Do Cruise Ships Have Jails – Here’s the Truth

Ever silently wondered do cruise ships have jails? We have the answer for you and how cruise ships handle various aspects of crime.

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Security and passenger safety are high priorities for cruise lines. Cruise ships attempt to minimize passenger disturbances and crime at all costs. Since the onboard jail or brig is secluded from guests, most people wonder if cruise ships have jails and how they handle crime.

Is There a Jail on a Cruise Ship?

The cruise industry never advertises policies regarding crime or their facilities, but each cruise liner has a plan. This plan may include cabin arrest in the offender’s cabin with posted guards or being locked up in a cell on the cruise ship that only the crew can access. 

Larger ships contain padded cells or safe lockup rooms. Smaller ships have other methods of controlling individuals that are a security threat to themselves or others until they can remove the individual from the vessel.

Jail on Carnival Cruise Ship
Jail on Carnival Cruise Ship (Photo: Copyright Cruise Hive)

Cruise ships tend to do this as quickly as possible to ensure the safety of all guests. The decision as to whether someone goes into jail or disembarks is up to the cruise ship captain.

What Crimes Happen Most Frequently at Sea?

Most security disturbances involve small cases of intoxication in public. These cases rarely result in criminal prosecution. Every crew member receives training on managing incidents, preventing escalations, and minimizing the impact on other guests. 

Most vessels independently report statistics on serious crimes aboard cruise ships. In 2014, an amendment to CVSSA (Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act) provided FBI reports of eight detailed serious crimes that are mandatory for passenger cruise ships disembarking and embarking from U.S. ports to report.

Cruise Ship Crime
Photo Credit: Prath / Shutterstock

The most recent reports outline the prevalence of serious crimes committed at sea. The overall numbers are low when compared to the number of passengers. For example, in one year, 13 million passengers were reported aboard cruise ships in U.S. ports. Under 100 serious crimes were reported to the FBI.

Serious crimes that occurred on cruise ships in 2020 were sexual assaults, with 22 incidents reported. In that year, there were no other types of crimes reported.

The FBI reports address any theft over $10,000, and none were reported during this year. There are many reasons for this. It may be due to the security of CCTV, stateroom safes, and electronic key card room access.

Who Investigates Crime?

Cruise ship security officers are the first responders in most cases. Their overall function is to ensure guest safety until law enforcement can handle serious issues. Jurisdiction complicates security. Local authorities have clear jurisdiction if ships are at port when the problem occurs, and this is also true when cruise ships are within the waters of the country.

FBI at Cruise Ship
FBI at Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: RUBEN M RAMOS / Shutterstock)

If the cruise ship is in international waters, jurisdiction resides within the laws of the registered country. An example is if a cruise ship is registered in South America, crimes in international waters are under South American law.

The FBI attempts to investigate when U.S. citizens commit crimes or are the victim of a crime. When a serious crime is confirmed or suspected, they use a global network to ensure the cruise passenger’s safety, then secure a crime scene to conduct a further investigation.

Handling a serious crime involves negotiation between officials from the cruise ship’s registered country, the U.S. government, and authorities in foreign ports.

What Security Measures Are in Place on a Cruise Ship?

All cruise lines contain security measures to ensure the safety of crew members and guests. These include: 

  • Vessels must report any crime committed to relevant authorities
  • Weapons, drugs, firearms, knives, ammunition, flammable substances, explosives, and most drones are prohibited
  • Crew requires basic training so they know what to do in a situation and can report and handle all crimes or disturbances
  • Security team available 24/7
Cruise Ship CCTV
Cruise Ship CCTV (Photo Credit: Redaktion93 / Shutterstock)

Why Would Someone Be Placed in the Brig?

Guests may end up either under cabin arrest or in the brig for several reasons. These include:

Committing Serious Crimes

If someone is suspected of committing a serious crime, like murder or assault, they can be put in the brig until the cruise ship reaches port. Then, local authorities will deal with the individual.

The Person Is a Danger to Themselves or Others

In this case, they can be put in the brig as a last resort. If the person threatened another person or uttered suicidal threats, they can be placed in the brig to keep them out of harm’s way. Cruise lines try to avoid this, but some situations warrant it when there are no other options.

For example, if a guest was drunk and disorderly, they may have to sign a contract promising they will refrain from alcohol for the remainder of their cruise. The consequence is removal from the cruise ship, and vessels have the right to disembark any passenger. 

The Person Scammed the Cruise Line

Some people do come on board a vessel to try to scam the cruise line. A fake “trip and slip” can occur with people attempting to secure a free cruise.

Fortunately, ships have CCTV cameras. Acts like these are typically dealt with without needing the brig. However, the brig can be used if a serious crime is committed in the scam.

Read Also: What Is on the Lowest Deck on a Ship?

Conclusion

If you wonder whether cruise ships have jails, the answer is yes. Jails are called brigs on a cruise ship and tend only to be used in serious circumstances when no other options are available. Cabin arrest is typically used before the brig is needed.

Haiyan Ma
Haiyan Ma
I absolutely love cruising with my favorite ports of call being in the Caribbean. As a former crew member for Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Line I can continue my passion by sharing my experiences with readers. Find out more about us here.

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