Along with a cruise line's itineraries, amenities, and cuisine, vacationers soon will be able to research some more somber information on cruise line web sites – allegations of shipboard crimes.
Three cruise ship operators that together control more than 90 percent of industry market share, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Line, agreed to pull back the curtain that for years has kept onboard crime statistics in the shadows.
Adam Goldstein, Royal's president and CEO, revealed during a Senate commerce committee hearing on July 24 that the three companies will soon begin posting on their respective web sites all allegations of crimes aboard their ships.
Since 2010, the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act has required cruise lines to post a link on their websites to a U.S. Coast Guard site where statistics are available on closed cases only.
"Some have taken issue [with that policy] so in the spirit of transparency we will be posting all of the [crime] allegations on our sites regardless of whether they are open or closed," said Goldstein.
In the case of Carnival Corp., which operates Carnival Cruise Lines and nine other cruise brands, each brand will have a link on its website that will take visitors to the Carnival corporate site, where the statistics will reside, a spokeswoman for Carnival explained.
"I think it's good for the cruise lines to do it for people who are interested. Most people will not be so concerned that they will want to check it," said cruise agent Marie O'Brien.
"But transparency is always a good thing in the travel industry," added O'Brien, who works for the Acendas travel agency in Mission, Kansas.
The cruise lines said they would begin posting the data on Aug. 1. Royal Caribbean additionally said it would provide crime allegations dating back to the fourth quarter of 2010. It wasn't immediately clear whether Carnival and Norwegian would follow suit.
The policy change was announced one day after the introduction of House and Senate bills that would greatly expand consumer protections for cruise passengers. The bills would, among other things, require a cruise ship to notify the FBI within four hours of an alleged crime, require video surveillance of public areas on cruise ships, simplify cruise contract language, and transfer authority for maintaining the web site of alleged cruise ship crimes from the Coast Guard to the Department of Transportation.
Along with Royal's Goldstein, Carnival Cruise Lines' CEO Gerry Cahill testified at the committee hearing, which was called "Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection."