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Safe Cruise

Project Safe Cruise Press Release: See www.projectsafecruise.blogspot.com & details below. Leave a message if you have experienced incidents involving poor security & safety practices of cruise lines. Hearings are scheduled; we will provide them to Congress. We must act to insure passenger safety. The current lack of safety & security is not acceptable especially after 9/11. On 5/12/05, we were on the Carnival Destiny near Aruba when an elderly couple disappeared without a trace.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Letter Sent to Senator Levin Asking for Investigation on Cruise Safety and Security

July 29, 2005
The Honorable Senator Carl Levin:
Attention: Dusty Houser
Thanks again for the service you provide to all Americans.
My wife and I started a seven day cruise in San Juan on the Carnival Destiny, May 8, 2005. On the evening of May 12, the information desk used the public address (PA) system 7 or more times throughout the evening asking for Hue Pham and Hue Tran to report to their counter. We were awoken by several of the announcements. Then around 3 AM the next morning we were awoken abruptly by a knock on our cabin door. The steward flashed a photocopy of the couple's passport pictures to us and asked if we had seen them on the ship. He then asked to search our cabin. And it was clear he was not trained for this. He did not do a very thorough search. We went back to sleep and the next morning we awoke around 8 am the time we were supposed to dock in Aruba, but there was no land in sight. We also felt that the ship was going the wrong direction. The entertainment director did not make the normal announcement early that morning but he did make an announcement on the PA after 9 am that the shipped had turned around and headed back to the location where the couple was last seen. They expected to arrive at the location around 1 PM. The ship would be assisting the US Coast Guard and the Venezuelan Navy in the search. He seemed to be mostly concerned that we would have to cancel our stop in Aruba and that the ship would search until the Coast Guard released them to leave the area. If the ship was released by 2:30 PM, we might be able to stop in St. Maarten instead of Aruba. He said they would get a revised list of fun-time activities out to the passengers as soon as possible. In a later announcement, he said that the ship was released in time to make a stop in St.Maarten instead.The mystery of the missing couple was the talk of the ship the rest of the cruise. No one really knew if there was foul play and whether anyone else might be in danger. Since we continued on to St. Maarten, everyone assumed that they found the couple or their bodies. Some were so concerned that that had a petition for people to sign complaining to Carnival about how they handled the situation. We got no more information from Carnival about the status of the couple until we got off the ship at San Juan on May 15. We got flyers to report anything we knew to the FBI office in San Juan. And there was a poster at the customs counter saying the same thing.
Several concerns that my wife and I have are:We would like to obtain a copy of the FBI report and status of the investigation involving the couple that disappeared from our cruise ship on May 12, 2005.
Please let us know which Federal government authorities and protocols are available for”
1 – Immediately starting an investigation when such an incident occurs,
2 – Reviewing and monitoring security and safety plans and procedures developed by cruise lines and other travel companies,
3 – Accepting complaints when citizens believe the investigations of such incidents have been mis-handled,
4 – Maintaining statistics and databases of known incidents along with the final results of any investigations,
The lack of safety and security for American travelers and passengers are increasing and congressional oversight and/or hearings may be warranted. What steps is the government taking to prevent deaths and injuries in the future? We believe that someone in the government should also maintain a database of criminal, safety, and health problems involving crew members. Steps should be taken to improve their situation also as it eventually will affect the safety of the passengers. How many deaths or injuries involve crew members each year? If the federal government cannot improve the safety and security of American passengers on cruise ships having American ports of call, then travelers should be advised to avoid them.
We think that all travelers to the Caribbean and South and Central America should be educated by the US Government and the airlines, travel companies, hotels, or cruise lines about what security measures are in place while they are traveling. During the balance of our cruise we heard nothing from official government law enforcement officials or security staff from the cruise line. We believe that security/safety staff should advise the captain and crew what measures to take and what information should be given to travelers. It is very sad that all we heard from were the entertainment staff. It did not make passengers feel very safe or secure. We still do not know what happened to the missing couple. Was there foul play? Was a crewmember involved? Were there any suspects? Who is in charge of the investigation? If they cannot tell us anything they should at least tell us that they are working on it and cannot release info at this time. Based on the fact that the couple did not show for an event and they had no history that would suggest suicide, the ship should have been turned around much sooner and maybe all the passengers should have been asked to help watch the ocean. Just like all of the people in Aruba have helped in the search for the missing student. What if we had fallen overboard, would Carnival have turned the ship around soon enough to make an honest search for us? It doesn't seem so. It makes us feel selfish and hedonistic if the Cruise Company thought all we cared about were playing, drinking and eating. The last night of the cruise is the big bingo game where one of the prizes is another cruise. I suggested to the assistant entertainment director that Carnival should tell the passengers that all proceeds from the bingo game would be donated to the missing couple's family. This would at least alleviate some of the pain and anguish that we now have about not being able to help the family in some way. It is a loss for all of us. The cruise staff treats the passengers on board like we are all one family and we should be able to act as such. The entertainment should not be in charge until after the situation was resolved.
Some unanswered questions:
What do security and safety experts say about the possibility of two people going overboard from a large ship unless it was deliberate act such as foul play or suicide?Did the Captain or trained law enforcement personnel make a decision that foul play was not involved? It would be a conflict of interest for Carnival to make this determination. They would lose business if the incident were a result of lax safety procedures or security protocol or a crime,Could Carnival be covering up bad or inferior work done by their crew?Having been a passenger on the ship, I could not think of anyplace on the ship where two elderly people could get in a situation to fall overboard. Could Carnival be covering up lack of safety and maintenance? From a blog at Cruise reviews.com the Carnival Destiny did not make it to the Aruba on the next trip either because there was a problem with the ship's computer and the whole ship was without power, lights, air-conditioning and had only limited food for an 8 hour period during the day. (http://cruisereviews.com/CarnivalCruiseLines/
CarnivalDestiny28.htm


Where and how could they have gone overboard both at the same time?How many security cameras were on the ship and what did they show?Why did the Captain wait so long to turn the ship around to look for them if they were reliable stable individuals?Why were passengers allowed to get off the ship in St. Maarten the next day without questioning a sample of passengers?What passengers got off the ship in St. Maarten and did not back on?Why did the Captain wait three days before informing passengers to contact the FBI? (And right during the confusion of disembarking?)Why was the local newspaper unaware of the problem until I called them on 6/10/05?Is the family upset at how Carnival has handled the incident?Shouldn't the FBI have interviewed random groups of passengers before we disembarked? There was no sign that law enforcement was involved until three days later when we got off the ship in San Juan.Should the FBI be contacting some of the passengers by phone or mail? Shouldn't there be more publicity to get more information to solve the mystery and help prevent future occurrences whether it is a crime, an accident, or lax safety or security procedures? 14 or more persons have ended up missing from ships since 2000. What kind of criminal background checks are done by Carnival before they hire crewmembers?Why was none of the luggage checked by law enforcement before we got off the ship?Too much time has elapsed before a proper investigation was done, just like Aruba took too long to question, and arrest the persons who were actually seen with the missing teen and before vehicles and other evidence was gathered..The media and the government has done part of the 1st two I's but what about the last 2: . Instruct . Improve. Incidents like these should be extremely rare and we should do everything in our power to make it so such as educating the public about security and safety on ships and in other countries in our hemisphere. Perhaps, all travelers should be given a pamphlet on what to do in certain situation to prevent or report criminal and safety problems. And who is responsible to investigate or solve them. I am asking you to have the government take steps to prevent these accidental and/or criminal deaths in the future.

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8659573

A good resource for facts and statistics on cruise accidents and deaths and for a better overview of the growing , widespread problem of safety and security for cruise passengers is located at
http://www.cruisejunkie.com/
In real life Cruise Junkie (Ross Klein) is a Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, Newfoundland. His academic training is in sociology and his interests include conflict resolution, nonviolent alternatives to war, and of course the cruise industry. His c.v. is available online at: www.ucs.mun.ca/~rklein/vita.html
6 People Die on Carnival Cruises in 1 yr
On 7/23/05, Big Story Weekend on Fox News Channel interview couple who were passengers when Honeymooner George Smith disappeared: Then, we'll talk with Larry and Linda Bruck and Tim Sears, all passengers on the cruise George Smith disappeared from.
http://www.foxnews.com/
story/0,2933,158537,00.html

This is the exact same thing that happened to us while we were on a Carnival cruise in May of this year. An elderly couple disappeared on May 12 and they were not drinking or engaging in any type of risky behavior. The cruise company tried to sweep it under the rug. They were more concerned about making money than the safety, security, health or emotional status of their customers. The Big Story did not get the Big Picture: 6 people of disappeared off Carnival cruise ships in the last year. And they continue to cover it up and no law enforcement gets involved soon enough to find out what happened and help prevent future deaths. We would be willing to be interviewed to explain that this is a growing and a widespread problem.
Even though I do not believe that this is the work of a serial killer, I suggest that it be investigated as if it might be by cross-checking passenger and crew member lists and suppliers, vendors, etc. You should also get statistics on the number of extent of violent and non-violent crimes reported by and among crew members of the cruise ships. What kind of background checks and security clearances are maintained. The cruise lines should have millions of minutes of security camera videos not to mention spending logs and photos of all passengers, including in-depth data on social security numbers, passport numbers, emergency contact names, phones and addresses. These could be run against international crime and identity theft data bases. Perhaps, some patterns might emerge and point to a common thread including systemic problems with ineffective or non-enforced security action plans and safety procedures. I think it also important to see if any agencies or groups keep statistics on the amount of crime, health problems, or accidents involving crew members. They work for low pay under slave like conditions. The media and the government must do what they can to prevent future deaths of travelers. The bottom line is the cruise and travel companies are liable whether the deaths were caused by security or safety problems. Pay particular attention to cruisejunkie.com and stories written by Bryan Harris carried by the Miami Herald.
6 People Die on Carnival Cruises in 1 yearScarborough Country Covers: 2 more People Vanish from Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Ships:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789
Mediterranean mystery
Jul. 14: George Smith and Jennifer Hagel where a young Connecticut couple on a Mediterranean cruise for their honeymoon. The 26 year-old Smith vanished as the ship sailed between Greece and Turkey. Is this a crime or an accident? Joe Scarborough investigates with Hartford, Connecticut’s NBC Station WVIT reporter Lisa Salvati.
The Houston Chronicle reports that a 40-year old woman traveling with her husband and three teenaged children went missing off the Caribbean coast of Mexico at 11 AM. The ship conducted a full search where she was presumed to have gone overboard but was not successful in finding her. Though not explicitly stated, news reports imply she committed suicide. Unrelated is that the ship lost power and was adrift for an hour around mid-day on Saturday (June 25).
http://www.sciencedaily.com/upi/?feed=TopNews&article=UPI-1-20050713-12451400-bc-us-honeymoon.xml

Blood found in missing man's boat cabin
American honeymooner vanishes on Mediterranean cruiseUSA Today - 9 hours ago... of Aruba for an Alabama teen missing since May 30, an American honeymooner has disappeared under mysterious circumstances while on a Mediterranean cruise. ...
Court rules for disabled cruise passengers: (07 June 05) A divided U.S. Supreme Court Monday ruled 5-4 foreign cruise lines that use U.S. waters must improve access and facilities for disabled passengers.

Science Daily (press release) - Jul 13, 2005... Court rules for disabled cruise passengers (June 6, 2005) -- A divided US Supreme Court Monday ruled 5-4 foreign cruise lines that use US waters must improve ...

Therefore, the U.S. should be able to force cruise ships to establish and follow effective security & safety plans.

Relatives and loved ones seek cruise lines' support
John Mizener recently found a letter from Carnival Cruise Lines in his mailbox offering his wife a chance to win a free cruise. Annette Mizener, 37, has been missing since she disappeared off the Carnival Pride Dec. 4 as the ship sailed near Ensenada, Mexico.
http://www.bizjournals.com/account/sign_in?uri=/jacksonville/stories/2005/06/06/story2.html

I am also interested having Congress take action to improve safety and security procedures for customers of travel companies in the Caribbean and South America. The entertainment director on our cruise bragged that the US Health Department had examined the kitchens and food service on the ship a few days earlier, yet we see no involvement by US authorities when two people disappear. We saw no involvement by any type of law enforcement for the final 3 days of our cruise until leaving the ship on 5/15/05 when we were all given flyers about the missing couple. What security/safety plans and or personnel existed to prevent incidents like these in the future and were they followed. Who is in charge of our safety and security?Please encourage broaden your coverage of tourist safety and security: Investigate, inform, instruct, and improve. The increase in the drugs coming through the islands has caused a sharp increase in crime. While in St. Maarten, the local people talked to us about the problems caused by the growing drug trade in the islands. The islands seem to be the halfway point for a lot of the drugs coming to the U.S. This coupled with the news reports by Bryan Harris of JTA Global News Service for Jewish People:ACCIDENTS, CRIME TAINT TOURISMSource: BRIAN HARRIS, Special to the Miami Herald Costa Rica has just closed the books on its most successful tourist high season - November through April - on record. But the crush of tourists also kept police and morgue authorities busy. The latest deaths came May 4 when David and Carole Mahkne of Cape Carancua Bay, Texas, drowned after their sport fishing boat was apparently tossed by a wave. Details of the incident are sketchy but apparently neither was wearing lifejackets despite being in a treacherous river mouth.Published on May 16, 2005, Page 13A, Miami Herald, The (FL) ELDERLY_COUPLE_
DISAPPEAR_AT_SEA_DURING_CARIBBEAN_CRUISE


Note: Senator Levin has asked the Coast Guard for information and Congressman Stupak has asked the FBI for information.>

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