The elements of the newspaper
story read like the early chapters of an Agatha Christie novel. A
young bride on her honeymoon wakes up, still in her clothing from
the night before. She doesnt remember how she got back to her
cabin, and her husband is not there.
She goes to the spa
to keep an appointment for his-and-her massages that the couple had
scheduled, hoping he would show up. She is told shes 90 minutes
early. Her husband never arrives.
Blood is found in
her cabin and over the awning covering one of the ships
The log of the
cruise ship reveals that crew members had found the new bride
unconscious shortly after 4:30 a.m. on the floor of a lounge on the
same deck as her stateroom. Three crew members had put her in a
wheelchair and returned her to her cabin. Ship officials conclude
the husband has gone missing.
The mystery deepens
still. A group of four young men say they had been drinking heavily
with the husband the night before and had returned him to the cabin
before the wife was brought there by the crew.
report having heard a thud coming from the cabin sometime after 4
a.m. but before the bride was returned by the crew around 5 a.m.
The ship log reports there was a call at 4:05 a.m., complaining of
a loud party in the cabin.
Two days later, a
female passenger charges she was raped by a group of young men, who
turn out to be the same men seen drinking with the husband the
night he disappeared.
If it were an
Agatha Christie novel, there would be enough mysterious doings to
keep Hercule Poirot busy for at least 200 pages.
But at the end, as
he gathers all the characters into the lounge to unravel the
mystery, I cant imagine that his conclusion would be, The cruise
line did it.
Reading the news
reports last week, it felt very much like Royal Caribbean was on
trial, just as the island of Aruba was after the Natalee Holloway
It is a legitimate
part of both these inquiries to assess whether Royal Caribbean and
authorities in Aruba responded appropriately when tragedy occurred
in their jurisdictions.
And it is
understandable that frustrated families of victims will focus on
the behavior of those whose action (or inaction) can be interpreted
as hindering, rather than assisting, resolution.
Family members of
victims are not allowed to sit on juries -- emotion and reason are
too much in conflict. Absent that possibility, the victims families
seemed to have morphed into the role of prosecutor, focusing their
activities on the authorities who claim to have tried to help
I have no reason to
think the families want anything but justice for their missing
loved ones. And they have found a sympathetic ear in some quarters
of the media.
But the media -- in
some cases assuming a position that bears a closer resemblance to
Inspector Clouseau than to Hercule Poirot -- has seized on these
cases in a manner that gives the events disproportionate coverage
relative to other missing persons crimes.
If we ask ourselves
why, it wont bring us much comfort, but we might conclude that it
has as much to do with the nature of the travel industry as with
the nature of the media. We sell fun. We sell escape from problems.
We sell atmospheres where its OK to party.
private companies take credit for creating the environments in
which the fun occurs. They vie for attention with the media and
consumers to get that message across.
But when the
opposite of fun occurs, they find out only too well that their
message was effective, as they view the words of their own
marketing campaigns in painful juxtaposition to