Carnival? Try Criminal

What happens when a female passenger is assaulted on a cruise ship? Not much.

Over at the hospital, FBI agents Nesbitt Kuyrkendall and Alexis Carpinteri interviewed Jane. At 2:15 p.m. they called Bissonette and said they wanted to talk to Senes. No problem, Bissonette said. He passed the request on to his superiors.

But the company had already booked Senes a seat on a 5:00 p.m. British Airways flight back to Italy. Although agents tried to set up a meeting at a U.S. Customs office at the airport, the Carnival employees say they became confused. They held Senes at the departure gate. When the FBI agents didn't arrive, the Carnival guards allowed Senes to board. "[We] had an order from immigration to put him on the plane," Corrigan said during a deposition. "[We] also had an order to make the guy available before the plane left, and as far as I'm concerned [we] did that, but the FBI didn't turn up."

Attorney Gary Fox wonders why Carnival executives didn't order their people to detain Senes. "It's real simple," Fox sighs. "When the VP of operations is involved, all he has to say is 'Keep him there.'"

Carnival president Bob Dickinson is proud no employee has been successfully prosecuted for rape
AP/Wide World Photo
Carnival president Bob Dickinson is proud no employee has been successfully prosecuted for rape

Wieland met with the FBI and testified before a grand jury considering Senes's case. On September 15, a month after the alleged rape, the Italian engineer was indicted for sodomy. Italian police are holding him pending extradition to the United States, which he is fighting. In November 1998 Carnival declined to renew Wieland's contract. She is suing the company, alleging she was terminated in retaliation for cooperating with the feds. "Oh, [Carnival] likes to cover stuff up all the time," Wieland says.

As the New York Times and other media pummeled the industry, and Congress planned hearings this past summer, the International Council of Cruise Lines, a trade group, announced that its members, including Carnival, would voluntarily report all major crimes to authorities. No longer would they agree to honor victims' requests to withhold information about major crimes. The ships also started carrying rape kits for the first time in the company's history.

Jane Doe settled her case with Carnival for an undisclosed sum this past December. Carnival did not admit to any wrongdoing in the matter. Mary's case is pending. So is Wieland's whistleblower complaint. As of press time, there was no word on whether the grand jury had completed its inquiry into Carnival's mishandling of the Senes affair.

The prospect of congressional action still lingers. If lawmakers believe the cruise lines were repeatedly violating U.S. laws, they could limit their access to U.S. ports. "They really need to do something," comments Janice, whose 1998 trip was ruined after her mother-in-law reported being raped. "Things like this are bound to happen every once in a while, and they should treat people good when they do."

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