Cruise Industry's Three Major Companies Volunteer to Report All Crime Data

July 24, 2013

(6:30 p.m. EDT) In a Congressional hearing held today in Washington, D.C., Royal Caribbean International C.E.O and President Adam Goldstein announced the three largest cruise operators-- Carnival Cruise Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line -- will begin reporting all crimes alleged to have been committed on all their brands' ships August 1.

Goldstein made the announcement in his opening statement during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing entitled "Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection." Senator John D. Rockefeller chaired the committee and hearing. Other panel speakers included Carnival C.E.O and President Gerry Cahill, cruise industry critic Ross Klein, and two maritime experts.

"The public will find a compilation of allegations of crime that occur onboard our ships around the world, on all itineraries, by all guests and crew," Goldstein said.

The move is in keeping with the intent of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, written in 2010 to require the reporting of all crimes. But this never went into effect because language was inserted into the act shortly after it passed that allowed the FBI to reveal only crimes that are investigated and closed by the FBI. The lines now will disclose all reported crimes dating, regardless of status, to the last quarter of 2010, when the act was passed.

Goldstein also said by publishing this information, the industry will, for the first time, be able to compare apples to apples on crime with other sectors. "We are very confident that the comparison will be beneficial because we know crime is rare on our ships."

Goldstein also announced that several of the 26 members of Cruise Lines International Association are changing their passenger contracts to harmonize with the Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights passed in May. Carnival, Cahill said, is among them.

"To the extent that there is any question, we would not as an industry have agreed to the Bill of Rights if we didn't expect it to apply in all instances," Goldstein said.

Several of the senators were reassured by the action, as they were worried the passenger contracts would take precedent over the Bill of Rights if an incident were to occur. Goldstein emphasized this will not be a problem once the passenger contracts have been rewritten to include Bill of Rights language, something he says the industry is in the process of doing. He didn't specify which lines are working on rewriting the language.

As part of their membership in CLIA, all 26 member lines are required to prominently display the Bill of Rights on their Web sites. Like Senator Blumenthal, Klein was skeptical over how the Bill of Rights will be enforced.

It's one thing, he said, to guarantee crew training. It's another to guarantee that training translates into competent action.

One of Klein's biggest concerns was over the lack of reporting when it comes to cruise crimes. But he did not respond to Goldstein's announcement the three major lines will voluntarily list all alleged crimes on their Web sites starting August 1.

Senator Rockefeller opened the hearing calling the cruise industry's promises of a hard internal review that would bring about safety changes from 16 months ago "empty" and accusing the industry of not taking passenger safety seriously.

Other highlights of the hearing include:

•Senator Rockefeller calling the Passenger Bill of Rights a "cynical effort to counter bad publicity";

•U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio telling the committee the Coast Guard's cruise ship inspection regime is the strongest in the world;

•The revelation Carnival Triumph failed an initial inspection upon its return to service and was detained by the U.S. Coast Guard for a day. The ship was detained because there were problems with the fire drills, fire detection system and fire sprinklers. All issues were rectified before the Coast Guard cleared the ship to embark passengers. Because of this initial failure, the Coast Guard will conduct more frequent inspections of Triumph over the next year or so;

•Mark Rosenker, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and member of CLIA's independent panel of experts saying "unequivocally" that the cruise industry was "very receptive" to the panel's input, and the entire panel was impressed with the speed with which the industry adopted the panel's recommendations;

•Senator Mark Begich pointing out the cruise industry brings more than $1 billion in direct expenditures to the state of Alaska.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor