Cruise Ship Sexual Assaults
Sexual assaults are among the most common crimes reported aboard cruise ships. In 2016, the FBI received 92 reports of crimes aboard U.S. cruise ships, according to an NBC investigative report, 62 of which were sexual crimes. By law, all crimes aboard these ships must be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), while the U.S. Department of Transportation has published incident reports on a quarterly basis since 2010. The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act requires criminal activity to be tracked, which ranges from rape to homicide, kidnapping and missing persons, to theft and vessel tampering.
Major cruise lines have reported crimes such as inappropriate advances on passengers and crew members. While cruise ship law calls for crimes to be dealt with according to the statutes of the vessel’s country of origin, any cruise ship that leaves or arrives at a U.S. port is bound by U.S. laws.
Crimes can occur on any vessel or cruise line. Companies to be covered in more detail over subsequent pages include:
Founded in 1989 and now owned/operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., the company has a fleet of ships that sail to destinations throughout the world. Reported sexual assaults include an incident in 2013, aboard the Celebrity Century, in which a minor was touched inappropriately. Sexual crimes aboard the Equinox (2011, 2012) and the Reflection (2014) have also been reported.
Several incidents of assault and rape have been reported aboard Disney Cruise Line vessels. These include:
- An employee charged with molesting a female passenger in 2014; the teenager was reportedly assaulted by an Indonesian national on the Disney Dream Liner, an employee who was arrested at Port Canaveral and subsequently fired.
- In 2016, an employee aboard the Rhapsody allegedly raped another employee, and another incident involved a worker arrested for indecent exposure at a Cadiz, Spain, shopping mall while the ship was docked.
- In 2014, a minor was molested by a staff member in an elevator. The incident was captured on surveillance video; while the girl filed a report to security right away, local authorities were not alerted until the next day, after the ship set sail for the Bahamas.
Owned by Carnival Corporation, the company reported sexual assault cases in a quarterly U.S. Department of Transportation report from October 1, 2016, through December 31, 2016. Over the following three-month period, a sexual assault involving a crew member was reported. In 2014, a woman was assaulted by a ship employee; he was later convicted of rape and attempted murder, and given a 30-year prison sentence.
The luxury cruise line was the focus of sexual assault on a crew member in 2016. Compared to many cruise lines, the company’s ships carry a relatively few number of passengers, and a comparatively low number of crimes, although sexual assaults and other incidents often go unreported.
In 2016, 17 sexual assaults were reported aboard Carnival Cruise Lines ships, including one on a crew member. One crew assault was reported in 2017, as were six on passengers. A gym trainer allegedly molested a 16-year-old girl on a ship, while a steward aboard another vessel reportedly molested a young boy. A Honduran national, the man was charged with sexual battery and held with a $135,000 bond.
The fourth largest cruise line and largest privately-owned cruise company, MSC had at least one sexual assault of a passenger in 2011. A rape was also reported, involving a crew member, between January and March 2017, in the DOT database. Assaults of passengers were reported in 2016 as well.
Incidents of rape aboard the company’s 16-ship fleet include assaults of a crew member in 2016 and 2017. Five were reported among passengers from January through March 2016. There was also a report of such an assault between July and September 2015. In one incident, a passenger was locked in a storage room and attacked by a bartender, who had earlier served her drinks.
In addition to theft and suspicious deaths, a sexual assault was reported on a Princess cruise ship. There was one noted during the July 1 through September 30, 2015, quarterly reporting period. The company provides a Crime Prevention and Response Guide online to help guests who need to report suspicious activity and crimes.
Six separate reports of rape were reported from January through March 2017, and 15 total assaults were reported for 2016. One of these involved a female employee who was assaulted by a man as she slept in her cabin, according to the Miami New Times. Royal Caribbean International reports statistics of alleged crimes on its vessels in a format similar to the DOT.
The luxury cruise ship line has so far been free of sexual assault reports. However, crime can and does occur, including theft and a 2005 pirate attack off Somalia, on the Seabourn Spirit.