Hundreds Of Passengers Have Said They Were Sexually Assaulted On Cruise Ships. Their Stories Highlight Years Of Lax Security, Critics Say.

Now 21 years old, the alleged victim has spoken out about her experience for the first time. (BuzzFeed News is referring to her as “G.” to protect her identity.) Then just 11 years old, G. was on the cruise with her grandmother and little sister and was excited about the vacation. “Automatically, as a child, you think it’s going to be amazing,” she said.

Before the ship had even cast off for the Caribbean, G. went downstairs to get the Wi-Fi password, she told BuzzFeed News. “I asked the person that was outside of the restaurant for directions to the lobby,” she recalled. “And when he guided me, he immediately grabbed on my boobs.” 

G. ran to the lobby in search of someone who could tell her the Wi-Fi password. She said she “was scared to go through the same direction” on the way back because she might cross paths with the man who had touched her. But she needed to return to her room and feared getting lost on the giant ship.

As G. walked past the restaurant, she got into an elevator. She said the same employee followed her in, blocking the doors. “He said, ‘Can I have a kiss?’” she recalled. “I gave him a kiss on the cheek, and he said, ‘No, not there.’” She then alleged that the employee leaned down, kissed her on the mouth. 

After he let her go, G. ran to her room in tears. “I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

She said she told her grandmother why she was so distraught, and they went to the lobby to report what happened to guest services. G. said they asked her about the incident and what the employee looked like and promised it would be investigated. 

Taplin, who was on board at the time, said she watched the elevator surveillance footage, which confirmed the child’s version of events. Later, G. said she was asked to identify the assailant by looking at photographs of four employees. According to both Taplin and G., the girl identified the assailant as a waiter at one of the ship’s restaurants. 

Taplin said she did her best to investigate the case but claimed she was obstructed throughout the process. She claimed she told one of the ship’s senior officers to call the FBI while the boat was still docked in Port Canaveral, Florida. But the officer decided to cast off at around 5 p.m. and did not inform the FBI until the ship was in international waters. 

Afterward, Taplin said, the senior officer interviewed the accused crew member while she was present. The official report of the meeting, obtained by BuzzFeed News, states that the crew member “hesitated, but eventually denied kissing the girl” and only gave her a “high five and hug.”

Taplin said that what wasn’t included in the report was that during the meeting, the officer had threatened the crew member, saying, “I’m going to cut off your dick right now” and that he would remove the crew member’s testicles and “put his balls in his mouth.”

When the ship docked in the Bahamas the next day, local police officers arrived. According to Taplin, the police berated and threatened the alleged attacker, pressuring him to confess. “It was just so wrong,” Taplin said. “I mean, you got him red-handed with what he’d done, right?”

In the end, he signed a statement that Taplin alleged was written by the Bahamian police. “I touched her right breast with my left hand,” the signed confession reads. However, Taplin noted that the alleged suspect was not arrested. Instead, he was repatriated to the state of Goa, in India. 

G. said she was so scared for the rest of the vacation that she didn’t want to leave her grandmother’s side and never felt safe on board again. She said she could only relax during a stop at Castaway Cay, a private Caribbean island that Disney owns, because she knew her assailant wouldn’t be there.

After G. reported the attack, she said that Disney instructed the employee who was cleaning her room to demonstrate how they create little animals out of the towels and they put a princess bedspread on her bed. “But that was basically it,” she said. After she got home from her cruise, G. said that her family only heard from Disney once to tell them that the accused crew member had been deported.