What Happens if Someone Commits a Crime on a Cruise Ship?

By Robert Palmer

Cruise ships are an increasingly popular way to explore the world. But what happens when someone commits a crime on board? The answer is not straightforward and depends on a variety of factors.

Jurisdiction of the Crime: One of the most important factors to consider when it comes to a crime committed aboard a cruise ship is the jurisdiction where it took place. Generally speaking, crimes that take place in international waters are subject to the laws of the country whose flag is flown on the ship.

This means that if a crime is committed in international waters, then it will be subject to whatever laws apply in the country whose flag is flown. However, if a crime takes place in territorial waters, then it will be subject to whatever laws apply there.

Location of the Ship: Another factor that determines what happens if someone commits a crime on board a cruise ship is where it was located at the time of the incident. For example, if a crime took place while the ship was docked in port, then it would be subject to local laws, regardless of whose flag was flown on board. This means that any arrests made would have to be made by local law enforcement officials and any charges filed would have to follow local procedures as well.

The Law on Board: Cruise ships also have their own set of rules and regulations that must be followed by all passengers and crew members while onboard. These regulations typically include prohibitions against certain types of behavior such as public drunkenness or fighting, and can also include certain types of criminal activities such as smuggling or drug possession. Violations of these regulations could result in disciplinary action from cruise line authorities including being removed from the ship or being arrested by law enforcement officials upon arrival at port.

International Law: In cases where crimes committed aboard cruise ships involve more serious offenses such as assault or murder, then they may be tried under international law depending on who was involved and where it occurred. For example, if an American citizen commits an offense against another American citizen while aboard an American-flagged vessel in international waters, then they may both be tried under American law rather than local law or international law depending on which jurisdiction has stronger claims over them.


Crime aboard cruise ships can vary greatly and depend largely upon factors such as jurisdiction and location at the time of incident as well as internal regulations enforced by cruise lines themselves. In some cases, offenders may face charges under maritime law, while other more serious offenses may fall under international law depending on who was involved and where it occurred.