This weekend's hot story involves a now former Royal Caribbean employee who has been accused of using customer information to burglarize cruise travelers while they were off on vacation.
CNN.com reports that Bethsaida Sandoval, 38, has been arrested and charged for 24 counts of burglary in Palm Beach County; Sandoval admitted that she and her husband were involved in the crimes, according to the probable cause affidavit, using her position with the cruise line to source victims' home addresses.
The affidavit also reveals that Sandoval "was seen entering the Royal Caribbean building after hours, about 1 a.m. The time was documented by her door access swipe card and her computer login as she accessed the Royal Caribbean system." Sandoval and her husband used a special tool to cut through glass to enter the homes, which has reportedly been turned over to authorities.
The robberies are believed to have taken place when the homeowners were at sea on the first nights of their cruises, and onboard ships departing from Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Victims returned home to find high-value items -- property, money, firearms -- missing.
The name sounded familiar to Cruise Critic member CruiseMor, who posts on the message boards, "I talked with her some time ago on the phone, but I don't think we booked our cruise with her. I think I still have her number in my reference information and will be sure to toss it."
Reader Michael Grant, meanwhile, tells us via Facebook, "She is my RCCL Cruise Planner! ... I just called her Monday about going on a cruise in July since oil will probably ruin my Keys trip. Her voicemail said maternity leave." (Side note: So far, the oil spill has not impacted cruise travel.)
"Mrs. Sandoval has been my travel planner for the past five years," member DEAdams posts, "and to say that I am shocked and saddened by this is an understatement ... This employee may have all of my personal information (including credit card numbers) in her possession and this is very disturbing to me."
Sandoval has been fired for her actions, according to a statement from the cruise line, and RCI is cooperating fully in the investigation.
"This is nothing new," Frank Gerard Rossi warns on Facebook, "they do it at the post office and newspaper when you put it on a vacation stop. I just never thought a cruise planner would do it." Melissa Sutton counters, "Please be aware that this woman is the exception, not the rule -- 99.9 percent of people in the travel industry only want to help you have a great trip!"
Join the conversation here.
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor