Sexual Predator Abuses 6 Year Old Aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas

We have blogged regularly about the danger of children being sexually abused on cruises, particularly aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  In our experience, if your child is going to be sexually abused during a cruise - the chances are likely it will occur on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Here's the latest example.

Last December, Sherwood Stevenson, age 71, of Clinton, Pennsylvania booked a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas for the purpose of molesting children.  

Sexual Predator - Royal Caribbean - Cruise Ship Crime According to multiple news sources, Stevenson went into the cruise ship's water zone on the Liberty of the Seas in December and fondled a 6-year-old boy.  He attempted to fondle a second child in an adjoining Jacuzzi. 

At a hearing before a Federal Magistrate in Pennsylvania, a FBI agent testified that Stevenson booked a trip on a Royal Caribbean cruise to "have a sexual encounter with a young boy."

Unlike most predators, he admitted to the sexual crimes on the cruise ship.

Federal prosecutors said that the cruise passenger has a a criminal past with other child sexual abuse charges.

The cruise line was able to keep the incident secret until the hearing today.  Unfortunately, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean like to keep these type of crimes away from the public's knowledge.

June 25, 2010 Update:

We received some interesting comments below from two of our readers, pointing out that parents should not permit their children to be in the water zone, or anywhere else on cruise ships, unsupervised.  I agree.  But the point is that most parents do not understand the number of sexual assaults which occur during cruises, and they are led by cruise lines and travel agents to believe that cruising is safe.

H20 Zone Waterpark Fun! - Royal Caribbean - Sexual AssaultThe photograph to the right is from the Royal Caribbean website under "Family Cruising."  The photograph is entitled H20 Zone Waterpark Fun!  It certainly looks like fun.  Lots of kids with no parents in sight.  Royal Caribbean goes on to say:

"While the kids are away, having the time of their lives in our Adventure Ocean® youth program, mom and dad can play. Melt your stress away in our VitalitySM Spa, press your luck in Casino Royale®, take a yoga class in the Fitness Center, dance the night away in one of our themed bars, enjoy an intimate dinner together in one of our specialty restaurants, or order complimentary room service until midnight and simply enjoy a little quality time of your own. Go ahead, have the date night you've been wishing for, our Sitters at Sea service will entertain your kids . . ."     

The danger as I see it is that responsible parents often get caught up in the excitement of the cruise.  They let their guards down.  And the cruise lines promote the idea that they will take care of your kids while failing to provide proper warnings of the types of things that we report about on this blog. 


For other information about sexual abuse on cruise ships read:

Carnival Cruise Ship Bartender Arrested On Charges Of Raping 14 Year Old Passenger 

Update: Sexual Assault Of Children On Cruise Ships

Top Ten Reasons Not To Cruise: No. 1 - Cruise Lines Are A Perfect Place To Sexually Abuse Children

Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship

Why Cruises are NOT the Best Vacations with Kids

Sexual Assault of Children on Cruise Ships - A Problem the Cruise Community Wants to Forget


Sources:   4ABC

Photo of Sherwood Stevenson:  KDKA Pittsburg

Photo of H20 Zone Waterpark      Royal Caribbean Cruises

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Comments (9) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Carolyn Barkley - June 23, 2010 10:13 PM

If parents attended to their children most of these examples wouldn't happen. I'm amazed at how many parents allow their children to run in all areas of the ship without guidance. The companies have specific, safe areas for children and the adult pools, hot tubs, elevators, etc. are NOT designated safe areas. Yes, the ship's have cameras but it only take a minute for these sick-o's to strike. When are parents going to take some of the responsibility for the control of their children? Predators are everywhere ~ malls, parks, beaches ~ so why do parents think that when you board a ship anything will be different?

Jim Walker - June 23, 2010 10:23 PM


Thanks for your comment, but:

The most likely location for a child to be sexually abused on a cruise ship? - "safe areas" like the teen center or youth program, returning late at night after leaving the teen center, or their own cabins by cabin attendants when their parents are not there.

Cruise lines promote the false notion that it is okay for parents to let their guard down.

Jim Walker

Carolyn Barkley - June 24, 2010 12:16 AM

Excuse me ~ but why aren't the parents there to see the children back to the cabin, etc.? A cruise line or a cruise ship shouldn't be expected to be children sitters. I appreciate all the information that you give us, especially regarding ports of call BUT I've seen too many instances especially around the pool areas where the parent is not in sight. I also hold the cruise lines accountable for not enforcing the "no children" rules but again it falls to the parents to be responsible. Cruises are NOT day care.

UK Cruises - June 25, 2010 5:48 AM

Jim, I read your blog regularly with interest. When I first came accross it, I didn't realise the cruise industry would be such a hive of activity for the world of Law! And stories are getting more and more disturbing!
I'm afraid I have to agree with Carolyn - parents shouldn't be creating an occassion where their children can fall into these evil hands! When it comes to Royal Caribbean, I hear time and time again client's appreciation of the fact that they can get off in ports of call and leave their children with the minders... Whilst this is perfectly safe, why do parents want to do this. They take a family holiday but can't wait to get shut of their children. An element of laziness comes into it with parents where once they all become familiar with the ship, it feels like a safe enclosed little community and they become complacent with letting their children run round as if in their own home. The 3000 other passengers may share the ship with you, but nobody knows each other from Adam!!! This situation should never have been able to occur. A 6 year old should have been constantly under adult supervision! It isn't just the danger of sexual predators - why was a 6 year old unsupervised in water???

Jim Walker - June 25, 2010 5:46 PM

Carolyn and U.K. Cruises:

I agree with you both. However, the focus should not be on criticizing the parents but to educate the public that it is not safe to leave the kids alone on cruises and you drop your kids off with "certified" counselors at your own risk.

Cruise lines like RCCL like to say it's safe, but it's not.

I posted an update to explain this further.

I do greatly appreciate your comments and good points!

Jim Walker

Scare Mom - July 25, 2010 8:06 PM

Having worked in an area with children that were abused over 20 years ago, I do not let my children leave my sight. Because I do not trust people. Anyway now we are scheduled for a cruise in August, and I wanted to leave my 7 year old in the children area with Supervise workers while we tour an Island, Now I'm scared as hell!

Carl Hancock - December 18, 2010 5:36 PM

Jim Walker:

"I agree with you both. However, the focus should not be on criticizing the parents but to educate the public that it is not safe to leave the kids alone on cruises and you drop your kids off with "certified" counselors at your own risk."

You say this as if cruise ships are the only place it is not safe to leave your kids alone.

As a parent myself its common sense not to leave your children alone and/or supervised by someone you do not personally know and trust. That applies at home, on vacation, at a hotel or on a cruiser ship. The rules don't change just because you are on a ship. I don't care what RC tells you as far as safety goes, you still have to be the parent and think responsibly.

Your comments appear to give parents a pass when their irresponsible parenting puts their children at risk for being abused. This is typical of our society. Blame someone else. It's the cruise ships fault. Bullshit. It's not the cruise ships fault, it's the parents fault for taking the cruise ships word at face value.

There is a severe lack of common sense in this country.

Eric Caravello - May 8, 2012 9:37 AM

All make good points. This is a vacation and a vacation is about spending time with your family. I have a better time with my child then without. If parents need time alone then go on a vacation with adults and leave children with a family member at home. My wife, child and I are taking a vacation in two week on Royal Caribbean cruise ships and I have no intention of leaving my child for a moment. Rule of thumb, TRUST NO ONE!!! It stinks we have to raise our children that way but this is the world we live in. Enjoy yourselves but first and foremost be safe..

Aimie - October 17, 2015 3:41 PM

I am slightly confused how this is Royal Caribbean's fault in the least?! It was NOT an employee or anyone even in the Adventure Ocean area. Sorry, if you are going to specifically make a line look bad it better not be you making them look bad for a PASSENGER'S actions. What do you want them to do, do background checks on every since passenger? Sorry, this falls directly on the parents because they two children were not under direct supervision of the child programs Royal provides. That would be like holding a mall accountable for the same thing happening in the toy area of the store. It is the PARENT that was not closely watching the interaction the child was having with those around him. This was a great attempt of pushing liability on a company that never said they were supervising a particular area. Now, if you had an example linked to this of an Adventure Ocean employee doing this, yep, I would be jumping on board with the down with the Royal Caribbean for family vacations. BUT, because it was a passenger I will continue to take my three kiddos on Royal and allow them to participate in Adventure Ocean when they want (which they always have a great time and beg to go to).

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