There have been claims recently that alleged serious crimes occur frequently on cruise ships and that many of those crimes go unreported. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For an industry that enjoys a high repeat customer rate and with some of the largest cruise lines catering to families, any allegation of a serious crime is one too many. However, an objective look at the data — as well as the testimony of law enforcement officials and independent experts — demonstrates that the rate of alleged serious crimes on cruise ships is a small fraction compared to corresponding rates reported on land in the United States.
Dr. James Fox of Northeastern University, one of America’s leading criminologists and often called upon by Congress as an expert to testify, recently wrote in a study: “By any measure, travel by sea aboard commercial cruise lines is exceptionally safe in terms of the risks associated with criminal activity.” He has also commented to news reporters that “cruising is just about the safest vacation option except perhaps for relaxing in your own backyard.”
Not only are allegations of serious crime dramatically lower than on land, cruise lines are subject to the most stringent legal requirements for reporting allegations of crime in the entire hospitality and travel industries. Since 1996, every alleged serious crime on a voyage to or from the United States involving a U.S. citizen, and even those involving foreign nationals if the incident happens in U.S. waters, must be reported in writing to the U.S. Coast Guard and FBI.
Any suggestion that alleged serious crimes are not being reported by cruise lines is false, and both the U.S. Coast Guard and FBI have testified before Congress that cruise lines comply with these requirements and there is no under-reporting. Any cruise line that does not report allegations of serious crimes as required by U.S. law faces significant civil and criminal penalties, as well as denial of clearance of ships to leave a U.S. port and/or denial of entry into a U.S. port.
Notwithstanding these rigorous legal reporting requirements, and to remove all doubt raised by full-time industry critics, the three largest U.S.-based cruise companies — representing nearly 90 percent of cruise business in North America — have gone even further. This month they voluntarily began posting on their websites all allegations of serious crime reported on board ships of their North American brands — regardless of whether such claims are in fact substantiated, or found to be baseless — so that consumers can see for themselves that the incidence of alleged serious crimes on cruise ships is extremely rare by any comparison.
These lines took this step independent of any Congressional hearing or legislation, and communicated it to Congress months ago. CLIA, the industry trade association representing the vast majority of cruise operators worldwide, has posted on its Website aggregated industry crime data, along with a comparison to corresponding land-based data so that consumers can see for themselves that claims of high crime rates are completely unfounded.
These voluntary reporting initiatives go beyond all reporting requirements under current law. No other hospitality, transportation or commercial business to my knowledge is required to or does disclose such comprehensive data.
Cruising is one of the safest, most enjoyable vacation experiences for millions of people every year. Now with data being made available voluntarily to the public by cruise lines and the industry trade association, consumers can see just how much lower the incidence of alleged crimes is compared against corresponding rates of crime on land throughout the U.S. that are officially maintained by the Department of Justice and FBI.
Christine Duffy is president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association, the global trade association for the cruise industry.