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

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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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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