If your family’s summer cruise vacation is interrupted by any sort of crime on board, it can be confusing which authorities to turn to and which laws apply.

Usually, local laws will apply if the ship is at port when the crime occurs.  For example, if your purse is stolen from your cabin while the ship is docked in Jamaica (or in Jamaican territorial waters close to shore), Jamaican authorities will have jurisdiction over the incident.  Be sure to report any crimes immediately when you discover them, because there isn’t much your cruise ship staff can do to help you once the ship has moved away from the country with jurisdiction.

If the crime happens on the high seas, maritime law often applies.  The captain of your ship can choose whether to lock up a suspect until the ship reaches home or even to leave that suspect at the next port.

By law, cruise lines are required to report statistics related to allegations of onboard crimes.  You can view these reports before your vacation on the US Coast Guard’s website: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg2/cgis/CruiseLine.asp

Tip for Handling Crime on Cruise Ships:

  • Even though you’re on vacation, always be aware of your surroundings
  • Don’t leave your valuables out (you may even choose to leave some at home)
  • Follow cruise ship rules and guidelines
  • If you’re the victim of a crime on a ship, ask whether it will be reported to local or federal authorities.  Once it’s reported, ask for a copy of the paperwork.  If the ship’s staff chooses not to report the crime, you always have the option of reporting it yourself!


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