Are There Jails On Cruise Ships? Yes! Cruise Ships Have Jails (or a Brig as they are known)

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Filed Under: Cruise Folklore

One question that we do strangely get asked quite regularly at Cruise Nonstop is “Are there Jails on Cruise Ships?”.  The answer of course is Yes, cruise ships have jails and they are called brigs.

While cruise ships are often seen as floating paradises, incidents can happen and passengers or crew members can sometimes misbehave, to the point that they have to be locked up for the guests’ security and/or safety.

In this article, we will dive into the world of cruise ship security, from the brig (the cruise ship’s jail) to the role of the cruise ship security officer. You’ll find out if cruises really do have jails onboard and how well they can manage security threats at sea.

Are There Jails On Cruise Ships? Do Cruise Ships Really Have Jails?

While the term “jail” may conjure images of rows of cells with bars and guards, it’s not an image that you would associate with a cruise ship.  However, when you consider even small towns have a Sheriff’s office, it’s not hard to understand why a cruise ship might also have a jail.

Cruise ships are like small cities. Whenever you have a large group of people together crimes can be committed either deliberately or as a consequence of a situation or incident occurring between unruly passengers or crew members.

Modern cruise ships from companies like Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line do feature a jail and onboard it is known as the brig. Fortunately, you’ll be pleased to know that the onboard jail is used very rarely in the cruise industry and primarily for individuals posing a threat to themselves or others. It’s very different from the jails we might see on TV.

What is a Cruise Ship Brig?

The word brig is a nautical term for a jail or detention area on a ship. On modern cruise ships, this area is usually near the lower deck of the ship and is designed to temporarily hold individuals until the ship reaches port.

Unlike traditional jails, the cruise ship brig is more about safety and security than long-term confinement. They are typically a small room, that is sufficiently secure to act as a small prison.

The brig will have bathroom facilities and meet all the requirements of the United Nations convention.

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How Common are Cruise Ship Jails?

It is very common. Almost every cruise ship has a brig, but it’s actually quite rare for passengers to be placed in one.

Cruise lines don’t like to publicize this feature, and the average cruiser may never walk past the brig or even realize it exists during their cruise vacation as it is tucked well out of sight.

What Role does the Ship Security Officer On a Cruise Fulfill?

The ship security officer, along with the cruise ship security team, is responsible for the safety of the ship and its passengers. They oversee security measures, from checking cruise cards at ship entry to monitoring onboard CCTV cameras. They’re also the ones to decide if someone should be put in the brig or put under cabin arrest.

For someone to be put in the jail cell they will have committed a serious offense as it is very much dealt with as a last resort. This could be physical assaults on crew members or other guests, sexual assault or any other serious crime. Essentially any time there is a risk to crew or passenger safety, the brig will be used.

Less serious kinds of incidents like inappropriate behavior, public intoxication to the point of incapacity, rowdy passengers, possession of drugs, or any other minor offenses are usually dealt with by limiting the guest or crew member to their cabin. 

They will then normally be reported to police officers or law enforcement agencies at the next port of call and potentially removed from the ship depending on whether there is a clear jurisdiction under maritime law. 

The jurisdiction will depend on where the crime took place and whether the ship was in port or international waters. Once ejected from the ship the guest or crew member would then have to get home at their own expense.

Is the Cruise Ship Jail Like a Traditional Jail?

Not exactly. The cruise ship brig is often really just a designated secure cabin with limited furnishings. There’s typically a security guard posted outside, ensuring the individual inside cannot leave. It’s less about punishment and more about keeping everyone onboard safe until a solution can be found, usually at the next port of call.

What Security Measures Are In Place Onboard a Cruise?

Cruise ship security is quite advanced. Ships have dozens of security cameras and CCTV cameras strategically placed around the ship.

There is also a security team, consisting of security guards and guest security supervisors, on duty. The safety of the ship is paramount, and security measures in place are designed to protect everyone onboard.

Cruise ship casinos are probably the most common areas where you’ll notice surveillance cameras. There is always someone who will try to breach the casino or ship’s rules and try to scam the cruise line. 

CCTV Security Cameras Are Everywhere on a Cruise Ship - Can You Spot Them Here?
CCTV Security Cameras Are Everywhere on a Cruise Ship – Can You Spot Them Here?

Who Oversees Cruise Ship Security and Do They Have Security Guards?

Yes, cruise ships have security guards. Each ship has also a designated security officer on board who works closely with the cruise ship captain and the cruise line’s company security officer back at HQ. Their primary role is to ensure the ship’s security plan is up-to-date and that every security measure is being followed. 

They will also have a team of security personnel who report to them.

What Happens if a Serious Crime is Committed? Are the offenders automatically put in the brig or cruise jail?

It’s not always automatic. It depends on how serious the crime was, and they will only be put in the brig as a last resort. If it is decided that someone has committed a serious crime onboard that requires detainment, the ship’s security team will detain the individual, often in the brig, until the ship reaches the next port. Local authorities will then handle the situation, as cruise lines cooperate fully with law enforcement and local government agencies.

How Do Cruise Lines Try to Avoid Incidents?

Safety and security are top priorities for cruise lines. They employ security measures like CCTV, have a ship security plan in place, and ensure their staff is well-trained to try to defuse any situations that can happen between guests and/or crew. The goal is to ensure security and safety and to provide a secure environment for everyone to enjoy their cruise experience.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cruise ships do have a jail, commonly called a brig.
  • The brig is for short-term containment and is not like traditional jails.
  • Ship security officers and their teams ensure the safety of all passengers and crew.
  • Cruise ships have CCTV throughout the ship and monitor the ship closely
  • Serious crimes lead to detainees being handed over to local authorities at the next port.
  • Safety and security are top priorities for cruise lines.
  • The cruise ship brig or jail is actually used very rarely.

So now that you have had the answer to the question “Are there jails on cruise ships?” you can relax knowing that while there are, they are used very rarely as cruise ships are very safe environments, due to the many safety and security protocols on board.  

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Alan took his first cruise in 1991 and has been cruising ever since. When he is not writing articles for you'll find him either on a cruise ship (he's the guy in the kilt), or on the golf course!

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