Cruise Line Crimes, Cruise Ship Injuries

Cruise Line Incidents

Michael A. Winkleman

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Michael A. Winkleman is one of the nation’s top maritime lawyers. An active trial and appellate attorney, Mr. Winkleman is also a frequent contributing expert on maritime and cruise ship law. He has made more than 100 national television appearances regarding cruise ship law.

The Most Common Cruise Line Criminal Reports

Cruises are designed to be relaxing, fun, and a recharging break. For some, however, the experience isn’t always what they hoped it would be. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation has recorded all the alleged reported criminal incidents, including cruise ship sexual assault, that have occurred over the years and this report details which incidents have increased and decreased in frequency since 2010.  It is important to note that these figures are only the reported crimes aboard ships.  As a law firm specializing in maritime law since 1971, we have firsthand knowledge that many crimes at sea go unreported for a number of reasons.  As such, it is our opinion that the below figures are far lower than the actual number of crimes at sea.  

Whether you are crew or a passenger, if you have fallen victim to any incident onboard a cruise then our award-winning maritime law experts are on your side to help you navigate the complicated legal process. For tips on how to avoid or deal with these incidents on your next cruise holiday, read to the end of this report. 

These numbers refer to cases no longer under investigation by the FBI, and are recorded from a total of 12 cruise lines during 2019. Data from 2020 has not been included in this report due to the effects of the pandemic which saw a significant decrease in cruises which were effectively stopped for a year and a half due to COVID. 

Sexual Assault – 101 Reports

Sadly, the most common criminal incident by far was sexual assault, with 101 reported incidents across 2019. Of this 101, 75 assaults were committed by passengers and 21 assaults were committed by the crew. These numbers are alarming when you consider this data comes from a total of just 12 cruise lines in the U.S. 

Theft of more than $10,000 – 15 Reports

Theft of more than $10,000 was the second most common criminal incident in 2019, with 15 reports of this crime across the year. Of this, 3 thefts were committed by passengers and only 1 theft committed by the crew, with the remaining 11 thefts recorded as other. 

Assault with Serious Bodily Injury – 6 Reports

In 2019 there were 6 reports of assault leading to serious bodily harm. Here, 8 counts were committed by fellow passengers while only 1 crew member has been reported of assault with serious bodily injury. 

By totaling all reports of crimes across the years 2010 to 2019, this report has identified the most common criminal incidents reported on cruises in the U.S. In total, 609 crimes were recorded and are no longer under investigation by the FBI. 

Sexual Assault – 432 Reports

From the years 2010 to 2019, there has been a staggering total of 432 sexual assaults on cruise ships in the U.S. A large majority (309) of these crimes were committed by passengers, with crew members committing a total of 109. 

Assault with Serious Bodily Injury – 64 Reports

In the second place, still far behind sexual assault, is assault with serious bodily injury with 64 reported incidents from 2010-2019. Again, an overwhelming majority of these crimes were committed by passengers (57), with 7 incidents committed by the crew. 

Theft of more than $10,000 – 60 Reports

With 60 total reports from 2010-2019, theft of more than $10,000 is the third most common criminal incident on cruises. This crime is more equally committed by passengers and crew members, with each group committing 15 and 14 crimes respectively.

Sexual assault has consistently been the most reported crime on cruise ships every year from 2010 to 2019. Shockingly, since 2015 sexual assault saw a sharp increase in reports through to 2017. Reports fell slightly in 2018 before hitting a record number in 2019. 

Other criminal incidents, such as theft of more than $10,000 and assault with serious bodily injury, have steadily increased in recent years, however, remain at a much lower level than sexual assault reports.

In all years from 2010 to 2019, only one homicide was ever recorded. This was in 2017 and was committed by a passenger. 

There have been a total of 29 suspicious deaths since 2010, and 18 U.S. Nationals have gone missing. There have been 2 reported kidnappings, both in 2017. 

See the table below for the complete breakdown of criminal incidents on cruise ships between the years 2010 and 2019. 

How To Stay Safe During Your Next Cruise Line Vacation

Clearly, there is a significant concern surrounding sexual assault on cruise ships. Sexual assaults make up 70% of all reported criminal incidents recorded by the U.S. Department of Transportation between 2010 and 2019 across 12 cruise lines. 

It is important for all cruise passengers to understand the process for reporting rape or sexual assault should either of those incidents occur while you are on your vacation.

It is no one’s fault if they are a victim of sexual assault and the blame fully lines with the perpetrator and also potentially the cruise line.  Given the alarming frequency of rapes and sexual assaults at sea, there is a clear legal duty for all of the major cruise lines to take reasonable steps to warn about, and prevent, these heinous crimes.  Having said that,   here are a few safety tips to consider on your next vacation.  

Stay Vigilant 

Be sure to lock your door and do not open your door to anyone unexpected, including a crew member. Know where the people you are traveling with are and arrange check-in times with each other. Let them know if you’re meeting someone aboard the ship. 

Report the Incident if it Occurs

As soon as possible. Notify cruise security, as well as the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard. You can reach FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. at 202-324-3000. 

Emergency numbers for the U.S. Coast Guard are:

Atlantic Area Command Center (for Great Lakes, Gulf and East Coasts) – (757) 398-6390

Pacific Area Command Center (for the Hawaiian, Alaskan and Pacific Coasts) – (510) 437-3700

Contact a Trusted Lawyer

Many individuals do not realize that the perpetrator of their crime can be held responsible for their actions. They can. Contact a trusted lawyer as soon as you can.  We can help you understand the process and your rights and ensure that all proper steps are taken.   


Data recorded from 2020 was not included in this report due to the effects of the pandemic on results. Bear in mind that these figures represent crimes that are no longer under investigation by the FBI. This means that open investigations or pending prosecutions are not recorded, and neither are reported crimes which did not open investigations or different crimes other than the ones listed here. All data were recorded from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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