the costumes and games, it’s important to remember that Halloween can also be a very dangerous holiday.

Accidents and crimes at sea can take place at any time, but on a day like Halloween, there’s a much greater chance that cruise ship guests can get hurt. Between the large number of people that will be on board a ship this weekend having a good time, the costumes that can cause perpetrators to more easily get away with committing a crime like sexual assault, and the fact that many adult passengers will be drinking (many to an excess), trouble is a lot more likely to strike on a Halloween cruise. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your chances of getting hurt or becoming the target of a crime. Our maritime lawyers have a few tips that will help you stay as safe as possible.

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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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Life saver In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, we discussed how the continued lack of safety within the cruise industry has prompted Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller to host several Senate Committee hearings on the issue. Despite the advances in surveillance and accident detection technology and the number of incidents that have occurred within the cruise industry, including injuries, assaults, thefts, and death, the cruise industry doesn’t seem to be taking the necessary procedures to ensure optimal safety for passengers on board. The continued increase in cruise crime and accident statistics has led the senator to propose another hearing to discuss these issues, which will hopefully be the turning point for improved cruise safety policies and procedures.

The new hearing, titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act: Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers,” is scheduled for July 23, 2014 at 2:30 PM and will be broadcasted live to the public via the Senate Committee’s website.

Much like each admiralty attorney at our firm, Sen. Rockefeller recognizes that the lack of industry-wide safety onboard ships has contributed to the escalating number of incidents. A problem that we’ve seen time and time against is that safety seems to be an afterthought for the cruise industry. It usually takes a serious accident or crime to occur – followed by heavy media coverage – to get cruise operators to discuss safety concerns and make promises to improve safety policies or even address the concerns of the public or maritime safety organizations.

Unfortunately, cruise ship safety isn’t one of those “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” matters. Cruise lines shouldn’t wait until someone is seriously injured, assaulted, robbed, or killed in order to make improvements to their safety policies. If there is even the slightest chance that an accident or crime may occur due to a particular cruise ship’s maintenance conditions or the line’s overall safety policies, the issue should be addressed immediately. Sadly, this has not been the case, and hopefully, next week’s hearing will touch upon this critical concern.

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Life saver Last year around this time, the cruise industry was receiving a lot of negative attention following the Carnival Triumph fire in February, 2013, the Costa Concordia crash in January, 2012, and not to mention, a host of other cruise ship accidents and crimes. Though the cruise industry has never been 100 percent free of turmoil, the past few years have been wrought with an uncharacteristically large number of incidents involving passenger injuries, sexual assaults, overboard accidents, and deaths, along with several accounts of mechanical malfunctions, cruise operator negligence and crew member misconduct.

And while the cruise industry claimed several times it would improve safety features, new accidents and crimes have continually occurred and the industry had failed to provide any tangible evidence showing it had made good on the promise to improve safety. This prompted U.S. Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller to call a U.S. Senate Committee hearing on July 24, 2013 so the issues stemming from a lack of safety within the cruise industry could be addressed. The hearing, titled, “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection,” was aired publicly online and provided shocking statistics regarding the discrepancy between cruise ship crimes and accidents and actual crime and accident reporting.

Several industry experts and notable figures testified during the hearing, including the “Cruise Junkie”, Professor Ross Klein. Prof. Klein’s website, cruisejunkie.com, offers statistics and the latest news on maritime accidents, environmental issues, illness outbreaks, and other incidents at sea or in port. During the hearing, he shared his research, explaining that in 2013 alone, the cruise ship industry experienced 2 collisions, 2 passenger bumps, 3 groundings, 5 cruise ship fires, 8 failed health U.S. inspections, 10 cancelled port calls and/or itinerary changes, 16 delayed embarkations/disembarkations, and 19 mechanical issues.

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HondurasIn our last blog, we discussed the escalating crime rate in one of the most popular cruise destinations, Honduras. Though several Caribbean ports frequented by cruise lines suffer from high crime rates, it appears as though the situation in Honduras is reaching a critical level. Even the US Department of State has issued warnings on the dangers of this nation, explaining how violent crime has increased drastically and advising visitors to exercise extreme caution while in port, remaining aware of their surroundings at all times.

Though crime rates are escalating, the warning states that “…the Government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues.”

Last week, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández issued a ban on guns in Roatan and the Bay Islands, the regions cruise lines most frequently call on, but just days after the announcement, a tragic shooting crime occurred.

According to news reports, a young man was shot on Sunday morning, just three days after Hernández announced the disarmament mandate. The victim, identified as Henry Alexander Almendarez Orellana, was reportedly shot by two men in the area where he was living, Barrio La Punta of Coxen Hole.

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HondurasCruising should be a relaxing venture. One where guests can take a break from the stress of everyday life and enjoy their vacation doing as much – or as little – as they like. But while many travelers book cruise vacations in the hopes of unwinding and exploring new destinations, the unfortunate reality is that cruising these days can often be far from enjoyable.

Though we wish it weren’t so, every maritime attorney at our firm can tell you nightmarish stories of what really goes on behind closed doors aboard a cruise ship. Despite the fact that technology has improved drastically over the years, as well as the fact that maritime laws have become stricter, aiming to improve onboard safety for cruise travelers (and crew members), a greater number of accidents and crimes are taking place both on board a ship and in foreign ports.

The other day, our maritime lawyers blogged about some of the many actions cruise lines can take to improve safety on board ships, such as providing better and more comprehensive training for all crew members, hiring staff with a specific security background as well as equipping all ships with better surveillance technology. But while there are numerous things cruise operators can do to offer a safer shipboard environment for guests and crew, there’s not much cruise lines can do to improve safety in a foreign port, short of ceasing port calls altogether.

Many of the ports cruise ships call upon are nations were crime rates are extremely high. To a cruiser, the port may seem exotic and mysterious, but in reality, some of these popular destinations – especially those in the Caribbean – are often plagued with violent crimes. And though cruise lines often do advise guests to steer clear of certain “trouble” areas in port, suggesting venues that are closer to port, crime can happen anywhere and at any time.

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Cruise ship accidents on the riseCruise ship vacations are supposed to be fun…right? No one really thinks twice about what could possibly go wrong onboard a ship or at a foreign port when they are on vacation. After all, the purpose of a vacation is to kick back and relax. Once travelers board a ship and get a whiff of that party, care-free atmosphere, all their fears – if there even were any – start to fade away. But unfortunately, it’s not so easy to forget the dangers and focus solely the fun.

Many of the foreign ports that are frequented by cruise lines are actually pretty dangerous. Some of these places are notorious for their crime rates – especially crimes against tourists. Tourists can easily be spotted by criminals and often become the targets of crimes or become the victims of shore excursion accidents stemming from lack of safety. Sometimes, cruise lines give fair warning when docking at these ports, while other times, passengers are left in the dark. Our maritime lawyers have outlined a few of these not-so-hot hot spots so that you can be fully prepared on your next cruise vacation and avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

 

The Bahamas

The Bahamas is by far the most popular foreign cruise destination. Every cruise line that features a Caribbean itinerary calls on the Bahamas and offers dozens of shore excursions at these tropical ports. Nassau, the capital, is the most frequented of all the cities in the Bahamas, but it also happens to be one of the most dangerous. The crime rate in the Bahamas is staggering, with tourists (including cruise passengers) being targeted for robberies and sexual assault. A few months ago, Carnival Cruise Line began passing out flyers to passengers when docking in Nassau, warning them of escalating crime rates and advising them to remain close to port. Anyone visiting the Bahamas is advised to keep a lookout for suspicious activity and to travel in large groups. Continue reading

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HandcuffsWhile true that as of late Maritime authorities have been focusing on the increasing number of cruise ship accidents that have taken place in the past few years, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) even called a two-day forum to address the issue of cruise ship safety, the maritime lawyers at our firm fail to see how crimes committed by crewmembers is not a factor that should be taken into account when discussing cruise ship safety overall.

According to a West Palm Beach news source, a 30-year-old crew member aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship has been caught smuggling drugs from the Bahamas to Palm Beach County, where the ship is home ported.

Adrian Bradley Trench was arrested  last Thursday after over 500 grams of cocaine and over 100 grams of heroin were found in his possession. Drug smuggling is a serious offense, which means that for Trench, his days working in the cruise industry are most likely over. Drug smuggling is a federal offense, which means that charges if he is convicted of them will in all likely hood result in years of imprisonment in a Federal Penitentiary.

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