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November 11, 2011 4:05 PM   Subscribe

When Rebecca Coriam vanished from the Disney Wonder in March, hers became one of the 171 mysterious cruise ship disappearances in the past decade. So what happened? Jon Ronson booked himself a cabin to find out…
posted by fearfulsymmetry (89 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
wow:

Carver says the numbers have reached epidemic proportions and nobody realises it because it's in the industry's power to hush it up. He lost his own daughter, Merrian, back in August 2004, from the Celebrity Mercury. Even though the cabin steward reported her missing on day two, Carver said, no alarm was ever raised. "He reported her missing daily and they told him to forget it."

So the chocolates piled up on her pillow. When the Mercury docked in Vancouver – as Carver later testified at a US Senate subcommittee hearing – nobody from the ship said anything, not to the police, the FBI, nobody. They just quietly placed Merrian's belongings in storage, then gave them to charity. "If we hadn't eventually traced her to that ship, she would have vanished," he said.

posted by mannequito at 4:19 PM on November 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Seems like the real issue here is that when employees go missing (presumably they commit suicide by jumping overboard) the cruise ship lines typically do nothing about it, and do not even alert law enforcement:

Carver says the numbers have reached epidemic proportions and nobody realises it because it's in the industry's power to hush it up. He lost his own daughter, Merrian, back in August 2004, from the Celebrity Mercury. Even though the cabin steward reported her missing on day two, Carver said, no alarm was ever raised. "He reported her missing daily and they told him to forget it."

So the chocolates piled up on her pillow. When the Mercury docked in Vancouver – as Carver later testified at a US Senate subcommittee hearing – nobody from the ship said anything, not to the police, the FBI, nobody. They just quietly placed Merrian's belongings in storage, then gave them to charity. "If we hadn't eventually traced her to that ship, she would have vanished," he said.

posted by KokuRyu at 4:20 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jinx!
posted by KokuRyu at 4:20 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jon's busy lately. Here's his new YouTube series about people trying to control the web, Escape and Control, which includes an episode with the guy who wrote the song for Rebecca Black.
posted by Apropos of Something at 4:24 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Almost every two weeks someone goes overboard.

And that is why I don't go on cruises...
posted by mikelieman at 4:27 PM on November 11, 2011


A supposedly fun thing I've gone ahead and ruled out entirely.
posted by padraigin at 4:30 PM on November 11, 2011 [43 favorites]


Just wait til you read about what happens when people drive cars!
posted by KokuRyu at 4:30 PM on November 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


And that is why I don't go on cruises...

Do you think the per capita rate of people going overboard on cruise ships is higher than the rate at which people die by slipping in the shower? Do you avoid showers?

Not that there aren't lots of reasons someone might not want to go on a cruise, but fear of going overboard isn't one of them. You're more likely to die in a car crash on the way to the ship.
posted by Justinian at 4:31 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now if there was some way to make a cruise ship that flew.... and could explode.
posted by Artw at 4:33 PM on November 11, 2011


A supposedly fun thing I've gone ahead and ruled out entirely.

I'm having trouble understanding the first part of that sentence.
posted by auto-correct at 4:33 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"He reported her missing daily and they told him to forget it."

W.T.F.

Ronson needs to tie this in to his sociopath book.
posted by DU at 4:36 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


The reason I don't go on them is norovirus outbreaks.

I got infected enough times with norovirus when I was a kid to last me the rest of my life. (One time it nearly killed me.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:36 PM on November 11, 2011


I'm having trouble understanding the first part of that sentence.

It a quotation from the patron saint of MetaFilter, specifically referencing an essay on cruise ships.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:36 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


You're more likely to die in a car crash on the way to the ship

I'd rather die in the car crash than be trapped on a floating trailer park.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 4:38 PM on November 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah. I know the stats aren't that frightening, but I totally sympathize with the gut reaction here to avoid cruise ships at all costs (and I'm usually not one to do that sort of thing).

Am I worried that I'll be disappeared from a cruise ship without a trace? Not really.

Do I have serious misgivings about placing myself in an extremely confined space away from civiliation for over a week that's owned and operated by a group that looks and acts like an organized crime ring? Hell, yes, I do. If they're making people disappear without a trace and have been getting away with it for years, I can't even imagine what other nastiness is flying below the radar.
posted by schmod at 4:41 PM on November 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


floating trailer park

More like a floating retirement village! (at least my experience in Alaska)
posted by CrazyLemonade at 4:43 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do you think the per capita rate of people going overboard on cruise ships is higher than the rate at which people die by slipping in the shower? Do you avoid showers?

Not that there aren't lots of reasons someone might not want to go on a cruise, but fear of going overboard isn't one of them. You're more likely to die in a car crash on the way to the ship.


Not that I'm in the habit of defending irrational fears, but:

1) You also have to understand that the per capita rate of people that take showers far exceeds the number of people that go on cruises, so this affects the likelihood of dying in either circumstance.

2) Drowning in the open expanse of the deep, dark, cold ocean is a fairly horrifying thought. Have you ever looked at the ocean and realized that it goes on seemingly forever, and that at night it resembles a living, breathing black liquid chasm of Lovecraftian proportions?

3) Death in your home, or at least death near your home, where people may find your body and where you may have a proper funeral / burial seems less terrifying to me.

I'm actually very much for sailing out to sea. I find it a somewhat romantic endeavor, and I would not want to discourage a person from taking a cruise ship. I think the worst part about being on a cruise ship is all of those mysterious diseases that infect all of the passengers from time to time. But I think that fear of going overboard is a valid fear and reason for avoiding cruise ships. You can't live your life based solely on comparative probabilities.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:49 PM on November 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think the aversion here is not to much that you might die but that, when you do, they will hide the evidence and your family will never know what happened. And that's assuming you even die in the first place. If this is a common occurrence and it's well known (in certain circles) that no one will look for a disappearance from a cruise ship, how many kidnappings and so forth happen there?
posted by DU at 4:51 PM on November 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I spent two weeks staying with the crew on the Disney Wonder. I've written about my experience on MetaFilter before. It was on of the most surreal experiences of my life, and from what I learned during those two weeks, I believe two things:

1. Disney will stop at nothing to cover up stuff like this, to maintain the magic. Reveal anything to the public? Hell, only a select few of the crew (the character's 'friends,' as they're called, the people who play the characters) are allowed to visit the secret room where the character heads are kept. They keep all this shit under such tight raps it's appalling.

2. Most of the crew hates the gig. It's good money, sure, because you don't have to spend anything you make. But it's grueling, you're treated like shit, and maybe every now and again you get to get off the boat and go to a Senor Frogs. It's depressing. My money is on suicide, unfortunately.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:53 PM on November 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Can we cut to the chase?

Are cruise ships or are they not a place where violent sexual predators can have free reign to behave as they please. If not, great - we would all hope not - but the evidence from this story, as regards the investigation of the matter of this particular young woman who disappeared, is not particularly helpful in this regard.

It seems there has essentially been no serious investigation. The implication is that in cases of this sort there is never is.

What we are left with is a large number of unexplained deaths on cruise ships. Perhaps some of them are suicides, perhaps some of them have other explanations. It seems that none of them have any explanations at all.

What needs to happen in order for operators of cruise ships to stop getting away with failing to get to the bottom of what happened when people on their ships 'disappear'?
posted by motty at 4:59 PM on November 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


There's a man in Ireland had a 15-year-old daughter," Carver said. "One cruise served her eight drinks in an hour. She went to the balcony and threw up and went overboard. She was gone."

Most of the disappearances are probably something similar. Also, who the hell could enjoy wasting their vacation crammed on a giant infected floating buffet?
posted by Burhanistan at 5:02 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do you think the per capita rate of people going overboard on cruise ships is higher than the rate at which people die by slipping in the shower? Do you avoid showers?

The first morning I wake up and find my shower packed with horrible people I don't know and can't escape is the morning I stop taking showers. And move.
posted by The Bellman at 5:04 PM on November 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


Cruise Junkie details the other side of the cruise industry, for those interested.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:08 PM on November 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I really wish he'd given more information about the gender split, and maybe the passenger vs. employee split as well. All the cases he mentions are women.

(I feel like it's also worth pointing out, just for clarity, that the article does say this was Disney's only disappearance to date. While this article is compelling, I'm a little more interested in knowing what the heck is going on over at Carnival. Is it that Disney cruises are, in fact, a bit safer (likely due to all the kids on board), or is it just a statistical thing due to volume?
posted by anastasiav at 5:08 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I took two cruises in my life (so far) - one to Greenland and the other up the coast of Norway. In both cases the trip was very well organized, with exceptional attention to healthful surroundings.

On the topic of norovirus - Doors, doorknobs, railings were cleaned several times a day, and passengers were asked to Purell their hands prior to entering the dining area. No one got sick.

Granted, these were both small ships (with 200 and 400 people on board respectively). There is no way no how I will board a ship that carries 5,000. That's too many people, going to too-populated destinations.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:09 PM on November 11, 2011


safer (likely due to all the kids on board)

O_o
posted by DU at 5:13 PM on November 11, 2011


Spoiler: she got a little drunk and fell overboard. WHAT A TWIST!
posted by clvrmnky at 5:16 PM on November 11, 2011


O_o

What? One kid missing on a Disney cruise and it would be impossible to cover up. PR nightmare for Disney. They have a vested interest in having tighter security because they market specifically to families and their reputation as being a safe haven for families with kids (a place, in fact, where you can leave your kid to play with staff/other kids and go do more adult things yourself) is enormously important to them (from a business standpoint). They have a higher vested interest in keeping the passengers safe than other cruise lines do.
posted by anastasiav at 5:18 PM on November 11, 2011


> They have a higher vested interest in keeping the passengers safe than other cruise lines do.

The article also mentions that the Disney boats are pretty dry compared to the other lushbuckets that have open bars on every deck.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:20 PM on November 11, 2011


The article also mentions that the Disney boats are pretty dry compared to the other lushbuckets that have open bars on every deck.

My experience was that maybe the passengers didn't drink as much, because they were all there with their kids, but the crew sure as hell drank grips of booze. They have their own bar and there's nothing else to do.

You know, when I was on that thing, I had to listen to "livin la vida loca" remade to be "living la vida mickey" practically on repeat over the ship's soundsystem. Two more weeks of that and I would have likely gone overboard.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:25 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gotta tell you Cruse Ships sound like a nightmare to me. And this is from someone who loves being on the water. I love the idea of sailing places, even in rough water, but give it several hundred other people and stabilizers, why would you bother? Go to Disney and then fly to tourist spot XYZ. That is just a cattle boat with trim. No wonder a few disappear a year.. think I'd trow myself off as well, what despondency.
posted by edgeways at 5:30 PM on November 11, 2011


...so tempted to propose an IRL for The Bellman's shower now...
posted by mannequito at 5:31 PM on November 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Lutoslawski, could you help clarify your thoughts here for me:
1. Disney will stop at nothing to cover up stuff like this, to maintain the magic. Reveal anything to the public? Hell, only a select few of the crew (the character's 'friends,' as they're called, the people who play the characters) are allowed to visit the secret room where the character heads are kept. They keep all this shit under such tight raps it's appalling.
Genuinely confused here -- are you complaining that they keep the character costumes (i.e., Mickey, Donald, etc), secured away from public view, and allow only the cast members directly responsible for wearing the costumes (i.e. their "Friends"), to acces them?

How is this a problem?

Are you saying you'd rather the kids see Mickey's stuffed head hangong off the wall as they walk by?

And how are you equating this form of "secrecy" with a Cruise line writing off an employee who fell overboard to their death?!%?!#
posted by cavalier at 5:35 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whoopsy, waiter, I'll have another close italics bracket, thanks.
posted by cavalier at 5:36 PM on November 11, 2011


Genuinely confused here -- are you complaining that they keep the character costumes (i.e., Mickey, Donald, etc), secured away from public view, and allow only the cast members directly responsible for wearing the costumes (i.e. their "Friends"), to access them?

Thus, the Yiffing Scandal of 11-11-11 was born.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 5:39 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


/me gets into The Bellman's shower. And waits.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:42 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


This cruise junkie chart is linked from the article, and makes for interesting reading.

Here's a quick summary of the 2011 'overboards'

Jan 4: crew member, male, body recovered
Jan 5: passenger, male, fall seen on cctv
Feb 7: passenger, male, body not found
Feb 20: no details given by cruise line
March 15: crew member, male, 'missing'
March 22: crew member, male, no details
March 24: crew member, female, (case from article)
April 21: passenger, male, 'missing'
May 4: passenger, male, 'missing'
May 4: passenger, female, 'missing'
May 22: crew member, male, fall seen on cctv
May 27: unknown, male, rescued alive
June 20: passenger, male, rescued alive
July 23: passenger, male, 'missing'
Sept 6: passenger, female, rescued alive
Sept 14: passenger, male, 'missing'
Sept 25: passenger, male, 'missing'
Oct 4: passenger, male, body recovered
Oct 28: unknown, male, rescued alive
Nov 4: passenger, male, body recovered

So: vast majority (at least 16 of 20) this year are male. At least 12 were passengers. 4 were rescued alive. In 4 more cases a body was recovered or the fall was witnessed. In the remainder of the cases the person is classified as 'missing' after varying degrees of search. Still not good, but these details paint a somewhat different picture than the impression of '171 people have VANISHED from cruise ships' that I got from the article.
posted by anastasiav at 5:45 PM on November 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


my first and only love is the sea, but holy shit do cruise ships creep me out. i've steadfastly ignored the 9 neighbors in my west village brownstone for 5 years, why the fuck would i want to be trapped in a floating office block with a few hundred tedious strangers?
posted by elizardbits at 5:51 PM on November 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


my first and only love is the sea,

Brandy said to say hello.
posted by jonmc at 5:55 PM on November 11, 2011 [49 favorites]


From the Article:

From what I've heard, she was on the phone to a mutual friend. Not the girl she'd been having the relationship with.

I wonder if someone at Disney thought it was bad PR that one of their staff was gay.
posted by Snowflake at 6:08 PM on November 11, 2011


I wonder if someone at Disney thought it was bad PR that one of their staff was gay.

I don't know where Disney is now, but way back in 1995 they were offering health benefits to same-sex domestic partners.
posted by sbutler at 6:13 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"'I don't know,' he shrugs. 'But there's nothing dark or sinister going on. This is Disney.'"

Holy fuck is something really fucking wrong going on. If there is anything I know about Disney it is that their young employees are jaded motherfuckers who know the scam for what it is.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:24 PM on November 11, 2011


I was lucky enough to go on an old-style cruise on board a ship which no longer travels but which you can stay on board the next time you're in Rotterdam.

I've had my cruise experience. Once is enough.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:25 PM on November 11, 2011


Have you ever looked at the ocean and realized that it goes on seemingly forever, and that at night it resembles a living, breathing black liquid chasm of Lovecraftian proportions?
Yes. It spooks me to go in it. (I can do it. But it's damn spooky.)
posted by Glinn at 6:28 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anybody else having trouble refraining from jumping to the conclusion Oh No Cruise Ship Serial Killer? I know the list is probably mostly drunk falls and suicide and isolated unrelated murders (hot dog), but it doesn't seem like anything would happen to anybody who decided to be one. Good thing cruises are expensive, I guess?

I assume that Disney knows exactly what happened, though, and that they're covering up a liability issue.
posted by Adventurer at 6:38 PM on November 11, 2011


Genuinely confused here -- are you complaining that they keep the character costumes (i.e., Mickey, Donald, etc), secured away from public view, and allow only the cast members directly responsible for wearing the costumes (i.e. their "Friends"), to acces them?

How is this a problem?

Are you saying you'd rather the kids see Mickey's stuffed head hangong off the wall as they walk by?

And how are you equating this form of "secrecy" with a Cruise line writing off an employee who fell overboard to their death?!%?!#


Oh sheesh. It was just one example. I don't mean the heads should be in public view, I just mean that it's one thing in a long list of extents Disney goes to to preserve certain things. Secret head room where heads are kept at just a certain angle, no talking about religion, politics or finances between employees, you can't say "I play Mickey" if you play Mickey you have to say "I'm friends with Mickey," they're the only cruise line - the only sea going vessels, in fact - to get special permission to have their lifeboats a different shade of yellow/orange from everyone else so theirs can match the yellow on Mickey, they painted tigger all black when he had to appear in court so it wouldn't seem that tigger was actually in court, etc.

It was one small example my friend to demonstrate that the whole preservation of the secret magic stuff is just so pervasive in the Disney culture, more so than with any corporation I've ever seen, and that it is certainly within that mentality to brush something like this under the proverbial rug.

It isn't right of course.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:38 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think I would have enjoyed traveling by ocean liner during the steamship era, assuming I were a member of the class that didn't go steerage. But there's a vast difference between purposeful travel and just being confined to a floating mall trying to have some retail manufactured fun. The latter looks unspeakably ghastly.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:39 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder if someone at Disney thought it was bad PR that one of their staff was gay.

Gay Day Disneyworld? (not officially sanctioned I realize, but also not distanced from). In terms of giant corporations, the're one of the gay-friendlier ones.

They have a higher vested interest in keeping the passengers safe than other cruise lines do.

This is true, their entire reputation depends on being family and kid friendly, and perception of safety is a big issue with US parents.

So that means they'll do everything they can to keep passengers safe.

But it also means that when something bad happens, they'll cover it up to the greatest extent possible.
posted by formless at 6:41 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess I just don't understand how you are conflating showmanship and "Good show" Standards -- i.e., creating an imaginary boundary between the characters and the people portraying them, with, again, the death or disappearance of people.

Said another way, "secret magic" is an entirely different thing then "hiding dead bodies." At least.. I mean, at least I think so. :)
posted by cavalier at 6:42 PM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


no talking about religion, politics or finances between employees

To be honest, this sounds like a marvelous way to avoid a lot of potential landmines when talking with your coworkers.
posted by sobell at 7:09 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


awfully limiting of speech though.. guess they can do what they want on the high seas.
posted by edgeways at 7:12 PM on November 11, 2011


I love cruises. I've been on two and one was a Disney cruise. The service on the Disney cruise was impeccable. The staff were incredibly attentive, and yes, they do spend a lot of time drinking off-the-clock. I wasn't a kid or a parent on the Disney ship, so I got pretty friendly with a number of the crew members and eventually was lucky enough to get invited below decks to the staff bar (which supposedly is a HUGE no-no according to company policy). It was raging down there. Everyone was pretty much in their 20s, and yes, they generally spent all day cleaning up toddler vomit and being scolded by fat American parents, but also, "holy shit we're traveling the world (on a BOAT) and getting paid pretty well and isn't this fun?!"
As someone mentioned above, you will hear a lot of corny shit like "Living La Vida Mickey" or whatever nonstop, and the ship-sponsored activities are all pretty G-rated, but what else would you expect on a Disney cruise? There are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy yourself elsewhere aboard the ship.
In fact, one of the most interesting things to me about both cruises I've been on was the staff. Yes, being aboard a cruise ship is like being aboard a floating hotel for a week or two, but it's also like being aboard a floating miniature city. I'm fascinated by how the crew are able to keep things running smoothly. It's silly, but even aboard a massive cruise vessel, you can still get an old-timey nautical feeling from watching the way things operate.
Lastly, staying up late and looking out from the deck, where all you can see is a vast expanse of freezing black ocean lit only by the moon and stars, is...awesome. I completely relate to the terror of being lost at sea. Strange things can be seen skirting the surface of the waters in the daytime, who knows what lurks at night? But then, you go to sleep being rocked gently by the waves, and wake up and hey, you're in Stockholm!
posted by Demogorgon at 7:13 PM on November 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Brandy said to say hello.

Oh jeez. Thanks for the earworm.
posted by squalor at 7:14 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


they painted tigger all black when he had to appear in court so it wouldn't seem that tigger was actually in court, etc.

Wait, what? Tigger was in court, in costume? I'm going to need some links for that.
posted by emjaybee at 7:18 PM on November 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Cruises have always seemed appealing to me in concept, but ever since I read another article describing how sketchy medical services are on cruise ships I've pretty much decided it's not for me. This isn't the one I read, but it's similar. This creepy non-response to disappearances seems like more of the same.

I'd take a riverboat cruise, though.
posted by usonian at 7:20 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, what? Tigger was in court, in costume? I'm going to need some links for that.

I was wrong that it was dyed black - Disney attempted to have it died black for the court appearance and have its ears removed, but the motion was rejected. This is the case.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:22 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article also mentions that the Disney boats are pretty dry compared to the other lushbuckets that have open bars on every deck.

I read somewhere that Disney is one of the few cruise lines that lets passengers bring their own booze on board, even allowing them to haul big-ass coolers full of booze on the ship with them. I assumed this "perk" was offered as a way of attracting adults who might otherwise be reluctant to take a kid-oriented cruise, maybe? Anyway, I've been on a couple of cruises and the bars aren't "open" in the sense that alcohol was included in your fare. You were billed for everything, on a per drink basis, which (for me at least) did limit consumption.
posted by jayder at 7:24 PM on November 11, 2011


I guess I just don't understand how you are conflating showmanship and "Good show" Standards -- i.e., creating an imaginary boundary between the characters and the people portraying them, with, again, the death or disappearance of people.

But it isn't merely show - i mean they don't paint their freaking life boats regulation colors, LIFE boats, because of their show. I don't know, maybe I am going to far there. I just really fucking hate Disney and I just have a serious gut feeling that they know what happened to that poor girl and aren't saying anything about it, lest it taint their precious little cruise line.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:25 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


no talking about religion, politics or finances between employees

nearly identical to the HR statement at every (land locked) corporate drone job i have ever worked
posted by radiosilents at 7:25 PM on November 11, 2011


I read somewhere that Disney is one of the few cruise lines that lets passengers bring their own booze on board

Hurtigruten is another. no pressure to "have another drink" at the bar, either.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:39 PM on November 11, 2011


The story of Amy Bradley, who went missing on a Royal Caribbean cruise in 1998, creeps me the HECK out.
posted by argonauta at 7:53 PM on November 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


The story of Amy Bradley, who went missing on a Royal Caribbean cruise in 1998, creeps me the HECK out.

That is chilling.

and would probably make a decent movie
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:07 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Many of these people experience temporary amnesia and end up married to Kurt Russel.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:12 PM on November 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


I've been on two cruises, one of them Disney, and I have to say it doesn't surprise me that Disney's cruises are among the safest (and that regardless they're the one the press would choose to focus on). The level of professionalism, concern for safety, organization, and customer focus I found on board the Wonder was worlds away from what I encountered on the other cruise I've taken. I have no doubt in my mind that if you want to take a cruise and be safe, comfortable, and happy the whole time, Disney is the cruise line to bet on. But everyone wants to punch a hole in that kind of customer experience, and everyone wants to peel back the Disney mystique and discover the festering rot within, or something.

I'm sorry, but if you ran a hospitality business, would you really be in the habit of offering interviews to the press about accidents - or even fatal non-accidents - that happened to people while on your premises? If you weren't required to investigate it, by law, would you go out of your way to establish what happened and publicize it? Jesus, these people have a business to run, which involves operating a giant boat full of kids, and the last thing they need is concerned parents worrying constantly about a freak occurrence that happened to one of their staff in a location where regular passengers aren't even allowed.

I just hate this kind of journalism. This reporter clearly set out to establish that Disney was doing an exceptionally slimy coverup of an onboard incident, discovered that they were not doing anything out of the ordinary, and proceeded to write the same story he intended to write anyway but without the supporting evidence. Sure, the cruise industry does plenty of slimy crap. It's because they're allowed to do it by the countries in which they incorporate. Change the laws that allow them to incorporate in those countries, for crying out loud. Don't call public corporations reprehensible for adhering to the laws that apply to them. I mean, there are plenty of corporations that break laws that apply to them all the time. Let's go after them, and change laws that don't make sense, and maybe make it illegal for corporations that operate primarily out of US ports in concert with US companies to incorporate in the Bahamas. Let's not gasp over the fact that a non-US corporation is not adhering to US law, as if that were even slightly surprising.
posted by troublesome at 8:58 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


The George Allen Smith case always freaked me out. Especially because his new wife, who he was on the cruise with, seems to be vaguely implicated.
posted by sweetkid at 9:08 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uh, troublesome, a young woman 'disappeared', and most likely died. The case has not, so far as the OP describes it, been adequately investigated, and it looks like the chances of finding out what happened to her are slim, for all that 'minimum legal requirements' may have been carried out. How is this not slimy and crap?
posted by motty at 9:12 PM on November 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Gay Day Disneyworld? (not officially sanctioned I realize, but also not distanced from). In terms of giant corporations, the're one of the gay-friendlier ones.

Ah, okay, I withdraw my implication then. I didn't know that Disney was that progressive. Maybe it's just a reflection on me that I found it odd that nobody else pointed this out? It wasn't even mentioned in the article except in passing.
posted by Snowflake at 12:13 AM on November 12, 2011


My point is that this article's entire hook is that Disney is doing something especially scummy. The entire cruise industry, in which they are a relatively minor player, is slimy as hell, which I completely agree with. I just don't think it's at all fair that Disney in particular has been singled out by this reporter for this sort of coverage. On the contrary, I think Disney is a relatively non-scummy cruise line, as they go.
posted by troublesome at 1:12 AM on November 12, 2011


So does anyone that Kolchak the Night Stalker episode about the werewolf on the cruise ship?
posted by happyroach at 1:54 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: it goes on seemingly forever, and at night it resembles a living, breathing black liquid chasm of Lovecraftian proportions.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:17 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


According to the CDC, for every 100,000 people in the U.S. there are 41 deaths by accidental injury (27.1 if you don't count auto accidents), 11.5 by suicide, and 6.1 by murder, annually, so 44.7 deaths per 100,000 of the possible sort we're talking about here, speaking broadly. I wonder how the cruise ship numbers would compare with that? I'm not even sure how to break it down in order to make a comparison. My super lazy back of the napkin results seems to suggest that cruise ship rates are much lower.
posted by taz at 4:47 AM on November 12, 2011


I have worked very briefly on ships. Two weeks one year. Two weeks another year. Three weeks in a third year. The idea of being on a ship for any length of time over a couple of hours is deeply antagonistic towards my feelings of anxiety and claustrophobia.

One of the most amazing things about human civilization to me is that people pay money to take week long trips on cruise ships. That is something you have to pay me money to do it.
posted by bukvich at 5:29 AM on November 12, 2011


happyroach: Streamin' right atcha.

Cruise participants are self-selecting, taz, so I'm not sure any comparison with gen-pop numbers has a lot of validity.

As for the angle of the article, I think it was preordained that Disney would be targeted here; as he notes, the Coriam case is being pressed in Parliament with a view towards strengthening international law and institutions overseeing this burgeoning, and largely unregulated, industry.

When I think about the changes to the way that airlines, at lest in the West, have made towards treatment of family members in air crash situations, I'm really appalled at the way these cruise lines are brushing off all inquiries. I think it was Lockerbie that started to change it, and I have a memory of a federal law even that I'm too foggy to look up, but for a long time it was pretty routine for family members to have to pay their own way to the airport at one end of their loved one's trip, then have to navigate a cruel disregard that the airlines used to buffer themselves from what was obviously a kind of professional embarassment. Today, though, it's a much different situation, and there are grief counselors, telephone hotlines, ombudsmen, and so forth.

It's the secrecy and stonewalling that are causing people to start speculating about serial killers or white slavery rings. Of course there is going to be significant denial in the cases of even obvious suicides, but this is also an environment where a single slip can mean a fatal accident. These cruise ships are pretty much operating with the same level of concern, it appears to me, as cargo ships with their international-dregs crews. I think that seriously needs to change.
posted by dhartung at 5:33 AM on November 12, 2011


An Australian case that didn't receive proper investigation by the cruise company is that of Diane Brimble's death after a group of men gave her GHB. The police and courts took it seriously, but it was made more difficult because the cruise company didn't follow standard procedures. At least she got more recognition than many of the cases, although it seems like no serious punishment was handed out, just some good behaviour bonds.

When I was little I thought going on a cruise would be awesome. I guess I watched too much Love Boat or something. Now it sounds like punishment: cramped quarters, mistreated staff, health risks, predatory passengers with no real protection from security staff.
posted by harriet vane at 6:21 AM on November 12, 2011


Accusations of murder and sexual abuse? Good thing it's not an Occupy protest or it would have been shut down by now.
posted by Stoatfarm at 7:14 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"BTW there was an awful lot about that Disney cruise that I loved. I horsebacked through a rainforest and did Piece of my Heart karaoke." Ronson on twitter earlier
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:29 AM on November 12, 2011


Taz writes:for every 100,000 people in the U.S. there are 41 deaths by accidental injury (27.1 if you don't count auto accidents), 11.5 by suicide, and 6.1 by murder, annually, so 44.7 deaths per 100,000 of the possible sort we're talking about here, speaking broadly. I wonder how the cruise ship numbers would compare with that? I'm not even sure how to break it down in order to make a comparison.

Let's take a shot at this: Cruise Junkie reports a total of 19 overboard incidents in 2010.. The cruise industry reports the number of cruise passengers in 2010 was 15 million.

That translates into 0.12 deaths per 100,000, about one four-hundredth the death rate of land-lubbers.

If cruise passengers were to commit suicide by jumping overboard at the same rate as terra firmans, there would be an astounding 1725 jumpers, in 2010 alone.

The obvious recommendation, get out to sea before it's too late. :)
posted by storybored at 8:34 AM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


But it isn't merely show - i mean they don't paint their freaking life boats regulation colors, LIFE boats, because of their show. I don't know, maybe I am going to far there.

Maybe a bit. The boats are still bright yellow, they are just a slightly different shade from the standard naval regulation yellow so they match the stripe on the boat.

I just really fucking hate Disney

I have noticed with Metafilter, as well as my more intellectually inclined friends, that there is a general disdain toward Disney and the common people who enjoy Disney stuff, with quite a bit of GRAR regarding the company's business dealings. On the other hand, I don't think it's quite as bad as all the GRAR, and there are more shades of grey than most are willing to admit or recognize. I don't mindlessly consume all Disney stuff, but I do enjoy the theme parks, Pixar, and the Disney films I grew up with. I don't think the evilness of their Big Business Suit VPs extends all the way down to every staff member, imagineer, or character suited Mickey. My opinion doesn't mesh well with the BOYCOTT ALL THE THINGS notion, I guess.


My wife and I recently were gifted a four-day Bahamas cruise by my parents. It was on the Carnival Fascination, (docked on the far side of the Disney boat in my above linked photo). The Carnival boat was very much of the "floating trailer park" variety. Our balcony room was very nice, but the common areas of the ship were loud and obnoxious, with announcements for activities frequently broadcast over the PA system. Many parents parked themselves next to one of the pools with a bucket of beer and let the kids run loose on the ship. It's not really surprising to me that any of those kids might accidentally fall overboard. They were completely unsupervised.

We also noticed how much nicer the Disney boat looked than our shabby-looking Carnival boat. The Disney cruises were definitely more expensive than the Carnival ones, but everything about their offerings were of a higher quality, to match. We didn't choose one of the Disney cruises because they didn't have any shorter (3-4 day) options.

If I had it to do over again, I would choose to fly directly to the Bahamas and just spend time there. But it was a gift, and we had never taken a cruise before. The novelty of it was interesting, but we decided it's not really our thing.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:36 AM on November 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Anybody else having trouble refraining from jumping to the conclusion Oh No Cruise Ship Serial Killer?

Serial killer, no, but if the assumption that these are largely suicides is correct, but the result is that they are not only not investigated but not reported, then this is a big honking neon lit invitation to attempt murder.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:08 PM on November 12, 2011


Over the years I've done various bits of consulting work for Disney and so out of curiosity, I went on a long cruise in the Mediterranean with my girlfriend (on my own dime). I'd been on one very short cruise from the UK to Cork on a very big cruise ship, and I thought it was entertaining enough, even despite the fact the weather was terrible and Cork is hardly the most glamorous of places.

I'm not sure why cruises inspire such a visceral reaction among people. Before going to Cork I'd read the DFW article and I thought it was brilliant, along with plenty of other anti-cruise screeds that centre on the supposed cattle-like behaviour of passengers, the overeating, the incessant cheeriness, etc; and I'd seen all the jokes about 'Daily Mail island' and so on.

But when you get down to it, a cruise is basically a very comfortable teleporter that mainly works at night. You get up, go around a port city, come back on board for dinner, get some drinks/watch a movie/read a book, go to sleep, open your curtains and hey - you're in a new city! No trains or luggage moving or whatever required, you just appeared there. And sure, if you go in with the attitude that everyone else on the cruise is an idiot and all the staff are fakes, then it won't be a fun experience - but if you just do the stuff you personally enjoy (e.g. reading a book in the deserted jacuzzi at midnight, playing Settlers of Catan with people you met online beforehand) then it's pretty cool.

I was pretty surprised at how loyal the passengers on the Disney cruise were. Most of the people we met were repeat passengers, and most of them had been several times, so the experience can't be all that bad, especially since everyone seemed reasonably nice and smart. I suppose you could say that McDonalds inspires loyalty and it's bad food, but Disney cruises are some of the most expensive out there, so it's all the more impressive people keep coming back.

jayder: You are correct in that Disney lets you bring on board alcohol. I think there's one other (expensive) cruise line that does the same. I can only assume that Disney does this because it doesn't use alcohol sales to subsidise tickets, and probably also because poking in people's bags is kind of annoying and pisses off your customers. What's interesting is that the drinks on board the ship are also comparatively cheap. I suspect they make tons of money off the various shore trips and guided tours though.
posted by adrianhon at 12:22 PM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu: "Just wait til you read about what happens when people drive cars!"

In a car crash you have a chance of survival. Going overboard on a cruise ship - not so much.
posted by deborah at 8:18 PM on November 12, 2011


An Australian case that didn't receive proper investigation by the cruise company is that of Diane Brimble's death after a group of men gave her GHB.

That case always gives me the cold horrors, not just because of the cruise company but because of the attitude of the men concerned. They not only gave her GHB, they invited other people into the cabin to perve at her lying naked in her own excrement, discussed throwing her overboard when it was clear she was in serious trouble, demanded the pursers who were trying to revive her "get the bitch out" and then complained that she "fucked up" their holiday by dying. The amount of sheer ugliness and hate is utterly abhorrent and horrifiying. I find that almost more disturbing than the idea of Cruise Serial Killer, not least because I reckon there are a lot more of them around.
posted by andraste at 12:36 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Let's take a shot at this: Cruise Junkie reports a total of 19 overboard incidents in 2010.. The cruise industry reports the number of cruise passengers in 2010 was 15 million.

That translates into 0.12 deaths per 100,000, about one four-hundredth the death rate of land-lubbers.
"

Well, to be fair we are only talking about violent deaths, which in the US is just over 16 per 100,000. Even then this would only be a fair comparison if you managed to also include all of the violent deaths that these 15,000,000 cruise passengers met during the rest of the calendar year that the took the cruise on, which we can't meaningfully do. However, I think we can make a meaningful comparison anyway by looking at the concentration of violent American deaths and 19 over the average number of cruise passengers per week.

That is 16 per 100,000 against 6.5 per 100,000 when adjusted to compare only the time spent on the cruise (assuming a week). However, even after this, we still need to account for the fact that the effort involved in taking a cruise would strongly select against folks with major depression and that socio-economic factors would select against anyone likely to be a victim of homicide. I imagine we would find a mild to moderate increase in risk of violent death for the population involved, not one that would worry me too much, but one that I would suggest is statistically present.

On the other hand, without working out the math, the violent death rate for sailing employees looks appalling.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:44 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


a more meaningful comparison, sigh... long day...
posted by Blasdelb at 3:45 PM on November 14, 2011


adrianhon -- interesting observations. I've been on three cruises, I think (two Carnival and one Royal Caribbean), and while they are not my preferred form of vacation, they are not terrible. The passengers on the low-end cruises tend to be the type of fiftysomething men for whom muscle shirts are a wardrobe staple, couples who wear matching Harley Davidson sportswear, and people who order filet mignon "well done," so I am not surprised that people on Metafilter voice a visceral loathing of the very idea of cruise vacations. But, if you can get past your disgust at mingling with the hoi polloi, cruises can be fun just for their uniqueness. You're staying in what is kind of like a capsule hotel room but which may have a balcony, there are lots of cheesy but entertaining shows, there's plenty of food (which can be pretty good). It's an interesting experience.
posted by jayder at 5:57 PM on November 14, 2011


if you can get past your disgust at mingling with the hoi polloi...

Clearly what we need is to organize a Meta cruise. It would be non-disgusting but also hilarious, exciting, intellectually stimulating and genuinely scary.
posted by storybored at 9:55 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


And everyone would discover that, they too, are hoi polloi.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:03 AM on November 15, 2011


Clearly what we need is to organize a Meta cruise. It would be non-disgusting but also hilarious, exciting, intellectually stimulating and genuinely scary.
posted by storybored


Sounds like a supposedly un-fun thing I'd do again and again.
posted by argonauta at 10:05 AM on November 15, 2011


Via Jon Ronson on Twitter - an email from a former Disney Wonder crew member, posted with her permission, relating to the story
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:36 AM on November 24, 2011


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