Cruise Ships: Security Tips While at Sea

Going on a cruise is like staying at a floating resort. What a great way to escape from the stress of everyday life and leave your worries behind. Cruising along tropical oceans has a way of making passengers feel they haven't a care in the world. But don't be fooled. Crime is everywhere—even out at sea!

To ensure your vacation isn't ruined by a cruise ship crime, be vigilant—keep your guard up. By following the suggestions below, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim of crime and ensure a more enjoyable vacation.


The majority of grievances regarding damage, loss, and theft on cruise ships involve the luggage of passengers. To keep your luggage and your personal belongings safe, be sure to take the following precautions:

  • Take a written inventory and photographs of all suitcases and their contents.
  • Carry items such as prescription eyeglasses, medication, electronics, and jewelry in a handbag and carry it onto the ship yourself.
  • Photocopy the contents of your wallet and your passport. Keep one copy at home and carry the other in a hand bag or other piece of luggage.
  • Avoid traveling with expensive looking luggage. Luggage should be fairly inconspicuous and sturdy enough to withstand being tossed around without ripping, puncturing, or breaking open.
  • Keep your luggage with you at all times until you are able to check in with the cruise ship. Ensure the cruise line places the correct identification tags on each of your bags before loading the bags onto the ship.

Cabin Security

Don't automatically assume that the cabin you are assigned is secure. Cabin doors are often left open by housekeeping staff during cleaning. There may also be several staff members who have keys or electronic access to each of the cabin rooms. The following safety measures can help keep you and your belongings safe:

  • Make use of all of the cabin door locks whenever you are in your room.
  • Never open the cabin door to a stranger. Ask the person what they want through the door. Ensure your children know and follow this vital rule.
  • Upon entering your cabin, check the closets, the bathroom, and any other areas that someone could use as a hiding place. Be sure to keep the door open during this initial safety check.
  • Never leave valuables lying out in the open when you are not in your room. Be sure to use the ship's safe deposit box for expensive items, important papers, credit cards, and large sums of cash.

Family Security

If you are vacationing with your children, taking time to create a set of rules for your family prior to setting out for your trip can help keep everyone safe. When creating your family security plan, keep the following mind:

  • Make sure your family is aware that there could be a variety of devious criminals on board, including scam artists, pickpockets, and sex offenders.
  • Be sure to set up curfews and periodic check-in times with your children if you allow them to go off on their own. Provide detailed instructions on what to do in the event your child gets lost while on or off the ship.
  • Be sure your children know to never accompany another passenger or crew member to private areas of the ship. Never allow young children to roam the ship by themselves or leave them unattended at swimming pools, play areas, etc.
  • Be cautious of other children on board. Although it can be fun for your child to have a playmate, keep in mind that allowing your child to play privately with children you don't know could lead to trouble. Try to limit your child's play to supervised activities in public areas.

Word of Caution

Just because you started your trip in the United States doesn't mean you will be protected by U.S. laws. Many cruise ships are registered in foreign countries and travel among international and territorial waters where U.S. laws don't apply.

The laws that govern the open seas are those dictated by the International Maritime Law. The problem with the laws under this doctrine is that they are not as detailed as U.S. laws. Keep in mind that not all crimes reported while on board a cruise ship are investigated. If the crime took place in international waters, the only law enforcement agency that can investigate the crimes involving U.S. citizens is the FBI. With that said, usually only the major crimes are investigated. All other crimes are reported to the embassies of the citizens involved and left to the jurisdiction of the nearest foreign country for handling. Local port authorities are responsible for the prosecution process, and there is no way of knowing what the outcome will be once matters are left in their hands.

So be cautious and stay alert when vacationing at sea. To find out more information about a cruise line's safety record, lost luggage policies, and crime procedures, contact the cruise line and ask for written disclosure of their regulations. You can also contact the Cruise Lines International Association, an organization that represents 25 of the largest cruise lines.

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Mr. Frankel is a proud member of:

The American Society for Industrial Security.

The International Association for Counter Terrorism & Security.

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