According to data collected by the Department of Transportation (DOT), assault is consistently the most reported crime aboard major cruise ship lines, accounting for about three-quarters of all crimes reported between 2010 and 2022.
Business Insider reports that of the approximately 500 documented incidents, 70% occurred on Royal Caribbean or Carnival ships. However, Carnival registered almost double the number of Royal Caribbean – despite having fewer ships.
Insider reports that passengers, rather than crew members, committed more than 80% of the attacks. However, a California woman, represented by maritime attorney Michael Winkleman, claimed in January 2022 that she had been raped by — and contracted HIV from — a Princess Cruises crew member. DOT records indicate that Princess had more reports attributed to its staff than other cruise lines.
Speaking to Business Insider, Winkleman suggests that the DOT’s statistics may not reflect the true frequency of attacks, as many cases go unreported and victims may fear that their experiences are being minimised. Minors are also particularly vulnerable – estimates suggest they make up a third of victims of sexual assault each year.
Winkleman tells Insider that the difference between the cruise ships appears to be related to marketing tactics. For example, Royal Caribbean takes a “family-oriented” approach in its advertising campaigns. This is in stark contrast to Carnival’s focus on fun and partying, which the lawyer says can put people in situations where impaired judgment plays a role in the danger.
Nonprofit organization RAINN told Insider that it has established training and safety procedures specifically designed to prevent sexual assault. The organization works with cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean Cruises, which in 2015 became the first company to receive compliance certification from a RAINN program aimed at educating employees on how to prevent and respond to sexual assault.