In June 2010, a 23-year-old British citizen named Rebecca Coriam was interviewed in London for a shipboard position with Disney Cruise. She was hired over hundreds of other applicants, and received four months of training at Disney facilities in Florida. She then worked for four months on cruises to and from the Bahamas, after which she returned to Britain for two months.
Her next assignment was working with other young people on board the Disney Wonder, based in Los Angeles. She was on board the ship when it left port for a Mexican cruise on March 21, 2011. She sent a message via Facebook to her parents in Britain that she would call them the next day. Their next report was from a Disney official saying that Rebecca had missed her work shift and could not be located. Since then, despite some evidence suggesting that she may still be alive, there have been no confirmed sightings of Rebecca Coriam.
The mysterious case has attracted international attention and allegations that Disney was not totally forthcoming with information. “The investigation into Rebecca’s disappearance was appalling,” said Stephen Mosley, MP for the City of Chester, home of the Coriam family.
The last confirmed sighting of Rebecca was on March at 5:45 a.m., about three hours before she was scheduled to begin work. A shipboard security camera recorded her presence in a crew area, talking on an internal telephone. She reportedly appeared tp be upset. A young man walked up to her and asked if everything was all right. She clearly replied, “Yeah, fine,” after which she hung up.
After she failed to show up for work, crew searched the ship but found no sign of Rebecca. U.S. and Mexican navy vessels searched international waters where the Wonder had been sailing, also with no result.
Three days after her disappearance, a detective from the Bahamas, where the Wonder is registered, flew to the ship to investigate. He reportedly spent several days on board, but nothing is known what, if anything, came of the investigation.
Rebecca’s parents, Mike and Annmaria Coriam, flew from England to Los Angeles, where they met the Wonder upon its return to port. They have said that the Bahamanian detective told them that he had investigated for only one day, not several, and that he interviewed only a few crew members and no passengers. They also said that they were brought on board the Wonder only after the passengers had disembarked.
They said the captain told them he believed that Rebecca had been washed overboard from the crew pool area, a story they found implausible because of the high protective walls around it. (The crew pool is on Deck 5 of the ship.) They later met with Disney executives and with the woman with whom Rebecca had been talking on the phone. Later they were brought to her cabin and given her belongings.
In early May 2011, a few weeks after Rebecca’s parents returned home, her bank sent them an e-mail saying that someone had tried to gain access to one of her accounts on April 19. “The fact that her credit card’s been used could only mean someone has stolen it or she’s still alive,” Mike Coriam told a British newspaper. The card was not among her possessions.
In September, an uncle of Rebecca’s said the password to her Facebook account had been changed. He did not know by whom.
One day before the anniversary of her disappearance, her father received an e-mail from a woman who said she was “85 percent sure” she had seen Rebecca with a dark-haired man in Venice, Italy, the previous August. The family’s website had roused her memory, the woman said. “It was very upsetting for everyone to think she could be out there somewhere after all this time,” her uncle said. However, he noted, Rebecca’s passport was among the items her parents retrieved from the ship.
That October, a British journalist sailed on the Wonder and discreetly asked questions. Several crew members who had been on the ship at the time of Rebecca’s disappearance spoke to him on condition of anonymity. They suggested that more was known about her fate than Disney or the Bahamanian police had publicly admitted.
The journalist concluded that Rebecca, an avid jogger, had probably slipped and fallen while jogging along a Deck 4 track. However, none of the security cameras in that area showed any sign of her. A crew member told him that Rebecca had gone overboard from the crew pool on Deck 5, and that this was common knowledge on board. “Disney knows exactly what happened,” one worker said. “Everything here is taped.” Noting the high walls surrounding the pool,and an abundance of security cameras, the journalist was skeptical.
The possessions reclaimed by Rebecca’s parents included a slipper, or pair of slippers, which reportedly were found near the crew pool. However, a crew member said they were not the size or style that Rebecca would wear. The Coriams agreed that they were too small for her, and said no forensics had ever been done on them.
Describing Rebecca as always cheerful and upbeat, her parents dismiss the idea of suicide, as do her friends among the crew. “[W]e know she would never harm herself,” said her father. “We just know. That’s why we have been totally mystified from day one.” The Coriams said Disney officials had told them that Rebecca was drunk and furious on the footage, banging her head into the walls, but the video gave no evidence to support these claims. They also said the woman on the other end of the phone conversation told them Rebecca had been upset initially, but quickly cooled down. At the end of the talk, she said, Rebecca announced that she was going to her cabin.
“We’ve never believed she simply disappeared overboard and drowned,” said Mike Coriam almost two months later. “Maybe she fell in the water and was picked up by a fishing boat. Maybe she lost her memory and is in a little village in Mexico. Maybe she was attacked. Maybe she was on board after all and got off.”
Whatever the truth, the British journalist has said that the Coriams have received no further updates from Disney on the progress of the investigation, and that the Bahamian detective has never returned any of his phone calls. The Coriams have been joined in their criticism of the investigation by British government officials, Rebecca’s friends among the crew, and advocates for victims of other incidents on cruise ships and their families. The latter, especially, note that 170 passengers and crew have disappeared from cruise ships since 2000, many without being seriously investigated or widely reported.