Should cruise lines permit convicted sex offenders on their ships? Carnival the world’s largest cruise line is very careful, at least according to its website particular about who it will let on- if they are working on the ship as a vendor or crew member. According to Carnival’s website-it runs background checks at a seller expense which includes the following checks:
a. Social Security Number (SSN) Trace;
b. Criminal Records (County and State Criminal Felony and Misdemeanor, National Criminal
The database, Federal Criminal); and
c. National Sex Offender Registry.
I could not, however, find anything on its website about whether or not it will allow convicted sex offenders to cruise as passengers. Now, does that mean that if you are booking a cruise you should worry that the passenger down the hall is a sex offender? Perhaps, yes.
However, assuming that a sex offender does get on your cruise ship- if he or she may not be able to get off the ship at a foreign port of call; because every port has different requirements for passports and documentation. For example, some ports will accept an only a birth certificate instead of a passport.
How to Identify a Sex Offender
Identifying sex offenders attempting to board cruise ships and disembark in foreign ports should now be easier after the passing of the International Megan's Law named in memory of the rape and murder victim, 7-year-old Megan Kanka. The law was signed into law by President Obama in 2016, and mandates that all passports of registered sex offenders, involving sex offenses with minors, must be clearly marked on the outside with a “visual identified” designed to immediately alert immigration officials. Critics have claimed this law violate the sexual offender’s constitutional rights and note that the law would also cover those who were convicted as minors-- and have likened the "unique identifier" to the letter "J" stamped on passports of Jews in Nazi Germany in 1938.
The National Sex Offender Public Website is probably the best and first place for cruise lines to check on their US passengers-- before allowing them to board their ships. I used its database to see if there were any sex offenders in a three-mile radius of our Miami cruise ship passenger accident claims law firm and was shocked by the results: 66 of the creepiest, scariest looking men you have ever seen- all living and presumably walking around our law office which happens to be located in the toniest part of Miami. Terrifying. What's worse is that this only covers US sex offenders-but cruise ships are like modern megacities with passengers and crewmembers from around the world- which makes it more difficult to screen their backgrounds.
According to Resources for RSO Travelers- a blog apparently written to assist registered sex offenders and their international travel needs, as well as to share information and insights amongst sex offenders- both Carnival and RCCL are notorious for booking sex offenders on their cruise ships and then cancelling their bookings (with full refunds) at the last minute. However, the blog claims that Norwegian, MSC and Holland America (which is owned by Carnival) do allow sex offenders onboard. I have no way of verifying this.
Sex Offender Travel Notification
Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 is a law that requires US registered sex offenders to notify his or her residence jurisdiction of any intended travel outside of the United States at least 21 days prior to that travel. This information is transmitted to the U.S. Marshals Service and must include the following:
• Full name
• FBI number (for Domestic Law Enforcement use only)
• Passport number and country
-Dates/places of departure, arrival, and return (if applicable), including the name of the city/town that is the point of departure from each country
-Means of travel (air, train, ship)
- Itinerary details (when available) including the name of the airport/train station/port, the flight/train/ship number, the time of departure, the time of arrival, and information about any intermediate stops
• Purpose(s) of Travel
- Other (specify)
• Criminal Record
- Date and City, State or Jurisdiction of Conviction
- Offense(s) of conviction requiring registration
- Victim information: Age/gender/relationship
- Registration jurisdiction(s) (State, Tribe or Territory)
- Contact information within destination country
- Notifying Agency and contact information
In conclusion, US registered sex offenders who comply with the notification requirements are permitted to travel. But since each country has different requirements and registration protocols ranging from the detailed information in the US to virtually nonexistent in many other countries the risk of a sexual predator getting on your next cruise ship is very real.
In my opinion, as cruise ship passenger injury lawyer who has investigated hundreds of cruises ship related injury claims and sexual assault claims, the decision to allow them on a cruise ship full of families with small children and vulnerable and intoxicated passengers is a very bad and dangerous idea. Ultimately, the cruise line has the complete right to deny passage to any person. Here I hope that they will consider passenger safety more valuable than the profits it may make from the sale of additional cruise tickets and leave sex predators off their ships.