Cruise Line Crimes, Cruise Ship Rape & Sexual Assault

15-Year-Old Boy Becomes the Latest Victim of Cruise Ship Sexual Assault


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Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. is made up of attorneys who are nationally recognized industry leaders in the field of maritime and admiralty law. Our team of cruise lawyers has well over two centuries of combined experience, has successfully handled over 3,000 cases, and has recovered over 300 million dollars in damages for our clients. Several of our attorneys have even been selected to “Best Lawyers” ® by US News & World Report every year as far back as 2016.

Although the cruise industry has been scrutinized as of late for what seem to be a string of never-ending maritime accidents, cruising has always been regarded as one of the most fun, entertaining and relaxing vacation experiences for both single travelers and families. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to cruising that not many people are aware of. Despite the publicized accidents that have occurred involving equipment failure, cruise ships are also a breeding ground for criminal activity, including violence. At first, it might appear as though things are running smoothly on a cruise ship. Crewmembers greet guests with beaming smiles, learn everyone’s name and cater to passengers’ every need, yet, behind the scenes, crimes are taking place that are seldom brought to the public eye.

Cruise goers might find it especially shocking to discover what the most number one crime on the high seas is. The most commonly reported crime on cruise lines is cruise ship sexual assault. Of the 206 crimes that were reported on cruise ships between 2003 and 2006, a whopping 86 percent were sexual crimes. Harassment, inappropriate touching and rape abound on cruise ships, with both passengers and crewmembers perpetrating the criminal behavior, as well as being victimized, but despite this alarming figure, cruise companies have done little or nothing to warn possible victims or protect those onboard from offenders.

Although cruise ships are required to report serious maritime incidents, including sexual assault and rape, to the FBI if the incident occurred while on U.S. maritime territory or if the vessel calls on U.S. ports, not all lines do so or if they do report the matter, take such a long time to do so that assailants are able to escape without being brought to justice.

Fortunately, that is not the case for one cruise ship sexual offender who was arrested after engaging in sexual conduct with a minor while onboard a Royal Caribbean vessel.

Todd Eric Nordahl, 49, of Tucson, Arizona, was arrested and charged with having sexual relations with a minor onboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas while under U.S. maritime and territorial jurisdiction. Nordahl was arrested last Sunday, March 31, 2013, when the ship returned to port and is scheduled to appear in court today.

According to the FBI report, the incident occurred on March 27, after Nordahl provided the minor with alcohol and made sexual advances toward him. Nordahl was accused of “cuddling” with the boy, then performing oral sex on the minor. He was charged with sexual assault toward a minor, a federal offense.

The young victim, only 15-years-old, reported the incident to a Royal Caribbean security officer, who then contacted the FBI. The incident is now under FBI investigation.

Sexual assault is a serious crime, but when the sexual assault of a minor is involved, the crime is considered a felony offense. Nordahl now faces years in jail and expensive fines, if found guilty.

While Royal Caribbean officials did the right thing in contacting the FBI as soon as the child reported the crime, cruise ship sexual assault and rape incidents like this one happen all too often; a testament to the lack of safety onboard cruise ships.

Just last year, a 15-year-old girl was involved in a cruise ship gang rape onboard the Carnival Sensation. Then 31-year-old Casey Dickerson and four teenage boys took turns raping the minor inside a cabin. Fortunately, the offenders were apprehended and Dickerson was indicted by a federal grand jury.

It is important for all cruise passengers and crewmembers to know they have a right to be protected on cruise ships, whether they are at sea or in port. Sexual assault does not necessarily have to include any sexual advances or rape in order for victims to be protected by law and seek help with a cruise ship sexual assault lawyer.

This atrocious incident, and all the other cruise ship sexual assault crimes that have been reported – and those that have yet to come to light – should serve as a warning to the cruise industry that something must be done to fully protect everyone onboard against criminal activity.

However, given the recent slew of cruise ship accidents, rapes, assaults, and disappearances, it seems as though the cruise industry’s priorities lie elsewhere. Of course, the cruise lines do not want anything bad to happen to their passengers however when something does occur, they no longer are the passengers friend but rather take an adversarial position seeking to protect the corporate pocket book rather than bring the perpetrator to justice. Everyone going on a cruise should read, “Unsafe on the High Seas” in order to have a safer cruise. A little bit of common sense goes a long way toward avoiding trouble.

Photo Credit:

Cruise ship sexual assault assailant Todd Eric Nordahl –

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