Illnesses/Injuries/Bodily Assault

Gayle Smith- McDonald

On July 25, 2005, I was on the Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship, Navigator of the Seas, with my husband and seven children. I was assaulted by another passenger and nearly drowned, while the ship’s pool attendant stood by and refused to intervene.

A woman was sitting on the edge of the pool in the shallow deck area, yelling at children for splashing her. She left the pool and returned with the pool attendant, who began monitoring the pool activities. In his presence, she seemed to be less vocal, so I swam over to the ladder and attempted to exit the pool. She blocked and grabbed me, and began using racial slurs. Despite my request for assistance, the pool attendant did nothing to stop the confrontation.

Eventually, I broke free from her grasp and began to swim back to the other side of the pool. She swam after me and attacked me from behind. She started punching me in the back of the neck, while forcing my head underwater, and then lunged on top of me. When I finally managed to surface, I could hear my 6-year old son screaming hysterically. I felt several more blows to the back of my neck and head, as she continued to force me underwater. While she was pulling my hair out and shaking my head, I thought I was going to drown.

My husband immediately came to my rescue and physically removed the assailant from me. While chocking and grasping for air, my husband escorted me to the ladder to exit the pool. I began screaming to the pool attendant to get help, but he simply stared at me and made no attempt to assist. My son was also yelling for help, but the attendant failed to react.

As I exited the pool with my husband, the woman attempted to assault me again; however, my husband blocked her. I stood directly in front of the pool attendant and again asked him to provide assistance by contacting Security, but he refused.

The assailant began shouting racial remarks at my husband and me. My son was hysterical, grabbing onto me and screaming for help. We asked the attendant to detain her, while we sought assistance from Security. Again, he refused, and gestured for the woman to leave the pool. They exited together.

We immediately went to the purser’s desk to report the attack, but it was too crowded, so we left to call Security from our cabin. Although we called numerous times, there was no answer. At this point, we dialed 911.

Sometime later, the head of Security came to our cabin and provided us with an incident form. He asked us to complete it and leave it for the cabin steward. He showed very little interest in the assault that had just taken place.

Twice, I went to the ship’s infirmary, due to my severe injuries, where I was issued prescription medications and instructed to follow-up with my own doctor when we returned home.

The following is a summary of the lack of assistance by the cruise ship’s Security and other staff, after the assault:

  • Failure to answer the phone after repeated calls
  • Delay of medical attention, while awaiting Security’s arrival
  • Refusal to conduct an investigation of the assault
  • Failure to interview witnesses, including my 6-year old son
  • Destruction of the video tapes, the evidence of the assault (Later claimed by RCCL)
  • Being forced to conduct our own investigation and locate the assailant
  • Ignoring the ongoing harassment by the assailant throughout the remainder of the cruise
  • Advised that security personnel was restricted from further discussing this incident with us

Had it not been for my husband’s intervention, this incident would have escalated from an aggravated assault to a homicide. I was physically and emotionally injured from this attack and spent months recovering. My family and I especially my smallest son will never be the same again.