Vanishing in Paradise

Marine Queen cruise lines no longer offer singles discount packages.

In April of 1983, Beverly Hannigan boarded the St. Marie, crown jewel of the MQ cruise ships. She was taking part in a promotion that had been advertised at her local mall for single women age 30-50. Her last recorded whereabouts were at the ship’s pharmacy, where she bought a small bottle of Midol and a pack of travel tissues. At approximately 15:00 hours, the ship made a scheduled stop at a small island off Trinidad. Beverly was spotted on the gangplank. When the ship departed six hours later, Beverly was not on board.

During the eighties, Marine Queen cruise ships would run regular singles discount promotions every year. Ships running the promotion had the “get lei’d” board: passengers were given small plastic leis and encouraged to loop them over a peg on the board if they were interested in being matched up on the ship. The leis were not issued to male passengers.

Marla Davis checked onto the Marine Queen 2 to be close to her grandchildren. She allowed herself to be classified as single in order to obtain the discount.

Her grandchildren were frolicking in the pool when the ship announced a singles-only stop on a nearby island, promising romantic sights and a chance to mingle. While Marla Davis, a widow of thirty years, was not interested in romance, she had tired of the ship’s scenery.

The island they moored at was approximately 80km off the coast of Venezuela. The ship did not announce its name. Marla partook in a guided tour of the island’s interior, which involved hiking up to the island’s dormant volcano. She took note of various couples breaking away from the tour and walking to the lowlands, between large shrubs that grew in otherwise bare volcanic soil. After a few hours, the guide called for a return to the ship. Out of concern for her fellow passengers, Marla looked behind the group as they hiked down the mountain to see if they left any stragglers.

The bushes were retreating down the slope.

Marla attempted to bring it to the attention of the tour guide, but was brushed off. The group that boarded the ship was fewer in number than the one that had disembarked onto the island. When she brought it up to a ship official, they assured her that many people leave the cruise ship by choice and would find alternative transport back to the United States. When pressed for names, the officials refused on the ground of customer confidentiality. The island at the coordinates described by Ms. Davis is currently designated as “uninhabited”  by the Venezuelan government.

Statistics for cruise ship disappearances are hard to quantify. The cruise lines have a vested interest in not releasing information that would make the company look bad. Often this leads to tragedy, as authorities are notified long past the point where they could have prevented an incident. In one such case, businessman Justin Borland lost his footing and fell from the deck of the Paradiso. He was not wearing a life vest. Fellow passengers witnessed the fall, but the ship’s guard could not be coaxed to the deck until Borland was already a speck on the horizon. Rather than send a longboat to the rescue, ship’s authorities assured the passengers they would call the coast guard. Which they did. Sixteen hours after the fact. The cruise line which operates the Paradiso denies this account, alleging that Borland was drunk and already beneath the waves when the ship’s security responded.

Shawn and Viola di Martino were not on a singles cruise. Their travel agent booked them on the Triton for their fifth anniversary. While on board, they made friends with a young woman named Stephanie Moore, who was there as the caretaker of her great-aunt. On July 3rd, 1987, Viola di Martino went missing.

The boat had not moored anywhere recently, so her husband assumed she had gotten lost on the way to the pool. However, when he questioned the pool staff they were not only unhelpful but belligerent as questioning went on. They alleged Viola had never been on-deck and had probably lied about where she was going. When Shawn produced testimony from other passengers that had seen her on that very deck, they accused him of not being her husband at all, but an obsessed stalker. Shawn gave up on the pool staff and contacted ship security. They assured him that Viola was probably just off on her own, and suggested he go back to their cabin and wait. Shawn refused. Viola was diabetic, he explained, and long overdue for her insulin shot.

It was around this point that Stephanie Moore told her aunt that she was going to the bathroom. The aunt spent the rest of the night unattended when Stephanie did not return. Ship security found her sobbing alone in her room, having soiled herself during the night. As she was suffering from mild dementia, she thought Stephanie had left her alone to punish her.

After six sleepless hours, the ship’s security called Shawn di Martino to the medical center. They hastily explained that they had mistaken Viola for another passenger and had detained her for drunk and disorderly behavior. In the interim, Viola had slipped into a diabetic coma. There were unexplained restraint marks on her wrists and ankles. The ship’s staff told Shawn he had no legal recourse and dropped the couple off at the nearest port. Despite attaining emergency medical treatment, Viola never regained consciousness. Stephanie Moore has not been seen since.

In 1990, the Marine Queen cruise line was brought into a class-action suit by the passengers of the Fruite Royale, alleging major hygiene lapses among other accusations. 208 of the 500 passengers had contracted herpes through unknown means, though a pot of Chicken Marbella contained traces of the disease. The cruise line attempted to settle out of court, but withdrew the offer at the last minute. The company was forced to volunteer 3 of its fifteen cruise ships for inspection, but did not pay any restitution to the passengers as per the ruling. The three ships passed inspection.

In September of 1992, Calvin Wallis and a friend were vacationing in Barbados when they were approached by a white woman. She bore signs of recent abuse and walked with a limp. She was improperly dressed for such a cool night, and both men described her makeup as garish.

The woman identified herself as Beverly Hannigan and begged the two men to help her. Before she could tell them more, two men came up from the bungalows lining the beach and collected her, dismissing her claims as the rambling of a drug addict. They shepherded her off the beach. Though Calvin went to Barbadian police, nothing more has come of it.

The Marine Queen cruise line operates to this day and has expanded its fleet from fifteen to twenty ships.

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