Many of you may be following the investigation into the disappearance of George Smith IV from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas last July. As that anniversary approaches, there have been new developments in the dealings of Royal Caribbean with Smith’s widow, Jennifer Hagel Smith, and his family.
According to a Royal Caribbean press release from yesterday, the cruise line and Ms. Hagel Smith agreed on a settlement. The terms, which are undisclosed, need to be approved by a Connecticut probate court.
On the same day, Smith’s parents and sister filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean. They claim that the cruise line covered up the death and held up the investigation into the disappearance. Royal Caribbean denies the charges. According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, Smith’s family had no knowledge that Ms. Hagel Smith was negotiating with the cruise line.
The media is having a field day with this story because it plays out like a soap opera. But after all the accusations, denials, and payouts end, I believe the real questions are what are a cruise line’s responsibilities in case of a death or disappearance and who will make sure the lines follow these rules. The correct procedures in such situations should neither be vague nor secretive. It’s the least a cruise line can do for the families suffering from such tragedies.