Sexual Assault

John And Chantal Hopkins

Two Children Sexually Assaulted by a “Carnival Cruise Line” Employee 
In July 2004, on the last night aboard a Carnival Cruise ship, our cabin steward called the cabin occupied by our 13-year old daughter and her 12-year old friend. The two18-year old girls, who were also sharing the same cabin, had gone dancing. It was the last evening for them to enjoy the cruise, their high school graduation gift. My husband and I were sleeping in the adjacent cabin, but had always left both balcony doors open.
At approximately 12:30 AM, our cabin steward called and asked the younger girls if they would like drinks delivered to their cabin. They replied, “Yes, a COKE”. However, when he arrived, he delivered beer, rather than the sodas they had requested. Upon gaining entry to the room, he proceeded to sexually assault both children by French-kissing both of them… and continued by pulling down the skirt of the younger child, my daughter’s 12-year old friend….
Immediately following the assault, both girls ran to our cabin, literally shaking and hysterical, and alerted us to what had just transpired. We were so shocked and so upset that we immediately proceeded to the Purser’s Desk (with the girls) to report the assault. While reporting the assault, my husband was actually told by the desk attendant to keep his voice down!
Three security personnel accompanied us back to the girls’ cabin, where we each of us gave our written statements. The unopened beer cans still remained in the room for their own observation.
After taking our statements, the security crewmembers left the cabin, but not before pitching a marketing statement for us to consider booking our next cruise with Carnival. How insensitive and inappropriate was that? We were so stunned with their response. We could not actually believe what we were hearing…Within one-hour of two children being sexually assaulted and nearly raped by a Carnival employee, they actually suggested our consideration for a future cruise!
At a minimum, we expected the ship’s Captain to contact us or at least come to our cabin to extend an apology and an explanation as to what type of action would be taken against this employee/assailant, but we failed to receive so much as a call or acknowledgement of this crime. We were merely handed a sheet of paper by Security, bearing the telephone phone numbers of the FBI and the local police department in New Orleans. That was it! That was Carnival’s routine procedure of handling an attempted rape of two children.
When we disembarked that morning, we headed to the airport, where we contacted the New Orleans Police Department. Since it was Sunday, they suggested that it would be best for us to return home to California and continue dealing with the situation from there.
We spent day after day on the telephone, but to no avail. When we contacted Carnival’s Guest Relations, the comment we received was, “Your girls are fine” and again, suggested that we book another cruise through Carnival. I replied, “You MUST be kidding!” Could they possibly be serious to think that we would take another cruise? We were all still in shock and in tears over this terrifying experience. We have since interpreted this callous response as “robotic” and totally “unbelievable”, but obviously, this is their normal course of business, when dealing with a crime.
As a result of Carnival’s reaction (lack of action), as well as the reaction of the police in New Orleans, we saw no alternative but to consult with a local attorney, who filed a class action lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Line. After providing our attorney with the details and a photo of the assailant, she subpoenaed documents, believing this was not the first time that the employee had assaulted minors or other passengers. Obviously, he had planned this very well.
All we really wanted was written proof that this employee had been terminated, but due to employee privacy rights, Carnival claimed they were unable to release this information; therefore, as far as we know, this cabin steward may still be employed by Carnival Cruise Line. It’s extremely important that potential passengers be aware of this, before considering a cruise vacation, especially with children.
For a parent, as well as the temporary guardian of my daughter’s 12-year old friend, this has been a total nightmare, and an emotional roller coaster for all of us. Although both families have continued to remain friends, as you well know, the entire experience will always remain imbedded in our minds.
The photo album of our 2004 Carnival Cruise vacation still remains empty. This cruise will always be a nightmare for all of us.
Clearly, there MUST be stricter employee screenings/background checks, improved hallway security with cameras, improved guest relations and crime reporting procedures. Until then, this is not a safe-haven for anyone planning a family vacation.