Crimes on Cruise Ships

Associated Press reported a California man has pled guilty in a U.S. Virgin Islands court to drug dealing onboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship the Allure of the Seas.

I recently did a blog about a man who pled guilty to going on a cruise with the intent to perform elicit sexual acts and in fact sexually molested a minor child.

I have also blogged about sexual assaults and rapes onboard cruise ships, as well as disappearances. The most famous case involving a disappearance of a passenger on a cruise ship is the George Smith case. I represented the parents of George Smith. It is believed he was the victim of foul play during a cruise. An ongoing F.B.I. investigation has not been closed regarding the circumstances and cause of his death. However, early reports reflected that there was blood found in his cabin, as well as outside on the awning area underneath his balcony. A passenger in the cabin next door heard loud noises going on in the cabin as if a fight had been taking place. The last people who were known to be with George Smith were other passengers who later were kicked off the cruise after allegations of a sexual assault against them surfaced.

What does that all teach us? I have been handling maritime personal injury and wrongful death cases, including cases involving disappearances, rapes and sexual assaults for almost thirty (30) years. We have learned that sexual predators can be on a cruise ship, as well as drug dealers. The cruise line often states they are like a floating city. This means that along with the analogy to a floating city, comes the recognition that each week there is a potential of 2,000 or more passengers from all over the country coming onboard, one or more who may come aboard with the intent to commit a criminal act. Of course, there is another potential 1,500 to 2,000 crewmembers from all over the world onboard the ship. The cruise lines have a limited ability to do thorough background checks on all of these crewmembers.

The cruise lines have historically kept from the public the number of crimes committed onboard cruise ships. It hurts their image. Most of the major cruise line companies have big public relations departments. Everyone has seen the commercials advertising the cruise ships as the “fun ship”, and creating the image of a carefree and safe vacation. Most people think a disappearance or a serious crime aboard a cruise ship is virtually nonexistent. At least, that was the thoughts prior to the George Smith incident receiving national and international attention, and spurring Congressional Hearings into safety issues onboard cruise ships. Eventually, President Obama signed into the law the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act on July 27, 2010.

I have always thought that the cruise lines should have more of a visible presence of a police force onboard their ships, especially since they have recognized they are similar to a city or a municipality. People need to know there is a strong police force aboard a cruise ship which will discourage criminal activity. In addition, I believe that liquor sales and consumption must be regulated and supervised more closely aboard a cruise ship since we all know that alcohol sales is a major revenue for the cruise ship companies, and that passengers are encouraged to drink alcohol from the moment they step onboard a cruise until it is completed. We have experienced many incidents which involve intoxication as a contributing cause.

As I have previously reported, the public simply needs to be aware of the fact that criminal acts do occur onboard cruise ships with a greater frequency than was previously known or expected. Although a cruise is a wonderful vacation to take, and can be safe for the entire family, you must be aware that there are risks of criminal activity occurring onboard a cruise ship. On a cruise ship, you have thousands of people, including the passengers and crewmembers, from all over the world.

The lessons we have learned is that crimes happen onboard cruise ships, and when you go onboard a cruise ship do not let your guard down. Be careful. Watch your children very carefully. Do not drink too much to where you may be a danger to yourself or more vulnerable to a criminal act happening to you. If you are the victim of a crime, or any type of serious incident, make sure to report it immediately and make sure the proper authorities are contacted if necessary.

Our firm continues to be safety advocates on behalf of passengers and crewmembers who have been harmed at sea.