A cruise is a vacation full of fun and frivolity under the sun. But if you step out of line (and we’re not talking the conga line), you’ll have to deal with cruise ship security officers. They’re often a courteous and helpful bunch, but they also have the power to confine you to quarters, lock you up, and, in some circumstances, escort you off the ship to sit in a foreign jail. Cruise ship troublemakers, beware: What you gonna do when cruise ship security comes for you?
Vincent McNally knows all about the life of a cruise ship officer. After a 30-year career in the FBI and a stint as an instructor for Iraqi police in Baghdad, McNally decided a work-vacation was in order: He became a security officer for Holland America Line.
Being a cruise ship security officer is a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it! (Illustration: iStock)
What made McNally choose a life at sea after leaving the FBI? “My wife and I went on my first cruise,” he remembers. He says he enjoyed it — a lot. "I said to my wife, ‘I’d like to go and work on this. This looks good and you can travel the world.’ And that’s exactly what we did.“
McNally worked as a Holland America cruise ship security officer for five years. "The security officer does everything,” McNally tells Yahoo Travel. “I usually had a staff of seven or eight people, depending on how big the ship is. It could be more for bigger ships.” He says his job involves checking people on board, training, and assisting in port security at ports of call.
Related: Confessions of a Cruise Ship Doctor
Vincent McNally and his wife enjoy his dream job with Holland America. (Photo: Vincent McNally)
And, yes, dealing with the occasional problem passenger is part of the job, too. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of the people are fine,” says McNally. “Everybody gets along and we have a good time.” But the loudmouth drunks and troublemakers are inevitable — and one of the things that make working security on a cruise ship a challenging gig. “It’s not something you can just sit back and have a coffee and do,” he says. “It’s not that easy.” It may not be easy but it sure is interesting. So McNally shared with Yahoo Travel his tidbits, anecdotes, and confessions from his time as a cruise ship security officer.
Cruise security officers aren’t mall cops
Okay, not all cruise ship security officers are ex-FBI agents like McNally. “I may be a little unique, because I have a little bit more experience than most security officers,” McNally says as modestly as he possibly can. “I’m not bragging, but it’s just factual.”
Vincent spent 5 years as a security officer with Holland America. (Photo: iStock)
Still, though, you’d be surprised at the strong law enforcement pedigree you may find among cruise ship security officers. “[At Holland America], there were police detectives working on the ships as security officers,” he says. He’s encountered even more law enforcement vets in the training sessions he’s done for aspiring ship security officers. “[Some] were police officers, mostly detectives and lieutenants and sergeants,” he says. So next time you think you can act up on a cruise ship and only have to deal with untrained fake cops, remember: You may be squaring off against an ex-police lieutenant. Or FBI agent.
Drunks are a problem — of course
Thousands of people on vacation. A dozen or so bars. Countless bottles of alcohol. A sometimes decadent, party-themed atmosphere. It’s no surprise that the cruise ship environment is in itself a cocktail of excessive drinking. It’s also no surprise that some people don’t hold their alcohol very well and cause trouble.
“Sometimes people come on the ship and they want to drink as much as they can in five days,” says McNally. “That’s a problem. Then we just gotta get them to their rooms and get them to sleep it off until the next day. Calm them down.”
Will this guy be a happy drunk or one who requires security? We’ll find out after about four more margaritas. (Photo: iStock)
If you got so wasted on a cruise that you needed security called on you, you may have something more to deal with the next day than a hangover — at least you would if McNally was working security. McNally says he’d often sit down with the offender on the day after. “Have a regular conversation listing the parameters of what they can and cannot do,” he says. “I found it’s very helpful to have a contract. I’ll make a contract up in concert with the captain and have them sign it. It says they will no longer have a drink for the rest of the cruise, depending on how severe the problem was.”
Related: ‘We Bring the Fun,’ and Other Confessions of a Cruise Ship Entertainer
McNally says that contract was often effective in dealing with those who over-indulged to problematic levels, although some would later ask him to let them out of the no-drinking contract. “Some would come back and say, 'I’m here on a long trip…’” he says. “I said, 'No, you have to follow along. The other option is you get drunk again and then we come into a foreign port and you’re in somebody’s jail and you don’t want to go there.’” The threat of ending their vacation in a foreign jail was enough to sober up problem drinkers.
Another big problem: prescription drugs
You’d be surprised at how big a problem prescription drugs can cause for security personnel on cruise ships — both those who take prescription drugs with alcohol as well as those with mental illnesses who go off their meds.
“Especially if they’re on the manic or depressive side,” says McNally. “They’d start screaming and yelling and then all of a sudden they take a pill while I’m talking to them and they come right back down.”
What’s worse than a passenger whacked out from taking prescription pills? A passenger whacked out from NOT taking their prescription pills. (Photo: iStock)
Part of dealing with a problem passenger, he says, is ascertaining what’s fueling the problem — is it alcohol or something else? “You have to be aware there are people who may have a mental illness, maybe even be suicidal,” he says. “I’ve had one [who was suicidal] and I was able to talk him down.“
Dealing with problem passengers is like a hostage negotiation
"One of the things that I pride myself on is that I never had to fight an individual all those five years,” McNally says. “If they were inebriated or if they were out of control, I was able to negotiate anything.”
McNally found that dealing with a drunk is kind of like dealing with a stressed-out criminal who’s taken hostages. So he used some of the techniques he used to employ as an FBI agent on problem cruise ship passengers. “There are two principles: hostage negotiation and acute traumatic stress management,” he says. “That’s basically taking the person who is screaming and yelling and calming them down."
In one case in particular, he recalls using that technique on a drunk and belligerent passenger. "He was yelling and screaming and walking around,” McNally says. “I intervened and then I just basically calmed the person down. You follow the level of voice up and down; you bring them down to a lower level then you escort them back to the room. It’s a difficult thing to do, but it can be done. I think that the format I developed worked pretty well since I had no fights, no physical altercations.”
He did have some close calls, though. When a passenger refused to listen to reason, and the situation threatened to turn physical, McNally would call the ships’s bridge and ask them to send down some additional crew members as backup. Because even drunk people know when they’re outnumbered, that was usually enough to solve the problem.
Related: Confessions of a Cruise Ship Chef
All in all, McNally didn’t get too stressed out over dealing with drunk/high/mentally ill passengers. “They’re usually just having a brief moment of being dumb and we’re trying to help them out,” he says.
There is a cruise jail
An age-old question we at Yahoo Travel have been asked repeatedly: Do cruise ships have brigs where they throw people who misbehave or break the law? Cruise lines typically don’t like to publicize such matters, but McNally finally reveals the answer:
“Some [ships] have them and some don’t,” he says. “Basically it’s a padded cell.” Jails, he says, are reserved only for the rarest, most extreme circumstances. “That would be in a severe case where the person has assaulted or gone another level above just yelling and screaming,” he says.
Our questions have been answered! Some cruise ships have jail cells, but they look nothing like this. (Photo: iStock)
Ship security officers don’t unilaterally make the decision to lock up passengers. “The captain would be the ultimate decision maker and he’d then consult with the duty person and security back at headquarters.” But that’s as far as McNally’s experience with cruise ship jails goes. “I don’t think I ever put anyone in it,” he says. “I just get them to go back to their rooms."
Beware of ship scammers
There’s one group McNally says is an even bigger headache than drunks: those trying to scam cruise ships by having an "accident” they try to parlay into some kind of settlement. “There’s that small percentage [of passengers] that may want to try to scam the ship via fake accidents and indicating that the ship did something wrong to them,” he says. “There are people who come on board specifically to do that for a free cruise. Most of all those I was able to rectify by investigation and proving that what they were saying was unfounded.” (Reminder: Video cameras are everywhere on cruise ships.)
You wouldn’t believe how many people try to scam cruise ships. (Photo: iStock)
A lot of times, these scams are your standard slip and fall but sometimes they get more elaborate. McNally remembers one case when a passenger claimed that somebody in the ship’s crew had dropped a straight pin into his glass of water before serving it. The passenger even took a picture of the pin-infested water and gave it to McNally, who began a CSI-type reconstruction of the crime.
Related: Confessions of Cruise Ship Entertainers
“I replicated exactly where they sat,” says McNally, “where the ice came from, where the water came from. I checked all the ice and water.” McNally concluded that, given where the pin was in the glass in relation to the water and ice, the only one who could have put it in the glass was one of the people sitting at the table where the passenger had been sitting — perhaps the passenger himself, maybe? "When I told him that, he just said, 'Oh…’ and walked away,“ says McNally. "They feel like they are dealing with some security guard that has no experience.”
They investigate crimes impartially
The way cruise ship security officers generally investigate onboard crimes has come under scrutiny, but McNally says everything is above board. (Photo: iStock)
Crime on cruise ships is a big issue, and many passengers’ rights advocates have accused cruise ship security officers of not taking the issue seriously. Because cruise ship security personnel work for the cruise line, say these critics, in cases where passengers are crime victims, security officers feel pressure from their employers and are more concerned with protecting the company than with helping victims.
McNally denies that. “I’ve never felt that way in the five years I worked for Holland America,” he says. “I worked to do everything possible to assist the victim and to secure the evidence."
McNally adds there were no cover-ups of potentially embarrassing cases during his tenure. "I’ve never seen any type of security case that was not immediately reported back to headquarters and thereafter to the FBI as far as I know,” he says of his investigations. “For me there’s only one way and that’s doing it the right way: getting the evidence and submitting it, or holding on to it until the FBI comes on board at the next port.”
There are fringe benefits — of course!
When McNally was at sea, he often wasn’t alone. “I was very lucky because as an officer, I could bring my wife with me,” he says. “Usually the evenings I was free, so we could go around the ship. Every night we had a nice dinner, we got to meet people.”
Of course, there’s the chief perk of working on a cruise ship in any capacity: seeing the world. Not that McNally got to see all that much of it; he remembers that some of the busiest times of any voyage were when the ship was in port.
“You basically don’t have the free time to go visit every place because your job in port is to keep an eye on everything,“ he says. "You liaison with the local police and port authority. Make sure that their security is doing their job and vice-versa, they’re checking on us. We have to be available for customs, for all different agencies to board and check the ship. It’s not like I don’t like to do that. I’d like to have had more free time.”
But looking back on his life at sea, McNally has fond memories. So does his wife. “She was upset that I left the job!” he laughs. “She enjoyed every day. It’s certainly interesting. I enjoyed it.”
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Are there jails on cruise ships? Yes, cruise ships have brigs, which is the nautical term for a jail on a vessel, including a cruise ship. The term comes from the word "brigantine," which is a type of two-masted sailing ship formerly used to house criminals.What kind of security do cruise ships have? ›
Do Cruise Ships Have Security Onboard? All cruise lines have a security team that work on the cruise ship. The security team consists of security guards, supervisors, guest security supervisors, and ship security officers.What are the safety measures in cruise ship? ›
- Five firefighting teams.
- 4,000 smoke detectors.
- 500 fire extinguishers.
- 16 miles of sprinkler piping.
- 5,000 sprinkler heads and 6 miles of fire hose.
- Enough survival craft, including lifeboats and life rafts, to accommodate at least 125% of the number of persons on board.
Highly Trained Security Personnel: Exceptionally trained ship security personnel are on call 24/7. Major cruise lines have sophisticated security departments run by former federal, state and military law enforcement officials and are staffed by competent, qualified security personnel.Do all ships have jails? ›
Conclusion. If you wonder whether cruise ships have jails, the answer is yes. Jails are called brigs on a cruise ship and tend only to be used in serious circumstances when no other options are available.Do cruise ships have security against pirates? ›
Although experts usually advice against armed guards or weapons aboard passenger ships, they acknowledge that to protect more than 2,000 passengers, cruise ships employ security to deter hijackers.What does a security officer on a cruise ship do? ›
Aboard a cruise ship, security officers typically work throughout all deck areas to patrol access points, vessel safety equipment, guests' quarters and the bridge and captain's areas. Security personnel also spend long hours moving around the ship, often working evening and overnight shifts.Are cruise ship security guards armed? ›
So regardless how you feel about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the cruise ships by and large don't have armed security guards.Do security guards on cruise ships carry guns? ›
Though unlikely, hijackers or pirates may try to take control of a ship. Cruise companies see the risk of this kind of terrorism. In response, many cruise companies place armed security on each of their ships. These trained professionals are ready to defend the passengers on board.What is the most effective method of ship protection? ›
A proper, visible lookout is the most effective method of ship protection. It can help identify a suspicious approach or attack early on, allows defences to be deployed and, can serve as an effective deterrent to would-be attackers.
In fact, following the release of the latest CVSSA statistics, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) commented that the report “shows that allegations of serious crime on board cruise ships remain extremely rare, especially compared to crimes that occur on land.”What is the example of security measures onboard the ship? ›
Contents of Ship Security Plan (SSP)
Specific identification of restricted areas and preventive action against access to any such designated areas. Action to be taken when the ship is facing a security threat or breach taking into account the critical operations of the ship.
Average Total Hourly Cash Compensation
The average hourly rate for Security Patrol Supervisor in companies like ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD range from $23 to $33 with the average hourly pay of $27.
Security Guard Salary Range:
$1200 to 1800 U.S. per month depending on the cruise line.
Average Total Cash Compensation
The base salary for Chief Information Security Officer in companies like ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD range from $214,867 to $283,757 with the average base salary of $245,883.
While there has been a rising concern and increased prevention of rodent activity on cruise ships/large vessels, chances are there will always be a potential for this problem.Can you survive falling off a cruise ship? ›
What are the chances of surviving a cruise ship fall? Sadly, most cases—an estimated 85 to 90 percent—end in death.Can you survive jumping from a cruise ship? ›
The survival rate after jumping off a cruise ship is around 25%. Many things can influence this rate including the speed of the ship, the location, the time of day and the season. A case of someone surviving their ordeal is taken from 2015 when a 22-year-old man fell overboard off the coast of Mexico.Do cruise ships have snipers? ›
More dramatically cruise ships also carry two snipers on board. The night of our reported hijack attempt, a sniper was seen on the top deck in full black ninja gear carrying a large gun. He scurried out of sight when he realized passengers could see him.Can ships carry guns to fight pirates? ›
Merchant ships now plying in high piracy affected areas such as Gulf of Aden (GOA) carry Armed Guards along with a series of non-lethal weaponry to thwart any kind of piracy attempt.
Vessel captains usually have a firearm or two with ammo locked in their safe, to protect the crew and ship.Is the ship security officer accountable to the master? ›
The phrase “accountable to the master” in the definition of SSO is intended to cover those situations, for example on large passenger ships, where the SSO is not the master, by reaffirming that the master has overall responsibility for security.Do cruise ships have undercover cops? ›
Unlike airplanes with Federal Marshals, cruise ships have no police authorities aboard. The few security guards on the ships are loyal to their employer who pays their salary – not to the passenger. When a crime occurs, the cruise lines first notify their risk managements departments and their defense lawyers.Is theft common on cruise ships? ›
Theft is a common form of cruise ship crime.Can you take handcuffs on a cruise? ›
Weapons and Restraints
Guns, handcuffs, brass knuckles and martial arts equipment (flails, throwing stars, belt buckle knives, etc.) aren't allowed onboard cruise ships.
Based on the reports that have been filed, we can estimate that around 200 people go missing from cruise ships each year. This shows that these cases are more frequent than most people realize.Do cruise ships have fire fighters? ›
Both. Certain crewmembers will be specifically employed as firefighters while a significant number of other crewmembers will augment the firefighting team as required and as provided in the ship's mustering list and firefighting plan. Practically all crewmembers are trained in firefighting.How long do cruise ships keep security footage? ›
Cruise companies must retain surveillance footage for 20 days, and they have five years to comply with the camera rule. Congress requires cruise ships to have a doctor on board in big year-end defense bill.What is the most important key points of the ship that should always be tested done before the pilot board the ship name at least three items? ›
The main engine of the ship should always be tested; the testing is generally done before the pilot board the ship.What is the most important procedure to consider in avoiding accidents on board a ship? ›
Wear a suitable life-saving flotation device before working on or around water; Plan your work, ensuring the sea-state is within acceptable conditions; Consider the vessel movement and swell before transferring between vessels; Check emergency equipment is in place, such as radio and flares.
- Key items for an effective ship security hardening plan.
- #1 Control of Access to Bridge, Accommodation and Machinery Spaces.
- #2 Upper Deck Lighting.
- #3 Alarms.
- #4 Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)
- #5 Physical Barriers.
- #6 Water Spray and Foam Monitors.
Carnival Cruises, the world's largest cruise company, reported the most incidents with 28, including 20 sex assaults; two missing people; two serious assaults and two thefts. That marks a 47 percent uptick from the same quarter last year, when there were 19 reported Carnival incidents.Do murders happen on cruise ships? ›
While most people step on and off cruise ships without incident, deaths sometimes occur on board. According to Cruise Ship Killers, a television show on the True Crime Network, many, but not all, deaths on cruise ships are accidental or from medical issues. Murders have occurred on board cruise ships, though.Where is the safest place to go on a cruise? ›
Private Cruise Line Islands, Caribbean
If safety is your number one concern, your best bet is one of the cruise line private islands, where your group is isolated within its own bubble of cabanas, shoreline and activities.
SECURING THE SHIP – KEEP THE CREW SAFE
Enhanced security measures may have to be implemented on board when operating in these “high-risk” areas to make sure that the seafarers stay safe and feel safe. The physical security threats include terrorism, piracy, robbery and the illegal trafficking of goods and people.
There are three primary areas or classifications of security controls. These include management security, operational security, and physical security controls.What is the importance of ship security? ›
Maritime security is essential because it protects an essential element of the U.S. economy. The shipping industry is the engine of the global economy. Annually, it contributes $183.3 billion USD in gross direct output and 4.2 million jobs.How much does a cruise ship first officer make? ›
Average Royal Caribbean group First Officer yearly pay in the United States is approximately $125,491, which is 96% above the national average.Who is the highest paid person on a cruise ship? ›
1. Executive Chef. This position requires both culinary and managerial expertise. An executive chef oversees all menu planning, meal preparation, and galley staff.How much money do cruise ship workers get paid? ›
As of Sep 29, 2022, the average annual pay for a Cruise Ship Worker in the United States is $48,997 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $23.56 an hour. This is the equivalent of $942/week or $4,083/month.
The highest salary in the Merchant Navy is for the post of Captain which is around Rs. 8,65,000 to 20,00,000 per month.How much is a cruise captain paid? ›
Here are the cruise ship jobs in order of salary:
|Job||Approximate monthly earnings|
All weapons are prohibited on cruises due to cruise ship security regulations. Guns are not allowed, with or without a concealed carry permit. Mace, pepper sprays and knives of any type are prohibited. The information contained on this website is provided as a service to USCCA, Inc.How much do cruise ship workers make an hour? ›
How much does a Hourly Cruise Ship Worker make? As of Nov 5, 2022, the average hourly pay for a Hourly Cruise Ship Worker in the United States is $23.08 an hour.What is the highest paid cruise ship captain? ›
The salaries of Cruise Ship Captains in the US range from $18,053 to $476,518 , with a median salary of $86,503 . The middle 57% of Cruise Ship Captains makes between $86,503 and $216,093, with the top 86% making $476,518.How long do cruise ship workers work? ›
Your daily work schedule while onboard will depend on your particular position, but you can expect to work seven days a week and anywhere between 10-13 hours per day.How is a cruise ship like a cell? ›
In a cell, the cell membrane decides what goes into the cell and what comes out. On a cruise, the doors and windows are the ways you enter and exit the ship. In a cell, the vacuole stores water. On a cruise, a storage room stores food, water, blankets, etc.Do cruise ships carry blood? ›
Because of the very nature of blood, the many blood types, and strict storage and testing requirements, cruise ships are not capable of storing blood to support a transfusion program.Do mobile phones work at sea? ›
Yes, you technically can but it's not always possible depending on the amount of phone signal you have. When you do get signal, as mentioned above, it'll be through an at-sea provider and will be considered a roaming charge by your network provider. Rates for these phone calls can be pretty high.Do cruise ships have oxygen? ›
Oxygen therapy equipment is welcomed aboard a cruise ship! If you will be traveling with oxygen on cruise ships, all you need to do is ensure that you have adequate supplies to last the entire trip.
You can use WhatsApp on a cruise ship, but only when you are online – so either when you're connected to a WiFi package, or when you're close enough to land to have a mobile data signal.Do you lose cell service on a cruise? ›
Do cell phones work on cruise ships? It's a common question with varying answers. Guests are free to utilize their cellular data or connect to our onboard Wi-Fi on any ship. But, please be aware that cellular data used on the ship or in certain ports of call will result in charges from your cell phone provider.Do cruises wash your clothes? ›
Most cruise lines offer wash and press services onboard their cruise ships for a fee. Exceptions include smaller lines, such as Island Windjammers. There is typically a laundry bag located inside your stateroom that you can leave for your room steward to pick up.Do cruise ships carry condoms? ›
But there was bad news for those feeling frisky but failing to pack that essential for safe sex – 70% of cruise liners don't sell condoms.Are condoms allowed on cruise ships? ›
6. Toiletries, Make-Up, Etc. While you shouldn't plan on buying these items on the ship as they are heavily marked up, know that you don't need to panic if you forget toothpaste. Bonus Perk: “Etc.” includes condoms (even on Azamara).What happens if you don't put your phone on airplane mode on a cruise? ›
Missing the ship at port or booking excursions with outside operators could be costly and risky. If you don't set your phone to airplane mode, you may rack up overseas roaming charges.Can you text on a cruise for free? ›
Can you text on a cruise ship for free? Yes, you can. If you want to text while on a cruise ship, you have the option of either connecting to the ship's Wi-Fi network or its cellular service so you send an SMS over the Internet for free.Can you watch TV on a cruise ship? ›
All channels* are available fleet wide to all guests. Live satellite channels include FOX News, MSNBC, BBC World News, Sky News (Europe & Australia Only), ESPN, ESPN 2 (Caribbean and Alaska Only). Various other channels are also offered based on ship's position and itinerary.Can a cruise ship run out of gas? ›
Cruise ships are not designed to be able to refuel while they are out at sea and it is incredibly unlikely that a cruise ship would run out of fuel and be unable to find somewhere to dock to refuel. If this did happen the passengers and crew would have to be evacuated either using lifeboats or by air.Do cruise ships cook with gas? ›
Chefs on cruise ships encounter a pretty major challenge when cooking your dinner. Open flames and gas aren't allowed anywhere on a cruise ship — even in the kitchen.
Do cruise ships have cabins below the waterline? The majority of ocean cruise ships do not have cabins below the water line. The space is used for storage and utility rooms and for staff accommodation. You do, however, find cabins below the water line on most river cruise ships.