RCL Drug Arrests Mark 2nd Cruise Drug Bust in 2 Weeks

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Recent Royal Caribbean cruise drug bust is the second to be reported in less than two weeks’ time. What’s happening with cruise ship security?

cruise drug bustLess than two weeks ago, our maritime attorneys discussed a cocaine cruise drug bust involving Norwegian Cruise Line crew members. Five Norwegian Dawn cruise ship crew members were arrested in Honduras by Federal Authorities after they were caught allegedly attempting to smuggle several kilograms of cocaine into the United States. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security thwarted the smuggling attempt on January 3 after officials noticed three NCL crew members were engaging in suspicious inside a restroom located at a shopping mall close to the cruise terminal. And now, we’ve come to learn of yet another drug smuggling attempt, this time in Puerto Rico.

According to a Daily Star article, seven people were arrested in San Juan, PR after authorities discovered a whopping 24 pounds (11 kilograms) of cocaine aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Officials found the drugs in the nick of time, as the vessel was getting ready to depart. The drugs were found during a routine inspection aboard Royal’s Jewel of the Seas cruise ship. A sniffer dog detected the illicit substances.

Following the cruise drug bust, Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean, explained that six of those arrested were cruise passengers from the United States. The identity of the seventh passenger was not disclosed at the time. Authorities also have yet to disclose whether the suspects acquired the drugs in San Juan with the intent of smuggling them into the U.S., or if they were planning on consuming the cocaine themselves.

Either way, it is alarming that drugs continue to be brought on board cruise ships. Unlike the previous drug smuggling attempt we talked about, the 11 kilos of cocaine had already made it aboard the vessel. Yet, as shocking as the news may come to some, unfortunately, this isn’t the first time someone has brought drugs on board a cruise ship – and most likely won’t be the last.

One would think that with so many drug smuggling attempts, cruise lines would make a greater effort to increase safety and security measures on ships. But still, we continue to learn about drug smuggling plots and drugs being found in passenger and crew member cabins.

Sniffer dogs are sometimes stationed at a cruise ship’s homeport in order to thwart those attempting to bring drugs on a ship prior to a vessel’s initial departure. But cruise lines don’t consistently use sniffer dogs to inspect luggage or staterooms. This can lead many would-be smugglers to avoid getting caught when trying to bring illicit substances onto a ship.

Our maritime lawyers have high hopes that greater measures will be taken to improve the way cruise lines search for drugs aboard their vessels, but sadly, we know it will only be a matter of time before another cruise drug bust or similar cruise line crime will occur.