Onboard Cruise Safety and Security

The Truth about Cruise Ship Safety and Security

The highest priority of the cruise industry is the cruise safety and security of its passengers and crew. With more than 11 million vacationers cruising each year, the cruise lines take every appropriate measure to ensure that their guests are safe and experience enjoyable vacations.

While people are far safer on board a cruise ship than in virtually any community in the United States, on rare occasions, incidents may happen. You have most likely heard media reports of people who have gone missing from cruise ships. These tragedies have spurred further media reports and speculation, and even congressional hearings.

In light of recent heightened media coverage on cruise ship safety and security, we wanted to provide you with information so that if you do hear concerns regarding safety and security, you can understand cruise safety and security confidently.

Cruising remains one of the safest vacations available, with an outstanding record of safety and security. In fact, when compared with the FBI’s land-based crime statistics in the United States, cruise passengers are much safer on board a cruise ship than ashore.

While instances of crime on board cruise ships are rare, it is important that whenever traveling to be observant of one’s possessions and surroundings at all times. Cruise passengers are reminded of this, as they are in any hotel, by safety information, daily bulletins, port visit briefings and the provision of a room safe or safety deposit box.

In the event of an incident, the cruise industry takes all allegations and incidents very seriously, reports them to the proper authorities and fully cooperates in any investigation. In many instances, cruise lines do not publicly disclose detailed information to comply with directions from law enforcement and out of respect for grieving families.

Additionally, professionals at CLIA-member travel agencies can reassure clients by sharing the following information:

  • Cruise ships are comparable to secure buildings with 24-hour security. Every person on board a cruise ship, from the captain to the cleaning staff and all guests, are placed on official manifests. When sailing to or from U.S. ports , these manifests are provided to U.S. federal law enforcement officials – prior to the ship’s departure – to compare to U.S. databases.
  • Guests should be very comfortable with the security measures they see during their cruise vacation. These include the screening of 100 percent of all luggage, carry-ons and provisions coming onto our ships. Screening is done with X-ray machines, metal detectors and human and detector dog searches.
  • Passengers and crew may embark or disembark only after passing through security. Once a ship is underway, access is strictly limited to documented employees and fare-paying passengers.
  • Each passenger is issued an identification card which contains their digital photo and personal identification information on a magnetic strip that he or she must present when entering or leaving the ship. This technology allows the ship to know which guests and crew members are on board and which are not.
  • Each cruise ship has a dedicated security officer and staff whose sole function is the security of its passenger and crew. Typically, security staff personnel have former law enforcement or military background and are trained according to international security regulations.
  • Foreign crewmembers on ICCL ships are required to obtain a visa issued by the U.S. State Department for entry into the United States. This visa requires the completion of a background check. In addition, cruise ship employees are pre-screened by recruiting agencies.
  • Cruise lines operate within a legal framework under which international, federal and state authorities investigate crimes on board cruise ships. Unlike most instances of shore side crime, the FBI has the authority to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes in international waters involving Americans.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard has jurisdiction for inspection and enforcement of international safety and security standards for all ships calling at U.S. ports. In a 1995 study, the U.S. Coast Guard determined that cruising was one of the safest modes of transportation available.

Cruising is among the most popular vacation options in large part because of its excellent safety record and the high level of quality service cruise ships provide. The industry will continue to do its part to maintain a safe, secure and healthy shipboard environment.

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