A cruise ship youth counselor admitted to sexually abusing multiple children aboard Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Silhouette after a 6-year-old came forward and reported him for inappropriately touching her while she played a video game at the ship's youth center in late November, according to an FBI affidavit obtained by New Times.
Cris John Pentinio Castor is charged with abusive sexual contact with a minor in Miami federal court. The FBI says he abused the 6-year-old victim while he was working at the youth center on the ship, which departed from Port Everglades on November 20 and made stops in St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Tobago, Grenada, and Antigua before returning on November 30.
During his interview with law enforcement about the incident, the FBI says, Castor admitted "he knowingly touched the minor victim in the vicinity of her vagina." Castor, who had worked as a counselor for the ship's Camp at Sea program since August, allegedly told FBI investigators he molested at least three other minor children while they were visiting the center.
"Castor...admitted to the inappropriate sexual touching of other minor children that were in his care at the Youth Center, on multiple occasions, while consciously hiding his acts from the Youth Center's security cameras," wrote an investigator with the FBI's Miami-based Extra-Territorial Violent Crimes Squad.
Shortly after the child's parents picked her up from the youth center on November 27, she returned with them to report the sexual assault, which occurred that morning, the affidavit says.
"Minor victim proceeded to tell the Program Manager that 'CJ,' as Castor was known to crew members and Youth Center children, had inappropriately touched her 'private parts,'" according to the affidavit.
When the ship arrived back at Port Everglades three days later, the child reiterated her account, telling a forensic interviewer that Castor touched her underneath her clothes. Security footage from November 27 showed the young girl and Castor, 35, sitting next to each other as he reached over into her lap.
Castor's public defender, Robert Berube, declined to comment.
Celebrity Silhouette is operated by Celebrity Cruises, which is owned by the Royal Caribbean Group. In a statement to New Times, a Celebrity Cruises spokesperson said the company "has zero tolerance for this behavior."
"We reported this to law enforcement and terminated the crew member," the statement reads. "We will continue to fully cooperate with authorities."
Celebrity has a global fleet of 16 ships with cruise destinations spanning from Thailand to Greece to Bermuda.
Between 2010 and 2022, nearly 70 percent of reported sexual assaults (including passenger-on-passenger assaults) on U.S. cruises occurred on ships owned by Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean, which have the largest market share of passengers in the cruise industry by a wide margin at 42 percent and 23 percent, respectively, as of 2021.
New Times reported in 2019 that sexual assaults were the most frequently reported felony crime on cruises and that cruise lines repeatedly tried to cover up incidents.
Federal court records show Royal Caribbean has been sued twice over the last seven months over separate incidents in which crew members were accused of sexually assaulting adult passengers. Both incidents occurred on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas ship.
Miami attorney Mark Schweikert tells New Times that the stigma faced by sex abuse victims and their families can create a significant barrier in exposing serial predators.
"Victims in general face a lot of skepticism. There tends to be a lot of rush to judgment, to disbelief, while crediting the abuser. That's something we tried to change and are still trying to change," says Schweikert, who is not involved in the Royal Caribbean cases.
In 2021, Schweikert secured a verdict against the Miami-Dade County School Board in favor of a client abused by Miami Palmetto Senior High School teacher Jason Meyers, who was accused of inappropriate contact with students dating back more than a decade and is now serving a prison sentence on statutory rape charges.
"It's all too common: when there's one victim, there tends to be many. When victims come forward and find the courage to fight back, it's the best way to hold institutions accountable," Schweikert says.