Why Do Criminals Love Cruises?

March 26, 2008
Not too long ago we reported on an alleged murder suspect who was caught onboard a Carnival cruise. Today, we got word of a drug trafficker and gun smuggler who was arrested onboard NCL's Norwegian Dawn in Miami and who has now been indicted by a Seattle grand jury. Vancouver resident Charles Lai's alleged crime? "Conspiracy to export cocaine, conspiracy to import marijuana and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime."

U.S. law enforcement believes Lai has been the head of a drug ring for the past five years.

Lai was arrested at the end of his vacation this past Sunday when the Dawn docked in Miami. "They went on the ship and knocked on his [cabin] door and arrested him in his underwear," assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Whalley told the Vancouver Sun.

Now there's a mug shot.

While all this police action on cruise ships might make you a little nervous before your next trip, it actually indicates that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is doing its job. The CBP receives every departing ship's manifest and checks the list for names of wanted suspects. Typically, most arrests are made when the ship re-enters U.S. waters because the government agency doesn't have time to check every name in the few hours before the ship sails.

It's probably too much to ask that every person on a 3,500-passenger ship be a squeaky-clean good citizen. As in any city, you should use good judgment on a cruise ship and not leave valuables unattended or children unsupervised. However, I'd wager that a wanted drug trafficker is unlikely to bother you and your family on your cruise vacation. He probably just wants to stay out of trouble and enjoy a little R&R prior to sentencing.

--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor