This weekend, the Freeport News reported on the saga of a well respected Bahamian family who purchased a cruise through a travel agent for 39 family members to sail with Carnival Cruise Lines on the Carnival Freedom cruise ship. Written by reporter Yasmin Popescu, the newspaper article reports on what it described as a family "torn apart" because of the fraudulent conduct of a local travel agent and the harsh conduct of the cruise line. The story involves the Edden family of Smith's Point in Freeport which went through what is described as a "vacation from hell." Thirty nine family members ranging from age 4 to age 71 had booked the Carnival cruise through Morris Travel which issued Carnival Fun Ship cards but actually never paid the cruise line for all of their fares. The large extended family flew from Freeport to Fort Lauderdale to meet the cruise ship the following day. However once they arrived at the port, the family faced problems. Carnival told many of the family members that they didn't have confirmed reservations. Many of the family members were separated from their family members, including children, who were frightened by the ill treatment. Carnival representatives treated them like they were criminals and threatened to take their mug shots and finger-print them and turn them over to the police. Ten of the family members were taken away from the check in area and forced to sit behind a cordoned off area, which subjected them to the scrutiny of and ridicule from other passengers. Carnival left these ten family members at the port terminal while the remaining twenty-none family members left on the cruise. Carnival did not provide any explanation for the mistreatment, leaving them abandoned at the port without any transportation or accommodations. They were separated from the family and crying when the cruise ship sailed without them. For the family members who Carnival permitted to board the cruise ship, many of them did not receive the type of cabins they booked. One one young woman in a wheelchair with spina bifada was forced to leave her wheelchair outside of the non-accessible cabin and crawl into the cabin and in and out of the bathroom. After sailing for five days, Carnival finally discovered that one of the credit card used by the travel agent was fraudulent. Carnival then treated the family members like they were criminals. It demanded $17,000 immediately. Carnival belittled them and threatened arrest once they returned to South Florida. Carnival also told them that they would not be permitted to leave the cruise ship when it called on Nassau because the cruise line was afraid that they would flee and not return to the ship. Carnival insisted that it confiscate their passports if they decided to go into Nassau. Fortunately, a former Member of Parliament in the Bahamas, David Wallace, kept the family group from being arrested or being held on the ship. When they returned to Ft. Lauderdale, the family members felt that they would be arrested and taken to jail. Once back home in Freeport, the family hired prominent Bahamian lawyer, Jacy Whittaker (above left), of the law firm of Parris | Whittaker to represent their interests. Mr. Whittaker retained our firm as well as high profile Miami lawyer Roberto Villasante to investigate legal action against Carnival for its outrageous mistreatment of the family during the cruise. On Friday, we met with some of the aggrieved family members, from little children to grandparents. A photograph I took of the family members is below. Freeport reporter Yasmin Popescu took the photo at the top of me interviewing some of the family members. Ms. Popescu has covered this story from the beginning. An earlier article can be read here. My cruise travel agent friend Chris Owens wrote an article about the debacle in July: "Be Sure Your Cruise Travel Agent Is Not A Crook"
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