How Disney Wonder Cruise Lost Our Child, Destroyed Our Vacation, and Lost Our Confidence

A lost child is every parent’s worst fear.  There is nothing scarier in the world than losing, or not being able to find your child.   If a news story features a missing child, many of us instinctively stop what we’re doing to check on our children and ensure they are alright.

My wife and I have always been very cautious and selective when it comes to sitters and child care facilities.  When it comes to child care, reputation is everything.  That’s why we were especially traumatized that our child would be lost while on board a Disney cruise.

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In January, we decided to take our two children on a Disney Wonder cruise.  We went with several other families we knew and expected to have a fantastic time.  While on board, we left our 3 year old son, in their child care facility, the Oceaneer Club (for children aged 3 to 12).

We were happy to see they had a wrist band tracking system, which could identify where a child was on the ship at any time and alert staff if the band went outside the area he was supposed to be in.

So you can imagine our fear, shock, outrage and panic when we came back after an evening with friends, to find our child missing from their child care facility.

Our 5 month old had been left in the nursery that day, so my wife had stopped off to pick him up, while I went with two other parents to the Oceaneer Club to pick up our older son.

We walked into the care facility, which was always dimly lit.  I walked around each of the rooms looking for my son.  I spotted two of his friends and asked if they’d seen him.  They said he was there someplace, so I continued to walk around the facility hunting down my child.

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I remember thinking it was a bit of a hassle to send a parent in alone to wander around and try to find their kid.  I began to get a little annoyed as I searched.  Where could he be?  For a split second I even had the thought, ‘I hope he is actually here,’ but dismissed it as silly at the time. At that point, I was more annoyed than worried and decided to ask someone if they’d seen my son.

I returned to the room where I’d originally started searching, and the employee commented that this was the third time they’d seen me there–was everything okay?   I told him I couldn’t find my son, so they started walking around, calling his name. I began looking under draped compartments, behind obstacles, anywhere a child might hide.

At that point, I took a moment to call my wife and asked her to come over immediately because they couldn’t find our son!

When I went to search the bathroom, an employee stopped and told me that ‘parents are not allowed in the bathroom.’ THAT was the point it hit me right in the face—MY KID WAS MISSING!

I don’t know if I can fully describe the feeling when you realize your child is gone.   Everything changed from that moment… I was no longer frustrated, angry, or annoyed, I was scared to death and went completely into FIND MY CHILD MODE, which started with understanding their operating procedures for missing children.

I quickly assessed the staff, the surroundings, and the efforts made so far to locate him.  I told the employee I could no longer assume my child was in the facility and I needed to know what their next steps were immediately.

He said the next step was to check the tracking band system, which would pinpoint my son’s location.   We walked over to the computer and as they pulled it up, everyone got very quiet.  The screen showed my son’s band as ‘UNREADABLE’!!!.

At that moment I came close to losing it, but I had to focus… I had to find my child!  ‘Unreadable’ could mean anything—wandering the ship, taken by a stranger, or worse.   My wife had shown up by this time and was understandably distraught but there was no time for me to console her.

I immediately ran to another care facility for older kids called the Oceaneer Lab.   I asked if they had done any child swaps between care facilities and whether THEY had my son.   They checked their system and said they hadn’t transferred any children between rooms that day.   At this point Carol, a senior team member, came in and also began searching for him.

Realizing that if my son was there they would find him shortly, I ran back to the Oceaneer Club to see if miraculously he’d been found.  One look at the terror on my wife’s face and the pleading look in her eyes told me he was still missing.  I shook my head and she began to sob, calling out for help.  I will never forget that moment.

I was forced to turn my back on her and head the other way to continue the search for our son.  In a display of heartlessness, none of the employees offered her sympathy or consolation.  They literally turned their backs on her and acted like she was irrational and overreacting, leaving her there alone sobbing and shaking.

I ran as fast as I could all the way to the front of the ship and down 5 flights of stairs, to get to the gangway. We were docked in the Bahamas, with people coming on and off the ship.  I told the personnel at the gangway that my son was missing from their child care facility and that they needed to make sure no one else left the ship until he was found.  They gave no indication they would stop anyone from leaving, and were unaware of a missing child, a full 20 minutes after he’d gone missing.  They said if I had a missing child I needed to inform Guest Services.

So I bolted back up 3 flights of stairs and all the way across the ship again to get to Guest Services, where I ran right up to the counter and told them what had happened. I let them know I just got back from the gangway and asked them why no announcement of a lost child had been made yet.

The employee checked a few things in the computer and said that an announcement had gone out to the staff’s ‘wave’ phones, an internal cell phone system. This seemed suspect, since neither the gangway personnel nor this individual at guest services had known there was a lost child until I told them.   I again asked why no announcement had been made and told again that a message had gone out on the wave phone network.   I then asked if they had cameras on the ship, they said yes.  I urged them to begin reviewing the recordings to determine if my son had left the facility on his own, or been taken.

I turned and ran up several flights of stairs again, back to the Oceaneers Club to see if anyone had found my son in the time I was gone.

There was a crowd of people gathered, including all the friends who’d come with us on the cruise.  They said my son was still missing and everyone started searching the halls.

I was trying to imagine where he might go if he left the facility on his own.  He’d shown a great interest in the balcony area of the ship where he could look down at the water.  What if he went to play on the rails and fell??  I found myself walking back and forth several times.  I had to pull myself together and focus.  Panic wouldn’t help me find him.

I turned around and saw Carol coming out of the theater, where she had been searching. I pulled her aside and said firmly and clearly that they had make 20 announcements a day about excursions, parties, and dinner times, but in the 45 minutes since my son had gone missing, not one announcement had been made. Nothing that said ‘excuse me guests, but we have a 3 year-old boy who has gone missing, so please take a look around and see if you spot anyone matching this description.’

I told her if she didn’t make an announcement immediately, I’d be forced to break down the door and make the damn announcement myself!  She promised she would make an announcement, but wanted to finish searching the theater first.

I turned and ran back to the Oceaneer club, where I was flagged down by one of our friends.   My son had been found and was okay.  I was lightheaded…could barely breath… and exhausted… I stood against the wall and began to cry from shock and relief.

Out of nowhere, a stranger came up to me with tears in his eyes and gave me a supportive hug.  Having a son of his own, he empathized with what I had gone through.  He said after what just happened, he was already considering leaving the ship with his family and flying home.

I went inside and they told me that my son had crawled into a ‘tunnel’ of stacked chairs and fell asleep, not to be found until 45 minutes later.

Later that evening, someone came to our room with a bottle of wine and a printed apology card.  But as my wife and I discussed what had happened, there were still too many concerns and unanswered questions to let this drop:

  • How had our son been able to craw away and fall asleep without anyone noticing?
  • Why were the employees unable to find him for nearly 45 minutes?
  • Why was his security band unreadable?
  • Why did everyone ignore my wife and make her feel so alone and terrified?
  • Why did none of the ship’s crew seem to be aware there was a missing child, despite the wave phone message which seemed to be their primary form of communication?
  • Why was no announcement made on the ship at any point?
  • Most importantly, why was there no apparent protocol in the event of a missing child considering this is Disney, a world-class organization that builds it’s reputation on the happiness of children?

We felt that there were too many things that went wrong for us to simply accept a bottle of wine and a printed apology card.  We wanted to make sure someone in charge knew about these problems–we wanted to speak with the Captain.

So I made a call and asked to meet with the Captain, at his earliest convenience, to discuss what had happened. I was told that someone would contact me shortly.  We were never allowed to speak to the Captain, but it was arranged for us to meet with the Cruise Director instead.

I really did not want to go into this meeting angry.  My primary intention was to help them better understand what went wrong, identify things that could be improved, and the overall way the issue was handled.

During the meeting, I made it clear that while we were relieved that our son was eventually located, he HAD been missing for 45 minutes while in their care.  The fact that he was found didn’t change the apparent lack of a clear plan to find him, or the lack of urgency exhibited by the cruise staff.

I was given the following answers and assurances:

  • They were aware the lighting was too low in the care facility and they plan to renovate it the next time the ship dry docks.
  • They do have a process for handling lost child emergencies, however since that hadn’t been apparent to us, they would look into that and address it.
  • I was given an apology for the lack of empathy shown to my wife by the crew during the crisis.
  • They would definitely investigate why the tracking band was unreadable.

Near the end of the meeting, the Cruise Director asked me what they could do to make it up to us. I told him I didn’t have a specific remedy in mind, but something needed to be done, especially for my wife since this cruise had been booked to celebrate her birthday.  What happened essentially ruined her birthday and spoiled the entire trip for her.

I mentioned that we had a dinner reservation for her birthday, and I thought to myself that maybe the Cruise Director or the Captain might come by to wish her a happy birthday and apologize to her in person. At least to show that they do value their customers and that truly cared for what had happened to us.

Later, I spoke with my wife and we agreed that the best outcome would be not having to pay for a vacation that was ruined.  So I sent a note to the Cruise Director and then headed to the restaurant.

Dinner was alright, considering we were hardly in a mood to celebrate after what had happened.  Disappointingly, no one came by to apologize or offer birthday wishes.

When we returned to the room that night, there was a printed note from the Cruise Director saying someone from their corporate office will contact us after the trip.

A few days later, we received a call from Rebecca, an executive from Disney’s communication team.  After I told her the whole story, she  was apologetic, but said there was no way they would refund our money.  All she could do was to offer us a two-day Disney World park-pass with limited access.

I was stunned by her response, as she attempted to analyze the exact number of cruise days that were ruined. She told me that since our son went missing on the third day of the trip, we had enjoyed the first two days and only the last two days were ruined. Therefore, they were only willing to offer two day park passes as compensation. Adding insult to injury, the last thing she said before she hung up was to call her back if we changed our mind about accepting her offer.

Considering I have two little boys, we would most certainly have booked other Disney vacations and cruises in the years to come.  But this experience—the loss of my son, the poor response to the crisis aboard ship, and the uncaring, calculated corporate response afterward—has changed all that.

“Disney” should be synonymous with making fantastic memories—that famous ‘Disney magic.’  But for my family, we will always associate Disney with our horrific experience of losing our child and a serious lack of customer service.

Would refunding our money or offering us another cruise have made up for their mistakes and lack of empathy during a child crisis?  Not really, but would have said they cared enough to try.

Where is the Disney ‘magic’?  For me, it’s been lost.  Where is the customer service Disney is supposed to be known for?   Nonexistent.  If you choose to cruise with Disney, you may be forced to ask one more question–“Where is my child?!!!”

EDIT: Based on some comments, I wanted to clarify one important element, which is that we did not go to Disney with a request for a refund. Rather they asked us what they could do for us to make us feel better about the experience we had. We simply said we prefer not to have to pay for a ruined trip. Once they started getting into the calculation of how many days they had ruined, I was done.

Upon publishing this article, we had no expectation of any sort of refund, no expectation of Disney contacting us again (they never even followed up in the month since that call to check on the situation) and we would not accept any form of refund or compensation at this point anyhow, as it would not be right.

 

Comments

75 Responses to “How Disney Wonder Cruise Lost Our Child, Destroyed Our Vacation, and Lost Our Confidence”

  1. Misha on March 6th, 2013 6:32 pm

    Wow i'm not taking my children to any Disney events. I never really liked them anyway being how they brain wash children though their films. Now that I read what has happened to you and your family, I am sure that I dislike Disney in every way. No parent or child should Ever have an experience like you have had. I have no clue what I would have done…but I am sure i'd be filing a big lawsuit…that's outrageous! And on your wife's birthday. Smh my heart goes out to you both as well as for your son that had such a frightening ordeal. God bless you and I pray you find justice out of this.

  2. rachel fernandez on March 7th, 2013 3:10 am

    I cried while reading this, coz I am a parent, I know how it felt like being in that situation, as if you'll lose your sanity but you managed to keep it together to focused…I am so angry how the Disney Cruise showed lack of empathy at the time of the incident. but most of all the lack of shame and conscience by not exerting an effort to make up to you and your family … remember that there are times that seems so unfair but never forget that God is just….

  3. alex on March 7th, 2013 8:22 am

    I'm sorry, but I think your overreacting. Accidents happen… I know its serious business when it involves a child, & I sincerely sympathize with the outright fear you experienced, but its too bad you couldn't just be happy your son was fine & get back to your vacation. It was only 45 min, & just fell asleep in a tunnel. I don't blame you for trying to get a dinner, partial refund, or some free passes, but you should've taken the passes & just moved on. Haven't you lost your own kid before at a department store or Walmart? Also, if Carol (& other employee's) wete busy searching for your kid, how were they supposed to hang out with your wife? I don't think they were ignoring her, they were busy.

  4. brentcsutoras on March 7th, 2013 9:36 am

    Alex.. I think you missed the point a little.

    1) We care more about the lack of procedure, the lack of information, the lack of anything really in what you would expect in a missing child situation. No announcements, other employees did not know what I was talking about 30 minutes after our child was missing.

    2) Lost is lost. If you have a child you are watching for a friend one day at your house. If they show up at your house and ask for their child. You explain to them how he is not lost after 45 minutes of you not being able to find him.

    Lost = not being able to find something
    Found – finding it

    Just because something is found, doesn't mean it was not lost.

    3) Having a child walk off in a department store because of lack of attention versus having a child go missing in a secure daycare facility is two different things. (note I always watch my kids, even in department stores, so never had mine walk off or get lost yet)

    In a department store there is nothing in place to keep them from running off so the explanation for them to become missing is logical. When you have a locked and secured facility and no one out of 10 people can find your kid for 45 minutes, then you assume the worst.

    4) I waited almost 2 months to post this story, to let myself think about it and really understand what the issues where. I did not ask for a meal, or accept their offer for tickets, because it lacked to real attempt to resolve the issue.

    Since they hung up that one call with us, we have never heard from them again. They don't really care what effect it has on us.

    5) Lastly, we don't expect anything from Disney for writing this, not even an email or a phone call.

    I am far from over-reacting, but if you read the article, then you would see numerous levels of failure that are just unacceptable.

  5. brentcsutoras on March 7th, 2013 9:38 am

    I appreciate your comments. We don't hate Disney, but definitely are not happy with the way they handle their business and customer service.

  6. Devon-van on March 7th, 2013 12:11 pm

    Wow, I cannot believe that they lost your child. They obviously didn't take it seriously enough, in my head if they couldn't find the child in the locked down area it should turn into "lock down the shop mode" immediately.I appreciate you posting this, I will defiantly think twice before bringing any child on a Disney cruise or even the parks. That's scary they don't take these things seriously.

    I know you didn't post to get anything from Disney, but they should have at the least given you another free cruise to try to make up for the mistake.

  7. John on March 8th, 2013 8:41 am

    I've been on a bunch if Disney Cruises and one particularly where my son had a seizure and they were forced yo turn the boat around ad FIVE hour process. While I can certainly understand your panic (imagine having a child turn blue in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean) you never mentioned if he was checked out of the kids club. Certainly a child cannot be take from there with their band being swiped which there are records of. I've had a hard time finding my kids in there as well, mine likes to hide. This stack of chairs was in the club I assume? The main issue here is why the band didn't work.

  8. brentcsutoras on March 8th, 2013 4:29 pm

    I had a long response written up to this, but oh well. You clearly miss my points in the article as a number of others have as well. I actually want nothing from Disney and expect nothing from them. I just wanted to tell my story on how they handled this situation, which I have done.

    As to whether I would console my wife versus find my son, who could be in danger, that is a no brainer for any real parent. Clearly I had no faith that anyone else was going to find him.

  9. Bethany on March 8th, 2013 4:34 pm

    I am sorry to hear that your son was lost for 45 minutes. It sounds like it was a very traumatic event for you.

    After working many years in customer service and corporate America. I want to let you know that Disney actually really seemed to try to express their concerns: A bottle of wine with note, an additional note, and a call from the corporate offices to offer a way to make up for the mishap. It is unfortunate that companies like Disney can't offer a free vacation every time someone doesn't have a perfect experience. (Considering that it wouldn't even have made up for the horrible experience you had, I can see why they don't.)

    The crew wasn't proactive enough in searching for your child, but was supposed to stop to console your wife? That is confusing. Maybe you shouldn't have turned your back on your wife and should have consoled her. Your wife was sobbing and you didn't even have time to give her a hug? That's your job as a husband.

    Speaking of jobs, the captain's job is to navigate the ship and account for the safety of everyone on board. He/she is NOT responsible for customer service complaints and swinging by to wish your wife a happy birthday. This request jeopardizes the safety of everyone on board. Would you expect for an airplane pilot to apologize to you in the middle of a flight? I hope not. (And when I use the term safety, I mean making sure the ship doesn't hit another boat, so the entire ship doesn't sink and kill everyone on board.)

    And next time you go on vacation do everyone a favor (including your children), instead of checking them into daycare, hang out with them. Or if you feel that you just can't spend your entire family vacation together and need someone to keep an eye on your children just the way you do, then hire a nanny to take with you, so that when your son gets tired, he doesn't have to hide in a pile of chairs to take a nap.

  10. @kimworld on March 11th, 2013 12:48 pm

    Ugh. Pretty much my worst nightmare. Glad it turned out ok in the end. Although there's nothing that will take away that feeling of him being lost, I hope Disney does a better job of attempting to make it up to you.

  11. Disco on March 11th, 2013 1:53 pm

    "I’d be forced to break down the door and make the damn announcement myself!"

    I would have this same thought, but I can only imagine you would not be able to do that. If you even got close to doing this, the ship staff would have you arrested and deported and jailed and prisoned and tortured. They didn't care about your son, but I bet they'd sure as hell care if you tried taking matters into your own hands.You'd be an enemy combatant and be found guilt of making terroristic threats. All the while, your son would still be missing.

    As for Disney's alleged customer service, I've never heard anything like that.

  12. Matthew on March 12th, 2013 9:37 pm

    Brent- I feel for your situation and know the panic when you cannot find your child but feel you are being way too unfair on Disney. You seem to be attempting to use your social media knowledge into shaming Disney into refunding your entire vacation. You claim you don't want anything from Disney yet seem to be upset that the captain didn't come by your table for a birthday meal and that a 2 day ticket wasn't sufficient.

    Your story seems very scary to people who have never cruised DCL. I have been on the Wonder with my wife and 3 year old and feel you are missing several key details and are not taking an objective view of what happened. Your kid never left where he was supposed to be. Your actions probably made the situation worse. If you would have kept looking where he was supposed instead of running all over the boat you would have found him sooner.

  13. brentcsutoras on March 12th, 2013 11:26 pm

    I told the story exactly as it happened. Disney agreed that every point I made was a failure on their part.

    I think I was extremely fair in my explanation of what occurred and appreciate that anyone can take from it what they like. It is accurate, and what occurred.

  14. Jon Payne on March 15th, 2013 6:33 am

    Wow Brent I'm so sorry to hear this. Thank God he was okay! I imagine it would take a long time to come back down from this – going from terrified back to "normal".

    My wife and I have gone on two Disney cruises with our kids and have had a blast each time. We had found that the staff really cared and was helpful, and the security of the kids seemed impressive.

    That said, clearly they still have work to do. I know they (the cruise line has recently added a couple of ships) have grown a lot lately, so perhaps they have stretched and not done well at training the staff at the protocols, hired some people who just don't care as much. What a shame.

    Prior to reading this I was expecting to take my family on a Disney cruise at least once every other year, if not more. Reading this makes me think about this a bit more.

    How old is your son who was missing?

  15. brentcsutoras on March 15th, 2013 8:51 am

    Yeah mistakes can happen, but it is how you handle the situation. Our issue is more that we felt a lack of concern, felt on our own, and felt they marginalized everything about the situation.

    Our son was 3 (almost 4) at the time.

  16. @roasted_beanz on March 19th, 2013 12:30 am

    This is good to know. Quite honestly, I'd have done the same thing as you if the people handling the situation seem completely incompetent and uninterested in finding MY child that went missing on their watch. Sure they had protocols they followed…that were utterly inept. The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. Even department stores will announce over a loud speaker while immediately calling police/security and locking down the doors. And this was an actual daycare!
    Normal childcare standards do hourly headcounts, have engaged staff to child ratios, and age-designated sections in BRIGHTLY lit facilities. Even IKEA makes sure the beeper they give me works before handing it to me. Total and complete fail on their part. And even w/that 2-day hypothetical standard, they should have given you back 50% of your money. Shame on them.

  17. Rebecca on March 20th, 2013 4:35 pm

    Bethany,

    1. This is not just an "imperfect experience," this was a severe customer service failure on Disney's part. 45 minutes is an astonishingly long time to feel like your child is missing and a bunch of adults are scratching their heads and rolling their eyes at you. Disney should have refunded their trip and paid for another one so they could prove themselves worthy to the family. That is a story that would bring more customers in.

    2. "That's your job as a husband" – Don't be naive. His job was to find his son.

    3. Having the captain step away jeopardizes the safety of everyone on board? You sound ignorant.

    4. Hire a nanny for a children's cruise? Now you're just antagonizing.

  18. Kelli from MA. on June 18th, 2013 12:45 pm

    The whole time I read your post I was on the edge of my seat! I was reading so fast and admit that 3/4 of the way through I scrolled to the end just to make sure your son was ok and only then could I go back and read it in order. Imagine that? I'm a stranger and my heart raced just reading your story so I cannot for one second imagine what your body and mind went through. And I cannot fathom any of the CM's having less of a reaction than mine. I have 3 boys ages 20, 10 and 8 and I know that panic when you cannot instantly lay eyes on your child when they are supposed to be where you trust them to be. I leave in 68 days for our first Disney Cruise. I won't cancel it but I certainly will take your experience as an opportunity to make sure we are all on the same page and that we know the expectations. Not that I was already, but I will make sure I express to them the importance of the CM's knowing their whereabouts at all times. Thank you for sharing your experience and I hope that you have better travel opportunities in the future that allow you to make happy family memories.

  19. steph on August 3rd, 2013 4:31 pm

    totally disgusting of disney to attempt to calculate days and send a PRINTED card. the captain should have come to you immediately with apologies also. no protocol or procedure and announcements either?!?!?! totally frightening. there's no excuse for every ship not to have an immediate code adam – like hospitals – with everyone searching for a lost child – including announcements. thank you for posting. we considered a cruise with our 3 kids, but nope. not now. i'm pretty sure we won't be returning for another disneyland trip either since they obviously can't get themselves together any better than a walmart. which is fine if you're adult centered – but not when kids are around. children's safety and security should be THE top priority on their ships and in their parks. they should have refunded your entire vacation plus paid for missed time from working my opinion. that would definitely have ruined anyone's vacation and left them forever paranoid. i'd say sue them too, but the energy and money involved fighting them isn't really worth it for you in the long run. i think having this post / story out there – and reposting it on other sites is enough bad for them. and it warns other parents – which is kind of you and though you will probably never know it, you may have helped another family prevent a tragedy – either by skipping a disney cruise or by alerting disney to revise and correct their incredibly lax/inadequate policies – behind the scenes of course. God works in all things for good for those who love Him. Thank you.

  20. Roxanne on August 4th, 2013 3:35 am

    Hi Brent, you are 100 percent RIGHT on every count! I am a mother and my son had gone missing in a mall and he was the same age as your son. Took my eye off of him for a second and poof he was gone, my heart felt like it was going to explode! I immediately ran to security as fast as I could and frantically calling out his name and one smart salesgirl heard me yelling out his name had called security from the store phone and the security were running towards me omg i grabbed onto them in such a panic and quickly gave them a description of my son trying to catch my breath and almost collapsing to the floor. Well let me tell you that not only were they quick to react wow they were on those walkie talkies back and for with other security people in the mall and in a flash ALL MAIN DOORS TO EACH ENTRANCE WERE LOCKED!! NO ONE WAS ALLOWED IN OR OUT. The one security guy walked me to the security station all the while CONSOLING ME IN MY HESTERICS because I had lost my son. He told me what was happening step by step and what security measures were being taking at that moment and I could hear every two seconds a very loud message being announced over a mall intercom that would let every person walking in that mall or in the stores that a young boy was lost and they were giving out his name and description ,well as I was at the security desk so many people that I didn't even know were consoling me and you saw people searching and then the security man said MAMM WE FOUND HIM! and then I saw another security walking towards me with my BABY, omggg I ran towards my son and held onto him so tight. And you know that was 22 YEARS ago. My baby is now a wonderful handsome 25 year old grown man. People…22 years ago we did not have the TECHNOLOGY that we have today. My point being is this Brent and to your wife, who I can read that you both are loving caring and devoted parents that decided to have some fun one night and put all your trust in a system that failed you miserably, and what some people don't get because either they are disensitized or just plain ignorant is that number one your on a damn boat and I as a boater for many years knows the danger is so great its insane at the stupidest to tragic accidents I have seen, but some people just don't realize, so here is what I have learnt. Always educate yourself and ask all the questions you need to ask to ensure the safety of YOUR CHILD, it's your job as a parent to see that all security is in check before you leave your child with anyone EVEN DISNEY, a name brand is a name brand but thats as far as it goes especially if it was your first time on a cruise ship, you should of asked all the security questions before trusting your son in their care. People are people and EVERYONE makes mistakes big and small and DISNEY cruise has admitted that to you, like their lighting is poorly lit FOR A DAYCARE, but people are people and they make mistakes but most importantly you know you did too. As a mom 22 years ago I DID TOO. At the end of the day Brent it's your son , your decisions and your rules, your the parent and he's your son and he's counting on DAD AND MOM, no one else to keep him safe NO MATTER WHAT.

  21. lucky mom on August 24th, 2013 2:35 am

    My daughter was lost for almost an hour today. Police came in and started ssking me questions but I was just out of my mind screaming her name, running around the neighborhood barefeet. They had to forcibly get me into their car and talk to me. Well! Its a long story but we found her unhurt. The support we got from total strangers, neighbors the paramedics snd the police cops was just……life touching I should say. Im settling down now and trying to forget it. Started googling for similar situations. Im so sorry that you were surrounded by those kind of people when you needed help. To hell with their refund, just love your son more n more. You are a brave father and a caring husband! Focus on them not on these heartless calculators counting your stay on their ship.
    And Disney! Really? You guys claim to bring a smile on childrens faces.
    Dint expect this from you.

  22. RickP on October 12th, 2013 3:25 pm

    I'm very sorry you had such a traumatic experience and I'm glad he was found safe. I do have one question about the protocol. When we arrived to pick up our kids anytime, we had to give our password and then they located the girls with the armband first, then gave us a visitor lanyard to wear before they let us in to go find them. Did they not try to locate them on the computer first before you went in? That was in June, so maybe the protocol changed later.

  23. brentcsutoras on October 12th, 2013 6:44 pm

    There was never any rigid structure like you mention, although that very well could be the case normally. When I came in it was with 2 or 3 other parents and they did not try to find the kids for us. I remember feeling a little frustrated at first because I thought about why I was wandering around aimlessly looking for my child, but just chalked it up to being a cruise and lots of kids.

  24. Linda on October 21st, 2013 8:18 am

    I am so thankful that this story had a safe ending for your child. To Matthew's comment above, the fact that the child never left the facility does not mean that he was safe. Daycare 101 requires that there are no places small children can hide away from caregivers' view. If there had been an emergency, the child would have been left behind because they did not know where he was.

    I have been on a couple of cruises and during the cruises I learned to accept the fact that you turn over control for your life and safety to a company that has your safety as just ONE of their goals. Even in relative minor emergencies such as losing ship power, they do not have resources in place to help individual guests when needed. They will never be able to truly protect you when something goes wrong – you will be on your own to figure out the best course of action in any given emergency.

    The only time we experienced an emergency was when we lost power for a couple of hours. Our 15 year old daughter had been on the top deck with some friends so we headed up to find them. As the emergency lighting started to fade after about 30 minutes the ship got darker and darker. We felt like they were old enough to take care of themselves but it was getting more frightening as we were unable to find the girls. Finally, I heard her call me – she was sitting in a deck chair and I was standing right in front of her but it was too dark to see her.

    It is because of my belief that the cruise companies are not really able to completely protect your safety when you are on board, that I no longer think that kids should be taken on cruises – they are not able to protect themselves when the company's protocol fails to work perfectly and things ALWAYS go wrong to a small degree because of human error, lack of adequate control, inexperience of care givers, etc. etc.

    I hope no one thinks I am criticizing them for taking their children on cruises because that is not my intent. As consumers, it is too easy to listen to the marketing points about how well they take care of kids on the cruises when there are really a thousand holes in their protocols and plenty of opportunities for serious oversights. Disney obviously does the best job of promoting the idea that they will take care of your children and provide them a safe environment. Once again, that is one of their goals but not the one that will protect your children when things go wrong.

  25. Craig on November 8th, 2013 11:04 am

    Just before we took our three young children to Disneyland, we were told about an experience my brother in law's brother had, there. His son was snatched. The boy's parents went to Security and were told this: There are only two entrance/exits in Disneyland. You go with us to one and we will take your wife to the other. Your son will not look the same or be dressed the same so look into each child's eyes as they go through the exit.

    Apparently, the Disney personnel have experience with this. There is an order for a child to be 'adopted' and the age, ethnicity and look of a child is specified. A child that fits those traits becomes the target.

    The mother almost missed the child, since while in the hands of the abductor, his hair had been cut very short, his clothes changed and he had been drugged. She identified the child as he was being carried through the Disney exit.

    We were very aware during our Disney visit because our children had the same traits as that boy who was abducted; they are of Caucasian/Japanese ethnicity.

  26. crissy on January 28th, 2014 5:11 pm

    I can't believe the comments to tell you to bring your own nanny.The lack of responsibility and concern with Disney is just all wrong on their part. Disney is about kids and their safety should have been first priority. I'm guessing they didn't want to announce a child missing in their behalf because other parents would be concerned and question their own children's safety too. So really Disney was more concern about their reputation and not the children first. So they are not to be trusted! They could go through lengths to protect their name but not follow through with what Disney is all about. Kids… The safety band wasn't readable? Well that is a big no no! Plus even if the little boy had crawled into a space to sleep. Clearly know one was even paying him any attention or wondering were the little guy was while he was in the daycare. Daycare employees do need to watch the children and not let them alone. Having a band on his wrist is not a babysitter. It's a protective measure for pick up time. So those Disney daycare employee's should've known where the little guy was or notice he wasn't around if they where paying any attention to the kids. I feel for you and your family. In the end it was very cruel for them not to announce a missing child. For them to not feel the parents fear and panic. For them not to take these matters seriously is just heartless and why would we want to trust our children in your hands Disney.

  27. Jesse on February 25th, 2014 5:29 pm

    Hi Rebecca – sorry Alex,

    You're either a paid Disney writer to make things look less horrible then they are or you don't have anyone that you care enough to feel as bad as losing a child even for a minute.

  28. Jesse on February 25th, 2014 5:37 pm

    Dear Disney employee (Matthew),

    After you have lost a child for an hour, not knowing where he/she is and the workers/company offers no help or support then come back and let me know your feeling.

    Until then you just keep cashing those Disney checks.

  29. Angela on March 1st, 2014 3:10 am

    One minute with a child missing is like not breathing. 45 min would have put me over the edge. I have lost a two year old at a store and te doors were locked down with employees blocking anyone from leaving or coming in until he was found hiding under a rack. The joy and anger I felt at one time. So I can see his anger and would have definitely demanded some answers. Just not too sure I would want to be back at their facilities. No thanks.

  30. Michelle on April 18th, 2014 11:16 am

    Anyone that makes contrary remarks to this story is either A. Not a parent themselves or B. So self absorbed that they do not view their children with any real importance. It is the worst kind of fear to experience when a child is missing. If you have never had that feeling, even briefly, then you really have no place in commenting on this story. Disney is like most companies these days, they do not care about anything but getting your money! And that will not change until more people make a conscious decision to avoid giving them any money! So sorry for your terrible ordeal! It was inexcusable!

  31. Margie on April 29th, 2014 11:05 am

    wow was looking to book them and came across your story.. change of plans. sorry that happened.

  32. alicia on April 30th, 2014 12:22 pm

    How is a limited 2 day ticket sufficient? I would NEVER bring my child back to a Disney event after this…

  33. Disney traveler on April 30th, 2014 1:29 pm

    I am a mom and a frequent Disney visitor and cruiser. I know how the kids' areas work. And I know that most of the counselors are college age, love working with kids, but probably have not had to console a worried parent.. either often or ever. They also still had many children to look after while helping look for your son. I know the security. The kids really can't get out without someone knowing. The tracker band not working is probably the biggest issue. The security for leaving the ship would also preclude someone else taking a child off the ship. They admitted there were issues with lighting to be fixed. They apologized. They made an effort to make amends. Your child being hard to find and your feeling that nothing was being done (whether it was or wasn't) and your expectations of a bigger response after your son was found appear to me to be what ruined your trip. As a mother, I understand the fear. (My toddler got lost in Toys R Us a few years ago. An employees saw her but thought she was with a mom near her so didn't think it was my daughter. I didn't blame her or Toys R Us. I was just happy when I found her. But, I would not hold Disney to a higher standard than any other company and that seems to be what you are doing. I will continue to use Disney Cruise Line and recommend it to my friends with kids of all age.

  34. sharon on May 4th, 2014 2:20 pm

    What ever happened to customer service? What a lousy company response? How could they have no more care for the people they service nor their company image? This child could have fallen off the ship because obviously no one even noticed he was missing. Why did he need to take a nap behind some chairs? Do they not have a place for small children to rest? Why is the lighting so poor? Do they not have enough money to put in better lighting? How are they not even able to see the children? How many children are assigned to how many caregivers? Why are they stacking chairs in a care area? Don't they have a storage closet? Are there no surveillance cameras in this area? Reading this article made me want to cry. It also made me angry.

    Why was there no corporate plan of care for the parents or a code red alert given to stop any activity until the person was found? It only takes a moment for a child to never be seen again. Children are being molested, kidnapped, and harmed on a daily basis. Technology is not infallible, that is why people are appointed to monitor the children and the technology. Some parents are naive and careless with their children. They let their children wander all over the place without a care. Do you remember the parents who left their child in a hotel room while they had dinner. Their child Madelyne is still missing. They didn't have a sitter.

    So I understand how an aware responsible parents would feel the way you do. I do not let my 10 year old grandson go to the men's room unless I am standing outside the door. I do not leave him in a car by himself. I do not allow him to wander around stores. When he was small he had to ride in the cart because I didn't want to lose him.

    The people in charge of the ship should have better customer service training. The insensitivity of our world is progressing to a level that is truly sad. They can take your money. They are never wrong when we as customers have a problem with their service. Their attitude is we got your money!!!! Could this be why the cruise ship industry is having so many incidents which are being revealed on a daily basis. Adults falling off ships, people being killed, boats breaking down, ruining vacations and family memories for many years to come.

  35. Karen on May 5th, 2014 3:12 pm

    Bethany, you are an ass. I don't know if you have any kids of your own (I certainly hope not, for the kids' sake) but there is no feeling like the one you get when you think your child is missing, even for a moment.

    The guy was in a panic and trying to find his son…that is why he didn't stop to console his wife…but someone should have. They were not all frantically running around as he was…it was not their kid.

    You are callous and coldhearted, not to mention incredibly rude. I don't know if I can post the "b" word but it is certainly appropriate in your case.

    There is nothing wrong with using the Disney daycare for a night out, and to imply that parents who do so are negligent just shows your ignorance.

    I also think that after such a traumatic event, the captain certainly could have spent a moment or two with this family without the entire ship sinking. In case you were not aware, there ARE other people who can navigate the ship…or did you think the captain never slept and was at the helm 24/7?

    Your entire reply was asinine. I don't know you, but it is quite easy to despise you and your condescending smug words.

    God bless you, Brent, and I am so glad your little boy was found safely. The majority of people reading your story are human and can truly empathize with your experience.

  36. Tj on May 13th, 2014 2:36 am

    The only thing I could think about as I was reading this being I have 2 small children was, all the story’s you hear about missing people/kids all started the same way. 45 minutes turns in to hours or days. So for any one to state this isn’t serious is self absorbed and completely unable to understand some one else’s point of view. I feel like you were lucky how many other times have parents out there not been so lucky. I grew up in a time when we had faces on milk cartons.

    I am very happy for you and your family that this worked out but for any company especially one that is child centered to try to attach a monetary value to your child’s safety or the lack there of while in the care of that facility. What’s your kid worth to you. well I agree with you no amount of money would make that right but a little empathy would have went a long way

    Shame on you Disney that representative should not have been the one handling that call. I’m assuming some one higher up should have been the one resolving this situation. Unless this is how you handle your customers and this is your company’s stance in witch case this show a title lake of customer value

  37. Cruise! on May 15th, 2014 10:55 pm

    First, I do not have children, so my perspective on this is relatively different. However, I'm very familiar with cruise ships and theme park companies, so I wanted to share another perspective, not to invalidate how you feel, just to let you know what's going on with the people you're mad at.

    The employees are remaining calm, not to ignore you or their job, but to ease your stress. They know the kid is in there – I've heard of people escaping Alcatraz, but I've NEVER heard of them escaping Disney.

    The wristband is to ID the child, much like a hospital bracelet. The GPS function is secondary, it's not like GPS on an iPhone, it can't pinpoint anything (have you tried using your cell phone on a ship? it's sometimes functional with the satellite at sea, and not functional unless docked in the US) The best it has ever done is find a general area someone is in, and usually it's just not readable. But again, the job of the wristband is to sign them in and out, identifying who they are, not to follow them up and down slides.

    No minor can leave the ship without an adult presenting ID for them. The gangway was not ignoring you, they just can't ruin everyone else's vacation and close a port of call, when no child is going to be able to get off on their own in the first place.

    Announcements are made very carefully (albeit, they are usually announcements for things that will make revenue, such as the spa, excursions, or BINGO) even emergency situations have codes so that people don't freak out (someone fell down, the bakery lost electric, etc…) They can't announce a child has disappeared, when they just fell asleep under some chairs, because guests think that someone was kidnapped. That can't happen, you can't take a kid from the kid space unless they belong to you, and they make sure of that.

    It seems that the Captain has a great deal of time (signing something in the gift shop, answering questions or taking pictures, etc…) but the opposite is true. The Captain is in charge of absolutely EVERYTHING, from navigation to supplies to training to EVERYONE'S LIFE, he's constantly on call and usually working. He performs the marriage ceremonies on board, and sometimes cannot make it just to do the vows (and people pay thousands to get married there) because of more pressing issues. On a week long cruise, there's about 50 passengers celebrating birthdays, and MANY more celebrating everything from anniversaries to bar mitzvahs, it's just impossible for him to get to everybody.

    Disney has a reputation for giving out free stuff – and they do! Most often, it's in the parks, because of a problem caused by Disney (although, usually the things they give – parade viewing, meet and greet, fast pass – costs them nothing) The ship is totally different, almost nothing is given away for free because almost all of the problems are not in Disney's control ("it's not sunny, and I paid for sun" "my ocean excursion was too wet/hot" "we couldn't dock because of currents" "I didn't see Mickey") So, I'm surprised anything was offered to you in the first place, because "the captain didn't wish someone happy birthday" or "security didn't freak out along with my wife" are familiar calls to them.

    I noticed your bio mentioned viral content creation for the internet, and a headline like DISNEY LOSES CHILD works as well as any "you won't believe what happened next!" or "I thought this, but then this blew my mind!" because Mickey throwing a child overboard will make me click before an article about a child falling asleep under a stack of chairs. I'm not trying to trivialize your reaction – I'll probably react even bigger when my kid goes missing – it's just laying out the facts, and I think Carnival – or other economy cruise lines – already provide enough internet nightmares about cruising!

    Finally, I should tell you how much those teenagers – working 72 hours a week, on that same deck – ABSOLUTELY LOVE YOUR CHILDREN. They are not there for the money, they are not forced to be there, they are picked by Disney, and your child's safety and happiness is their entire LIFE for the contract. I hope you have better experiences in the future, because all of the employees – while they may have frustrated you – care about their job, and making you happy.

  38. Angelica Torres on May 22nd, 2014 7:24 pm

    Omg! I was seriously considering a Disney cruise for my two kids and after reading this you can definitely be sure that will NOT be happening. It is ridiculous that the crew treated you and your family that way. It is a Disney cruise you would think they would have practice drills for this kind of situation so the crew knows what to do in these kinds of situations.

  39. Cinthya on May 27th, 2014 10:50 pm

    Bethany is thy biggest ass in the world. I am so sorry this happened to you. I almost cried when reading this and my heart was pounding . i have children too and would have reacted the same and broken down that door if need be. I always wanted to take my kids on a disney cruise. No Way Will I Ever Take a Disney Cruise. Thank you for sharing your experience. Again so so sorry it went down the way it did.

  40. Lori on May 30th, 2014 11:51 am

    What really makes this story much scarier is this other article about a Disney Cruise employee being arrested for child molestation on the ship… http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/10/justice/disney-crui

  41. Siubhan on May 30th, 2014 12:51 pm

    Sad to say, its the Disney Culture. The reason the employees were afraid to consule, your Wife was probably because they were afraid of getting a “Discussion” from theyre Manager about “saying the wrong thing”, Theyre obsessive about “Perception”. and that intimidates the Employees to “Self Censure.” As for them being quite during the 45minutes, Disney doesnt like to sully the “magic” as you found out even at the cost of emotional and personal trauma. What if someone had taken him to their Cabin, and molested him. The reason Amber Alerts are effective is because they, “Make Noise”… and “Bring Immediate “Attention”.. What if another Cruise Passenger took your Son to their Cabin, as I said above and molested him, or worse. If you and your Wife are feeling still unnerved, it could be a touch of P.T S. Dont hesitate to reach out to an Advocate who specializes in P.T S. I feel so bad for your Wife. Give her hugz from me, and one for you too ..

  42. Yulia on June 1st, 2014 12:00 pm

    So sorry for that horrible experience you had and happy that your son was found safe. I travelled with my husband and a toddler with Disney Cruise twice, we used their nursery facility and loved the space (well lighted, has a locked gate and waiting area with another door, always well staffed). I remember touring the Oceaneers Club and thinking that it was dark…
    I also worked for a major hotel chain and can tell you that our philosophy was that any challenge is an opportunity not only to make up for a bad experience but to win a guest back and ensure positive feedback. Recovery was huge! And even though we were given some kind of guidelines (no, sorry, you can't get a freee room if you dont like our wallpaper) there was always a reasonable effort to compensate. Hospitality is a business where word of mouth can go a long way. I am shocked to see how Disney wanted to "compensate" you for this horrible experience. I'm a parent and understand that NOTHING can make you forget this horrible experience, yet an adequate recovery could make things better. Shame on Disney… And thank you for sharing and demanding explanation from the staff to make it more safe for other families.

  43. Movingmommie on June 13th, 2014 9:30 am

    As a parent and teacher i have experienceed kids slipping away but the response, lack of concern and offensive response is unexceptable. We just booked european disney cruise so in a bit stressed but i need to be more aware and double check on kids and BANDS i n the end it jus unexceptable……glad hes safe and ok!!!

  44. sharon on June 13th, 2014 1:31 pm

    If it hasnt been suggested yet, hire an attorney to communicate all of this, this is the only way Disney will respond.

  45. Glitz on June 14th, 2014 5:35 pm

    Bethany I feel sorry for you. I agree with the postings below. I am glad you are ~~not~~ the one left in charge of the children for you would be scratching your head or whatever wondering what to do. The father was right in his response. And REALLY??? The Captain could not spare a minute or two to speak with the parents? If he had of sent a bottle of wine to me it would have been sent back for we do not drink. What then?? You are cold and uncaring. I am glad I never got you for customer service you would have not liked me and I would have gone over your head to complain about you if that is the attitude you give out. I pity any people you had contact with.

  46. Joanna on June 21st, 2014 5:13 am

    Brent, thank you for sharing your story. I have a one year old and was researching the possibility of a Disney cruise with other relatives who also have children. I cannot imagine going through what you and your wife did on that trip. Disney was wrong on so many levels especially not having good protocol in place to address a missing child; and if they did and you just didn't see it, shame on them for not making you feel like they had the situation under control. I doubt I will ever go on a Disney Cruise now with my child after reading this, and I know when I show my husband your article, he'll feel the same way. I'm so glad your son is safe.

  47. kim on June 23rd, 2014 4:21 am

    A six year old boy drowned on one of the Disney cruises because they did not have life guards. The number one priority should be children's safety. Our little girl is a cancer survivor she was granted a wish. We considered very briefly a Disney Cruise however I knew that there would be no way I would leave my children with strangers especially on a cruise ship where their is such a grey area in respect to the law. If there were a problem what country is responsible for investigations such as a missing or exploited child. I worried most of the railing. I simply cannot imagine the fear your family must have endured. I hope people read your story and remember that when bad things happen it isn't always to someone else. It isn't until your standing in your own personal real life nightmare do you realize just what is involved. I am glad that you did not take any offers from them. Bad publicity that results in families not using their parks, ships etc. that is what will hurt them. Word of mouth can be great for a company or the worst thing for a company. All the best…… one family of 5 that will never ever travel Disney.

  48. Whisper on June 23rd, 2014 12:35 pm

    The way they handled this was truly shocking, but the main question is, why was the band unreadable? They should be checking the bands before you leave them to make sure they remain working intact.

    I'm not a father, but I seriously couldnt imagine losing my own child, children going missing just terrifies me, and makes me wonder how much it would terrify me if it were my own child. I'm just happy you found him, and next time you end up deciding to do a disney cruise (I would rather go with Carnival Cruises), try and spend more time with your child instead of leaving him in the care of people you do not even know

  49. Mara on July 12th, 2014 2:45 pm

    What a nightmare !!!!!!! This is sooo scary!!!!
    I was planning on cruising with my grand kids at the Disney Cruise because I always thought they would be the company that would care more about the kids and their safety. After reading this story I've completely changed my mind. NO Disney Cruises any more, period.

  50. John on July 12th, 2014 6:18 pm

    This is a horrible story, and I am shocked at how many people want to dismiss it as a customer service issue or feel as though you are overreacting.

    For the person (over a year ago, I know) that commented that the Captains job is to navigate the ship and ensure the safety of passengers, not to deal with customer service issues, you are wrong on two points. First, this was not a customer service issue, this was a customer safety issue. If the band cannot be read (I am guessing that this is because he was effectively behind a metal wall of chair legs disrupting the magnetic field) at any point then their number one safety device for keeping children from getting hurt, lost, or killed (falling into the ocean) has been compromised, and adequate steps were not taken to ensure that everything was being done to find the child (a simple announcement saying that a child has been separated from his caregivers, and could all people please take a look around).

    Secondly, the Captains job is not to just navigate the ship and ensure the safety of those on board. The Captains job is EVERYTHING. If anything of any significance happens on board HIS ship, it is his job to ensure that it was taken care of and that steps are in place to make sure that it does not happen again. There are no indications that either thing happened.

    It is not the job of the captain to mop up spills so people do not slip and hurt themselves, but if people are slipping and falling then it IS his job to figure out why, and why those under him are not taking care of it, and to ensure that people fix the problem before more people get hurt.

    Basically, it is his job to make sure that everyone else is doing their job. In this instance, many, many people were not doing their job, from the people that programmed a system that does not alert the crew when a childs band suddenly becomes unreadable, to the people that failed to make an announcement, to the people that did not take care of the mother, to the numerous crew members that did not take the father seriously and take action when they found out about the missing child, to the customer service representatives that insist that damages are limited only to the time after the child was missing. How about when a plane crashes, refunding survivors only the portion of the ticket that correlates to amount of projected flight time that the airplane was NOT in the air? Better yet, if the flight flew 75% of the way to its destination, how about give them a voucher for 25% off their next flight?

    There are no happy memories or good experiences that they got to enjoy, they were all erased the moment that the child went missing and it was not taken care of.

    I am not “anti-corporate” by any stretch of the imagination, but Disney is a multi-billion dollar corporation, and they can afford to offer full refunds to parents whose children are lost (even if they are found later) while in the care of the Disney Corporation. If they cannot afford to do that then there are even more serious problems about how often it happens. My guess is that this happening is VERY rare, and that is a good thing, but when it does happen they need to bend over backwards to make sure that everyone involved knows that it is unacceptable and that everything will be done to make sure it does not happen again.

    What, does Disney not want to set a precedent? You do not set a precedent for refunding cruise fares if the people do not like the food, but setting a precedent that says “If we lose your child, your cruise is on us.” does not seem that far out there. Again, how often does this happen that they would have to worry about setting a precedent?

    Finally, the author may not want anything now, and may refuse it if it is offered, but Disney should still offer them a refund and detailed explanation of how they failed anyways. This blog post was the 4th hit on Google when typing in “vacation toddler run free” in order to find a place where we can let our toddler run wild on his next vacation without worrying about his safety. A Disney Cruise was my first thought before reading this, and now I have some serious trepidation. From a customer service standpoint, as well as from a moral standpoint, they need to at least offer something other than day passes that they are still going to make a profit on anyways. The customer, and those of us reading this, need to feel as though Disney is willing to go the extra mile to ensure the safety and satisfaction of its customers. If there is any company out there that stakes its reputation on the safe experiences of children, it is Disney, and they need to make clear that they are just as upset that this happened as the parents are.

  51. John on July 12th, 2014 8:07 pm

    I could not disagree with you more, on many levels.
    Fist of all, you are right, without children you do not have the perspective to understand the pain that was caused. Losing a child like this is like being shot and thinking you are going to die, but worse, since it is happening to someone that you love infinitely more than yourself, and whose pain you feel as exponentially worse than your own. I thought I understood this before having children, but I did not. Literally picture yourself with punctured lungs, gasping for breath, thinking every moment could be your last as pain rips through your body for 45 minutes. Now imagine that this pain was caused by the Disney Corporation. There is no compensation that they could offer that would make up for the trauma, even if it suddenly disappeared 45 minutes later. That 45 minutes, and the trauma suffered, in burned into your brain just as surely as any trauma you have ever experienced in your life, and remembering it hurts just as much.

    Secondly, the actual losing track of the child is not the worst part, it is how Disney handled it, offering insult to injury.

    Next, it is you that do not understand how the wrist bands work. These are not GPS enabled like a cell phone, they are on their own Disney network, and they are reliable tracking devices that can actually give a reliable location of the child. In the Disney parks, these can be used to track general customer movement, shopping patterns, and even alert costumed characters when your child is nearby so that Goofy can walk up and say "Hi Jordan, how are you today?" They are used on the cruise ships also as a safety device to find lost children. The parents were told this, and understood that if their child went missing, all they had to do was pull up the location of the child on the computer. This system failed, compounding the trauma that the parents were feeling. Again, this is not cell phone GPS, and it is certainly not a hospital wrist band, it is communicating with relay points located all over the ship so that the "ship" knows where you are at any given moment. Had this been working, they would have been able to tell within a number of yards where the child was and the problem would have been solved. The band also made it so that the child was not supposed to be able to leave the assigned area with people being alerted. The fact that a "senior team member" was looking outside of the designated are indicates that even they believed that it was possible that the device completely failed and allowed the child out. (My personal guess is that the "wall" of metal chair legs created by the stacked chairs created a magnetic field that disrupted communication with the device.)

    Fourth, you say that Disney has a reputation for giving out free stuff, but not on ships because almost all problems are out of Disney's control. This was NOT out of Disney's control. If they had been walking around one of the decks and lost track of their own child, you would be right, but they left their child in a secure are, with people that promised the safety of his child, and THEY lost him. If you leave your child with a trusted daycare facility, and they leave a door open allowing the child to walk out into the street an into traffic, that is not the parents fault, that is the daycare facilities fault.

    Security did not freak out along with my wife? The Captain did not wish her a happy birthday? Are those really what you took away from this? Nobody was asking security to freak out, but consoling and reassuring would have been nice. You have to be careful what you announce over the 1MC (ship-wide communication), but a calm announcement that a child has been separated from his parents and caregivers is a far cry from something that will induce panic. He was not asking them to yell "We lost someones child! Everyone quickly try to find him or he might die!" People do not automatically assume kidnapping, I hear the same announcements in grocery stores all the time and have yet to see anyone freak out or assume that someone is being kidnapped. Also, it is easy to say "they can't announce a child has disappeared, when they just fell asleep under some chairs. . ." after the child has been found under the chairs. Nobody, not the parents, or the crew, or anyone else, knew that the child was asleep under the chairs for 45 minutes, and it is those 45 minutes that are in question. For that 45 minutes, the child may as well have fallen off into the ocean, or be about to fall off into the ocean. That is the urgency with which people need to respond. Not panic, but the calm urgency of people who are trained for this situation. Sure, they are teenagers, but I worked with thousands of "teenagers" of their age in the Navy, and they can respond quickly, professionally, and URGENTLY without losing their heads or raising alarm.

  52. John on July 12th, 2014 8:08 pm

    You totally missed the point about the gangway personnel. The dad was not saying he was upset because they did not shut down the ship, he was upset because the people at the gangway had no idea a child was missing, and a few minutes later the people at Guest Services had no idea that a child was missing. Guest services then told him that an alert had gone out to ALL personnel prior to the time that he spoke to the people at the gangway. If all personnel had been alerted, and that is part of their emergency procedure, how come neither the gangway personnel or the people at Guest Services had no idea there was a missing child? They did not say "Oh, silly me, I remember, I got that message on my Wave Phone 25 minutes ago!" They had NO IDEA, which means that the Wave Phone is not an effective means of communication in an emergency, at least in the 100% of emergencies that this customer experienced.

    In regards to two things, the Captain and the refund, you are, again, missing a serious point here. Hopefully, this was the absolute worst experience that any person on that cruise had. Maybe it is your lack of children that allows you to equate a missing child (again, to all people involved, he was not under a stack of chairs until after he was found) with not being able to get off the ship because of choppy water. I would have rather been stuck on the Carnival cruise with food poisoning or no power for a month than have to go through the 45 minutes that these parents went through. It would ruin my experience less and be less traumatic. If this was NOT the worst incident that they had on that cruise then they have a serious problem.
    My point is that this was highly abnormal, very, very, very bad, and something that deserved special treatment. This was a rare and serious problem, and it should have been treated as such, but it was not, it was treated, in the end, as though it were an uncomfortable experience. The Captain is busy, but if he does not have time to address every instance of a child going missing from their care then they need a new Captain. Him coming to the table to apologize and wish the wife a happy birthday would have been nice, but ANY time would have been good.

    The problem here is that you said at the beginning that you wanted to present the perspective of the other side, of the cruise personnel and the Disney Corporation. You may not have the perspective of the parent, but do you know who should take into account that perspective? The cruise personnel and the Disney Corporation. The apparent well being of the parents and children that make up nearly all of their customers should be their top priority. Treating a missing child like food poisoning, maybe preventable but not something worthy of a full refund, is NOT the way that Disney should look at this.

    They have had dozens of opportunities to set this right, and they have failed them all, apparently not wanting to make this into a precedent setting incident, or thinking it would hurt their reputation. As far as a precedent. . . how often does Disney lose children directly in their care that they have to worry about this being a precedent? As far as hurting their reputation goes, that speaks to one of your final points. The Dad in this case works creating viral content for the internet. He has done a damn good job of using his talents (I picture Liam Neeson in Taken talking about his specific set of skills) to bring this to light. This incident is posted in several travel sites, on his blog, and was reported on at Consumerist.com, which reached out to Disney for comment. This one incident, poorly handled, has hurt their reputation literally thousands of times more than taking care of the incident properly in the first place. They should treat EVERY customer as though they create viral content for the internet. This man was not making a mountain out of a molehill, he was just reporting on the mountain that Disney treated as a molehill.
    Sure, this was bad customer service, and in my view and the view of many other parents it was a horrible, horrible experience that was handled unprofessionally and without compassion, but at the heart of it this was all handled very very stupidly.

    Again, and finally, when you think that this man was being unreasonable, ask yourself why Disney is not willing to treat very seriously every case of children being lost in their care? How hard would that be? I am not suggesting that it happens so often that they feel they cannot afford it, I am stating that it probably happens so rarely that they are idiotic not treat it seriously enough that when it does happen the parents are left with the impression that Disney, and its employees, care about their children almost as much as the parents do. I have come to expect that of Disney, and that is why I am so shocked and upset by the way that they handled this. I would like to think of Disney as different, and actually caring about children and their parents, and this incident brings that into question.

  53. Krista on July 13th, 2014 1:41 am

    Yes accidents happen. It goes deeper than being happy the son was found and okay; there was an apparent lack of concern from staff (an immediate call should have gone over the loudspeaker). This was not a case of a child wandering away from a parent at a store – the child was left in the care of the child care centre, and the trust was there that they would give proper care. I have worked in childcare – you never stop counting heads; especially in a drop in program where you are not familiar with the individual children. To not know a child's whereabouts for a minimum of 45 minutes is unacceptable! And the amount of money Disney makes, it really would not have hurt them to refund the cost of the trip for one family to make up for LOSING THEIR CHILD!!!!

  54. mamabeeme on July 17th, 2014 5:28 am

    you're OBVIOUSLY not a parent. what happened was pure negligence. i'm sure their kid didn't "fall asleep". that's probably just their excuse so they don't get in trouble.

    losing your child at a store is very different from losing them on a ship. the imminent threat of falling overboard and not to mention vast expanses of places they could be, i'd be livid and scared too !

  55. child angle on July 29th, 2014 5:55 pm

    I am glad you found your child at toys R us. But they where not watching your child. The people on the ship was supposed to be watching this child. And all I am hearing out of you is excuses. I am sure they are glad their child has been found. The real question is why was there a stack of chairs where the kids where playing, Why didn't someone see him crawl off. I would never recommend this Cruise line to my friend unless I new things have changed. When your on a 7 day trip and something goes wrong that major (like a missing child) It makes the whole trip bad.

  56. cruiser with kids on July 30th, 2014 9:17 pm

    Worst feeling in the world. Lost a 7 year old at Walmart and freaked out. He was in the bathroom. Bit, for those five minutes every worst nightmare went through my head. Your story brings back those memories. Uggh. I feel for you. I believe the fault is totally on the staff members of the kids club. They should have been better trained and handled your anxiety and fears in a more empathetic way. They also should have gone over the entire protocol requires for a kid to leave the child care area. If they had done this first it may have been more obvious that the child could not have left with a stranger or on his own. A more thorough search would have found him. Sadly they didn't do that and your panic is understandable. They should have comped you more than they offered as well.

    I agree with others who say the captain was not integral to the situation. His job is to sail the ship. There are other people, including medical and security officers, to handle non nautical emergencies. In the end, the security system at the kids club did work though. He was always there, just hidden and asleep.

    We did a 7 night on Disney Magic when the kids we're 5 and 7. It truly was magical and they still talk about it 8 years later. If Disney offers more, you should accept. Forgive their ineptness and go back to have a really good time. I hope they see the errors they made and make amends.

  57. reporterhill on August 3rd, 2014 6:21 pm

    This is truly mind boggling. We are huge Disney fans and I find this unacceptable. For those who have commented on the order of you're making too big of a deal out of it and just move on MUST NOT have children or never had the gut-wrenching feeling of losing them — if only temporarily. As i was reading your story I had that same feeling I had when I "lost" my daughter in a department store many years ago. It was only for two minutes but it was the single most horrifying feeling I have ever had. For Disney to be so cavalier about this is truly disheartening. they should have been on that PA system IMMEDIATELY. I would have sued them and I mean that seriously — sued them for the price of the cruise and pain and suffering. What a bunch of cheap you know whats. they must not have been worried about a lawsuit, otherwise they would have offered to pay you back for the cruise (which I'm sure was WAY overpriced anyway) and then some. It would have been a small token for them to offer since to not do anything meant losing you as customers forever. It would have been a win/win situation. But I have noticed how cheap Disney is. There are no freebies with the Mouse. It's amazing you can get a free cup of ice at the vendors in the parks, but that's as far as their generosity goes. Anyway, I sympathize with your story and I agree with everything you said. This was handled totally inappropriately and it's really scary to think what COULD have happened. Thank God your son is okay.

  58. reporterhill on August 3rd, 2014 6:28 pm

    This is an EXCELLENT response and I wish somehow it could be sent to Disney Guest Services. Not only because I think this family deserves a FULL refund but because Disney needs to set it straight that they've worked on this "problem" and families need not fear this situation repeating itself with their child/children. If the author wasn't such a good writer and supremely believable, I WOULDN'T believe this happened. But I do believe him and it is very disheartening since we are huge Disney fans in my family. Good Job, John!

  59. MamaBear on August 10th, 2014 4:46 am

    Thank you Karen, well said.

  60. MamaBear on August 10th, 2014 4:52 am

    Karma's a b!tch Matthew, WHEN they lose your kid, don't b!tch, you brought it on yourself.

  61. mvaughn on August 16th, 2014 1:25 pm

    I’m sorry you had to go through that. I have two young boys around the same ages and I’m sure it was a traumatic thing to endure while it was happening but I think you are expecting way too much from Disney. I don’t think they should follow up and give you a call back. To say what exactly? They already apologized so what more is there to say? Yes, they should have put out a lost child announcement and that was a mistake on their part but what happened was an honest mistake. You also can’t get that upset that employees weren’t consoling your wife. I’m sorry but you focused way too much on that. They needed to be focusing on finding your son and your wife should have been doing the same. Just take the Disney passes and be happy you even got that. Disney is a multi billion dollar company that unfortunately isn’t concerned with small incidents like this.

  62. brentcsutoras on August 16th, 2014 1:40 pm

    Yeah this was some time ago, so not really something I think about daily anymore.

    I mentioned somewhere but I am not waiting on a call and only wrote this as my way of telling my experience when I was done with discussing it with Disney, which happened when they started calculated number of days ruined with me, which felt cold.

    Please note I never went to them and demanded anything. They came to me and asked what would I want to make the situation feel better, and I said I would prefer not to pay for it. When it got to the calculation of value and days, I was just done with the discussion.

    I also think it is something to clarify that I did not expect them to not look for my child in exchange for helping my wife, but there was about 6 employees around my crying wife, and of the 6 none where looking for my son either. To console her instead of literally turning around and wandering around to avoid eye contact was cold. Also she needed to stay there in case someone found him and he was scared.

  63. Sondra Hamer on August 18th, 2014 1:41 pm

    Kiss my ass Disney! I would never wastell my money on anything you own now. TOTALLY RIDICULOUS

  64. Marcha on August 18th, 2014 5:41 pm

    I don't agree much with this. Why would parents take a baby and a toddler on a Disney cruise? Even if you take lots of pictures, they wouldn't remember anything later on. Being a mom to a hyperactive daughter, whom we have lost in Miami, in a souk in The Middle East and in a lot of different places, I understand and sympathize with these parents, having felt the fear myself many times ….. But it never involved my daughter being a toddler, she was older. If you as parents wanted to celebrate something, you should have left the kids in the care of a relative for those few days, or not have gone at all!

  65. Thomas on August 19th, 2014 12:43 am

    Once the child was missing and the bracelet was unreadable I would of contacted the port authority to report a missing child from the ship. Disney was procrastinating with the assumption that their failure was ok and luckily it was. One child wasn't worth the cost or inconvenience of other passengers in the eyes of disney. I grew up down the street from Disney and it's a greedy organization that has no more real ties to Walts goal. Now that I have a 3 year old myself I refuse to allow him to think spending ridiculous amounts of money and waiting in lines is fun because that's what they are marketing.

  66. Minnesota Mamma on August 19th, 2014 2:01 pm

    I was googling something non-related and came upon your story and I have to say, I am still a bit sick to my stomach. The nonchalance of the employees that you encountered is disturbing. Reading Roxanne's post on the first page of comments- that's how a missing child event should be handled! (And, Roxanne, your story brought me to tears).

    John upthread stated it better than I ever could have. And, I am not a litigious person, but I would have seriously considered lawyering up after what you dealt with. Shame on all of the employees involved in this fiasco!

  67. J Smith on August 20th, 2014 10:24 am

    The problem with the Disney Cruise Lines staff is that they are not parents. Until someone has kids of his own, he can not empathize with the terror a parent feels. Cruise lines are staffed predominantly with young childless 20 year olds who are looking to make a pile of money. That doesn't mean they don't care, it just means they have no basis for empathy.

  68. brentcsutoras on August 20th, 2014 10:31 am

    You know.. that is a very good point.

  69. Laron on August 22nd, 2014 7:43 pm

    Wow until I read this I was planning a Disney cruise for my family I was told you could leave your kids while the adults had fun. SMHI will now pass.

  70. Sohrab on August 31st, 2014 10:24 pm

    Wow. I read this and empathize with the terror you must have felt. The harsh reality is that corporations are out their to make a buck. When something like this happens, their first reaction is to shield the company and potential profit. Finding children is not a profit generating activity.

    I’m glad it had a happy ending though.

  71. Tammy on September 2nd, 2014 2:57 pm

    I am the mother of four children (15, 13, 8 and 7). I have experienced the horror of losing or having a child lost. many more times than once and do I can empathize with your situation. That said, allowing the experience which ended happily to ruin a family vacation because you didn't receive an apology from and meet & greet from the captain (among other ridiculous assurances and freebies) says a great deal more about you than Disney. The truth is that no one – not Disney, not even you or your wife – can ensure the safety of your children with 100% certainty. Parents lose track of their own children every hour of every day and no one would make the absurd claim that the majority of these parents were negligent and failed to properly care for their children (of course, there are negligent parents, but children are lost to caring, attentive, safety cautious even overly vigilant parents regardless).

    Parents are ultimately responsible for the choices that they make on behalf of their children. You should be thrilled that you child was found unharmed – it seems to me you had much to celebrate at dinner. Be grateful that you were able to voice your concerns to the appropriate Disney staff (the Captain was in no way the appropriate staff) and hope that your experience and insight helps improve the situation for the next parents whose child falls asleep while in Disney's care (and there will be countless next times…). We leave on Monday on the Disney wonder and expect both the unexpected and also to have a wonderful time as a family ;)

  72. Shannon on September 3rd, 2014 3:53 pm

    I probably should not have read this… my daughter is on a cruise ship right now w/ my mom and a group of family- cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. I told my Mom that my daughter is not allowed in anyone else's care during the cruise… not the childcare facility on the shop and not even our OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS. My daughter is 9, but I don't know that care facility, how well the staff is trained, or how experienced they are so I just don't trust them. After reading this story, I am SO relieved I made it clear to my mom that my daughter does not leave her care for a second on that ship (especially b/c we have not been able to communicate since they left, but I know she will stick to her word and have my daughter by her side 24/7). Anyway, your story is every parents worst nightmare…. it was terrifying to think what if your child wandered off to an edge where he could have fallen in, or even to where the passengers were getting on/off the ship- if their tracking system was failing and they clearly did not follow any sort of guideline for when a child goes missing, then who is to say their method for ensuring a child does not leave that childcare facility area was full proof either. They should have been more than willing to meet your wishes in an effort to compensate for such a terrible experience. Their lack of experience with how they dealt with the situation when your child went missing and their lack of experience w/ customer service and pleasing the customer really has left a bad taste in my mouth and hopefully several others who read this. They were very wrong and could have even faced a lawsuit- especially for falsely guaranteeing your child's whereabouts w/ a device- this is what gave you a peace of mind to leave your child w/ them in the first place. Anyway, I am so sorry this happened to you and thank you for sharing your experience so that others can keep their children safe as well.

  73. Sean on September 5th, 2014 6:19 am

    As a father of a almost 3 yearold that has booked a cruise on Disney's Wonder next year I appreciate you sharing your story. I can't imagine what it would be like not to know where my child was for 45 minutes. I lost my daughter while walking through a crowded buffet in Vegas for only a matter of seconds and my heart was in my throat and I couldn't breath. She had left my side, was only 15 feet behind, but I couldnt see her.Hopefully Disney has learned something from this incident and has made changes in their system to better prevent something like this happening again. I know you do expect anthing from Disney but it would be nice if they would formally address you and your wife in writing detailing what they have done or plan to do to so this does happen to another family. And maybe 5 day park hopper tickets as two days of a cruise is worth way more then 2 days in Dsiney World.

  74. Larkspur on September 11th, 2014 10:42 am

    Was considering taking my daughter on a Disney cruise, but between this and them hiring child molesters, I'm pretty sure that I won't be going on one any time soon.

  75. Becky on September 15th, 2014 12:54 am

    I am most concerned that that the Disney staff did not post an alert as soon as you reported your child missing. 45 minutes is a long time especially since the gangplank was open and anyone could have taken the child off the ship. They need something like an amber alert system.

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