In the increasingly mysterious case of the honeymooner who disappeared last summer while onboard Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas, leaving a small trail of blood behind him, the cruise line has finally opened up.
In an eight-page (single spaced) press release, Royal Caribbean's Lynn Martenstein, the company's vice president of communications, offers a point-by-point detailing of the case from Royal Caribbean's perspective (click here to read the release in its entirety).
Up until this point, Royal Caribbean has been mum about offering specifics relating to this unsolved case, though members of Mr. Smith's family have been anything but shy, making appearances that ranged from "Larry King Live" to a hearing in Congress. In most cases, the family has been quite critical of the efforts of Brilliance of the Seas' staffers in handling the situation as it arose. Want to see a recap of our original coverage? Go here....
What's particularly interesting about Royal Caribbean's announcement is the way it directly and matter-of-factly addresses specific impressions that have made their way to the public and to the media. For instance:
It was widely rumored in media reports that Jennifer Hagel Smith was forced to undergo questioning in Kusadasi, Turkey, where the ship docked the morning George Allen Smith IV was discovered missing, by herself. And that when she returned to the ship after a long day's interrogation, she found her personal belongings strewn on the dock.
According to Royal Caribbean? No way. "Claims that she was abandoned, asked to leave the ship or left alone in Turkey are utterly false," says the response. In fact, the passenger was accompanied nearly everywhere, from the initial point of informing her of her husband's disappearance while she was at the spa to questioning in a Turkish police station and helping her find replacement clothes (as her cabin had been sealed).
What has always been mysterious is how Jennifer Hagel Smith could have been asleep in their cabin and not aware of the incidents leading up to her husband's being thrown, presumably, over their balcony.
The mystery is somewhat solved with the revelation by Royal Caribbean -- and corroborated by Jennifer Hagel Smith herself in a story that appeared in Wednesday's New York Times -- that she wasn't in the cabin at the time.
Indeed, it turns out that, according to the Royal Caribbean statement, "shortly after 4:30 a.m., Mrs. Hagel Smith was found sleeping on the floor of a corridor on the other side of the ship and a significant distance from her cabin. Security was notified and arrived shortly thereafter...." Ultimately, security members returned Mrs. Hagel Smith to her stateroom in a wheelchair and left her on the bed after determining she was okay. Mr. Smith was not present at that time.
Other new facts were revealed as well:
In the statement, Royal Caribbean says that "Mrs. Hagel Smith also told the officers her husband may have slept elsewhere. She added they had been partying and that he had slept elsewhere on the ship on at least one other night during the cruise."
And another revelation: According to the New York Times, after awakening the morning the ship arrived in Kusadasi, Mrs. Hagel Smith showed up 90 minutes early for a previously scheduled his-and-hers massage. Her husband, of course, did not appear.
For more details on Royal Caribbean's response to the allegations, click here.
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The Gloves Are Off: Royal Caribbean Fights Back
January 5, 2006