Highly-acclaimed author and travel attorney, Alexander Anolik, has defended the travel industry and travelers for decades. In an interview with Sandy Dhuyvetter of Travel Talk Radio, Al shares his views on the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act currently pending before the US Congress.
Sandy Dhuyvetter: Welcome back to Travel Talk Radio, my name is Sandy Dhuyvetter and I’m your host for the last, well, almost 9 years now. We have someone joining us who has been with us almost that long, Alex Anolik. He is a travel attorney up in San Francisco, a good friend of ours, and we’ve always gone to him when we have things that are really perplexing and questions about the industry, and what’s going on. Al, great to have you with us today.
Alexander Anolik: Great to be back, and when I do research I always go to Travel Talk to see you if you have the subject for my research.
Sandy: Well, thank you very much I really appreciate that. Hey, you know, before we get into the mud and the blood and the beer here, can we talk a little bit about polo? Did you watch the match with the Prince?
Anolik: I did watch it, and I can say that, 10 years ago, I sat on the same saddle and horse that he had sat 2 weeks earlier. And that was supposed to be exciting, but it was another saddle and a horse.
Sandy: (Laughs) Hey, that is tremendous. Are you still playing?
Anolik: I am. At 70 years old, still up there, metal hip last year, and some crazy glue to keep me in the saddle, but, it’s a great excitement, and energy for it.
Sandy: You’re an amazing man. I mean, you are going for it all of the time. And, you know, I called you because we’ve been having a lot of interest in cruise line regulation and the legislation that is out in the House of Representatives in Washington, DC and now the Senate. And, I thought, if there is anybody that can bring a calm to the storm and can give us really the facts, it would be you. I called you and, to my delight, you were very versed and you knew exactly what was going on. Can we talk a little bit about this cruise line safety act, and is there a problem out there?
Anolik: Well, there is a problem for years. And I’ve come to this perspective through four different backgrounds. I started out representing the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, I then moved over – when I got pulled across the negotiating table by my tie – I moved over to representing ships. I represented, as general counsel, various cruise lines. Then, I went into more the travel industry and then wound up with the consumer. But, my background was security, law enforcement, and risk management, so I have seen issues for years in how the cruise lines have covered up these problems. And, we haven’t been able to get legislation the same way we can’t get a passenger rights bill to help us with aviation. We need legislation to tell the ships they must cooperate and give us information so that we can help convict different people.
Sandy: Why is it taking so long, I mean we are still not there, but what’s the hold up here? Are they so powerful that they can control and lobby that strongly?
Anolik: They are powerful because it is this multi-multi-billion dollar industry and, like the aviation industry, Congress wants to try to help tourism, try to help airlines as well as cruise lines, but they’ve left behind the traveler; they’ve left behind the consumer. And, the US Congress has been able to put limitations on how much you could sue a ship for, they’ve cooperated with the Montreal and Hague Conventions on how much you can sue an airline for. So they are trying to be protective, and the consumer doesn’t have the rights that he or she needs.
Sandy: Yeah, they are paying for it aren’t they? You know, it’s quite mind-boggling what’s happening out there, the amount of people that are affected. And, I was quite interested in this, too. Like you said, you have really represented the industry, the cruise lines, the airlines. But, on this particular subject, you really feel strongly that it’s time for a change. How can we make this happen, and how do you foresee that this is going to unfold?
Anolik: Well, I can see parts of this new legislation going through. The new legislation proposed by Senator Kerry, the S588, and by Representative Matsui, the 1485, give you some basics. Put a peephole on a door. My goodness, how basic is that? You can hardy go rent an apartment in some cities and that’s not a law. So, let us have peepholes, let us have latches to try to keep out people. That’s simple. But, the real key is something that they could easily do, is just tell these ships: if you take the millions of US passengers that you do, you better collect evidence if there’s a crime. You better not try to cover it up, and you better report to the Coast Guard, the FBI, Homeland Security. When you get back to a port and something’s happened, we want to know about it here because we want to help prevent future crimes and the ships do all they can to cover this up.
Sandy: Amazing story. You know, part of this legislation is putting on, I guess I wouldn’t call it an air marshal, but maybe a cruise marshal; somebody that has the background, not really working for the cruise ship itself. Do you see something like that as common sense or an opportunity to work?
Anolik: Well, the California bill had actually 2 types of marshals. One, the Ecology Marshal, to see if they’re dumping garbage over the back which they’ve been prone to do; to make sure there’s no discharges, you know, in different areas. But, the other is the security. We have such a need for the security. And, again, using this as an area I testify to sometimes as an expert witness, the security is more engaged in keeping the outside duty-free liquor off the ship so the passengers are forced to buy the cutsie little drinks with the umbrellas, than sometimes concentrating on security while on board. That’s a different need. There are thieves on board. You’ve got close surroundings on board. You have a lot of drinking on board. You have a lot of assaults and a lot of rapes. And, people can’t do much, especially if they’re part of the crew. And, this is wrong. This has got to be protected as a basic human right; protect those people that are working for you or are paying good money to be passengers.
Sandy: You know, you’ve got a, well, it’s not a new book, but it’s a revised or a new version, the Traveler’s Rights I love that book! I keep it with me, did you know that? I keep it with me wherever I travel to.
Anolik: Well, you’ll love the new one, because its thinner, smaller print, but it’s been cut down in size so that you can carry it with you. And, when they give you static and they overbook you or they lose your luggage, or they’re trying to pull a weather or a 240, and do you want to get on another flight. You pull it out. You put it on the counter and say, “Look it, this is what the law is. And unless you want to be some part of Al’s chapter next year, you get me on that plane!” That’s why it has been revised.
Sandy: (Laughs) Well, you know what, if you come on over to our site, you will see the programming, and of course this is June 21st, and you will see not only Al’s picture, the link into travellaw.com, but also a link into getting this book. And, it’s very important that you keep it with you. I adore mine. It has kept me in great, great passage everywhere I go, so I highly recommend it. You know, Al, we have been talking about cruise ships and this new legislation that is in the Senate, with John Kerry and then, of course, in the House of Representatives, Doris Matsui out of Sacramento. You are a proponent for this legislation, aren’t you?
Anolik: It’s a start. We need legislation that basically recognizes travelers have rights. And yes, put up a higher railing because some of our people, you know, depending on how tall they are, they can fall over the railing. Those are good. But, more is the reporting of the crime at sea. We’ve got to be able to make the cruise lines keep this information, not engage in cover ups. Turn it over and cooperate. That’s the biggest part of the legislation. And, what legislator could disagree with that? That tells somebody, if there is some incident happening on your ship, you’re not to cover up, you’re to assist with the authorities. Who can vote against that? And if they voted against that, you let them know in the next election, they shouldn’t have done that.
Sandy: So, do you think that there is a probable case that people will vote against this? I mean, it seems like such commonsense. All the points that we have been talking about, the segment before and now, they seem like common sense, but do they think there is a chance this won’t go through?
Anolik: (Laughs) I’ve got to laugh, Sandy. Nine years we’ve been together, and what do I tell you, I say, about commonsense? You don’t bother using it in the travel industry. It wouldn’t be the travel industry if everybody used commonsense. So, I’m glad you’re reverting back to it.
Sandy: (Laughs) Well, you know what, we’ve been talking a little bit about the folks that are really into this legislation, that are trying to make this work, and specifically it’s the International Cruise Victims association. We just came across them a couple of months ago. I was amazed at how many not only came to us and wanted to tell their story, but the breadth and the hundreds of people that are involved in this association. I also got my hands on an old copy of the University of San Francisco Maritime Law Journal. And, when I say old, it’s 2007-2008. There were some remarkable statements in here like, for example Al, you know the FBI, during a period of beginning 2002 through February of 2007, only 184 crimes were reported to have occurred on cruise ships. That’s amazing when you figure there’s like millions and millions of passengers.
Anolik: You want to know why? They do not have to report crimes against non-citizens. These are not reported to the FBI, number one; and, number two, it’s the captain who decides what is “serious” and reportable. That is the key. And, if the captain says, “I want to protect our reputation, uh, this wasn’t really an assault, a rape; it was 2 people arguing and that’s not serious,” they don’t get reported. So, we need definitions of what must be reportable, and they must report it. And, not like in the Smith case. You don’t send some of the crew down to cover up where the blood was. There is an old theory that, when I represented the Maritime Union, and then the ships I knew, that no one who’s part of the crew wants to be the ship’s rat. You rat on somebody; you’re going to find a rat under your covers. And, for that reason, you’ve got this conspiracy of silence that is hard to break. We need legislation to start putting people away if they do not report crimes so we can help catch the perpetrators.
Sandy: You know, Al, we’ve got to get out of here, but I want to thank you so much. We’ve got to get you on soon, maybe next month if you’ve got some time. I know you are in trial so often, but…
Anolik: You know I’m always with you. The website is travel law. Very simple, travellaw. One word, two L’s. Always willing to be on and talk to your listeners.
Sandy: Beautiful. And, Al is accessible. So go and give his company a call. He is an amazing man. Thank you, Al, so much for your insight.