By BOB KECSKEMETY
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – A tragic note was struck last week just days after the departure of the Atlantis Events’ “Allure of the Seas” gay cruise, when Kenneth Gemmell of the United Kingdom leapt off the cruise ship in an apparent suicide during the early morning hours of Friday, Feb. 5. Gemmell’s death occurred while the vessel was heading back to Fort Lauderdale after spending the day near Cozumel, Mexico.
The “Allure of the Seas,” which is marketed as the world’s largest cruise ship, is operated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and chartered for the Caribbean/Mexican Riviera cruise by Atlantis Events. The sailing departed Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 29 with a scheduled return date of Feb. 5.
Paul Cote and Matty Miles were passengers on the “Allure.” The two host a daily gay Internet radio talk program, “The Paul and Matty Show,” on www.QNation.fm, and had been invited by Atlantis Events to broadcast their show live from the cruise.
They say that they were awakened early Friday morning when an “all-call announcement” broadcast another passenger’s name. When the person called didn’t respond, the muster alarm sounded, and all passengers were ordered to assemble at their respective muster stations for an emergency head count. The announcement intimated that the ship’s crew believed that someone had fallen overboard.
“They had reviewed the video footage from the surveillance cameras and someone had, in fact, fallen off the ship,” Cote said. “During this time, we sat there for an hour-and-a-half as they searched the rooms looking for the missing person. Then we were allowed back in rooms.”
The “Allure’s” closed-circuit footage showed the 30-year-old British passenger as he went over the balcony railing from his Deck 11 stateroom. The ship’s Global Positioning System (GPS) marked the vessel’s location and both the US and Mexican coast guards were alerted.
On Twitter, user @DarienneLake tweeted: “there was an announcement for someone to contact services at 6:30 a.m., then at 7 a.m. we went to muster stations to be accounted,” adding that “at 9 a.m. we were allowed back to our rooms. They have search boats looking for glitter in the water. Currently in Cozumel.”
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines released the following statement: “A guest on-board the ship saw the man fall overboard at 12:10 p.m. (7:10 a.m. local time) on Friday. The ship made multiple public announcements and began a complete search of the ship, in efforts to locate the guest. When the guest did not respond to the pages and was not found on-board, the captain alerted the local authorities of the situation.”
Cote says that in spite of the best efforts of the captain and crew, “It did put a damper on the experience for the [passengers],” he recalled. “It was the biggest day on the ship. It was their White Party that night and everybody was getting ready and wanted to have a good time. We had been in Cozumel all day and when the ship started moving again, one of the staffers had apparently said to some people that they did, in fact, find a suicide note that said ‘If you couldn’t find love on a ship, then you couldn’t find love anywhere’ and that he, in fact, jumped off the balcony.”
Cote explained that he and Miles had been scheduled to interview the “Allure’s” cruise director for their show, but that the topic of Gemmell’s suicide was off limits. They were also supposed to interview the disc jockey who performed at the last event aboard ship during which Gemmell was seen, but the deejay would not return their calls.
“The captain announced that he had been a captain for 22 years,” said Cote “and that something like this had never happened to him before. He was devastated. It was literally like the ship had gone down