Do Cruise Lines Permit Registered Sexual Offenders to Cruise?

There are around 750,000 (some say the number is over 850.000) sexual offenders registered in the United States. Many thousands of these sexual offenders go on cruises each year. Some cruise lines do not permit registered offenders to cruise, but many if not most cruise lines do. 

Another lawyer here in Miami recently wrote an interesting article for the Huffington Post about this important issue, titled Should Cruise Ships Allow Sexual Offenders to Sail? 

The article points out, believe it or not, that there is a travel-related resource which caters to registered sexual offenders called Resources for RSO Travels, which published a blog post Can Registered Sex Offenders Go on a Cruise? The article answers its own question, writing "the answer is YES!" but further explains that there are some cruise line which block sexual offenders from cruising:

" . . . here are the two cruise lines that are notoriously known for denying registered sex offenders: Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Here are the cruise lines that allow registered sex offenders to board the ship: Norwegian, MSC, Holland America."

When I read the article, I find it disturbing that the registered offenders' blog characterized Royal Caribbean and Carnival as "notorious" for prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising and not characterizing NCL, MSC and HAL as "notorious" for permitting sexual predators to board their cruise ships. I suppose that's part of the problem with many sexual offenders. Even after being criminally convicted of their sexual crimes and placed on the National Sex Offender Public Website, they think Sexual Offender Cruise Shipthat they really didn't do anything wrong and they should be entitled to the same privileges as people who didn't commit sexual crimes. 

I have represented far too many people sexually assaulted on cruise ships, including dozens of children sexually abused during cruises, to have any tolerance for sexual offenders protesting that they were not permitted to cruise. 

Some men go on cruises for the primary purpose of abusing children. A couple of years ago, I wrote about a 71 year old man from Pennsylvania (photo left) who cruised on the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas and went went into the cruise ship's water zone 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, an FBI agent testified that the pedophile admitted that he went on the cruise to "have a sexual encounter with a young boy." (There was no indication that the man was on a sexual offender database at the time of the cruise; shortly after this incident Royal Caribbean starting performing background checks of passengers).  The man was convicted, served jail time and when released from jail he attempted to molest other children

But don't expect the U.S. government or port authorities (at either the state or national levels) to perform background checks and prevent sexual offenders from cruising.  Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection may arrest sexual predators who have an outstanding warrants but they usually do so only after the cruise ship returns to port. 

For example, a 28 year-old man (photo right) was arrested while disembarking the Carnival Inspiration at the Port of Tampa a few years ago. His name was flagged by a sweep of the manifest of Sexual Assault Outstanding Warrantpassengers by Homeland Security officials who determined that the passenger was wanted for sexual assault in addition to assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. The U.S. Marshals arrested the passenger only after the cruise ship returned to port. Regretfully, our federal government routinely looks at the ship passenger list only after the bad guys have already boarded the cruise ship.

If you take a cruise, you may be cruising with at least one felon aboard. U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested five passengers on outstanding warrants only after the Carnival Magic returned to port in Galveston several years ago. 

Cruise lines should do everything possible to keep pedophiles, sexual predators and sexual offenders  off of cruise ships. Yes, I realize that all sexual offenders are not pedophiles or technically "sexual predators" (who by definition must have been convicted of a first degree sexual crime or multiple lesser sexual crimes). But it is a step in the right direction for cruise lines to perform background checks on passengers to screen out such people convicted of sexual crimes.

Over the years, I have received many questions from people wanting to go on a cruise asking whether registered sexual offenders are allowed to cruise.  Usually, their inquires are anonymous. They claim that a "friend" is thinking of going on a cruise. They explain that their "friend" is a "really nice guy" who made a mistake a "long time ago" and is now "no threat to anyone" and other similar gobbledygook. 

A particularly annoying occurrence is when a registered sexual offender complains to me that they booked a cruise and received an email at the last minute that they are prohibited from going on the cruise. I have received many of these type of inquiries over the last several months from men convicted of sexual crimes and listed as registered offenders wanting to cruise with Carnival.  Although the cruise line always refunds their fares, several people have complained that they have been "inconvenienced" and want to see if they a lawsuit for being a victim of "discrimination."

I do not respond to such inquires, which have involved to date only people who had booked cruises with Carnival and Royal Caribbean and were notified by these cruise lines that they had been identified on a sexual offender database. The registered offenders who contact my law office remind me that most families who cruise have no idea who they are cruising with.  So kudos to Carnival and Royal Caribbean for keeping known sexual offenders off their ships and trying to keep their guests safe. Shame on the other cruise lines who don't perform such background checks.  

The bottom line is that there is no law to my knowledge prohibiting sexual offenders from cruising. Even if there were such a law, our federal government does a poor job vetting passenger manifests and probably would not find out until after the cruise ship leaves port. Its up to the cruise lines to screen their passengers and most cruise lines don't. It seems like only Carnival and Royal Caribbean do. 

Keep in mind that most of the sexual assaults of passengers are committed by crew members.  Few countries other than the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia have sexual offender databases, and very few countries have any online databases permitting any cruise line or hiring agents from knowing whether job applicants from the countries where crew members are hired (India, Indonesia, and the Caribbean islands) have been arrested or convicted of sexual or violent crimes. (And of course passengers from non U.S. countires without sexual offender databases cannot be screened). 

Don't forget that most sexual offenses historically have not been committed by people listed on the sexual offender websites.  I have handled over 100 cases and not a single one was committed by a known sexual predator, to my knowledge.  So perhaps Carnival and Royal Caribbean, at least, are doing the right thing in performing background checks of passengers, but that does not guarantee that your kids are safe at sea.  Don't let your guard down when you cruise. The majority of recent sexual assaults (particularly of children) have been committed either by passengers who were not previously identified as a sexual offender, or by pedophile crew members (such as a room attendant or waiter), from countries without databases, who groomed the child during the cruise and usually committed the assault near the end of the cruise. 

Have a comment? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

November 4, 2017 Update: A reader on our Facebook page commented that Carnival is already partnering with INTERPOL for enhanced security screening using INTERPOL'S I-Checkit global security system . . . Read the link here.

Photo credit:

Top -  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bottom - U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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Comments (12) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Astrogal - November 4, 2017 2:47 PM

Interesting article. I wonder why on Earth Disney isn't on the list of cruise ship companies that ban registered sex offenders - you would think they would be first on that list! Apart from our first cruise (Disney) all the rest of our cruises have been on Royal Caribbean and I'm glad to know that they are on that list. That being said, good warning at the end to not let your guard down because of it. Our daughter is now a "tween" and we never have let her explore the ship on her own, she is accompanied everywhere, if she wants to go to the kids pool then a parent always goes with her. She is never allowed to stay in the room by herself, nor would want to. She is with her parents everywhere she goes.

Shankar gautam - November 4, 2017 5:41 PM

No comments . reading continue....

wendel - November 5, 2017 4:59 PM

My neighbor is a registered sex offender and frankly, I'd trust her with my children over strangers. I really don't know what the hoopla is about. One joined my church and most people didn't have a problem with him. The ones who did, left. We're better for it.

Rudy101 - November 5, 2017 9:28 PM

The registry was passed ex-post facto under the theory that the registry was "information only" and was public record regardless and therefore the unlimited dissemination of the information could be used to let people know who was in the neighborhood and to keep an eye on them.

But it isn't that at all. The registry is actually used to systematically isolate a person socially from every aspect of the community. Not based upon a danger, but a PRESUMED DANGER simply because of a listing on a registry.

Who can be isolated? There are no limits to the legislature's ability to name whomever they want to the list. There is no review, no challenges and no appeals allowed. Many people are informed of their legal obligation (under severe penalty of law) by registered mail.

The lawyer even admits there is no problem with registered offenders on board cruise lines, as he has handled over 100 cases of sex crimes on ships and not a one was a registered offender.

This is the problem, I am systematically isolated from the community based upon a vague possibility there could be a danger, or because someone committed a crime.

Are there problems with sex crimes in parks by registered offenders? NO. But laws are passed around the country to exclude offenders.

Is there a problem with offenders living within some distance from a school? NO. No offense anywhere has been established to have a relationship to distance from a school. But that doesn't stop communities around the country from excluding those on a registry from even living in a home, and must live on the streets.

Is there a problem of registered offenders on Halloweeen? NO. There is not one offense anywhere by a previously convicted offender who preyed on children during Halloween. But that doesn't stop the community from passing laws prohibiting offenders from showing their face on Halloween.

Is there a problem of registered offenders on cruise lines? The lawyer admits there is none, but regardless advocates for complete exclusion.

UNTIL I GET DUE PROCESS OF LAW I REFUSE TO REGISTER. I do this to protect MY RIGHTS to be a member of the community. You cannot pass a law that has as a collatoral consequence of the complete social exclusion from society, applied by legislative fiat, without challenge, appeal, or court hearings. Legislatures are not allowed to create groups of people they get to define as dangerous and then apply it to whomever they want to, expanding the list each legislative session, and regardless of whenever the conviction occurred. This is illegal and a violation of the prohibition of ex-post facto laws, equal protection under the law and due process of law.

I make this comment just to illustrate that there is literally no limitations on society's ability to exclude, deny and bar, not based upon a danger they pose, but simply based upon social pressure to exclude.

DUE PROCESS is a DEMAND, not a request! It is a RIGHT, not a privilege. It is exactly how a free society is defined, and that is a CHECK on the ability to label dangerous and exclude. As a lawyer, you should know how badly you undercut your argument in a legal sense....

Rudy101 - November 5, 2017 9:37 PM

I assume you will not post my comment. The last thing you need on the crusade to exclude is any person who will assert legal rights. Your response might be, I do not have a right to be on a cruise. The problem is, as each social interaction is explicitly denied as a RIGHT, and as society continually expands exclusions, membership in the community becomes meaningless, offenders become isolated, alienated and more dangerous than otherwise would be and your registry simply becomes a PUNISHMENT.

The prohibition on ex-post facto laws applies and I will never register again!

Jim Walker - November 6, 2017 4:02 AM

"Rudy101:"

Most child molestations and assaults against women on cruise ships have been committed by crew members, as I stated in the article. Some of these crew members end up returning to the cruise ships and have assaulted women and children again. Take a second and read:

"MSC Cruises Reportedly Rehires Cabin Attendant Who Molested 10 Year Old Boy."

http://www.cruiselawnews.com/2017/09/articles/crime/msc-cruises-reportedly-rehires-cabin-attendant-who-molested-10-year-old-boy/

The problem is that some of these countries do have sexual offender laws or registers which maritime employers can check. Clearly, the criminal offenders would not have been permitted to be re-employed on cruise ships and would not have again committed crimes if they were identified as an offender.

Sexual predators and pedophiles in particular can't be cured; there is a reasonable concern that they will victimize others again.

It is interesting that you talk about your so-called "rights" but don't bother to mention the victims(s) that you have been convicted of abusing or assaulting. I would be interested in hearing their views about your selfish comments.

What sexual crimes were you convicted of or pled guilty to? Were children involved?

It is disturbing to hear you state that convicted offenders may become "more dangerous" because they are required to register and may feel isolated. Your situation is a good reminder that parents need to closely supervise their children because there are offenders who will defy the law and refuse to register after they have committed sex crimes.

Keith - November 6, 2017 4:49 AM

A helpful article to a point but given that 64,000 women in UK alone are child-sex offenders the article gives the impression that sex offending is carried out exclusively by males.
Females offend less but for balance and safety it would be appropriate to acknowledge the danger is from both sexes.

Rudy101 - November 6, 2017 5:13 AM

"It is disturbing to hear you state that convicted offenders may become "more dangerous" because they are required to register and may feel isolated."

You believe there is no psychology of offending? That if you take a person, that could very well have mental health issues surrounding their ability to control themselves sexually, and then strip them of safety and security, that it will have no impact on re-offense rates? We will take, YOU, a psychologically healthy person and make you an outcast, take your housing from you, take away all your friends, take away your ability to have meaningful employment, and make you an outcast in the community, what would that do to you psychologically? Are you going to be nearly as psychologically healthy as you are today? Maybe. But more likely, your decision making would be affected, and not in positive ways. Isn't that obvious?

You conflate the ability to do a background check, with being given a list on an unlimited basis for the express purpose of exclusion.

I am curious, are you only interested in my victim's viewpoint if it is one where she agrees with your viewpoint? What if that person doesn't agree? It doesn't matter a whit, now does it? And what impact does me not registering have on my victim? If this registry is set up for victims, why can't a victim be notified of an offender's whereabouts, without resorting to unlimited public notification? And where do you get this information that a notification of any sort has led to offenders not offending? In fact the research says just the opposite, and the research is overwhelming, that public registries are ineffective and add to MORE victims than otherwise would be. A simple google search would bear this out.

"Sexual predators and pedophiles in particular can't be cured; there is a reasonable concern that they will victimize others again."

You are right..Some people are very dangerous and will strike again. The State knows it too. Heck, I knew some of them. Do you know what the State is doing about it? They give you a list of those people and where they are, and that is it! How irresponsible is that? Knowing a person will strike again and do nothing about it except wait for them to strike again?

There is such a thing called, due process of law. Put a person in front of a court with the diagnosis and create a regime of regulation that is tailored to the individual. Because if you decide instead to put consensual sexual relationships on the registry, decades old crimes, and people that no reasonable person could conclude pose any danger to the community, the registry loses credibility. The registry becomes just a punishment, and the idea that it is a community protection tool is laughable at best and dangerous at worst.

I am safe from a registry law. I am a productive member of my community. I have stable housing, friends and employment. You all want to take all of that away from me for community protection, as if I have no RIGHTS. The answer is, NO. What I did is not your business. What you can do is have a court hearing and I will address all community concerns there.

You all don't want to do that, because you all have the answers already. But well, as I said above, this is about credibility and credibility of State action against individuals, as you well know is ONLY found in DUE PROCESS OF LAW.

Tired of Predators - November 6, 2017 9:46 AM

Rudy seems to be looking for empathy for sexual offenders.
I'm so pleased that Rudy is not in my community. But I'm sure there is another sexual predator that can take his place. They are everywhere.

Jim Walker - November 6, 2017 2:31 PM

"Rudy101:"

I read your quasi-manifesto and ramblings above which are, quite frankly, disturbing. You refuse to dislose whether you victimied a child. You think that the way your victim feels about the crime is meaningless.

Of course, criminal offenders can forfeit certain rights by committing and being convicted of sexual crimes. You were entitled to due process when you were being prosecuted; once convicted of your crimes, you have to face the consequences.

Rudy101 - November 6, 2017 6:15 PM

Well, it is obvious you are going to read into anything into what I state as negative, or "disturbing".

It is amazing how vague you will be about RIGHTS in order to justify the systematic isolation of a group of people,many of whom are not dangerous, many were added ex-post facto, many were convicted of innocuous sexual experimentation or consensual sex, and even were minors themselves upon conviction.

You state I have to face the consequences... The answer is, NO. I do not have to face illegal consequences.

But do you know what really makes me angry? There are families all across America, every single night somewhere, where, Dad, brother, uncle or family friend is desperately pleading to not turn them in, so as they can be an outcast from their family, their community, their career for their whole lives. They will cry, and they will swear they will never do it again, as they will say anything so as the family will not turn them in.

And of course, many will not for the specific reason because of what your registry has become. And the effect will be, they go on offending, not getting the help they need, and more victims will be made. This happens a lot, and if you think about it for one second, you might be able to visualize that scenario.

Finally, it doesn't matter what I did. The prohibition on ex-post facto laws still applies to me. I still get due process of law BEFORE State action against me, I can't be punished twice or continually without due process and mostly the registry is not a blank slate on which to hang punishments upon because a legislature decides that inherently non-criminal behavior has suddenly become criminal for me, because of what someone else has done, or could do.

The registry is dangerous. Dangerous to community safety, offender safety and potential victims.

I am sorry about your registry, but the DEMAND for due process is not radical. It is so fundamental, that without it, I get to laugh at your registry and ignore your laws with impunity.

Darrin - November 12, 2017 11:41 PM

"Sexual predators and pedophiles in particular can't be cured; there is a reasonable concern that they will victimize others again."

I would suggest that instead of citing urban myth that you all spend time reading actual medical studies and statistics.

As was accurately stated, that largest majority of sex offenses are committed by people who are NOT on the registry. In addition to that, contrary to erroneous beliefs, recidivism among registrants is not "frightening and high" but is instead among the lowest of all who have been arrested. Approximately 5% (on the high end) re-offend, while more than 90% of the crimes are committed by people not on the registry. So you tell me... who should you fear the most?

If molesting children were the only reason people ended up on the registry, that would be one thing. But since sexting, urinating in public, romeo and juliet crimes, and many "no contact" or "no victim" crimes also result in a requirement to register, the registry becomes meaningless and has no value whatsoever when the true facts are considered. People who have committed these crimes are not people who should have their traveling privileges revoked or taken away.

If we could all stop reacting and start thinking, we would all be able to not only exist together more peaceably, but also create better laws that make sense instead of just make us feel better.

After all of that is said, I do appreciate the service you provide on this website. You are merely doing what your conscience suggests. But let's deal with proven facts and statistics, not myth or rumor. Anything less is a dis-service to everyone.

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