Yesterday, the Department of Justice (DOT) finally released the fourth quarter of last year’s cruise crime data. The DOT data for the fourth quarter of 2023 reveals that fleet-wide for all cruise lines there were thirty-three (33) sexual assaults / rapes. This brings the total number of sexual assaults / rapes on cruise ship for 2023 to a total of one hundred and thirty-one (131) such alleged crimes. There were eighty-nine (89) sexual assaults reported by cruise lines in all of 2022.

Carnival Cruise Line again has the most alleged sexual assaults / rapes on its ships in 2023. In the last three months of 2023, there were nine (9) sexual assaults / rapes on ships operated by Carnival Cruise Line. Last year Carnival Cruise Line had a total of forty-five (45) sexual assaults / rapes. Considering it has around 108,500 passengers and crew members onboard its fleet on an average day, this turns out to be a per capita rate (per 100,000) of over 42.

The average per capita sexual assault rate in the U.S. is 40 (per 100,000). Carnival Cruise Line’s per capita sexual assault rate is higher than twenty-seven states in the U.S.

In addition to sexual crimes, last quarter Carnival Cruise Line had five physical assaults leading to serious bodily injury, bringing Carnival to a total of fourteen (14) physical assaults with serious bodily injury for 2023. There were ten (10) physical assaults on all other cruise lines making the fleet of Carnival cruise ships by far the most violent cruise ships sailing on the high seas.

Last week, Chris Chiames, chief communications officer for Carnival Cruise Line, tried to minimize Carnival’s numerous crimes alleged on its ships, telling the Washington Post that Carnival (which carried 5.5 million guests last year) allegedly operated “a much bigger fleet, more guests and more U.S. operations than any of our competitors.”

Carnival’s claims that its fleet is allegedly larger and it carries more guests is false and misleading. In fact, Carnival Cruise Line also has the same number of cruise ships as Royal Caribbean (each own 27 ships). But Royal Caribbean has larger cruise ships with greater capacity and carries more passengers than Carnival at any given time. Royal Caribbean carries a maximum of at least 125,000 passengers. Carnival Cruise Line has a maximum of around 75,000 passengers.

The fact that Royal Caribbean has more ships operating outside of the U.S. is irrelevant for purposes of calculating crime statistics. As we explained last week in our article titled Carnival Cruise Line Ships Continue to Have the Highest Number of Physical Assaults, Sexual Assaults, and Rapes On the High Seas, both Carnival and Royal Caribbean report crimes which are alleged to occur during cruises which do not call on U.S. ports. Although the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) of 2010 requires the reporting of crimes which occur only when the cruise ship calls on a U.S. port, both cruise lines report crimes which are alleged to occur when their ships do not call on U.S. ports.

The per capita rate of sexual assaults on Carnival ships of over 42 per 100,000 is significant. It is a higher per capita sexual assault rate than twenty-seven states, including New York (29.4), Florida (30), and California (37.4).

Why Does Carnival Cruise Line Have The Highest Number of Sexual Assaults and Physical Assaults Leading to Serious Bodily Injury?

There is a direct correlation between excessive alcohol served on Carnival’s “fun ships” and violence, in general, and sexual violence against women, in particular. Bartenders and waiters on Carnival cruise ships are not paid a salary by Carnival but depend on tips and gratuities. The bartenders 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 a lawless environment.

“Fight Ships” Not “Fun Ships?”

You only have to watch the numerous YouTube videos of bar brawls on Carnival ships to realize that there’s a good reason why many people call Carnival ships the “fight ships” rather than the “fun ships.”

A History of Criminality and Rape at Sea

Over twenty years ago, the Miami New Times published a number of articles revealing Carnival’s criminal’s underbelly, including Carnival? Try Criminal – What happens when a female passenger is assaulted on a cruise ship? Not much …”   The article revealed the problem with crew members raping cruise guests and the lack of criminal accountability following such crimes. Nineteen years later, the Miami New Times published an article indicating that not much has changed on Carnival ships in the past two decades – Carnival’s per capita crime statistics for shipboard rape are higher than the rape rates for many states in the U.S.  Read our article in 2019 titled: Carnival Has More Sexual Assault Reports Than Any Other Cruise Line, Statistics Show.

Twenty years ago, a well known and highly respected journalist named Jim DeFede, then employed by the Miami New Times, wrote a series of articles in which he asked the question “Is Mickey A Greedy Corporate Pig?”  DeFede also wrote “The Deep Blue Greed – The Arison Clan Built Carnival into a Money Machine by Cleverly Avoiding Tax Laws” and “Ten Questions for Micky.” These articles focused on the extraordinary steps which Carnival took to avoid paying taxes and oversight by the U.S. government while systematically underpaying its crew members and escorting them from the U.S. when they were injured or committed a crime against a guest.

Carnival Corporation’s guilty pleas to substantial environmental felonies in 2016, a $40,000,000 fine, and lying about committing these pollution crimes (not to mention repeatedly violating the terms of its criminal probation resulting in additional fines totalling over $20,000,000 in additional fines), cemented its reputation of being a corporate felon.

More Cover-Ups and Lies to the Public?

When Carnival pled guilty to the second revocation of its criminal proceeding in January of 2022, the Department of Justice stated that the cruise line has “a culture that seeks to minimize or avoid information that is negative, uncomfortable, or threatening to the company, including to top leadership.” This is an integral part of the problem with the sexual and violent crimes alleged to be committed on cruise ships it operates. A recidivist corporate cruise felon like Carnival, with its culture of cover up, lies & misinformation, will inevitably try to cover-up the crimes, blame the victims and lie to the public.

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January 18, 2024 Update:

The Miami New Times (Naomi Feinstein) reports on the cruise crime increases. “A report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) states that 131 alleged incidents of sexual assault and rape were reported on cruise ships last year – a marked increase beyond the 2022 total of 87 and the pre-pandemic total of 101 in 2019.”

“Jim Walker, a Miami-based maritime attorney who has represented dozens of cruise ship assault victims, tells New Times he is not surprised by the new figures. He blames the sexual assault prevalence on lax security, a culture of heavy drinking, and a lack of proper vetting of crew members.

Walker says that onboard sexual assaults are still underreported and underprosecuted because there is no law enforcement agency exclusively devoted to handling crimes on ships at sea – and the cruise lines routinely try to sweep incidents under the rug.”

CLIA nonetheless “maintains that ‘cruise ships are one of the safest vacation options in the world’ and admits only to a “marginal increase” in crime.

“After reviewing the new reports on sexual assaults aboard cruise ships, (cruise expert) Ross Klein . . . estimated that Carnival Cruise Line’s adjusted rate of sexual assault is 42 per 100,0000 passengers.

Walker says that’s higher than the sexual assault rate per capita in most major U.S. cities. He says ships’ crime rate should be estimated around the standing number of passengers at a given time, not the total number of passengers that pass through cumulatively over the year.

‘The media falls into Carnival’s trap saying, Well, we have 5.5 million people cruising a year, and the [rate of assaults] is small compared to that,” Walker says. ‘That’s not the way you look at crime statistics at all. This is what the cruise lines were arguing over 12 years ago when they were trying to avoid reporting.'”

Image credit: Carnival Liberty – Jim Walker.