Cruise Ship Law

Cocaine Packages Discovered Aboard Cruise Ship


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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.

On Tuesday morning January 29, at roughly 10:55AM, Mexican Custom officials boarded, the MSC Divina — a cruise ship owned and operated by MSC Cruises — while docked in Cozumel as a result of having been were alerted to the presence of a suspicious package aboard the vessel.  According to media reports, Mexican law enforcement (federal) quickly moved in and conducted a search, finding six packages of cocaine hidden in a compartment behind a toilet on the ship.

The exact location of the cocaine packages remains undisclosed to the media.  Though no arrests ensued, an investigation is ongoing — law enforcement officers are looking into the origin of the packages and who might be responsible for smuggling them aboard.  It would certainly be unsurprising if the cocaine was smuggled aboard by crew members of the MSC Divina itself.  In fact, in November, seven crew members aboard another MSC Cruises vessel were arrested on charges of smuggling cocaine into the port of Miami.

We are pleased to hear that law enforcement officials discovered the drugs, though we are concerned about what this discovery means for MSC Cruises and their protocol for hiring and supervising crew members.  Had any injuries occurred aboard the ship in connection with the cocaine, MSC Cruises could be held liable.

Cruise Lines May Be Held Liable for Drug Smuggling Consequences

Recreational drugs can contribute to a significantly heightened risk of injuries.  In the cruise ship context, for example, the distribution of cocaine at an event aboard the ship could lead to violent or reckless behavior — someone who is “high” on cocaine or other hard drugs might playfully push their friend overboard without considering the damaging consequences of their actions.  This is true of alcohol intoxication as well, which is why cruise lines are liable for injuries that result from the over-serving of alcohol passengers.

The presence of recreational drugs aboard a vessel can therefore implicate the cruise line if there is a causal link between their presence and the cruise line’s negligence.  While multiple events on the part the cruise line may establish its negligence, the most likely are negligent hiring, supervision or passenger screening.

Cruise lines must perform thorough background checks of their crew member employees to ensure that they will not pose an injury risk to passengers.  If the cruise line hires a crew member who has a criminal record (associated with drug smuggling and other drug crimes), they could be held liable for injuries suffer in connection with that crew member’s subsequent criminal activities be they to other crew members or to the passengers. Likewise, if a passenger was able to smuggle drugs aboard and their presence on the vessel resulted in harm to a crewmember or someone other than the smuggler himself, the Line could be responsible.


Cruise Lines owe all onboard a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. A crewmember with a history of drug crimes is more likely than one without to involve himself in criminal behavior involving drugs. Given this, his employment is ill advised. Likewise, failing to screen passengers boarding the vessel and their luggage puts all on board at risk of harm.

We Can Help

If you have been harmed aboard a cruise ship, then you may be entitled to bring a lawsuit against the cruise line for damages, even if the harm was inflicted by a third party.  Developing an actionable claim can be quite a challenge, particularly in scenarios where the “causal link” between the cruise line’s negligence and the harm that you suffered is weak.

Nonetheless, we can help.

Here at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A., our nationally recognized attorneys have over two centuries of combined experience litigating maritime injury claims for cruise ship passengers and crew members, including injury claims that involve drugs and third-party intentional harm.  Over the years, we have gained deep insight into what is required to successfully litigate such claims, and have built a consistent  record of results for our clients.

Contact Lipcon today to schedule an appointment with a skilled maritime lawyer at our firm.

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