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"They told us our cards had been deactivated because there was a report that smoking material had been found in our room. I said, 'Yes, I had cigarettes on top of the dresser. But I did not smoke them,'" she recalls. "They said, 'We know you have not smoked. There are smoke detectors everywhere, and you have not activated any of them. But you signed a paper saying you would not bring cigarettes onboard this ship.' I said, 'What paper?'"
The officials showed Hernandez the ticket contract. The family was eventually allowed into their cabin and informed the situation would be dealt with the following day. The next morning Hernandez marched to the captain's office. That's where she met her fellow scofflaws and their families.
Deborah Osgood, a certified public accountant from Atlanta, says her son John Cadle IV bought a box of small cigars in Cozumel and smoked one on the pier before boarding the ship. The crew had seen him. Once he was onboard, security officers confiscated the box. Osgood maintains her son was never accused of smoking on the ship.
Maria Naccarato and her family were with the quince party. (She didn't know Hernandez prior to the trip.) Naccarato says guards accosted her son one morning after breakfast on the way to the bathroom. She speculates that a ship employee saw the pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket. She maintains he only smoked them onshore after the boat docked.
An Italian couple on their honeymoon also were among the group. Although New Times couldn't reach the pair, Naccarato and Hernandez tell the same story: The couple bought cigarettes in Cozumel, smoked during the day, and reboarded the Paradise. Security officers smelled the smoke on their clothes, searched their bags, and found the butts.
Ship officials then informed the passengers they would be expelled from the boat for their transgressions. Hernandez made several ship-to-shore calls, costing about $500, to a lawyer. To no avail. By noon the captain ordered that six people -- the Italians, Cadle, Smith, Naccarato's son, and Hernandez -- be removed from the Paradise in the Grand Caymans. Osgood, who was not accused, decided to leave with her son. The Hernandez family's mood swung from jubilant to anguished. Annellys sobbed along with Gloria Hernandez's mother. "It was ugly," says Hernandez's friend Medina. "I think if [Hernandez had] had drugs on her she wouldn't have been treated so badly."
Carnival employees booked $240 airline flights back to Miami for the disgraced passengers and tacked a $250 fine onto their bills. With just a few minutes to spare, the group was led from the boat and hustled to the airport for a 1 p.m. flight. "They really ruined the trip for everyone," Medina says.
Back in Miami, Hernandez met with lawyer David Markarian. He immediately drafted a letter to Carnival threatening to sue for damages if the company did not reimburse Hernandez, apologize to her in writing, and instantly enact measures to warn passengers of the possession penalty. Markarian compared the cruise line's no-smoking policy with the one imposed by airlines. "Airplanes do not allow smoking [and] fine people or arrest them for smoking; however, the carrying of cigarettes is allowed and violates no law," he wrote. He went on to compare the behavior of ship security to "gestapo tactics reminiscent of the Nazis."
He's waiting for an answer.