My condolences go out to Joel's family and closest friends. I've known Joel since the early 2000s, and while most of our meetings were limited to meeting in passing somewhere during or after a chase, I always thought of him as a stand-up guy who was responsible and someone who cared for others. He and I had a conversation in a restaurant once about a tornado victim and I could tell that Joel genuinely cared about people - he was a storm chaser for the right reasons - a deep interest in meteorology and compassionate about the welfare of victims.
That being said, some of the reports that are coming out bother me at a professional level. Aside from running our storm chasing tours, during the "storm chasing off season" I'm a USCG licensed Master that operates sea going charters that caters to divers. I'm deeply bothered by the reports of widespread illegal drugs on this vessel. If the coasties boarded a vessel that I was in control of and found such substances belonging to a passenger, I might not be the person who gets arrested (although I could be), but I would without a doubt be the guy losing his license! Not to even mention that the vessel itself could be seized.
Being a captain comes with a lot of tremendous responsibilities! A captain is responsible for EVERYTHING that happens aboard a vessel under their control and they are responsible for EVERY crew action. Therefore the captain has ultimate control of everything onboard. Before any luggage or gear bag is loaded onto a vessel under my control, it's checked for anything that is against company/boat policy (and that includes anything that is against any law, of any country that we plan to make port, or even cruise through their EEZ). Thus, I fail to understand how so many people were able to get illegal substances onboard this vessel.
The passenger vessels (liveaboards) I operate are around 100 gross tons, the Harmony of the Seas is 227,000 GT. But, the same principles apply and I have the exact same license. I'm pretty sure that the vessel master in this situation isn't licensed by the USCG since the vessel is registered in the Bahamas (my "guess" is that he has a Norwegian or Liberian license). But, the ship made port in Puerto Rico where to my understanding it was met by the USCG, and if so, they would have conducted an investigation leading to an incident report, since this incident involves an American citizen (and was at an American port). If there were illegal substances suspected, the USCG very well might have conducted a search of the vessel as well. A copy of that report would be sent to the captain's licensing authority and it's my hope they're as strict about this matter as the USCG would be if this happened under a USCG licensed Master's watch.
It is ultimately the captain's responsibility to secure the vessel. If someone can sneak illegal substances such as drugs onboard, then someone else could just as easily bring explosives or weapons onboard a vessel. In my professional opinion, this captain should be "relieved of duty". If not fined, or more heavily punished and Royal Caribbean needs to tighten up their security protocols because it doesn't sound to me like these ships are all that safe. Yes, I am very angry over Joel's death. But, aside from that, I'm speaking purely from a professional viewpoint and trying to keep my emotions over this incident in-check while doing so. Vessel security is not a "lax matter"; and this vessel obviously wasn't very secure.