The date: Wednesday, April 9. The place: Colon, Panama. According to a statement by Royal Caribbean, a ship security guard noticed that a returning passenger was acting suspiciously. The guest was taken aside for questioning and the guard discovered 62 pounds of cocaine in bags taped to the passenger's body. The cruise line informed the Panamanian police, who arrested the man and his two traveling companions.
But that's not all. Royal Caribbean reported the incident to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and sealed the passenger's stateroom for inspection upon the ship's return to Miami. When the ship docked on Monday, April 14, CBP officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents searched the cabin and found an additional 34 pounds of cocaine hidden behind ceiling panels.
The moral of the story: Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines don't want illegal substances on their ships. They will screen passengers and their luggage during the embarkation process and upon returning to the ship after a day in port. Crewmembers are subject to even more stringent checks. Additional security measures are in place that the cruise lines aren't even allowed to talk about, according to a cruise line spokesman. There is also a CBP Carrier Initiative Program, in which cruise lines, cargo ships and air carriers assist the agency in keeping illegal drugs off ships and out of the country -- Royal Caribbean is a participant in this program.
Do you think cruise lines are doing enough to prevent people from smuggling drugs into the U.S.? E-mail us.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor