Cruise Ship Security

Security on Board Cruise Ships

I could only imagine the number of moving parts that must come along with trying to run a cruise ship, let alone an entire cruise line.  It doesn’t even make sense to start listing them since it would likely be an infinite checklist.  With that said, I am hesitant to nit pick and cry “mismanagement” in any particular area…. but, since I have a level of expertise in at least one of those areas, I will. 

In my 30 or so cruise career, I have always taken an interest in the ship’s security personnel.  When cruise lines say that safety is THE most important aspect to cruising, I would venture to guess that a ships security staff would rank pretty high on that list.  While I am not privy to the selection process nor the training regimen, it has occurred to me that the cruise line’s take on their security strategy could do with some modifications.

In the nightclub business, the best security personnel are able to de-escalate potential physical confrontations before they happen.  And whether we want to hear this or not, it has to do with how they look.  Most of us are familiar with the art of war.  One of the concepts is to appear weak when you are strong and appear strong when you are weak.  This is not the proper MO when dealing with security in an environment of drinking and revelry.  I am sure that the smaller framed guys with the collars and walkie talkies are trained assassins.  I fully believe that they know 17 different ways to maim the average human using nothing but a tick tack, but that is useful only AFTER a conflict turns physical.  To the contrary, there is something to be said for those barrel-chested, mean looking men perched on platforms watching over the crowd acting as if they can clear out the whole room, when in some cases they have never even been in a fight in their lives.  It’s called deterrence.  Think “Godfather” when Michael used Enzo the baker to act like muscle so the rival families would just drive past Don Corleone’s hospital, vs charging in and murdering him.

I have seen in person cruise brawls as well as those that have been posted and, in most of those cases, the security seems to have been more reactive than proactive.  And when the brawls break out, it is VERY difficult to get them under control.  They often find themselves in a position where they are having to defend themselves thus forcing them to go on the offense with kicks and punches of their own.  This is never a good look and I’m not saying it always leads to a lawsuit…. but get your legal team ready.

Those that run these cruise lines are far smarter than me, but in cases where there are nightlife driven events, I think the cruise lines should re look at how they deploy their security.  It might not be the worst idea to consult with some of our major cities professional security staffs to see what mistakes are being made and how they can be avoided.  Having run a few nightclubs, myself I would have the following suggestions

  1.  Don’t underestimate the value of a large physical presence
  2. It starts at the door.  Have an imposing but friendly face at the door greeting people and letting them know that tomfoolery will not be tolerated
  3. EYES.  The same way you deploy those “pool bouncers” you call lifeguards at the pool, make sure your security staff is watching the crowd at all times and identifying potential hot spots
  4. Get to the fire fast!  These cruise ship brawls seem to go on forever. If the nightclub is busy, it’s rare that there isn’t at least one fracas throughout the night.  So, if we know that…be ready!
  5. Identify the ring leaders and aggressors and get them out of there first.  This can only be assured if you are following point 4.  Strength in numbers, but the numbers must get there right away.
  6. In the continued spirit of deterrence, make more of a point about what the consequences of any physical altercations will be.  Again, so much time is spent on safety on day one, you might as well add in what will happen if there is any violence whatsoever while on board.  Note that they are not at their local pub, and they will be on video, caught and prosecuted by the appropriate law enforcement agency…and we are not talking about your cousin who’s a cop in your local town.

It is an absolute shame that we must have this conversation, but its important to take note that this could become a pattern.  Just like we saw more people end up going overboard at the beginning of the restart, people are also getting more on edge and hostile.  Perhaps it’s a natural effect of there being more tension and frustration in our society.  Regardless, it must be addressed.  Mental health issues are changing the way we need to deal with pretty much everything.  I truly believe that we don’t know the long-term psychological effects the pandemic and its subsequent lock downs will have on the psyche of the world population.  Since our fuses seem to be shorter, it’s imperative that we prepare and respond accordingly.  Why are your thoughts?

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