Cruise ship safety, crimes draw public focus -


Cruise ship safety, crimes draw public focus

Cruise lines promise us a vacation of a lifetime, a floating luxury hotel with lots of thrills and adventure, but before you shell out for your next trip to paradise you need to know the facts on cruise ship crimes and how to stay out of danger.

Family members and friends have formed a non-profit called International Cruise Victims for some who have mysteriously vanished, drowned or were lost overboard, others sexually abused.

"Our mission is to protect victims of crimes on cruise ships and by that I mean hoping to protect them from becoming victims on cruise ships," Jamie Barnett said,

Barnett's daughter, Ashley, died on a cruise ship of suspicious circumstances just days before she turned 25. But when she began investigating cruise ship deaths, she hit a brick wall.

Cruise lines weren't required to report any accidents or crimes until 2010. And even now cruise companies dispute the numbers. But Barnett says one thing is for sure. You need to be prepared because it does happen.

"The number one crime committed on a cruise ship is sexual assault and unfortunately 34 percent of those assaults are against a minor," she said.

According to Barnett, you should never leave your children alone because there are no background checks on the crew or passengers.

"We have 8-year-olds who are raped we have 11-year-olds who get groped in an elevator by a crew member and then the crime isn't reported," she said.

And it's not just children, Laurie Dishman and her friend Michelle were on a cruise to Mexico. On the first night at sea, after a couple of drinks Laurie went back to her room alone. A crew member she had met earlier came to her room.

"The next thing I know there was a knock at the door and I barely opened the door with no peep hole or any latch to see who it was actually thinking it was Michelle," she said. "When I opened the door he forced his way in and strangled me and I became unconscious and he raped me."

The case was dismissed determining it was a "she said, he said" incident.

"One of the basic problems that exist is the law enforcement on the cruise line is not independent it is owned and operated by the cruise lines and that's an inherent conflict of interest," Barnett said.

The Industry Trade Association, Cruise Lines International declined an interview but sent this statement, "Allegations of crime on cruise ships are lower than corresponding crime rates on land…cruise lines employ professional security personnel and are assisted by hundreds of security cameras."

Barnett said if you're planning a cruise, make sure your cell phone works on the ship.

Also, keep an eye on your children. Leave your valuables at home including iPads and computers. And don't wander around alone, be with someone at all times.

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