Not according to industry data. In a three-year period (2003-05), 31 million people sailed on cruise ships, and there were 206 complaints from passengers of sexual assault, robberies and missing persons, according to the International Council of Cruise Lines.
But a few high-profile cases, including the case of a young Massachusetts woman, Merriam Carver, who disappeared from a cruise ship in 2004, have raised awareness that stricter federal laws should govern what goes on in international waters.
Rep. Doris Matsui of California and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts have co-sponsored the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009. The bill would require cruise lines to report all deaths, missing individuals, alleged crimes and complaints regarding theft, sexual harassment and assault. The bill would also mandate peepholes in stateroom doors as well as security latches.
Kerry became an advocate for cruise passengers when Carver, one of his constituents, went missing. "This is truly an historic day in the fight for the safety of cruise ship passengers," said Ken Carver, president and co-founder of the International Cruise Victims Association and the father of the young woman, in July, when the Senate's Commerce Committee passed the bill out of committee. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed it too.
The bill is expected to come before Congress next month.