When 40-year-old Merrian Carver went missing on the second day of a seven-day Alaskan Royal Caribbean cruise, the crew didn't respond as one might expect. In fact, the crew acted as though nothing had happened.
Merrian, a former investment banker who loved to write poetry, was divorced and decided to take a cruise in August 2004. Merrian lived in Cambridge, Mass., and her 13-year-old daughter was staying with her ex-husband in England.
No one even knew Merrian had gone away, until her father, Kendall Carver, received a frantic call from his granddaughter.
"She said: 'Do you know where my mother is? I've been calling her, and I haven't gotten a response,'" Carver told "Primetime."
After several days of unreturned phone calls, Carver and his wife, Carol, filed a missing-person report. Weeks later, police learned their daughter had purchased the cruise ticket.
But when Kendall Carver called the cruise line -- three weeks after the ship had docked in Vancouver, British Columbia, officials confirmed that Merrian had boarded the ship, but they weren't sure whether she had gotten off.
"In effect, Merrian vanished from the Earth," he said.
"It seemed like kind of a rather basic thing. If you put 2,000 people on a ship, you ought to know if 2,000 people got off the ship. They didn't know that. They couldn't tell us that," Carver said.
He became more alarmed when he said the cruise line casually explained that Merrian had stopped using her room after the second night, and that her belongings had remained in her cabin after everyone else had gotten off the ship.
Carver couldn't believe what he heard next: Royal Caribbean explained that it had given Merrian's clothes to charity and locked up her purse.
"They got rid of most of her stuff," he said. "A gold wristwatch, all her clothes were gone, vanished."
And most shocking of all, they told no one she was missing -- not the police, not the family.
"She was gone," Carver said. "And the purse had her name, Social Security number and everything. They just put it in storage, did nothing."
Retired and living in Phoenix, Kendall Carver, the former head of an insurance company, went back into CEO mode and launched the type of counteroffensive the cruise line probably hadn't expected. Eventually, he would spend more than $75,000 trying to find out what happened to his daughter.
First, he hired one of the word's largest private-detective agencies.
"We wanted to talk to somebody on that boat that had seen Merrian," Carver said. "Now that seemed like a pretty reasonable request."
Tim Schmolder was the San Francisco private eye dispatched to find out what had happened to Merrian. Schmolder started asking questions, and while he said Royal Caribbean provided some answers, he said it also set up some roadblocks to his investigation.
According to Schmolder, his requests for interviews with passengers or crew were denied, as was his access to the ship's video camera system. He said cruise officials also limited the amount of time he could spend on the ship.
After a few hours, Schmolder left the ship without a single clue as to how Merrian might have disappeared.