The world is watching as the Ruby Princess debacle continues to unfold: the political bickering, the police investigation, and the grim, rising death toll.
But the industry is no stranger to scandal and it’s easy to see why. Most cruise liners carry thousands of people and operate under complex legal jurisdictions. There’s plenty of alcohol, diseases spread quickly and when something does go wrong, there is no police to call.
Carnival Corp — owner of the Ruby Princess — is not alone in dealing with cruise industry scandals over the past two decades, which leave a trail of costly settlements and public relations battles in their wake.
The Costa Concordia infamously ran aground off the coast of Italy in 2012 after a rock tore a hole in its hull, tipping it on its side and killing 32 passengers. The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was found guilty of manslaughter, and claimed he had taken the ship so close to land for “commercial reasons” in a bid to please passengers. Carnival Corp, which owned the ship through its subsidiary Costa Crociere, avoided potential criminal charges by agreeing to pay a €1 million fine. Following the disaster, the company employed Roger Frizzell, one of America’s most powerful spin doctors.
Australian mother-of-three Dianne Brimble was found dead on board a P&O cruise liner while travelling from Sydney to New Caledonia with her 12-year-old daughter in 2002. NSW coroner Jacqueline Milledge found Brimble had been unknowingly drugged by several “unscrupulous individuals”, one of which was Adelaide man Mark Wilhelm, who was charged with Brimble’s manslaughter, but that charge was dropped in a retrial (the first jury failed to find a verdict) in the NSW Supreme Court.
P&O Cruises, which was taken over by Carnival Corp a year after Brimble’s death, reached a settlement with Brimble’s family in 2007. Milledge criticised P&O‘s handling of Brimble’s death, saying there was a “party culture” on board and that staff had allowed the accused men into their cabin shortly after Brimble was found dead, allowing them to remove evidence.
Australian entrepreneur Jonathan Pfahl died last year after falling overboard on a Royal Caribbean cruise headed for the US Virgin Islands. Pfahl fell from the Symphony of the Seas passenger ship during a seven-day cruise from Miami to St Thomas. His body was later found in the water by rescue crews. The US Coast Guard was reportedly unable to investigate the death because the ship, owned by Royal Caribbean International, was registered in the Bahamas, the victim was not a US citizen, and the incident occurred in international waters.
Paramedic Paul Rossington and partner Kristen Schroder fell to their deaths off the Carnival Spirit cruise liner near Sydney in 2013. The Carnival Spirit is one of Carnival Corp’s main Australian cruise liners. While the coroner said there was no suggestion of failure on the company’s part to prevent the deaths, it recommended the company include “man overboard” safety procedures in their verbal briefing to passengers.
British cruise ship worker Rebecca Coriam disappeared while working on the Disney Wonder off the coast of Mexico in 2011. Coriam’s parents, who settled a lawsuit with Disney in 2016, had been critical of the company’s handling of the investigation, which relied on evidence obtained by the Bahamas police, as the ship was registered in the Bahamas.