On December 23, 2000, I boarded Royal Caribbean’s “Legend of the Seas” for a 14- night Christmas and New Year’s cruise to New Zealand. Our party consisted of 10 family members.
On January 2, 2001, I was walking from the top sun deck to my cabin on Level 4 with my, then, 3-year-old son. While waiting for an elevator, I noticed a male in his mid-thirties, large build, who appeared to be following us.
I had never seen this man before. I got into the elevator with my son and as the doors closed, the man appeared to run towards the stairwell. Instead of going to Level 4, I pushed the elevator button and got out on a higher deck. As I did, the man was coming down the steps. As he saw us, he turned away in a poor attempt to disguise the fact that he was following us. I got back in the elevator and went down to the 4th Level. When I came out of the elevator, I again saw that this man was starting to come down the stairs to this same level.
In my previous occupation, I had worked for more than 10 years as a Police Officer in Sydney and I was aware that this male was following us for some reason. I remained calm and gave no indication to the male that I was aware of his advances. In doing so, I walked from the elevator to the corridor with my son immediately behind me. As I turned the corner, I stopped because my son had failed to follow me. I turned, only to see that this male had hold of my son’s arm.
I immediately lunged forward, breaking the man’s grip on my son. With one hand, I ushered my son behind me, and with the other I pushed the male backwards and shouted, “What the hell are you doing?” Twice this male came at me, and twice I punched him, making contact with his face. The male went down to the ground, where I held him. I saw a cabin steward and shouted for her to call Security.
Security failed to arrive after quite some time, and my 3-year old son had become very upset. I, then, released the man, and returned to my cabin to comfort my son. Thirty minutes or so later, I heard an announcement come over the ship’s speaker… “Would David Gabriel from Cabin Number R1234 please report to the Purser’s Desk? ”
I waited for my family to return to the cabin to care for my son, before I went to the Purser’s Desk. I was upset about what had taken place, and was looking forward to and expecting some support and assistance from the ship’s Security and crew. How wrong I was!
From the moment I arrived at the Purser’s Desk, I was met with rude, arrogant, and some of the most uncaring people I have ever met in my life. I was told to come back in the morning, as the Captain wanted to see me. I attempted to tell the story of the man who was stalking my son, but was told they did not want to hear it, as the Captain would be handling the matter. I couldn’t believe that these people were not prepared to act immediately upon receiving advice that there was a potential child molester on their ship. They wouldn’t even tell me if they knew who he was. They offered no assistance whatsoever.
The following morning, I arrived as planned to meet with the Captain, a Canadian by the name of Rick Sullivan. I entered his office, expecting that he would have already made some inquiries regarding the situation, and would be offering his support, maybe even apologizing for the lack of assistance from his Purser’s Desk and Security. How wrong I was again!
From the moment I walked into his office, the Captain did not even look me in the eye. He stayed seated in his chair, while I stood there, and he read something along the lines of… ” I am the Commanding Officer of this vessel and an incident has been reported to me. As this ship is in an enclosed environment, we cannot have these types of incidents taking place. To ensure this, I am directing that you be removed from the ship immediately.”
I couldn’t believe it, and thought it must be some kind of joke! I said, “Captain, do you even know what happened?” The Captain replied, “What happened is not relevant. What IS relevant is that there be no repeat of it, and to ensure that, I have directed that you be removed from the ship. There will be no further discussion. Goodbye.”
With that, two of the ship’s security personnel escorted me off the ship… no baggage, no goodbyes to the other 9 family members on board. My wallet, mobile phone, and the clothes on my back were all I had. Once on the pier, I was able to call my family, using my mobile phone, and advised them that I had been removed from the ship. My family, including my 3-year-old son, was still on the ship, as was the “molester “, as far as I knew.
My family was very upset and became involved in heated arguments at the Purser’s Desk. When asked what action had been taken against the unknown male, and if he was still on the ship, my wife was told that he no longer wanted to stay on the ship and had left voluntarily. This, at least, put my mind to rest, regarding my son’s immediate safety.
We had all looked forward to this holiday for a long time. I asked that the other 9 family members stay on the ship, and told them that I would be OK. I would make my own way to Auckland and meet them at the completion of the cruise, which was only a few days away anyway.
I met my family in Auckland a few days later. In the meantime, I had spoken to my travel agent and advised her of the circumstances. My family spent the last few days on the ship, trying to get some answers from the senior management, but without success.
To this day, RCCL has never informed me who the male person identity… Was he a crewmember? A passenger? And what was his history? Was he a pedophile or just a strange man?
This incident happened 5 years ago and I am still very angry about it. Most of my anger stems from the fact that Royal Caribbean cared more about protecting their image and keeping a lid on any negative publicity, rather than the welfare of my son.
I still can’t fathom that Captain’s total disregard for not only the welfare of my child, but also the potential danger to every kid on that Holiday cruise. Despite my repeated requests, they wouldn’t even call the Police.
I am not seeking any monetary compensation or the like. All I have ever wanted was an apology and an explanation as to who this guy was and what was his agenda.
Since RCCL refuses to discuss this issue, then all I can do is to tell this story as it is, and in the day of the internet, the negative word-of-mouth regarding Royal Caribbean cruises may one day come back to bite them.
So there it is, another example of the imbedded culture that exists in avoiding negative publicity through any means, even at the expense of people’s safety and lives.