Princess Cruises passenger claims she contracted HIV after being raped by auctioneer


NY Post

A 27-year-old California woman has filed a lawsuit against Princess Cruises alleging that an art auctioneer aboard the ship raped her — and that she contracted HIV during the assault.

The woman, referred to as Jane Doe, claims she was aboard the Sky Princess on Dec. 28, 2021, when a Park West Gallery employee named Aleksander invited her to a shipboard auction.

When she arrived for the auction a few days later, the man asked her to stay after the event but she declined, according to the lawsuit.

The woman then took part in activities aboard the cruise ship and “drank many alcoholic beverages, most of which were served by Princess crewmembers,” the suit states.

The alleged assailant approached the woman again that day and asked her if she was enjoying the time at sea — and she responded that there weren’t enough things to do for people her age, according to the lawsuit.

“At this point, the Plaintiff was visibly intoxicated,” the suit alleges. “For instance, she was slurring her speech, and she was bumping into walls and other items because she could not control her balance.”

The man asked her for her cabin number, which she gave him because she “reasonably believed he was asking because he was going to arrange for a Princess employee to help her with activities involving younger passengers,” the suit states.

Later in the evening, he allegedly invited the woman to the art gallery — and she agreed because she was intoxicated, she claims.

When she arrived, the auctioneer allegedly “provided her with a drink and began talking to her, and he stood very close to her.”

He then allegedly “began to brush his hand up against her leg and then gripped her buttocks.”

The woman “felt ill, scared, and did not know what to do, so she just froze,” the suit states.

The man then pushed her into a closet and raped her while using a condom — even though she said “no” repeatedly, the legal filing alleges.

However, the condom allegedly came off during the assault or the assailant removed it, according to the lawsuit.

Shortly after the cruise ended on Jan. 8, 2022, the woman began feeling ill and underwent tests, which found that she had contracted HIV, the lawsuit charges.

The woman also suffered from “Rape Trauma Syndrome” for several months after the incident and was unable to report the alleged attack until November, the filing says.

The woman’s maritime attorney, Michael Winkleman of Miami-based Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, told The Post in an email that “the only thing more shocking than what happened to Jane Doe, in this case, is the alarming frequency with which rapes and sexual assaults occur on cruise ships.” 

The suit notes that Princess Cruises and Park West Gallery, both of which are named as defendants, “had a policy and procedure that prohibited crewmembers from fraternizing with passengers” because “such fraternization resulted in passengers being sexually assaulted and/or raped by crewmembers.”

“We’re honored to represent Ms. Doe in her quest for justice against the cruise line and art concessionaire and we hope it serves as a wake-up call to the public about the real risks people face on cruise ships,” Winkleman said.

Princess Cruises did not immediately respond to The Post, but told the Daily Beast that it “does not comment on pending litigation.”

Park West Gallery touts itself as “the world’s largest art dealer” and says it has outlets on dozens of cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and others.

“The nature of the acts alleged in the complaint warrant a very serious examination that separates the facts from fiction,” Paul Schwiep, longtime outside counsel for Park West Galleries, told The Post in a statement.

“At this time, no evidence has been provided to support the allegations made in the complaint, and no notice of this alleged incident was provided to us, the cruise line or law enforcement, even though the incident alleged occurred a year ago,” he said.

“In the company’s 25 years of successfully operating on cruise ships, there has never been an allegation of this kind made against an auctioneer. We are in the early stages of conducting what will be a very thorough and searching investigation of what has been alleged,” Schwiep added.

Auctioneers and staffers working for Park West on cruise ships are not employed directly by Princess Cruises, but rather are independent contractors leased by Caribbean Staffing Solutions, the Daily Beast reported.

CSS was dissolved by the North Carolina secretary of state in February 2020, according to the outlet.

Three alleged incidents of sexual assault on Princess Cruise ships were reported to the US Department of Transportation from April 1 to June 30, 2022, the outlet said.