Last week, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested seven MSC crew members for smuggling cocaine into the port of Miami aboard the MSC Seaside, according to crew members wishing to remain anonymous.

On Saturday, November 17, 2018, CBP officers boarded the MSC Seaside after it arrived at the port of Miami and “busted a drug smuggling ring”  involving MSC crew members, according to other crew members with personal knowledge of the arrests. “A lot of cocaine was found on the ship. The drug smugglers are dangerous and many on the ship are afraid,” one of the other crew members informed us.

CBP officers reportedly found six kilos of cocaine and over $100,000 in cash.

Five of the crew members who were arrested were identified as Jamaican men were and taken into custody. At this time, we have not been able to confirm all of their identities with law enforcement. There were reportedly four women from South Africa who were arrested together with the five Jamaicans.

Two Jamaican crew members were held in jail over last weekend. They were subsequently released and taken by CBP officers to the airport and flown back to Jamaica. They were first fingerprinted and their seaman’s visas were canceled before they were flown back to Jamaica.

We have seen other crew members arrested for drug smuggling who were released who were treated in a similar manner. One such crew member was placed on the do-not-enter-the-U.S. list of U.S. immigration, as we mentioned in NCL Drug Bust Fallout.

There have been other drug busts involving both passengers and crew members involving MSC cruise ships in the past. In 2010, eight people were convicted of attempting to smuggle over 75 pounds of cocaine (worth many millions of dollars) ashore from the MSC Orchestra when it arrived in Dover from Brazil.

In January of 2011, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office with K-9 dogs raided the MSC Poesia at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale before it sailed and arrested a number of music fans on its Jam Fest cruise for a relatively small quantity of recreational drugs.

In August of 2013, the Spanish police arrested two crew members from the cruise ship MSC Magnífica, which docked in Spain on drug trafficking charges after they were caught with 15 kilos of cocaine on the cruise ship.

In November of 2013, a MSC crew member was implicated in a scheme to import ten kilos of cocaine from South America in Italy on the cruise ship MSC Armonia.

In March of 2014, the police in Brazil arrested a crew member on the cruise ship MSC Preziosa for smuggling cocaine.

November 26, 2018 p.m. update:

This evening the Miami Herald covered the drug bust and identified the crew members allegedly in smuggling the drugs.  MSC crew member Jamaican Damion Hawthorne (age 32)(From Ocho Rios)  recruited South African crew members Londiwe Shange (age 27), Wandile Mhlongo (age 29), Thembeka Sokhulu (age 36), and Viwe Tshaka (age 23). Jamaicans Errol Roy Sutherland (age 39) and  (age 27) were also allegedly involved in the smuggling operation.

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Photo credit: Dickelbers – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

Vision of the Seas Anchored Party Last year, Royal Caribbean Cruises agreed with the producers of a reality television show called “Shipmates” to use the cruise line’s Vision of the Seas in the filming of the program. Channel 4 TV in the UK used the Vision as the setting for what the producers describe as a “party-fueled luxury cruise ship” sailing in the Mediterranean Sea with a horde of thousands of 20 year-olds “seeking the ultimate party experience on the once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Promoting a theme of “sun, sea & sass,” the TV producers said that the partying shipmate contestants would compete in challenges where other passengers would vote the drunk participants as either winners or losers.

But last week it seems that Royal Caribbean got more than it bargained for.

Several newspapers in the UK report that a five-day cruise on the Vision, which started in Barcelona earlier this month and sailed to Cannes, Ibiza and Mallorca and returned to Barcelona, turned into a “drug fueled orgy” during the filming of the television show. Royal Caribbean charted its cruise ship to Anchored Cruises which promoted wild champagne-spray pool parties with DJ’s pumping electronic music to the young, partying festival-like crowd.

Passengers stated that the crowd was smoking weed, snorting cocaine, and drinking excessively to the point that people were passing out around the pool and in corridors in the ship and had to be Vision of the Seas Anchored Cruisetaken back to their cabins in wheelchairs.

A crew member reportedly told one of the UK publications “Staff were being abused. Guests walked around the ship half naked. They were drunk and clearly on drugs. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Passengers people were reporting snorting cocaine . . . as “partygoers vomited in the swimming pool and over the ship’s side.” Another passenger reportedly said the cruise was “carnage on a new level of wrongness” and observed “group sex all over the ‘lawless’ ship, adding drink and drugs were so rife: ‘I’m surprised no-one died.'”

You can see the debacle via tabloid publications like the Sun and the Daily Mail Online.

Royal Caribbean claims that it has a “zero tolerance policy for the use or possession of illegal drugs on our ships. Ship charters are held to the same strict standards. We operate with the health and safety of our guests and crew as our highest priority, and we cooperate fully with law enforcement when we are aware of violations.”

This is a typical gobbledygook statement and the usual behavior by Royal Caribbean who often looks the other way when large scale drug use is exposed during events such as deadly Atlantis rave parties which the cruise line routinely hosts. Royal Caribbean is also well known for chartering its ships for swinger sex cruises.

Ironically, Royal Caribbean announced yesterday that it is purchasing a majority interest in the high-brow, ultra-luxurious cruise brand Silversea Cruises. Can you imagine this cruise line operating theVision of the Seas Anchored Cruise Silver Wind or Silver Shadow?

You can see other photos of the out-of-control cruise party on our Facebook page.

Anchored Cruise is already advertising a similar event on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship planned for 2019.

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Photo credits: Sun and Daily Mail.

P&O Arcadia CocaineNewspapers in the U.K. are reporting that a cruise ship passenger, who used a cruise in the Caribbean last fall as a cover to smuggle cocaine, has been jailed.

The cruise in question occurred last October (of 2017) and apparently involved the P&O Arcadia.

BBC News reports that a 55 year old British citizen was arrested "as he disembarked a cruise liner at Southampton Docks." According to the the newspaper, approximately three kilos of cocaine was found in his suitcases (photo left). The cocaine reportedly was worth more than £200,000. 

The article does not mention the name of the cruise ship or cruise line but the only cruise ship which had returned from a cruise to the Caribbean (including Castries, St. Lucia) in port in Southampton at the end of October of 2017 was P&O’s Arcadia.

St. Lucia Southampton Cocaine Smuggle CruiseThe passenger was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison, following a trial at Southampton Crown Court. The National Crime Agency (NCA) reportedly said that the passenger claimed "the cruise had been paid for following a win on the horses, and that he had innocently purchased the suitcases."

The NCA proved that the passenger collected the suitcases in Castries, St Lucia, and that he had been in contact with others suspected of involvement in the importation. A  NCA officer reportedly stated that "our investigation involved liaison with law enforcement partners in the Caribbean, and through that, we were able to prove that (his) story was made up . . . it became clear that he had contacts with others involved in drug trafficking on both sides of the Atlantic."

This is not the first time that a passenger aboard the Acadia was arrested for smuggling cocaine from St. Lucia into the U.K. Nine years ago four passengers aboard the Arcadia were arrested (and later convicted and sentenced to jail for 12 years each) for attempting to smuggle nearly 20 kilos of cocaine P&O Cruise Smuggling Cocaine Arcadiawith an estimated street value of £1.75 million into the port of Southampton, according to the BBC. The drugs had been picked up at the port in Castries. 

Each of the passengers reportedly had been caught smuggling the cocaine taped to their bodies (photo right).

Passengers on the P&O Aurora were busted with large quantities of cocaine in separate incidents in January and February of 2012. The passengers were caught smuggling over 40 kilos of cocaine.  

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Photo credit: NCA via BBC.

The federal police in Australia report that its law enforcement officers and the Australia border protection agency seized thirty (30) kilos of cocaine stashed aboard an unidentified cruise ship which docked in Sydney on November 30, 2017.  Four passengers were arrested on the ship and escorted from the cruise ship – a 41-year-old Belgian woman and three French nationals, including a 61-year-old man, a 54-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman.

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force released a multimedia news release titled No Sooth Sailing for International Cocaine Syndicate, with photographs of the drugs and the suspects. The release did not identify the name of the cruise line or cruise ship.

The cruise ship originated in the United Kingdom. The arrests took place after a joint operation between the Australian Border Force and their counterparts in United Kingdom.

The Australian authorities have been successful making drug busts on cruise ships entering the ports in Sydney. Last year, authorities seized 95 kilos of cocaine that three passengers smuggled on a Princess cruise ship (the Sea Princess).  The question arises whether smuggling anywhere from 30 to 100 kilos of drugs aboard a cruise ship must involve help from crew members.  Given the use of screening equipment on cruise ships, some people M/S Astor - Cruise and Maritime Voyagesquestion whether the drugs were loaded onto the ship along with food and provisions and then transferred to the passengers to be smuggled off the ship in their luggage.

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Hat tip to Crew Center where I first learned of the drug bust.

Update: The cruise ship where the drug bust occured is the M/S Astor, operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages, according to several individuals familiar with the cruise ports in Austrralia. The Astor was docked at the White Bay Cruise Terminal at the time of the drug sizure and arrests.

Photo credit: Australian Government (top and bottom); Bahnfrend – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia (M/S Astor).

Cruise Ship Drug Bust - Sydney

 

Norwegian Escape7 News Belize reports that three NCL crew members were arrested in Belize for possession of two kilos of cocaine which was picked up in Roatan and taken on an unidentified NCL cruise ship to the private destination of Harvest Caye, apparently with the intention of being smuggled into the U.S.  The news stations says that:

The police have not released any official information, but 7News has learned that 3 employees of Norwegian Cruise Lines were charged with drug trafficking for allegedly being in possession of two kilos of cocaine on a cruise ship. Our information is that the 3 men are now arrested and charged, and they are at the Belize Central Prison.

Reports are that the men, 2 nationals of St. Lucia and 1 from St. Vincent, arrived on last Tuesday, on an NCL ship which made a port of call at the Harvest Caye Island getaway. The men worked on the Ship. Reports say that the two kilos may have been picked up in Roatan.

The men were arrested, and charged, and they were arraigned in Magistrate’s Court. They are now at the Belize Central Prison.

Smuggling cocaine is big business on the high seas. Two years ago, five NCL crew members on the Norwegian Sun were arrested in Tampa when the cruise ship returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up the drugs. The Tampa Bay Times reported that they worked for NCL as utility workers in the Norwegian Sun’s galley.

A few months later, a NCL crew member employed aboard the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship was arrested when he attempted to smuggle cocaine aboard the ship when it was docked in Roatan.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has busted a cocaine smuggling operation where NCL crew members smuggled cocaine from Honduras to New Orleans aboard NCL’s Norwegian Dawn cruise ship.

The article did not identify the NCL cruise ship involved in this latest smuggling caper, although it is believed to be the Norwegian Escape.

Costa and Princess crew members were recently arrested in cocaine smuggling schemes using cruise ships.

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June 21, 2017 Update: The newspaper in Belize identified the NCL crew members: Derson Frank, from St. Vincent; Renaldo Roberts, also from St. Vincent; and Jamal Celise of St. Lucia.

Photo credit: Arno Redenius – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

For a two year period from 2012 to 2014, as many as thirty-four people who posed as cruise ship passengers on Costa ships participated in a smuggling network that transported hashish from Morocco to Brazil and cocaine from South America to Europe, according to the The Local newspaper in France.

The French newspaper reported that the "innovative and audacious" international drug smuggling ring consisted of nearly three dozen "low-level ‘mules’ who came from the same working class area of the city of Nice" and strapped the drugs to their bodies and carried the hash and cocaine on and off Costa cruise ships.

The drug carriers are on trial in France for smuggling the drugs between several continents. The Costa Cruise Shipsarticle says that the cruise staff on the cruise ships wondered what these young people were doing on cruises "if they were not accompanying their grandparents.”  

The article also mentioned that the the ill-fated Costa Concordia was reportedly carrying a huge shipment of Mafia-owned cocaine when she sank in January 2012.

We previously reported that several people were arrested with over 16 kilos of cocaine while disembarking the Costa Pacifica in Malaga following a Transatlantic cruise from South America several years ago.

The use of cruise ships to smuggle cocaine is a subject which we have reported on many times over the last couple of years. A few examples: 

There was a major drug bust (15 kilos) aboard the Splendor of the Seas in Buenos Aires in 2015. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship was heading to Brazil and then Europe.

In the same year, five men were caught trying to smuggle 26 kilos aboard the MSC Magnifica in São Paulo.

Three passengers were busted on a Princess cruise ship, the Sea Princess, last August of 2016, for smuggling over 209 pounds of cocaine.   

Just two weeks ago, three Princess crew members on the Island Princess were nabbed in Vancouver for smuggling five kilos of cocaine into Canada.

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

Osland Princess Crew MembersCanadian news stations have identified the three crew members from the Island Princess who were arrested last week for smuggling drugs into Vancouver, as we mentioned in a prior article

CTV News Vancouver identified three Nicaraguan crew members, Willard Murray Brooks (age 28), Emil Hebbert Garth (age 26) and Jason West Carter, (age 32) who were recruited by a Colombian drug cartel to smuggle 10 kilograms of cocaine onto the Island Princess when it docked in Cartagena. The Princess cruise ship later called on Vancouver on May 11th after sailing to Panama and, later, to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Once the  ship docked in Vancouver, CTV reports that the three crew members smuggled five kilograms of cocaine to a shore-side food court where an unidentified man met them and later paid US$30,000 for the drugs. The men reportedly tucked the cash into their underwear before heading back to the cruise ship. Canadian Border Services found the undeclared cash when the drug mules went through screening. A Vancouver police canine unit and the Canadian Border Services then searched the men’s cabins where they reportedly located an additional amount of cocaine.

The men did not dispute the charges. CTV reports the dcrew members "also said they did not fear a return to their home country of Nicaragua, where they are expected to be flown within seven days. CBSA will hold Princess Cruise Lines responsible for the travel costs."

No explanation was provided by CTV why the drug smugglers did not face jail time in Canada. It is doubtful that the three crew members will face any charges once they have been returned home.  

A one-way ticket home to Nicargua for the crew members to be paid by Princess Cruises is hardly a deterrent to international drug smuggling.

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Video and photo credit: CTV Canada Vancouver

 

Island PrincessA Canadian newspaper reports that the police in Vancouver arrested three Princess Cruises crew member from the Island Princess on drug charges.

CTV  that the Island Princess was scheduled to leave Vancouver for Alaska when members of the Canada Border Services Agency and the Vancouver Police Department’s Canine Unit boarded the cruise ship to search for drugs on the ship. 

Princess Cruises confirmed that three ship employees were arrested but refused to identify the type or quantity of the narcotics. 

Princess Cruises was last in the news after the DOJ last December fined it $40,000,000 for wide spread dumping of oil throughout the world’s oceans for nearly a decade.

In September of 2016, the police in Australia arrested three passengers in possession of over 209 pounds of cocaine aboard the Sea Princess.

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Photo Credit: CC0 wikipedia.  

Sea Princess Multiple news sources are reporting that today, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) arrested three cruise ship passengers who were smuggling 95 kilos (over 209 lbs.) of cocaine into the port in Sydney, Australia.

SkyNews says that the AFP arrested a 63-year-old man and two women, age 23 and 28, after Australian police with sniffer dogs searched the cruise ship when it berthed in Sydney and found cocaine in their suitcases.

The newspaper reports that the US Department of Homeland Security Investigations, New Zealand Customs Service and the Canada Border Services Agency cooperated with the AFP and Australian Border Force in making the drug bust.

Although none of the newspapers identified the cruise ship on which the passengers smuggled the cocaine, the only cruise ship berthing in the Sydney Harbor today was the Sea Princess.

August 29 2016 Update: The Sydney Morning Herald confirms that the cruise ship was the Sea Princess. “The seized drugs have an estimated street value of $31 million (Australian, $23 million U.S.) and this is the largest drug bust of its type on board a cruise ship. Three passengers Andre Tamine, 63, Isabelle Lagace, 28, and Melina Roberce, 22, were charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment . . . The Sea Princess docked in Sydney on Sunday morning on the final stages of a 66-day world tour. The ship began the cruise in Britain at the start of July and visited Canada, the United States, parts of South America, including Colombia and Peru, and Auckland before arriving in Sydney.”

October 30 2016 Update: Okay, the record drug bust story just got weirder.  Vice’s Quebec Women Charged in Massive Coke Smuggling Bust Documented Whole Trip on Instagram.

Photo Credit: Sea Princess in Sydney By Bahnfrend – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Falmouth Jamica Cruise PortThe Jamaican Observer reports that police arrested a man from Ocho Rios at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica last Tuesday (June 28th) when he attempted to board an unidentified cruise ship. 

The newspaper says that the man was arrested with two packages, containing five pounds of cocaine, found in a false compartment of his laptop bag.

Police say the street value of the substance is estimated to be J$7.5 million or around US$60,0000.

The newspaper identifies the man as Dwayne Shirley of Great Pond, Ocho Rios, St Ann.

There is no indication whether the man was a cruise passenger or a crew member. 

Last week we reported that four U.S. cruise passengers were arrested in Port Canaveral after smuggling cocaine from Jamaica during a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas through this port. 

Two Royal Caribbean crew members were also arrested in April for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral. 

Photo Credit: Falmouth, merchants near entrance to cruise terminal – Jim Walker