I was very dismayed to read the article on the Congressional Hearings on Cruise Ship Safety. I wasn't dismayed that Congress was holding hearings (although I do consider it a waste of time and money), I was dismayed because the purported news article was written in first person but unsigned. Although I don't care for Ross Klein (I don't like his vendetta against Regent), a "news article" is not the place to criticize either him or Congress for letting him testify.
Has CruiseMates News gone awry?
For those that don't go to CruiseMates homepage, here is the article in its entirety. This does not violate any Copyright laws as this was posted on this same CruiseMates site.
Congressional Committee Hears Cruise Industry on Safety
During an open hearing by congress today, which was viewable via streaming media over the Internet, a somewhat calm and relaxed discussion about "cruise ship crime" was held. Though it was referred to as a hearing, there was no formality to the meeting in terms of who was allowed to attend or speak, nor was there a formal agreement about what needed to be decided.
The two congressmen who seemed to have the most interest in breaking the cruise industry down were Doris Matsui of California, the congresswoman for the district of Laurie Dishman, a Sacramento woman who apparently was sexually assaulted on a Royal Caribbean ship, though no charges were brought due to an FBI assertion of lack of evidence. The alleged perpetrator was a Royal Caribbean security guard who had just been promoted to the position from janitor, and the line says he broke rules regarding drinking and fraternizing with passengers.
Another congressmen was Chris Shays of Connecticut, of the district for George Allen Smith who disappeared on a Mediterranean cruise two years ago, also on Royal Caribbean, however in this incident no cruise line personnel were involved.
Two things stood out during these hearings. First, there did seem to be a pattern of the cruise line not trying hard enough to preserve evidence, especially in the Dishman case. It did show that some standardization of rules regarding crime scene preservation are in order, and that it should be done with the assistance and guidance of an outside legal entity other than the cruise line itself, such as the FBI.
Along those lines, an agreement between the cruise lines and the FBI to work together to come up with a system where all crimes that are reported will be recorded and and kept on file, regardless of whether or not charges are ever brought, was announced at the hearing. This is a step above the current system where only events in cases where charges are actually filed are currently kept in the record books.
The second thing that I couldn't help seeing about these hearings was the obviously uninformed opinion of the two congressmen mentioned above who are pressing hardest for reforms. It was vastly obvious neither of them had ever been on a cruise. It just strikes me that they would be astounded at the difference between what they appear to think a cruise is like and what a cruise is actually like. Representative Matsui said she was "afraid" to take her family on a cruise because of the things she has heard. While Shays said he was once on a boat where he "got so seasick he wanted to kill himself" left little doubt that he is among the group of Bostonites who still see ocean voyages as something akin to what the pilgrims encountered.
Now, I agree that some standardization of cruise line security would be a very good thing. Even oversight by independent U.S. Marshalls would be agreeable to me, I don't see how that could cause any harm. But what these hearings really pointed out to me was the level at which cruise misperception continues in this nation; that they are wild party ships where inbridaled alcohol abuse, and possibly drug use in some people's minds, leads to people getting so intoxicated they forget their names, lose all control over their actions and cannot remember what happened to them the night before.
Ross Klein, perveyor or cruise misinformation through misleading innuendo and questionable reporting, was in the hearing, though I am not sure what credentials he has to be invited other than the fact that he has two books that do little more than repeat unreliable stories, a reporting tactic that reminds me of the National Enquirer policy of "this person says this happened, and if someone said it, we can report that they said it whether it is true or not." He was tactfully told "that will be enough" by the congressman leading the proceedings after he told a few of his anecdotes.
Here is the bottom line. I am for independent policing of the cruise lines, it could only make the cruise experience safer. The vast, vast majority of people who go on a cruise are not interested in breaking any laws, so the presence of security could only enhance the experience for most people and lend a greater credibility factor to the cruise experience. The fact that the cruise lines want to do it voluntarily is only a reflection of the same desire most of us have not to be over regulated and inundated with bureacratic rigamarole.
So Congress, thank you for giving the cruise indusry a chance to do this their own way. I truly believe the industry wants the same thing you want. We don't have anything to hide.
On a side note, regarding Ross Klein: As I watch the House Committee on Cruise Ship Safety with people like Ross Klein testifying, I wonder why he was invited and I was not. After all, all he has done is write a two extremely biased books about what he perceives to be major problems with the cruise industry. Having read both of Mr. Klein's books, I can say they are some of the worst reporting I have ever read. For the most part, his entire first book is comprised of repeated "interviews" he did surreptitiously with crew members and other passengers where he asked them questions designed to support his own conclusions and twisted their interpretations until they fit his preconceived biased notions. The rest of the book is regurgitated press reports of every little wrong thing the industry has done or said in the last 30 years.
He tells a story about a female crew member crying on Christmas Eve because she misses her family as conclusive evidence that crewpeople are treated inhumanely. There is another long diatribe about a conspiracy between a Radisson bartender and a hotel manager to torture him by subjecting him to Rap music while he sat drinking at a bar. He claims he asked the bartender to turn the music down, which he would barely do, then when Klein wasn't looking he would turn it back up. So he took the matter to the hotel manager, whom he saw later in the cruise smiling at the same bartender, as he sat at the same bar drinking. In his book that became a conspiracy to intentionally ridicule and torture him. He still hasn't gotten over this experience, and is one of his favorite stories to tell about the "true" nature of cruise line's disregard for their passengers.
So, if having taken 30 cruises, and having your cruise writing published is the only requirement for being a "cruise expert" able to testify before Congress, why wasn't I invited? After all, not only do I write about cruising, I worked aboard cruise ships for years making me far more privy to crew living conditions and onboard life than Mr. Klein will ever be. So, for the record, I don't think Ross Klein is any kind of expert about cruising at all, especially when expertise requires "objectivity." I have never once heard Klein say anything good about cruise lines on the record, yet he has taken many of cruises as vacations over the years.
As they say in the hearings repeatedly, "it is worth noting" that a look at Ross Kein's credentials will reveal a person whose only qualification for being in this hearing is that he is a disgruntled cruise passenger who wrote the world's longest complaint letter in the form of two books. And he is still mad that Radisson, now Regent, didn't fire that bartender.