A cruise ship boss says he was forced to walk the plank despite saving dozens of passengers from getting run over.
William Vick said he suffered permanent back injuries last year when he jumped in front of a whale of a man flying down a ramp toward vacationers waiting to board a Norwegian Cruise Line vessel in Hawaii. Instead of a clambake for valor, the food and beverage supervisor got a pink slip for allegedly canoodling with an underling. Now he’s suing Norwegian in a South Carolina federal court for tossing him off the boat for no reason and skipping out on his medical bills.
Vick’s attorney calls him nothing short of a hero.“He’s like a seaman superman and lunging in and grabbing this thing and saving the people below,” Thomas Winslow told The Daily Beast. “That’s the kind of image I have.”
Days after his heroics, when he was scheduled to get an MRI, Vick was summoned to appear at a meeting with senior brass.
“The minute I got called up there and they spoke her name I knew what this was about. It was a quick meeting and it was a joke,” he told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview about how he was deep-sixed. “The poor girl got let go... The whole thing is a farce from the beginning.”
The ship’s captain and others in charge of Hawaiian island-hopping Pride of America cruise ship who held the meeting had accused Vick, 51, and a bartender, of courting inside of his cabin weeks before the wheelchair heroics.
“That’s their accusation. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Vick said, denouncing the idea that the relationship was ever anything but platonic. “There’s nothing that stops anybody from coming to talk to me or see me in a cabin—there’s no rules against that whatsoever.”
The civil lawsuit cites Vick’s own copy of “Norwegian Cruise Line Shipboard Handbook” as stating that alone time, even hanky panky amongst crew members, is permitted. The handbook “specifically states that consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships or platonic living relationships between team members may occur.”
In fact, Vick’s lawyer, Thomas Winslow, said that the food and beverage supervisor was trying to get the twentysomething woman who was homesick to stick around.
“She was bawling and crying and he was just trying to convince her to work through the end of voyage—the end of the contract and she could just go on her way but he wanted her to not leave them stranded and low-staffed,” Winslow said.
The harsh exit was crushing for Vick.
“To be sent off—I was literally sitting in the parking lot with my suitcase looking at the ship leaving,” he said. “I was given 40 minutes to get off the ship. And I had no assistance removing my suitcase. I was in so much pain it was unreal,” he said. “I had to pay for my own flight home. It was pretty ugly.”
Left high and dry in Hawaii, the castaway had to figure out how to get clear across the country and back to South Carolina on his own dime.
“I was thousands of miles from home where I’m looking at the Atlantic right now,” he said. “It’s just bizarre the way the whole thing was handled. I had no pain medication I had nothing.
“I had nothing.”
Norwegian Cruise Lines did not return multiple emails and voice messages left by The Daily Beast.
It was an especially low tide on Sept. 11, 2014, the civil lawsuit notes, and the cruise ship had docked to scoop up revelers who were returning from a luau. Vick, who has 15 years experience on the high seas, was allegedly the only officer “to greet returning guests” and his lone assistant “was a housekeeper.” He was “wheeling a large man in his wheelchair up the ramp when he lost his grip and the wheelchair began to roll down the gangway and towards all of the other passengers climbing the ramp.”
“That particular day there was nobody there to help,” Vick said.
The housekeeper apparently was also pulling the heavy wheelchair in front of him before his grip on the handlebars gave way. “And the ramp was wet, it was at a weird angle and the kid slipped and here came the wheelchair—while there’s a line of 900 people getting ready to get run over.”
Even after three back surgeries and telling management “I didn’t push wheelchairs,” Vick says he turned himself into a human shield.
“I’m trying to make sure the crew member’s OK and the wheelchair hits one of the ladies. I have her in one hand and the housekeeper in the other and knew something had happened with my back immediately.”
The following day after the incident Vick said he was given injections by the boat’s medic to “quell the pain” and that he was promised to be given time off the boat to make an MRI appointment at a Honolulu hospital.
“The MRI never happened,” he said. “I got no assistance.”
Vick freely admits that he had previous back woes and had “worked very hard to get myself back physically to be able to work.”
But mostly Vick said he feels like was let down.
“I’m one of those guys that when I’m working somewhere I’m in 100 percent,” he said. “And I expect the people I work with to be in 100 percent as well.”
Winslow, his attorney, said the injuries are likely irreparable.
“He has severe nerve damage to his back which causes conditions in his leg. His leg is atrophied and it’s slowly decaying,” he said. “He’s got a permanent injury.”
Since his firing Vick pleaded with his former employer to “compensate him for his medical and living expenses” while he mends. But, the lawsuit states, “Norwegian has failed to fully compensate Vick for his medical living expenses.”
Vick’s lawyer admitted Norwegian has ponied up “some money” to reimburse the man for his medical expenses but says “there’s times where they aren’t sending him the check as agreed.”
Perhaps the most scalding of Vick’s accusations against the cruise company is that he warned them of the safety issues on the very same ramp before the wheelchair slipped away from the housekeeper. “I brought this particular issue up in safety meetings about that particular wheelchair,” Vick said. “And about the ramp that they were using and how unsafe it was and somebody was going to get hurt.
“But that somebody ended up being me.”