The Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Mexico is situated on the Yucatán Peninsula of the country, west of Cuba. It consists of the resort city of Cancún on the Northeast of the Pennisula on the Caribbean coast, with Playa del Carmen and Tulum to its south which offer beautiful sandy beaches and seaside Mayan ruins, with the popular cruise destination of the island of Cozumel to the east of Palaya del Carmen.

Recently the U.S. State Department issued a warning to its federal employeees not to travel to Playa del Carmen following an explosion on a Mexican ferry which shuttled cruise passengers and other tourists between Palaya del Carmen and Cozumel. The U.S. Consular Office in Playa del Carmen was temporarily shut down due to crime threats unrelated to the threat against ferries operating Quintana Roo Mexico Cancun Cozumel Playa del Carmen between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.  U.S. government personnel are still prohibited from using the Mexican ferry services). Some cruise lines have cancelled all excursions using the ferry services, as we previously reported.

Although Cancun is known for its spectacular white sand beaches and turquoise waters, the tourist hotspot, many report, is “in the grips of a brutal and growing crime wave that threatens to leave it a ghost town.”  The same article writes:

“Amid a thriving drug trade and widespread extortion, fear is rampant and most of the murders go unsolved. Now, the situation is so dire that its multi-billion dollar tourism industry is under threat.”

British journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy recently reported on the out-of-control violence in Mexico, fueled by drug cartels and extortion, in a special for SBS’s Dateline called Mexico Beach Wars. He reported that there were 169 killings in the first half of 2017, a per capita murder rate far, far higher than anywhere in the U.S. or Canada.

The fear is that the beaches in Quintana Roo will become like Acapulco, a once popular Mexican beach resort in Mexico frequented by movie stars in the 1950’s and 1960″s, which has long since been abandoned by the cruise industry due to violence.

The Mexico torurism officials, or course, are pushng back and claming that the region is safe for tourists to visit. Following the bombing of the ferry in Palaya del Carmen, the Ministry of Tourism for State of Quintana Roo in Mexico quickly issued press releases where it claims that there is “no risk” to tourists when visiting Cozumel. Meanwhile, the expanding cruise industry is still promoting Mexico as a regular attraction to its guests.

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

Interested in this issue? Please read:

Three Cruise Lines Plan to Return to Mazatlan: Will They Provide Bullet-Proof Jackets to Passengers?

Cruise Lines Return to Acapulco Amidst Violence.

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

Tainted Alcohol & Crime: Mexico Struggles With Image As Cruise Destination

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World 

See also: Washington Post – Acapulco is Now Mexico’s Murder Capital.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Rz6t2FEablA%3Frel%3D0

 

Carnival SpiritAn Australian cruise passenger, Mr. Sun, sued Carnival Australia after the cruise line falsely accused him of exposing himself to two young girls on the Carnival Spirit.

According to an Australian new station, the incident occurred during a cruise from Sydney to New Caledonia in December 2016.

Ship security personnel were notified that a man had "exposed and then touched himself" in front of young girls on the Carnival cruise ship. 

The security staff showed one of the girls, and the parents of the girl, photographs of Mr Sun. The girl apparently misidentified Mr. Sun as the culprit. The girl’s father then took matters into his own hands, accusing Mr. Sun of exposing himself to his daughter as he physically assaulted and battered Mr Sun in his own stateroom in front of Mr. Sun’s wife and child. 

The news report article states that when Mr. Sun called security for assistance, they instead escorted him to a room where they interrogated him for one-and-a-half hours and intimidated him from leaving.

The ship security finally showed Mr. Sun CCTV footage of the incident footage of the incident, which showed that the pedophile in the video was not heavily tattooed like him and exhibited other “obvious physical differences” from Mr. Sun.

Security eventually allowed Mr. Sun back to his room but denied him medical attention for the physical assault. 

Carnival was recently in the news following a series of brawls on its cruise ships leaving from Australian ports. Its security guards are shown in certain trending videos violently kicking passengers and trying to stop bystanders from videotaping the melees.  The lack of training and heavy handed tactics of the Carnival security are painfully obvious in the videos.

This latest fiasco seems again to be due to a lack of training by Carnival of its shipboard security personnel. 

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May 21, 2018 Update: Carnival offered the innocent guest a complimentary dinner with an apology for the disruption to his holiday. Carnival said we "are disappointed that the father of one of our guests decided to take matters into his own hands." According to Mr. Sun, "the security guy kept on saying it was because I was Asian and that the person who assaulted the girls was Asian, so it was an easy mistake . . . "   Mr. Sun was quoted as saying "you guys are incompetent, you guys are idiots."

Photo credit: Hpeterswald – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

The United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security issued another warning to U.S. tourists about the danger of sexual assault in Nassau , Bahamas yesterday.  The warning states:

Avoid Jet ski operators: Jet ski operators continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists. U.S. Embassy personnel are instructed not to use jet ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands, including Cabbage Beach and Cable Beach. We strongly recommend you also avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations.

The warning also advises tourists to drink responsibly due to the foreseeable risk of being drugged and Nassau Bahamas Crimethen sexually assaulted:

Stay in a group of friends who have your safety in mind when in clubs, bars, out walking in dimly-lit areas, or in a taxi at night. Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated individuals may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault.

The warning is targeted to students traveling via cruise ship or air to the Bahamas for spring break to be on the alert for these dangers. 

We have reported many times on jet ski operators in the unregulated jet ski business in the Bahamas, who have raped tourists near Cable Beach or Paradise Island. Two years ago, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau states that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 tourists over the course of in 18 months.

We reported on four prior warnings about crime this year alone for Nassau, Bahamas by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau as well as by Canada.

In the past decade, there have been more crime warnings for Nassau, Bahamas than for all of the other Caribbean cruise ports combined. Nassau earned the title of the most dangerous cruise port in the world in 2014.

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Photo credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Carnival Cruise Sexual AssaultYesterday, a male passenger aboard the Carnival Elation reportedly sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman with special needs during a cruise to the Bahamas. The incident occurred in a hot tub aboard the Carnival cruise ship.

A Jacksonville, Florida news station reported that that the mother of the victim said her “18-year-old daughter has the mental capacity of a young teen.” She believes the man “watched her then targeted her in the hot tub.”

CBS-47 Jacksonville reported that the young woman says her daughter left on a birthday cruise / girl’s trip with her grandmother. The woman, who has the mental capacity of a 13-year-old, was excited according to her mother – “This was really her first time experiencing a little freedom, you know?”

According to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), cruise lines are required to report crimes to the U.S. Department of Justice. Last year, 35 passengers and crew members reported being victims of sexual sexual attacks on Carnival Cruise Line ships, for an an average of three a month.

Carnival was last in the news regarding a series of brawls that took place on the Carnival Legend. The ship’s security guards, who added to the violence, were shown to be poorly trained.

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Video and photograph credit: CBS-47 Jacksonville

Carnival Legend BrawlA video of a brawl on the Carnival Legend shows Carnival security officers and other security personnel kicking passengers while they are on the floor. Carnival officers are also shown trying to prevent other passengers from videotaping the violence.

The video, which was taken by a passenger and aired by Australia’s 3AW693 Talk Radio, is circulating on social media. It shows as many as six officers and a equal number of personnel wearing dark colored shirts with “SECURITY” on the back fighting with unruly passengers on the Carnival Legend.

The news article also states that passengers reported that ship security staff attempted to “censor the situation.” A father who received a telephone call from his son on the ship said that “the security came in and took his phone, and deleted a lot of images from his phone.”

We have reported on many such ship brawls, which have primarily occurred on the Carnival brand of ships over the years.

This latest incident occurs just a few days after a violent brawl on the P&O Pacific Explorer.

We first wrote about the problem of violence on cruise ships back in 2009 in Cruise Ship Brawls – A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships, where we covered a “mini-rampage” on the P&O cruise ship Ventura and a brawl involving Carnival passengers who punched, scratched and bit it out with police in Antigua. The following year, we covered another violent brawl on another Carnival ship in More Carnival Legend BrawlCruise Ship Violence – A Drunken Brawl On Carnival’s Dream. We also wrote about this problem in Another Brawl Breaks Out on a Carnival Fun Ship. YouTube is filled with videotapes of violence on Carnival ships.

The problem arises when the “wider audience” (a term coined by Carnival chairmen Micky Arison) finds their way onto cruise ships attracted by low prices. Add too much alcohol, and too few well-trained security guards on these budget ships, and this is what happens.

Carnival quickly sent out a press statement which states:

“Safety is the number one priority for Carnival Cruise Line, we take a zero tolerance approach to excessive behaviour that affects other guests and we have acted accordingly on Carnival Legend. The ship’s highly trained security staff have taken strong action in relation to a small group of disruptive guests who have been involved in altercations on board. The ship’s security team is applying our zero tolerance policy in the interests of the safety and comfort of other guests.”

Many people posted comments on our Facebook page about the outrageous conduct of the Carnival security personnel kicking the passengers and trying to prevent the videotaping of the brawl.

February 17, 2018 Update: The Washington Post has an interesting article about this incident – A Carnival cruise in the South Pacific descended into violent anarchy.

Photo and video credit: 3AW693

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas issued a new crime warning for the city following the assault of a U.S. citizen during the early evening hours of February 6, 2018, while jogging on West Bay Street just west of Goodman’s Bay Park.

This is an area around two miles west of the cruise port and downtown and east of the popular Cable Beach.

The Embassy urged that caution should be used in all areas of New Providence while traveling by foot Nassau Bahamas Crime Warningafter dark.

The Bahamas Tribune covered the new crime warning today.

The United States State Department issued its last crime warning for the Bahamas on January 10, 2018, which states, in part:

“Exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime.

Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault is common, even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime. Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults against tourists, including minors. As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.”

The U.S. government has issued more crime warnings for the Bahamas than for all locations in the Caribbean.

The common response from the Bahamian tourism officials to these warning is to suggest that Nassau is safe compared to major American cities like Chicago or New York.

But the per capita murder rate in the country of the Bahamas is much higher than the per capita rate in Chicago and many, many times higher than the per capita rate in New York City. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000.

Most cruise tourists don’t understand that the murder, rape and crime rates per capita are much higher in the Bahamas, particularly in Nassau, than anywhere the tourists are from.

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Sexual Assault Royal CaribbeanSurveillance video on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas shows an attack on a 13 year old boy by two adult passengers.

The men, identified by local Miami news station NBC 4 as Martinez and Lawson, corner the teenager in the ship’s library, before pinning him against the bookcase. The boy had apparently made an inappropriate comment earlier during the cruise to to Lawson’s daughter (Martinez’s niece).

In retaliation, the men confronted the minor, with Martinez taking off his shirt and sexually assaulting the minor, according to the article titled Teen’s Assault on Cruise Ship Caught on Surveillance Camera.

The minor’s mother reportedly said about the attack on her son: “He physically punched him, choked him, smothered his face in the pillow, pulled his clothes off, was on top of my son.”

The Sun Sentinel covered the disturbing story shortly after it occurred back in January of 2016.

The family of the boy is represented by another maritime lawyer here in Miami.

Royal Caribbean said “the ship’s crew has no duty to monitor the cameras . . . ”

A criminal judge sentenced Martinez to three years in prison for lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 16, and sentenced Lawson to two years in prison sentence for child abuse.

The article mentions that in 2016-2017, 69 percent of crimes committed on board cruise ships were sexual assaults. The chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), Ken Carver, told NBC 4 that “a third of all the rapes on cruise ships are on minors, if you can believe that.” You can read the 2013 Congressional cruise crime report with this alarming statistic here.

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Photo credit: Broward Country Sheriff’s Office via Sun Sentinel; video credit: NBC 4.

Canada recently issued a new crime advisory for the Bahamas, warning its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling there due to high rates of crime, including a reported increase of sexual assaults against tourists. 

Canada’s website advisory was updated last week to state that sexual assaults occur regularly, primarily in New Providence (Nassau) and on Grand Bahama (Freeport):  

"Crime, including violent crime, occurs mainly on the islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama. There has been an increase in muggings, armed robberies, home invasions and sexual assault targeting tourists in the cities of Nassau and Freeport. Incidents of robbery take place in cruise ship Nassau Bahamas Cruise Terminalterminals and in and around popular resort areas, even in daylight hours. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Avoid non-tourist neighbourhoods in downtown Nassau, especially at night, where the crime accounts for much of Bahamas’ high murder rate. 

Sexual assault occurs frequently, particularly near hotels, in hotel rooms, in casinos, on cruise ships and on the beach. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, do not consume any drugs and don’t accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers. Due to incidents of sexual assault, it is recommended to be wary when embarking on jet-ski rides with licensed or unlicensed operators."

Two weeks ago, we wrote about the U.S. warning to its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution while traveling to the Bahamas. 

The Nassau Guardian covered the new advisory for Canadian tourists. The nation’s Tourism Minister downplayed the crime advisory during an interview with the Tribune newspaper, saying that "when I go to London, when I go to Paris, when I go to New York, I probably have just the same likelihood of being a victim of crime."  As I have said before, this is a common although misleading argument. The per capita murder and rape rates in the Bahamas is substantially higher than the per capita rate in the majority of U.S. and European cities. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000.

Canada has issued critical crime report for the Bahamas several times in the last several years,

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas. You can read a few of our articles here and here

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

Photo credit: Jerrye and Roy Klotz MD CC 3.0 commons / wikipedia.  

Jamaica State Of EmergencyThe U.S. State Deparment issued a travel warning effective January 18, 2018 that U.S. citizens use exteme caution in traveling to certain locations in Jamaica, following a State of Emergency for St. James Parish, Jamaica which was declared by the government of Jamaica to counter the out-of-control criminal activity.

St. James Parish covers the popular travel destination of Montego Bay, which has a cruise port and is a short drive away from the cruise ports in Falmouth and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Numerous cruise excursions take cruise passengers to and through Montego Bay and surrounding areas.

The travel warning also applies to Kingston and Spanish Town in Jamaica

The State of Emergency permits Jamaican security forces within the borders of St. James Parish to "arbitrarily detain and deport suspicious persons, enter premises, and seize property without warrant." The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica states that U.S. visitors to Jamaica should "expect to encounter increased police and military presence, checkpoints, and searches of persons and vehicles within the borders of St. James Parish."

According to an article in Newsweek, the U.S. State Department warns that "violent crime, such as home invasions, armed robberies, and homicide, is common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, even at all-inclusive resorts. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents."

The U.K.’s  Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has warned Britons that a “major military operation” is taking place and that they should stay in their hotels. “You should follow local advice, including restrictions in selected areas. You should limit your movements outside of resorts in the area at this time, and exercise particular care if travelling at night. Travel to and from the airport or for excursions should be undertaken with organised tour operators, and transport should be arranged or provided by the resort hotels.”

Canada also warns its citizens that they need to "exercise a high degree of caution in Jamaica due to the high level of violent crime and the state of emergency in St James Parish."

Videos posted in several U.K. newspaper show military troops and extra police officers deployed in the Montego Bay area, engaged in traffic stops. The "major military operation" is underway as British tourists have been told to stay in their resorts due to the escalating crime wave. Warning residents and tourists of the deadly attacks, Prime minister Andrew Holness said "the level of criminal activity is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety," according to the International Business Times.

Time writes that crimes in St. James Parish has reached a critical point, and crime in general in Jamica is a "persistent problem."

"In 2016, for example, the country of 2.9 million people saw 1,350 murders, 1,216 shootings, 449 aggravated assaults and 480 rapes, according to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The country is also notorious for “entrenched and widespread” corruption." The per capita murder rate in Jamaica is around 50 per 100,000, whereas the per capita rate in the U.S. is only around 4.5 per 100,000. Canada’s per capita murder rate is less than 2 per 100,000. 

In Jamaica’s resorts, beaches mask staggering bloodshed, the Toronto Sun explains that Jamaica has recently seen "unprecedented bloodshed" which has seen tourists murdered.  

Despite the upsurge in violence and the state of emergency, Jamaica’s tourism minister states that it is allegedly still safe to visit the country. Cruise lines are continuing to unload hundred of thousands of cruise passengers a month in the ports in Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios, generating tens of millions of dollars a month in excursion fares for the U.S.-based cruise lines, as military vehicles rumble through the streets of Montego Bay (see video below).

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January 23, 2018 Update: Jamaica earns spot on the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World.

Photo credit: loopjamaica

https://youtube.com/watch?v=nB3Wf_TosWU%3Frel%3D0

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). 

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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