According to Department of Transportation (DOT) data analyzed by Business Insider, sexual assault is consistently the most reported crime aboard major cruise ship lines, making up about three-quarters of all crimes reported from 2010 to 2022.
Business Insider reports that out of approximately 500 documented incidents, 70% happened on either Royal Caribbean or Carnival ships. The report also notes that Carnival recorded nearly doubled Royal Caribbean’s number — despite having fewer ships.
But in a statement to Entrepreneur, Chris Chiames, chief communications officer for Carnival Cruise Lines, called the report a “superficial interpretation of the DOT data” and that it’s not “apples to apples.”
“It should be noted that Carnival handles millions more cruise guests than other cruise lines, and we sail many short itineraries which increases the number of people that board our ships each year,” Chiames said. “Further, most of our capacity is from U.S. homeports, which is the data the DOT collects. We have effective onboard security measures and also use screening tools to promote a safe and secure environment for all on board.”
Carnival is “fully committed to the safety of our guests and crew and there is no circumstance by which assault is condoned,” he added.
Insider reports that passengers, rather than crew members, committed over 80% of the assaults.
However, a California woman represented by maritime attorney Michael Winkleman alleged in January 2022 that she was raped by — and contracted HIV from — a Princess Cruises crew member. DOT records indicate Princess had more reports attributed to its staff than other cruise lines.
Speaking to Business Insider, Winkleman suggests the DOT’s statistics may not reflect the true frequency of assaults, as many cases go unreported, and victims may fear their experiences will be minimized. Minors are also particularly vulnerable — estimates suggest that they make up one-third of sexual assault victims yearly.
Nonprofit organization RAINN told Insider it creates training and safety procedures specific to prevent sexual assault. The org does work with cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean Cruises, which in 2015 was the first company to receive compliance certification from a RAINN program geared toward educating employees on preventing and responding to sexual violence.