Crime Onboard: Cruise Ship Victims

Posted on June 20, 2012 by


When most people think of taking a cruise, their heads fill with visions of sunny days, drinks adorned with umbrellas and pineapple slices, and never-ending buffets. Becoming a crime victim generally doesn’t enter the picture.

While I’m the last person to encourage fear of crime hype, it is important to note that travel does put you at a greater risk for criminal victimization. You are less likely to be familiar with your surroundings, you’re often carrying valuables, and using alcohol more than you might ordinarily. This makes the vacationer a mark for a certain criminal demographic that preys on tourists.

Add to the increased risk of stranger crime the fact that victims of domestic violence may wind up on vacation with their abusers, or that what begins with a group vacay among friends may end with a sexual assault, and you’ve got an idea of how travel can increase the risk for victimization.

What happens on a cruise ship, then? Well, the crime victim onboard faces a number of problems:

  • They are often traveling in international waters or across several jurisdictions
  • The exact location of the crime may be indeterminate
  • The criminal justice system of the country that holds jurisdiction may be inadequate
  • The country holding jurisdiction may use a language the victim does not know
  • The cruise ships companies are headquartered in a variety of countries around the world
  • Evidence disappears rapidly on ships with large capacities and quick turnaround
  • Cruises are designed to maximize fun not handle crime

The recent Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act has helped to move in the right direction, but political pressures seriously weakened the bill just before its passage. Victims like Kendall Carver, whose daughter disappeared during a cruise to Alaska, are left with few options to pursue investigations and justice.

You can peruse the cruise industry crime statistics maintained by the Coast Guard, which is required by the Act. But reader beware: what you find is a far cry from a real portrait of crimes on board.


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Posted in: Victims