TravelTalkRADIO interview Ken Carver, President of the International Cruise Victims Association

We want to welcome Ken Carver. He is the President of the International Cruise Victims Association and he represents a very large group of people who have something very important to be said and to be thought about and to be acted on. We’re going to bring him in now and talk about it. Ken, thank you so much for joining me again.

Carver: It’s my pleasure Sandy, always good to talk to you.

Sandy: It is always good to talk to you and we have had a lot of conversations since our first interview here and I believe that was on April 5th. And of course, you can go on into our April 5th archives and listen to those segments in their entirety there. But since we have talked on radio, you and I have done a lot of talking about how we can get the word out because this has become a very important issue here at TravelTalkMEDIA. We have seen the importance of the International Cruise Victims Association and their message and how we need to get further on with this. Let’s first of all talk about the International Cruise Victims Association and just recap a little bit for some of the people who are just listening for the first time.

Carver: International Cruise Victims, or I simplify it to ICV, was started on approximately January 1st of 2006. I had been through a congressional hearing in December 2005, in which our daughter’s case, Merrian Carver, was discussed along with one other case referring to the Smith family boy who went missing – the honeymoon couple. And, after that congressional hearing, I came to the conclusion that there was a major problem with the cruise line industry. A book had came out in the summer of 2005 called Devil in the Deep Blue Sea and it, in effect, said in that book that the method of handling crimes on cruise ship was cover-up. And we had personally experienced that, Sandy. When our daughter went missing, we had to trace her to a cruise ship and, after spending 75 thousand dollars and 4 and ½ months, got to a steward – that’s all we wanted to talk to – to find out that in fact they had covered up her disappearance and provided misinformation to us for months. I think they never thought we would pursue it. So anyway, after the congressional hearing in December 2005, I came to the conclusion that there was a major problem with this industry, but I couldn’t solve it as an individual. The Smith family couldn’t solve it as an individual family. But maybe there were some other families out there that had had similar problems. And, in fact, there were other families out there, so we started with about 4 families at that starting point. And from that point, our organization, literally with no money, I’m saying that no money so any contributions would be helpful, we had literally gone around the world and now have members in over 16 countries. They include crewmembers, women that have been sexually assaulted, people who have gone lost on excursions, and the list goes on and on.

Sandy: Can I ask you something here about the membership? Are these victims who have never been compensated, or been brought to trial, or are these victims that have really just been left out of any kind of judicial system?
Carver: Well, some of these people have taken legal action against the cruise line, and maybe they worked out a settlement. We took legal action against the cruise line and reached a settlement. However, many of them are unknown cases, they didn’t take legal action. And Sandy, you just opened up a door that I want to talk about for a couple of minutes. When we got into Merrian’s case and then later on figured out that they had, in effect, not provided us with any accurate information concerning her disappearance – which they were aware of the third week of after she went missing – we filed a lawsuit after about 14 months and this is something. Carol and I are not people that would file a lawsuit, that’s just not our nature; I have been a CEO of an insurance company.
Sandy: Kind of an oxymoron to think of it: a CEO of an insurance company filing a lawsuit. You’re right.

Carver: You’re right, that’s just not in our nature, but their treatment and approach was so gross, we just felt we had to take some action. Well, when you file a lawsuit against a cruise line, you reach several obstacles. First of all, there’s a bill called DOSHA (The Death on the High Sea Act) which was passed 70 years ago, which, in effect, says that if a cruise ship is more than 12 miles outside the limits of the United States and an individual dies, you are prevented from obtaining any significant settlement against the cruise lines. Now this was changed for the airlines, Sandy. There was, I believe, a TWA flight that went down a few years ago, and the law was changed that where the airline was negligent, in fact you could take action, but the cruise lines were never included. So, in effect, they’ve prevented many people from taking any action even though clearly they were at fault. And in our case, they came back to us and the first thing is to dismiss the case. They wanted it dismissed based upon a previous court ruling [Kermarec]. Well, for those who that be interested in knowing this, the University of San Francisco puts out a law journal, and in the last issue, Volume 20, Number 2, there is a article titled “High crimes on the High Seas and Reevaluating Cruise Line Legal Liability.” I’m just going to summarize what happened. Up until 1959, cruise lines had the total responsibility for their passengers. I mean, you’re on a cruise ship, you can’t get off; I mean you’re under their total care and responsibility and they were legally liable for anything that would happen. But in 1959, an individual went on a cargo ship which had nothing to do with a cruise line. They went on to visit a friend; the ship was in a port, the guy slipped in fell. And, in that case, the court ruled that he could get off the ship, he was there voluntarily, that they only had to provide reasonable care. Well, this had nothing to do with the cruise line, but in fact the cruise line industry picked up that legal ruling, and now take the legal position that they have no legal obligation to investigate a crime on a cruise ship. So, that’s the first obstacle.

Sandy: So, have they admitted that? Ken, we’ve got to wrap this up; we’re going to take a quick break and come back. Has the cruise line industry pretty much admitted that?
Carver: Well, it’s in a legal memorandum that we have. That that is their legal position; that they are under no obligation to investigate crimes.

Sandy: Ken lost his daughter about – was it 2006 or 2004 Ken?
Carver: 2004.

Sandy: 2004, Ken. And Merrian has not been found, and it has been a part of his mission to find out, is there a cover up? And we certainly have found out that yes, there is a cover up, and it is time to change some things. And I want to preface this, is this is not about not cruising, this is not about putting cruise lines in the situation that we don’t cruise. We want to cruise, we just think it is time for a change and it is time to evaluate what the processes are for safety and security for cruise guests. Ken, thank you so much for joining us, you have been doing a tremendous job. You’ve really been devoting your life to this haven’t you?

Carver: It’s been a 7 day a week job for the last several years, since Merrian disappeared, and it’s evolved from dealing with our daughter, to dealing with the bigger issues of the cruise line and the safety of the passengers, so it continues to be an evolving process.

Sandy: You know, your strength is incredible and I know that we here working at Travel Talk Media have felt it, and we are really very happy to be a part of the team to really gets this information out. This is something that is very important that we as citizens of the world, people who are working in the industry, people who are enjoying cruises at a rate of fabulous numbers, but we have to pay attention at security and safety issues, and we all have a responsibility to do this. We are very excited to know that John Kerry, the Senator from Massachusetts and the congresswoman from California. What is her name again Ken?

Carver: Representative Matsui.

Sandy: Yes, they have both authored bills that are in the House and Senate right now, that hopefully will be able to come in and provide transparency for cruise lines that people will understand what has happened to their loved ones. Ken, let’s go ahead and keep going on this issue and what’s happening and what we can do as individuals to make a difference?
Carver: Well, I think number one, it’s a matter of awareness. People have never been aware of the potential for crime on a cruise ship. It’s not been publicized. Women are raped. It doesn’t make the paper. There are hardly any convictions because the cruise lines, as I said in the earlier segment, take the position, that they do not investigate the crimes. They say, “We call the FBI and FBI has told us in meetings in Washington that they do not have the resources to follow up on these crimes.” And as a result, I think in 2005 and 2006 there were only 4 convictions each year of any crimes on the high seas. So, it’s an area that people never thought about. And let me just say this; we do not want to destroy the cruise lines. But we do want the cruise lines to be responsible. If you’re at a resort here in this country, and you’re raped or something happens, the police come and action is taken, and those that are responsible are convicted of the crime. That’s what we want. We want action to be taken, appropriate action, which will mean that if there is a crime, if a woman is raped on the ship, that the individual that has done the crime is held accountable. And I might just share that in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been advised that the cruise lines used to call the person that met somebody that had been victimized that they were from “Risk Management.” Well, that’s kind of harsh term, so they’ve now changed the term to “Customer Care.” “I’m the Customer Care Representative.” And that would say that they are going to put their arms around you, and help you out, and in some regard they may be doing that. But there is another step in that process that the individual is not aware of because it is not disclosed. That in some of these cases the customer care representative actually is obtaining information about the crime, passing it to his supervisors, who in effect are then giving it to the lawyers for the cruise line. Now how does this come into play? Well, it’s also been disclosed in recent depositions that at least one, and probably all the cruise lines, but I can’t say to that, but at least one of the cruise lines is then paying for the lawyers to defend the crewmember. So, if a crewmember rapes a woman, instead of having that person convicted, the poor victim has to go out and find a lawyer and they have to take their case in many cases to Florida, and then in fact the cruise line has been paying for the lawyers to defend the crewmembers. So, the poor victim doesn’t have a chance in the whole process.

Sandy: I would imagine, too, that the cruise lines would then not even share that information that the customer care people have taken from the victim with the victim’s lawyer.

Carver: No, and until the last week or so, Sandy, I don’t think that anyone was aware of the fact they were using that information given to their lawyers to defend the crewmembers. And, so, the deck has been stacked against the victims.
Sandy: Well you know I want to go back to that statement that you just made. Between 2005 and 2006 there were only four convictions each year of any kind of crime on a cruise ship. Now, there…

Carver: Well let me interrupt you. Any crime on the high sea. That includes cargo ships, pleasure boats, any crime on the high seas in addition to cruise ships.

Sandy: Thank you for clarifying. Only four convictions on the high seas, and we are talking about millions of people. I mean we’re talking about huge communities of 3000 people on one ship, sometimes. So, that really doesn’t make since does it?
Carver: Well, it doesn’t make sense to me, and there has to be accountability. Not only have there been few convictions, but if somebody is raped at a resort here in the country, it becomes public record. The cruise lines have kept this information from being made public and that’s one of the many items that the legislation deals with. Because we found that the crime rate varies significantly with the particular ship that the individual is on. If they take a 3 or 4 day cruise out of San Diego or Los Angeles, those tend to be fun ships, and the crime rate goes up dramatically.

Sandy: We have found out that we do have a problem and we have an opportunity to make it right. We have some legislation in the Senate and the House, and if you are in the United States and can make a call to your Senator or your Congressmen, this is the time to do it. We have some information at our website at or also, and on our newsletter for the last three or four, almost maybe about a month and a half now we have been putting that on. This is something that’s timely, and if we all pay attention, we can make a difference. It’s not about not cruising; it’s about cruising safely. Ken, thank you for joining us. You know, I want to talk to you a little about what people can do and the difference they can make

Carver: Yes, well, we need the support of your audience. Let me just tell you what we are up against as we move forward, and we are making tremendous project in Washington, but in the year 2006 the cruise lines spent for professional lobbying activities 2 million dollars. The next year they spent 2 million eight, and as the visibility of our legislation improves, last year they spent 6 million dollars to avoid any legislation in Washington. But fortunately, Senator John Kerry in the Senate and Representative Doris Matsui in the House have championed the cause. In the House, there’s a bill; it’s 1485, that’s the House number. In the Senate its Senate bill 588 and we strongly ask that people contact their congressional delegation. Tell them to support this major effort, and writing a letter. I think Sandy has some sample letters on her website, and you can go in to our website at to obtain additional information. But the public has to speak to the subject. And as more and more people have become aware of the problem, they have joined us. I want to say this, on Monday of this week I was in Fort Lauderdale meeting with 27 cruise line executives. And I said, “Work with us. What we’re proposing in the legislation is commonsense items and instead of spending 6 million…” and I said, “You know, maybe your willing to spend 8 million next year to avoid legislation. Instead, work with us, because these are items that would be good for business that people don’t have to worry that there is accountability. So, we suggest that you contact your congressional people, take action, because we are not proposing things that are really out of line. They would just make cruising safer and more fun for everybody.

Sandy: Absolutely, and let’s make that happen everyone. Thank you so much, Ken, for joining us. I really appreciate all the time you’ve spent with us. I know you have on so many programs around the country promoting the idea of this legislation being passed, and this is very important. Thank you for all you’ve done opening our eyes, and so many of our audiences’ too, and I want to thank all of you for passing the word on to your friends and family, too. Ken, thank you very much for joining us.

Carver: Yes, great, always good to talk to you Sandy.

The full radio interview is available for listening at