Q – My daughter, my only daughter, has come to me asking permission to join two girlfriends on a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean next Spring. There may be an older sister on board who is twenty-two if the line requires it. Her girlfriend’s parents have given their consent, feeling that a cruise ship is as safe a place as our kids can be during Spring Break. We are being told that they have good security aboard. The kids will want to enjoy the ports, particularly those in Mexico and they’ve promised us they won’t be drinking. Just thought we would run this past you before giving the go ahead. Are we being naive?
A – “Naive” doesn’t even cover it. This is just irresponsible on your part. Here are a few facts and observations that might help you and other parents of potential unaccompanied, youthful Caribbean cruisers understand the risks:
01 – First our advice. Do not send your daughter on a cruise if you will not be there to go ashore with her and provide high levels of adult supervision.
02 – There are no police aboard these cruise ships. They have their own security personnel on board because they are needed. Why do some cruise lines cost a lot less than others? Do you think it could, in part, have something to do with who is employed aboard the ships, what they are paid, and the degrees to which they are subjected to background checks?
03 – Royal Caribbean will require an adult in the cabin over the age of 21. They make every attempt to enforce the drinking age aboard ship.
04 – The ship is less your concern, and ours, than the ports, areas where your cruise line has no policing power of any kind.
05 – The number of alleged cruise passenger rape victims on certain islands in the Caribbean is alarming. Cozumel has one of the worst records in this regard. A passenger was allegedly raped in an area near a recommended shopping center downtown after disembarking the Oasis of the Seas. Royal Caribbean argued it was not responsible since it could not document where previous rapes had taken place and thus could not warn its guests with any specificity about areas to avoid. The court in Miami agreed and tossed the case. Another Royal Caribbean passenger is alleging that she was raped at Senor’s Frog’s, a gathering place for young drinkers off cruise ships. The local press in Cozumel has reported that there were seven cases of rape in the past six months involving tourists.
06 – There is a State Department Advisory that refers to rape and sexual assault in Cozumel as “a serious problem” in resort areas. Date-rape drugs are used in bars and nightclubs throughout the Caribbean but the problem seems particularly widespread in Puerta Vallarta Mazatlan, and Cozumel.
All parents who are even considering travel on a mass market cruise line with teens to ports in the Western Caribbean and Mexico would do well to review the blog of Maritime attorney James Walker at www.cruiselawnews.com