We have reported frequently about instances involving disappearances of passengers during a cruise. Although such an occurrence seems unlikely, and hard to believe, it occurs with a greater frequency than most people know. Our United States Congress recognized the frequency of such incidents during Congressional Hearings I testified to as an invited speaker on maritime law. These Congressional Hearings followed in the wake of George Smith IV disappearing during his honeymoon cruise on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship, the Brilliance of the Seas.
An organization called International Cruise Victims was formed shortly thereafter, comprising of victims of crimes that occur onboard cruise ships, and family members who have lost their loved ones during a cruise.
This recent disappearance involved a cruise ship operated by Fred Olsen which operates out of the United Kingdom, named the Balmoral. The cruise ship was carrying 1,000 passengers. The passenger who disappeared was a British man reported to be in his late 70’s or 80’s. He was travelling alone. The cruise ship was on an eight (8) day tour of the Norwegian Fjords.
One alarming aspect that was reported is that passengers were not advised of the disappearance until the ship returned to Southampton for disembarkation. One passenger, quoted in the article referred to the above, stated she was shocked to hear what had happened. The passengers had been on the ship for more than 36 hours with the passenger missing, yet were not informed until after the ship arrived at port for disembarkation.
We had previously experienced situations where cruise ship companies have tried to keep quiet when there is a disappearance of a passenger. This has occurred not only during the cruise, but following the end of the cruise. It has been argued that the cruise ship companies do this to maintain their public image of being a fun, carefree vacation with no risks associated with it. Cruise ship companies have historically been accused of covering up crimes onboard their ships, including sexual assaults.
The issue of promptly reporting a disappearance, and informing the other passengers, was discussed during the Congressional Hearings. It is important to alert all the passengers immediately because someone may have material information that could assist in locating the missing passenger, and during a search, it is helpful to have an extra, in this case, 1,000 pair of eyes looking for the missing passenger.
The article appears in the U.K. publication Mail, and quotes International Cruise Victims data of 165 people missing at sea since 1995, with 12 occurring this year prior to this recent disappearance aboard the Balmoral.
Our firm has handled several cases involving disappearances and overboard incidents onboard cruise ships, as well as other crimes committed aboard cruise ships, including sexual assaults.
Our firm continues to be safety advocates for both passengers and crewmembers who are harmed at sea.