A crew member employed on the MSC Seascape went overboard near Puerto Rico last night around 8:00 P.M. (November 14, 2023). The United States Coast Guard (“USCG”) deployed two rescue vessels and a helicopter to search for the overboard employee.

NBC Miami reported that the crew member is from India and is a 30 year old man who was observed going overboard about 80-feet from the bow of the cruise ship from a height of approximately 32 feet above the water. The popular Crew Center, however, reports that the crew member involved in the incident is a Mauritian national employed as a hotel cleaner. 

There is no publicly available information regarding why the crew member went overboard. Most ship employees go overboard by jumping due to long working hours, fatigue & depression, and contracts that last for as long as six to ten months, isolation from their families and the lack of support and counseling.

A news reporter for a TV station in California, Sophia Lesseos, and a journalist, Liz González of KMPHFox26, who were both aboard the cruise ship and posted several videos on Twitter.

There is no indication that the MSC Seascape has a state-of-the-art man overboard (MOB) system which would automatically detect, via motion detection, radar and infra-red technology, when someone goes over the rails and can track the person in the water even at night. Without such a system, it is exceedingly difficult to search for a person in the water, especially at night.

In 2017, we reported that MSC Cruises announced that it had installed a state-of-the-art man overboard system on the MSC Meraviglia and was planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships.

MSC Cruises indicated that it developed an “intelligent video capturing and analysis system” in collaboration with “security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.” The Swiss-based cruise line announced that it has tested the new man overboard system on the company’s newest ship which debuted in June (2017).  MSC reported that “through over 25,000 hours of video analysis, extensive software testing and continuous algorithmic updates, the system has now reached a confirmed accuracy level of 97%.”

The MOB data and images are analyzed by two separate and independent image processing systems which significantly lower false alerts. “Once the alarm is activated in case of an overboard, an acoustic signal and light will notify the ship’s security officer, in a central security room, who can immediately retrieve and review the images and data and immediately notify the bridge to begin rescue efforts,” according to  Seatrade Cruise News. MSC Cruises announced MSC Meraviglia is “fitted with an integrated video surveillance system to optimize security monitoring on board the ship and which will allow, among other features, for the speediest intervention in the unlikely event a person or object falls overboard.”

In July 2019, a cruise guest in her 40’s went overboard from the MSC Meraviglia but was promptly rescued after the auto MOB alerted the crew that she went overboard.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that any other MSC ships have been equipped with the life saving MOB system. Nineteen (19) people have gone overboard from MSC cruise ships since 2006.

There have been at least 397 people have gone overboard from cruise ships in the last 25 years.

Have a question or comment? Please leave one below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Crew Center – MSC Seascape; Sophia Lesseos – videos via Twitter; Andrea @Inwoodmomma via Twitter – video via twitter; and Liz González / @LizKMPH – videos via Twitter.

Another cruise guest has somehow disappeared from a Carnival Cruise Line ship during a Caribbean cruise. Twenty-eight year old Tyler Barnett of Houma, Louisiana was last seen on the Carnival Glory cruise ship around 11:40 p.m. Sunday night. Carnival performed an onboard search around 7:00 a.m. on Monday morning after his whereabouts could not be determined that morning. Carnival then waited until over five and one-half hours to notify the U.S. Coast Guard that Mr. McGrath could not be located on the ship.

The Coast Guard station in New Orleans “received a report around 12:40 p.m. from Carnival Cruise Line that they had an unaccounted-for passenger,” according to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard then dispatched aircraft to search for the missing man.

This is not the first time that Carnival has inexplicably lost a passenger during a cruise to the Caribbean.

In early September of this year,  twenty-six year old Kevin McGrath, who was traveling with his family, did not disembark from the Carnival Conquest when it arrived back at the Port of Miami.

Like the most recent case, the ship’s CCTV did not indicate anyone falling overboard during the cruise, nor did the shipboard cameras provide an explanation where the passenger may have gone. Carnival claims that it conducted a complete search of the ship. Like all other Carnival cruise ships, the Carnival Conquest is not equipped with an automatic man overboard (MOB) system which would have instantly reported someone going over the railing, recorded the event, and then tracked the overboard passenger in the water.

The McGrath family started a petition titled “Where is Kevin McGrath” via Change.org to demand answers from Carnival, which you can read here.

Regarding this latest overboard passenger, who cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein calculates is the 386th person to go overboard from a cruise ship in the last 25 years, the Coast Guard  launched a HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew and an HC-130 Super Hercules aircrew to conduct searches of a roughly 200-mile area following the initial path of the cruise ship’s voyage.

The considerable expense of deploying aircraft and helicopters to search for missing cruise passengers and crew members is borne exclusively by the U.S. government. There is no expense to the cruise line, even when they negligently fail to install state-of-the-art MOB systems which would have alerted them that a person went overboard and then track the person in the water even at night.

Neither the Carnival Glory nor the Carnival Conquest cruise ships are equipped with life-saving automatic MOB systems.

Mr. Barnett’s family members suggest that there is no indication that the father of twin daughters would have jumped overboard. Other than last being seen shortly before midnight, there are few clues to explain what might have happened. The UnfilteredwithKiran website quotes his family as saying: “We last saw him at 11:40 (Sunday night), then he left saying he was going to his room. He didn’t go straight there though. His ID showed being swiped in the casino at 12:15 a.m., then it shows being used again to get into his room at 12:27 a.m. but his bed was never slept in.”

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

Image credit: Carnival GlorySunnya343 CC BY-SA 4.0 commons / wikimedia; search grid – U.S. Coast Guard; Tyler Barnett – UnfilterwithKarin

8:00 P.M. November 14, 2023 Update:

In an update, Carnival claims through a spokesperson that video evidence shows the man declared missing from the Carnival Glory allegedly “jumped from the ship’s deck.”

According to a Carnival statement, “ship security officials spotted the man on the ship’s surveillance video. They say he climbed onto a lifeboat and jumped from the ship’s Deck 4 Monday around 1:40 a.m.”

To try and explain why it delayed a day and one-half in releasing such information, Carnival said:

“Only on Tuesday were we advised of the possibility of him wearing a different shirt, which allowed our security team to change the profile of the guest as we searched onboard video.”

This belated explanation appears nonsensical. Why would Carnival delay informing the Coast Guard that a man went overboard because he was wearing a different shirt?

10:45 P.M. November 14, 2023 Update:

Mr. Barnett’s mother, Elisha Reid, disputed Carnival’s claim that he jumped, as the cruise line belatedly claims. Several local newspapers and television outlets, including FOX 8, report that following the new PR statement from Carnival, Ms. Reid later told Fox 8 that she believes “the footage shows he slipped off one of the lifeboats because he (had) been drinking.”

Carnival, with a history of environmental crimes which led to fines totalling $61,000,000, has been also convicted of felony perjury counts after it lied to the Coast Guard and U.S. attorneys. So its wicked corporate culture and propensity to lie are well established. It is outrageous that corporate felon Carnival would publicly disseminate its self-serving interpretation of CCTV images after it withheld the video from the grieving family from viewing.

Business Insider previously reported that Carnival would not share the CCTV images in question with the family and that the mother found out that her son was missing from the ship from a cousin, not the company. Its PR stunt of now releasing this questionable information is, in my view, just pouring salt into the wound.

5:00 P.M. November 21, 2023 Update: The Independent newspaper reports on Carnival’s claims where it belatedly flip-flops between saying that “there were no CCTV tapes” vs. the CCTV allegedly shows Mr. Barnett allegedly “jumping from a lifeboat.” Also, Carnival made this outlandish claim to the public rather that communicating privately to Mr. Barnett’s mother.

Last night, the Carnival Magic dumped a large amount of toxic emissions residue collected from the vessel’s so called “Advanced Air Quality System” into the water in Grand Turk as it was preparing to continue on its cruise in the Caribbean. Several passengers aboard the Carnival cruise ship, who were apparently confused with what they observed, mistakenly called the scrubber discharge a “giant oil slick” or an “oil spill.”

Photo credit: @chuck_richards via Twitter

Carnival said in a press release, published by the popular Cruise Radio and the Cruise Hive cruise fan sites, that the accidental discharge was the result of what it is calling a “soot discharge” from the ship’s “Exhaust Gas Control Systems (EGCS).”

Carnival’s EGCS are commonly called “scrubbers” which are used to try and remove non-combustible particles such as soot, incompletely burned oil, and ash, from its emission stacks. A scrubber works by spraying alkaline water (usually seawater) into the vessel’s exhaust stacks, which is designed to reduce carbon, sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions, and non-combustible particles from bunker fuel from the ship’s engine exhaust gases.  Carnival has decided that it is cheaper to use such systems rather than purchase more expensive low sulfur fuel.

Carnival heavily promotes the use of scrubbers throughout its fleet including ships operated by its numerous brands. It euphemistically calls scubbers “A Clean Solution for Air and Water.

The pollutants which scrubbers remove from the air are called “scrubber sludge” or simply “sludge,” which are accurate descriptions of the toxic mix of metals, such as lead, nickel and zinc, as well as hydrocarbons, sulfur, and nitrogen compounds. In the “open loop” systems commonly used by Carnival, the toxic and acidic sludge is then dumped back into the ocean. Read more about the problem of scrubber sludge: Smoke and Mirrors: Cruise Line Scrubbers Turn Air Pollution Into Water Pollution

Many people call scrubbers “emissions cheat” systems which are designed to avoid the shipping industry having to buy cleaner, more expensive fuel. The Guardian newspaper called them an  “environmental dodge.” In the most used system, known as “open loop,” the waste water is discharged into the ocean. “Scrubbers effectively turn air pollution into water pollution,” says Kendra Ulrich, of environmental group Stand.earth.

This is not the first time that we have seen scrubber sludge dumped from a Carnival Corporation-owned cruise ship. In August of 2018, Princess Cruises’ Star Princess cruise ship discharged sludge from its exhaust system scrubbers in the port of Ketchikan, Alaska according to the city of Ketchikan, as originally reported by  KRBD Community Radio. KRBD also reported that the city received complaints by the public of an earlier similar discharge from the Golden Princess while in Ketchikan. We wrote about the dumping of scrubber sludge from the Carnival Corporation-owned ship at the time.

Scrubber Sludge from Star Princess in Ketchikan, Alaska

Princess Cruises responded to an article in Travel Weekly about the disgusting incident in Alaska by claiming that what is shown in the photographs was just “sea foam discolored by natural microorganisms such as algae in the seawater.”

When Carnival Corporation and its subsidiaries were under probation for felony pollution crimes from 2016 to 2021, the Court Appointed Monitor submitted several reports to the senior federal judge that Carnival was routinely violating probation by its discharges of wash water to the sea from its “Advanced Air Quality Systems.”

The irony is that although this incident was apparently inadvertent, Carnival routinely dumps this nasty sludge into the water around the world. It is my impression that most people who cruise are not aware of these environmental cheat devices used by Carnival (and other brands) to continue to burn cheaper, high sulfur fuels, nor are they aware that cruise ships routinely discharge toxic waste water residue from scrubbers as the ships sail. What happened yesterday on the Carnival Magic was obviously an accident to the extent that so much sludge was dumped at once in the water at port as opposed to being slowly discharged at sea and away from shore where it would not be observed so readily.

.In the Travel Weekly article cited above, the magazine reported that cruise ship scrubbers “produce a surprising amount of waste: An average seven-day cruise on a big ship can yield two to five tons of scrubber sludge, said Brian Salerno, senior vice president for maritime policy at CLIA.”

There is a noticeable difference in slowly emptying the scrubber sludge tanks over the course of a week long cruise in the Caribbean before returning to port in Florida and inadvertently dumping five tons of sludge all at once at a port before a boatload of guests with iPhones.

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

Image Credit: Cover photos – Carnival Magic scrubber sludge – Chuck Richards and Cruise Radio compilation via Twitter; Scrubber sludge – Star Princess – City of Ketchikan; Carnival Magic – Jonathan Palombo – CC BY 2.0 commons / wikimedia.

Last night, a person went overboard from the Symphony of the Seas. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship was sailing off of the west coast of Spain and was at the beginning of the trans-Atlantic repositioning cruise after finishing its itineraries in the Mediterranean.

Guests onboard the ship reportedly heard “Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!” being announced shortly after 11 p.m. last night. One of the guests notified me about an hour after the person went into the ocean. It is currently unknown whether the person is a man or a woman, or a guest or crew member. It is also a mystery how the person went over the rails into the water.


To our knowledge, other than postings on Twitter, there have been no accounts of this event in the news. The person who provided this information last stated: “There was no further mention of the incident. Looks like nothing has been mentioned in the media. It’s as if it didn’t even happen.”

Reporting on successful search and rescues is a delight. No mention of the usual delays in not having an automatic man overboard system. No misleading claims by the cruise line that it conducted an “immediate” search when in fact the company delayed several hours and the guest or crew member died. No one diverting responsibility by blaming the guest. No useless arguing that “no one can fall off a cruise ship.”

Just good news that another soul was not lost a sea.

have a comment or question? Please leave one or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Video taken on Symphony of the Seas –Landon @landonb94 via Twitter; Symphony of the Seas – Darthvadrouw – commons / wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

November 1, 2023 Update:

We received this additional information from the cruise ship:

“From what I gathered from a crew member the guest is male and around 60. He is still on the ship and depending on his condition he may be offloaded tomorrow at Cadiz. This is the final stop before 9 day crossing to Nassau.”

This incident was reported by Business Insider.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, or CVSSA, passed in 2010 by Congress requires cruise ships to use technology “that can be used for capturing images of passengers or detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.”

Insider previously reported that, despite those requirements, the Coast Guard hasn’t inspected cruise ships for any man overboard technology, cameras or otherwise.

A crew member employed on the AIDA operated and Carnival Corporation owned AIDAPerla cruise ship went overboard last night / early this morning as the ship was heading from Hamburg, Germany into the English Channel on a cruise to the Caribbean.

A German cruise passenger provided me with a detailed explanation of the tragic events. The chronology reveals that there was at least a four and one-half hour time period between when the crew member went overboard and when the ship finally turned around to begin search and rescue efforts.

Time Line From Cruise Passenger:

  • Shortly before 9:00 a.m. – captain is notified of overboard crew member (the Independent newspaper reports that”HM Coastguard was alerted at about 8:55 a.m.);
  • 10:03 a.m. – the AIDAPerla turns around and begins to head toward location of overboard crew member which appears to be around 60 miles;
  • 10:45 a.m. – captain notifies passengers of the man overboard situation;
  • 12:39 p.m. – captain makes another announcement confirming the “man overboard” report and stating that they would be at the site where the crew member went overboard “in about an hour;”
  • 1:30 p.m. – the AIDAPerla arrives at the search area and begins search (at this point,it was 4 & 1/2 hours after the ship reported the crew member missing to the U.K. authorities);
  • 6:23 p.m. – the captain announced that the Coast Guard had called off the search but the AIDAPerla sailed in the search area for about 1 hour.

The guest responded to these questions on Twitter:

The chronology of events belies AIDA’s press statement that “the captain and crew of AIDAperla immediately initiated all necessary rescue measures in close coordination with the local authorities.” In truth, the captain and crew had no idea that a crew member went overboard and the cruise ship continued to sail on it route for four and one-half hours until the crew member was reported missing. Even after reporting to the U.K. authorities that a crew member was missing from the ship, the captain still delayed turning the ship around to sail back to the search area for over an hour.

This case has all of the characteristics of another cruise ship which has not been equipped with a state of the art MOB system. Technology has long existed where the bridge can be automatically and immediately notified by motion detection systems that a person has gone overboard. The system then can verify and videotape that a person has gone over the railings and can even track the person in the water at night via radar and infrared technology.

Without such readily available systems, there inevitably are delays where the guest or ship employee is eventually noticed missing and the ship spends a couple of hours searching on the ship before it is belatedly discovered (typically after looking through surveillance video) that the person has gone over the railing. Delayed search and rescue efforts are usually deadly.

To our knowledge, not a single Carnival Corporation owned cruise ship has invested in the lifesaving MOB technology.

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, there have been at least 394 people (guests and crew members) who have gone overboard from cruise ships in the last two and a half decades.

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

October 27, 2023 Update:

Image credit: AIDAPerla – Philippe Alès – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons /wikimedia; AIS tracking image via @GuenniNMS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 73 (66 passengers and 7 crew members) on Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady cruise ship reported being ill during the cruise that ended in Miami on Friday, with complaints of abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.

This year, there have been 14 gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships that met the federal health agency’s threshold for public notification, more than any for the years between 2017 and 2019.

The CDC has not determined the “causative agent” for this most recent outbreak. Norovirus is listed as the causative agent in all other 13 cruise ship outbreaks this year.

Norovirus is the usual cause of gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships and is commonly the cause of outbreaks in nursing homes, hospitals and daycare facilities. According to the CDC and FDA, the most likely cause for cruise ship GI outbreaks is contaminated water or food.

Virgin Voyages downplayed the outbreak, stating that  there is no impact to the upcoming cruise’s ports of call. Virgin Voyages’ COO Michelle Bentubo told USA TODAY: “We are working closely with the CDC and their medical professionals. There is currently no impact to the upcoming voyage’s departure time or ports of call.”

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

Photo Credit: Scarlet Lady – Sidvics – CC BY-SA 4.0 commons / wikimedia; molecure – BBC.

Today, a court in Hungary sentenced the captain (master) of the Viking Sigyn river cruise ship to five years and six months in jail for his negligence in causing the sinking of a Hungarian sightseeing boat, the Hableany (“Mermaid”), on the Danube River during the evening of May 29, 2019.

Hungarian Judge Dr. Leona Németh found that Captain Chaplinsky was negligent in the operation of the Viking river cruise ship which overtook and ran over the smaller sightseeing boat as the two vessels proceeded at night under the Margit Bridge on the Danube River in central Budapest.

At the time of the collision, there were 33 tourists and 2 Hungarian tour guides aboard the sightseeing boat. Twenty-five South Korean tourists and the two tour guides died. The body of one tourist could not be located.

There were no reports of injury on the Viking river ship (called a “longship” by Viking). The Washington Post‘s coverage of the collision contained a video of the incident.

Captain Chaplinsky was found guilty of “endangering water transport leading to a deadly mass accident,” according to the Budapest judge who also acquitted the captain of “failing to provide help.”

Before the verdict, Captain Chaplinsky, now 68 years old, voiced his”immense regret” for the fatalities. He reportedly stated before he was sentenced: “I can’t rest even for a minute because of the memories of this terrible tragedy. I can’t sleep at night because of them.”

Captain Chaplinsky has been in police custody since the collision, including being remanded to house arrest in Hungary since 2020, according to MRT. The judge ordered the time Chaplinsky has already served to count toward his five-and-a-half-year sentence. This will result in jail time of less than two years.

Have a comment or question? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our facebook page.

Image credit: Master Yuriy Chaplinsky – Condé Nast Traveler / Deborah Dunn; Viking Sigyn collision – screengrab from ATV Magyarország YouTube.

A twenty-one year old college student was arrested last week after a grand jury indicted him on charges of assaulting a woman onboard the Carnival Legend earlier this year. The Department of Justice published a press release indicating that Jalen Kelly was indicted last week of (1) assault, (2) sexual abuse, and (3) aggravated sexual abuse of a young woman on the Carnival cruise ship.

The case was filed in federal court in Baltimore, Mayland. The defendant is from the state of Maryland where the cruise originated. The DOJ press release indicates that Mr, Kelly allegedly engaged in a “sexual act by force” and assaulted “Victim 1” without consent on board the Carnival Legend.

The press release credits the cooperation of the Wingate University Campus Safety and Wingate Police Department for their assistance. Mr. Kelley appears to be a student at Wingate University.

The indictment also includes “child exploitation forfeiture” allegations pursuant to 18 U.S. C. Section 2251 et seq. where the U.S. government seeks the recovery of any “film or videotape” or other “visual depictions” of the alleged sexual abuse.

The indictment and court records contain no details of the alleged crime but reasonably suggest that the victim may be a minor given the child exploitation forfeiture allegations.

The cruise industry refuses to disclose, generally, when the victim of a sexual assault on a cruise ship is a minor. However, testimony of the FBI before Congress indicates that approximately one-third of sex crimes on cruises are committed against children,

Cruise lines are required by law, the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA), to report certain crimes to the Department of Transportation (DOT) which is required to post the crimes on a public database on a internet portal maintained by the federal agency. The crime data must be posted on a quarterly basis.

Unfortunately, the DOT has not posted any cruise ship crime data for this year (2023). The last crimes reported were in 2022.

The DOT data for 2022 indicates that there were a total of 87 sexual assaults on cruise ships for that year. Of this number, there were 33 sexual assaults reported on cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Line, 22 on Royal Caribbean ships, and 7 on NCL ships.

Given the DOT’s failure to post the crime data, it is currently unknown whether sexual crimes during cruises are staying the same or are increasing.

Have a comment or question? Please leave one below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Jalen Kelley – Gaston County Jail via Recently Booked; Carnival LegendYankeesman312 – CC BY-SA 4.0 wikipedia / creative commons.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced last week that Salem Christopher Diop, age 22, of Kingston, Pennsylvania, was indicted by a federal grand jury on a sexual assault charge.

The indictment and press release state that on July 8, 2023, Diop was on a cruise when he engaged in sexual assault with a victim “incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct.” The court filing and press release do not refer to the name of the cruise line or cruise ship where the sexual assault took place.

Sexually assaulting a victim who is “incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct” typically occurs when the victim is impaired by a drug, intoxicant, or other similar substance.

The court file does not contain any details of the circumstances leading to the alleged sexual assault. The allegations constitute a felony.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny P. Roberts is prosecuting the case.

The maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is life imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.

Cruise lines are required by law, the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA), to report certain crimes to the Department of Transportation (DOT) which is suppose to post the crimes on a public database on a internet portal maintained by the federal agency. The crime data must be posted on a quarterly basis.

Unfortunately, the DOT has not posted any cruise ship crime data for this year. The last crimes reported were in 2022.

The DOT data for 2022 indicates that there were a total of 87 sexual assaults on cruise ships for that year. Of this number, there were 33 sexual assaults reported on cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Line, 22 on Royal Caribbean ships, and 7 on NCL ships.

It is currently unknown whether sexual crimes during cruises are staying the same or are increasing given the DOT’s failure to post the crime data.

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

The Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA) of 2010 requires cruise ships calling on U.S. port to report certain shipboard crimes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The CVSSA was the result of the efforts of the International Cruise Victim (ICV) which is a grass-roots organization created in 2006. The IVC was successful in convincing Congress, for the first time in the history of the cruise industry, to require the mandatory reporting by the cruise lines of certain crimes which occur on ships, including homicides, suspicious deaths, physical assaults resulting in serious bodily injuries and sexual crimes outlined in 18 U.S.C. 2241, 2241, 2243 and 2244.

The cruise industry opposed the legislation and was able to water down certain parts of the legislation. For example, cruise line lobbyists opposed the reporting of shipboard thefts and was successful in having language inserted in the CVSSA requiring reporting only where the amount of the stolen items exceed $10,000. Of course, most people do not travel with precious jewelry or carry that much cash. Crew members are aware that they face no criminal accountability if they steal a passenger’s iPhone, camera or other items no totaling $10,000.

The cruise line lobbyists were also successful in deleting proposed language which would require the industry to disclose whether the sexual assault victim was a minor.

The CVSSA Requires The Mandatory Reporting of Certain Crimes on Cruise Ships to the DOT

After initially requiring the FBI to report the crimes to the United States Coast Guard, the CVSSA now requires cruise lines to report the crimes to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT was tasked with posting the crime data on a quarterly basis on a spreadsheet located on an internet portal which you can see here.

The purpose of the public disclosure of mandatory reporting of sexual assaults, assaults with serious bodily injuries, missing U.S. nationals and deaths on cruise ships is to educate and warn the traveling public of dangers on cruise ships.

The DOT Currently Refuses to Disclose Cruise Ship Crimes

But the goal of transparency in reporting shipboard rapes on cruise ships has become completely illusory given the fact that the DOT has failed to report any crimes since 2022. The last quarter of cruise crimes reported by the DOT was the last quarter of 2022 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31, 2022) which was eventually posted on March 22, 2023.

No cruise ship crimes for any of 2023 have been disclosed.

Before the CVSSA came into effect, cruise lines were not legally required to report crimes against U.S. citizens which occured on cruise ships. The cruise industry developed a well deserved reputation of not only refusing to report shipboard crimes, particularly rapes, but taking steps to destroy the scene of the crime and fly crew members accused of the crime out of the jurisdiction of the U.S. and back to their home countries. Read: Carnival? Try Criminal – an article by the Miami New Times about Carnival Cruise Line’s questionable conduct following a crime aboard the Carnival Fascination where a Carnival steward pushed a guest down on her cabin bed and raped her.

Since January 1, 2010, the cruise crime database has been available for review by the public who have had the benefit of learning the extent of the danger of crime on cruise ships. The media has been able to report on the allegations and highlight trends which have developed over the years.

Cruise lines reported 82 alleged sexual assaults from 2018 to the DOT, more than any other crime, according to Business Insider. Reports of sexual assault on cruises in late summer of 2019 spiked 67 percent from the previous year, according to the Washington Post.

We reported in December 2019 that, for the preceding 12 months, there were over 100 sexual assaults on cruise ships, according to the DOT crime data which showed:

  • Carnival Cruise Line: 43 sexual assault victims (37 passengers, 6 crew victims).
  • Royal Caribbean: 31 sexual victims (20 passengers, 11 crew victims.)

Carnival Cruise Line Has a Higher Per Capita Rape Rate Higher Than Many States

In 2019, Carnival currently had the same number of cruise ships as Royal Caribbean (26 ships each). But Royal Caribbean had far more passengers than Carnival at any given time. Royal Caribbean had a maximum of around 125,000 passengers, and Carnival Cruise Line had a maximum of around 75,000 passengers. This resulted in a higher per capita rape rate on Carnival cruise ship than its competitor Royal Caribbean.

The sexual assault rate on a per capita basis for Carnival Cruise Line as of 2019 was nearly 40 (39.6) per 100,000.  This number is calculated by taking the number of sexual assaults on Carnival ships reported to the FBI in the last 12 months (43), and dividing it by the total number of people on Carnival’s fleet of ships (around 75,000 passengers and approximately 33,500 crew members for a total of 108,500.

At several Congressional hearings on cruise ship crime, CLIA argued that per capita cruise ship crime rates should be based on the total number of people cruising in any year (around 30,000,000 people cruised in 2019) rather than the average number of people populating cruise ships on any given day.  By analogy, the per capita crime statistics for U.S. cities are calculated based only on the number of residents in a city, not the total amount of tourists who may visit the city for a short time.

CLIA’s misleading method of calculating crime substantially understated the rape rate on cruise ships.

Congress rejected CLIA’s argument and concluded that per capita cruise crime statistics should be calculated based on the average number of passengers sailing at a particular time, not on the annual number of passengers over the course of a year.

The per capita rate of sexual assaults on Carnival ships of 40 per 100,000 is significant. It is a higher per capita rate than twenty states, including California, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Georgia (and over a dozen other states).

The per capita sexual assault rate of 40 per 100,000 on Carnival ships may actually be higher than this. These calculations assume that Carnival cruise ships are sailing at maximum capacity. Additionally, the definition of sexual assault under the C5VSSA is very restrictive and includes only a relatively small portion of the acts which would be deemed to constitute a sexual assault ashore. There has also been widespread criticism that the cruise lines often under-report the crimes which occur on their ships.

And of course, Carnival’s high sexual assault rate on its ships is not occurring in a state with high crime areas where there are gangs and “bad areas of town” but is occurring during what should be a relaxing, vacation get-away.

Too Much Booze on the “Fun Ships” and No Independent Law Enforcement

During an with Sun Online several years ago, I stated that “we see a direct correlation between excessive alcohol served on cruises and violence, in general, and sexual violence against women, in particular.”  Bartenders and waiters on cruise ships often receive tips and gratuities and are motivated to sell excessive amounts of alcohol in order to earn a living. There is no independent police force on these increasingly huge cruise ships. Girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse in what is often described as a “lawless environment.”

Few Prosecutions in Federal Court

A small percentage of sexual crimes against women at sea are prosecuted by the U.S. federal government. I attended a hearing in 2007 before Congress regarding cruise ship crime where a senior FBI official testified that only 7% of sexual assaults on cruise ships are prosecuted in federal court.

One-Third of the Rape Victims Are Minors

NBC News reported: “And perhaps most troubling, many of the sexual assaults on-board cruise ships involved minors. A congressional report (in 2013) found that minors were victims in a third of the assaults.” Cruise lines do not have to disclose when the victim is a child.

The CVSSA Is Concerned Only With Victims From the U.S.

The U.S. federal court has jurisdiction only when the assailant and/or victim is a U.S. national. There are few U.S. citizens working on cruise ships. Unless the victim is a U.S. national, the FBI will not investigate the crime. The FBI will not investigate when a foreign (i.e., non-U.S. citizens) crew member rapes another non-U.S. crew member. The DOJ will not prosecute crimes involving victims who are not from the U.S.

Cruise lines, FBI, and DOT Have Made a Mockery of the Goal of Transparency

Thirteen years ago, the U.S. Congress enacted the CVSSA with the laudable goals of educating the traveling public and making them aware of the substantial risks of sexual violence on certain cruise ships.

The FBI has demonstrated little true interest in investigating crimes on cruise ships. The Department of Justice prosecutes only a small minority of the crimes alleged on cruise ships. The DOT has no real interest in the issue of crime and is, at best, a federal agency tasked only with the administrative duty (and thankless task) of posting the crime data provided by an industry which does not want the truth disclosed in the first place. It’s a recipe for a continued lack of transparency.

The result is the public is now being kept in the dark again.

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

September 13, 2023 Update:

It seems impossible to communicate with the DOT regarding this issue. Emails sent to an email address, listed on the DOT’s crime incident report website, are returned as “undeliverable.” When you speak to a representative, they claim there is no email address.

October 6, 2023 Update: Business Insider addressed this issue today in an article titled The US government is required to publish reports of criminal activity on cruise ships every quarter. They haven’t all year.

October 23, 2023 Update: