Valley family wins battle against cruise ship industry after daughters disappearance

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PHOENIX -- A Valley family says a cruise ship company covered up their daughter's disappearance a few years ago. But they fought back, and won.

When the family tried to get answers from the cruise line about what happened to their daughter, they found there isn't much oversight in the cruise ship industry. What happens at sea seems to stay at sea. But that's about to change.

On an Alaskan cruise in 2004 Merrian Carver, a 40-year-old investment banker, vanished. Her family in Phoenix called the cruise line.

"[They said] ‘We don’t know whether or not she got off,’” Ken Carver recalled. “That's it."

Equally stunned by Merrian's disappearance and the cruise line's response, the Carver family hired lawyers to try to get some answers, and surveillance video from the ship.

“I finally got them to admit in writing, in fact, they did have a video,” Ken said. “[But] they said they got rid of it.”

Ship staff also got rid of Merrian's clothes and belongings -- all part of what her father calls an attempt to erase any evidence that Merrian was ever on board.

"It's obstruction of justice,” Ken said.

What if the Carvers had never called the cruise line?

“Nothing would've ever happened,” Ken said. “Most people wouldn't have gone to the extent we did.”

From his home office, Ken worked with other cruise victims from around the world, together launching a campaign to bring some law to the high seas. After five years of lobbying Congress, they were successful.

"This will make those cruise ships more accountable and safer,” Congressman John Shadegg said on the floor of the House.

The new legislation will require cruise lines to file crime reports, preserve evidence, have rape kits and U.S. doctors on board, and install more video cameras and peepholes on cabin doors.

"This is an historic development,” Ken said.

And one that's brought the Carvers some peace and satisfaction, even though their daughter's disappearance remains a mystery.

The Carvers say the cruise ship industry spent millions lobbying against the changes. But the new oversight bill just overwhelmingly passed the House and should soon pass the Senate.