Hit the High Seas on Vacation But Be Careful

Summer time. Vacation Time. But no time to let your guard down. Traditionally, crime goes up during warmer weather with property crimes and aggravated assaults on the rise. In some locations murder rates increase too.  When temperatures get hotter there are more windows left open, more sweaty and irritated people seeking relief outside and more alcoholic beverages consumed in public – all of which can prompt bad behavior.

So maybe you and your family have decided to take an ocean cruise to get away from it all this summer? Well, beware because there is crime on the high seas too, sometimes violent crimes. And consider this: A vessel might be registered in the Bahamas, headquartered in Miami, travelling in international waters and carrying passengers from any number of foreign countries so law enforcement jurisdiction is murky.

If the ship departs from, say, Florida its local police might investigate once the cruise liner returns to port. The feds have jurisdiction if a crime has occurred against a U.S. citizen on a ship that has departed or will arrive back in the states. The FBI might be assigned to investigate. But these professionals will be days removed from when the crime occurred. Every detective will tell you evidence gathered immediately following a crime is often crucial to prosecution.

The cruise industry says they cater to more than 24 million customers each year and that crime rates on-board one of those massive floating hotels is a small fraction of the comparable rates of crime on land.

But on dry land you can immediately call 911 for help. You likely have a cop shop within a few minutes driving distance to your location and a fully equipped hospital nearby. On a cruise ship, perhaps hundreds of miles out at sea, you’ve got …. Well, you’ve got whatever the ship has to offer.

The Cruise Industry Says Ships Have “Robust” Security on Board

An official with the Cruise Lines International Association insists there is “robust security” on-board to assure passengers are safe. But, let’s get real. Any security officers on board are working for the cruise line and their primary allegiance may not be with the victimized passenger. Their efforts at gathering evidence, taking witness statements or tracking down suspects may be lacking.

NBC News has reported extensively on cruise line crime and calculated that of the 92 alleged crimes reported on cruise ships last year 62 were sexual assaults. I’m guessing here but I bet the hot temperatures on board, combined with free flowing booze, tends to reduce passenger’s inhibitions. But most frightening, a majority of the sexual assaults – be they committed by crew members or other passengers – were never prosecuted. A congressional report from a few years ago found minors were the victims in a third of those sexual assaults.

“The dirty secret in the cruise line industry is that crime does occur on cruise ships and very often law enforcement isn’t notified, evidence isn’t preserved, people aren’t assisted,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut. He is sponsoring a bill in the U.S. Senate that would require cruise lines to report any claim of criminal activity to the FBI within four hours, turn over all video evidence, earmark cases in which youngsters are involved and include a federal officer called a sea marshal on each ship. I’d like to add that each vessel be equipped with a proper evidentiary rape kit.

NBC’s reporting included stories about victimized teenage girls, one of whom tried to commit suicide after she said she was given alcohol and raped on board a cruise to the Virgin Islands. Another teen interviewed claimed she was sexually assaulted by a crew member in the ship’s gym. Jim Walker, a Miami attorney, said his firm has represented many victims of alleged cruise ship crime, including one who was just three years old.

The average passenger load on an ocean liner is about three thousand. But some mega-cruise liners can hold up to six thousand. Whenever you get that many people in a finite space, lulled by adult activities over here and supervised children and youth activities over there, trouble can develop.

I’m sure the cruise lines do their very best to fully vet and hire suitable employees. It would not be in their best interests to do otherwise. But this summer, if you are taking the family on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise to paradise don’t let your guard down. Have a wonderful vacation but realize crime can happen anywhere and you and yours are not immune.






  1. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Facebook Friend Chris Gutierrez writes:

    Good article and for us with a teenager, … cell phones do not work out there usually so to track her with the find my iPhone app, is useless. We just did an Alaskan cruise and reading this, makes me have little desire to take a cruise again soon. // On our Caribbean cruise, more than once, we felt unsafe in ports in the taxicabs as they would tell us of major gang activity in their town. Traveling at the time with a 2 and 11 year old, made us feel vulnerable and I do not see another Caribbean Cruise in our future.// Thanks Diane

    • Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 11:19 am

      Facebook Friend Bill Voinovich replies:

      Makes me want to run right down to sign up for a nice long cruise…NOT…

      • Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 11:20 am

        Chris Gutierrez replies:

        The time for “Fun Day at Sea” felt endless too Bill going both ways….and to get Wi-Fi I think was $500, and then dropped to $300, and then $150, but at that time with the $150, you are practically home. Thanks Diane.

  2. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Facebook Friend Joe DiGaetano writes:

    Been on some cruises that were good. I been on others that had late night problems. I was on 10 years ago where somebody needed blood and they were asking if somebody had that type. I talk about having a blood type card with you to my recruits.

  3. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Facebook Friend Kenneth R Martin writes:

    Most people who take a cruise fail to realize the vessel does not fly an USA flag. Thus we are not protected by the laws of the USA. Also please don’t get seriously ill while on a cruise. Medical resources are very limited.

  4. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Facebook Friend Steven Robson writes:

    Like holidaying on a moving block of flats with next door neighbour you would rather avoid

  5. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Facebook Friend Amy Tanaka writes:

    My mother went on only one cruise in her life after being a world wide traveler, ended up with the norovirus that plagues her to this day. Never again.

  6. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Facebook Friend Pat Kelley Wittorf writes:

    A truly disturbing number of people just “disappear” while on a cruise every year. I think I read it was 18-20 annually.

  7. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Facebook Friend Joya Colucci Lord writes:

    Just one more reason for me not to go on a cruise.

  8. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Facebook Friend Aj Benza writes:

    I’ve turned down three cruises recently. My family thinks I’m crazy, but I don’t wanna be anywhere with no hospital or police force.

  9. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Facebook Friend Lenore Riegel writes:

    I lived aboard a cruise ship – The Norway – when my two young teen kids, Sam & Eden, were in the on-board Broadway-type show. I never worried about safety at all. Security was great and this was before wifi and cell phones. Be careful on the islands, though, like any traveler. Boats are incredibly safe – everyone on the ship is carefully vetted and there’s no way off if a crime would occur. Also you don’t need cash or even cc’s on board.

    • Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      DD replies: Good to hear the other side, Lenore. Wondering though – how many years ago did you live on a cruise ship? ( and how nice THAT must have been! 🙂 )

      • Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 12:49 pm

        Leonore Regal replies:

        Lenore Riegel We never wanted to leave, but Eden felt she needed to return to NYC for her career. Not Sam – he wanted to sign up for another tour. We still love cruising and are taking my grandkids on a Disney one next month. Seems like many of the nay-sayers have never even been on a cruise. I have been on three and would do it again in a heartbeat. ///
        Oh it was back in the early 90s, but on my most recent cruise, I took my parents on a two-week cruise to the Northern capitols of Europe in 2003. My mom, a Holocaust survivor from Heidelberg, was able to visit Berlin for the first time in her life. She had always dreamed of it. And we also got to go to St. Petersburg (NOT Leningrad) – we attended the Bolshoi Ballet and toured The Hermitage. I am thrilled that we had that trip together.

  10. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Facebook Friend Andrea Saint James writes:

    I don’t do cruises. Period.

  11. Diane Dimond on July 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Facebook Friend Fran Weinstein writes:

    Cruises have always creeped me out

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