You would be surprised to know there are jails on a cruise ship.
Yes, you heard it right, a jail on cruise ships like Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruises, Disney Cruise, and more!
In maritime terms, a jail on a cruise ship is known as a ‘Brig‘.
In this article, I will explain everything about brig or cruise jails and why they are on a cruise ship in the first place.
Note: The word jail is not used in a cruise ship, but to explain things in a simple way, jail and brig are interchangeably used throughout the article.
Do Cruise Ships Have Jails?
Cruise ships have jails on board. In nautical terms, a jail on a cruise ship is called the “Brig”. The brig on a cruise ship is used as a cell to hold guests who commit a crime, act dangerously, engage in illegal activities, or cause violence.
Guests who threaten the safety of others on board are placed on brigs if the captain has no other choice.
Also, it is to be noted that jails on cruise ships are rarely used, and cruise lines try their best to avoid putting guests on a brig.
Jails on cruise ships are only used in extreme situations where a person threatens the safety of other passengers or has committed a serious crime, murder, sexual assault, etc.
To give you a perspective, a person is not put inside the brig just because they are drunk and disorderly.
You would be surprised to know cruise ships even have a morgue.
Why Are Jails On A Cruise Ship Called Brigs?
The word brig means a small seafaring vessel with two square-rigged masts.
The word brig means jail on a cruise ship because brigs are a small, two-masted ship historically used as a prison or detention centers in the sea.
The word “brig” originally originated somewhere in the late 1800s and is still used to refer to jails in the cruise ship in nautical terms.
In short, the brig is an onboard vocabulary used by cruise crew to refer to the prison or jail. Guests and ordinary people rarely use the term brig. They instead refer to the brig as jail or prison.
Where are The Brigs on a Cruise Ship?
The brig on a cruise ship is usually found on the deck below the waterline, towards the bottom of the ship. Guests are not permitted to the brigs, and for the same reason, guests do not have access to the deck which holds the brig.
In most cases, the brig will be placed in close proximity to the security office of a cruise ship, as the crew and security officers are the only people who interact with guests seated on the brig.
A brig is wholly isolated and does not have a window or views of the sea. Air is supplied to the brig via provided ventilation.
As the brig is close to the security office, it does not allow unauthorized access and restricts permission only to authorized personnel.
The video below shows a brig on a Carnival cruise ship (Fantasy).
What’s Inside A Cruise Ship Jail or Brig?
If you have made it this far, you may be curious about what is inside a brig or a cruise ship.
The brig or the detention area on a cruise ship is a small and basic holding space. Brig will have a bed or a bunk, basic furnishings, and minimal amenities.
As mentioned earlier, brigs won’t have a window or access to the sea view. And primary restroom facility is provided to all people in the brig, which includes a toilet, sink, and sometimes a shower.
A brig on a cruise ship doesn’t need any other amenities as people in the brigs are only placed in this area for a few hours to a maximum of a couple of days before handing over to the local authorities at the next port of call.
The simplicity and isolation reinforce that the brig is not meant for comfort.
Below is a picture of a brig on the Carnival Valor cruise ship. (source)
Why Would a Guest be Placed in The Jail of a Cruise Ship?
Now comes the most important question – why would a person be placed in a brig?
If a guest on a cruise ship assaults, threatens other guests or crew, or fights, they may be detained in the brig. This is done so as to protect other guests and staff on board.
Similarly, a person will be placed in jail on a cruise ship if they are found to be a danger to themselves. For example, if a person tries to suicide or causes harm to themself, the cruise line will be forced to place the person in the brig.
A Person Committed A Severe Crime
If a guest on board commits a serious crime like assault or murder, the cruise line would be forced to put the person in the brig and handover to the local authorities in the next port of call. In such severe cases, detention in the brig is no way avoidable.
Since felons are allowed on a cruise ship, they will be send to the jail if they engage in any severe crimes onboard.
Caught With Drugs or Weapons
If a person is found possessing illegal drugs or deadly weapons, they may be placed in jail before handing over to the local authorities.
Security scanning is made at the time of entry to the cruise ship, but people always try sneaky ways to sneak prohibited items into a cruise ship.
Below are a few more reasons why one might be sent to brig:
- Suicidal or psychotic behavior
- Disruptive conduct
No cruise line ever wants to put a person in a brig. They explore every other avenue, and if everything fails, they will be forced to put a person in a brig and handover to the authorities in the next port.
Who Decides Who Goes in The Brig?
The captain of the cruise ship is the one who is responsible for sending people to the brig.
The captain and the security officers will conclude as to whether or not to send a person to the brig.
In most cases, the captain will explore all other possible ways, like sending the person to cabin arrest. If nothing seems doable, the captain will be forced to send a person in question to the brig.
Do Cruise Ships Have Police?
As a cruise ship has a jail or brig, many wonder if cruise ships have police on board.
No. A cruise ship does not have police on board. The cruise ship will have a dedicated security department consisting of former state, federal, or military law or enforcement personnel.
If a crime happens on a cruise ship, the same will be dealt with by the cruise security department, and the person will be handed over to the local authorities in the next port of call.
So a cruise ship does not have police.
Now you may wonder if a crime happens at the sea, who is responsible for investigating?
Investigating crimes that happen in the sea is complex. Generally, the flag state of the cruise ship has the primary investigating responsibility. But if the ship is docked at the port, the local authority will have the jurisdiction.
Can You See the Brig on a Cruise Ship?
No. The guest on a cruise ship is not allowed to the brig. Furthermore, the brig is usually situated on the lower decks of a cruise ship where only crew are permitted.
The brig is purposely kept out of sight of guests for security, privacy, etc.
So while most large cruise ships have brigs of severe situations, passengers won’t see or find them during their trip.
The hidden locations help maintain discretion, security, and ambiance and deter trouble.
Do Cruise Ships Have Security Onboard?
Every cruise ship will have a security team onboard. The team will include ship security officers, supervisors, guest security supervisors, security guards, etc. The main activities the security personnel perform are screening, port security, security staff, access control, cooperation with law enforcement, etc.
The head of the security team works closely with the captain in cases where strict enforcement needs to be done, like placing a person in a brig.
As a cruise ship does not have police on board, the security team is the one who deals with enforcing security policies.
Below are the specific roles of individuals in a cruise ship security team.
- Ship Security Officer (SSO) – Every cruise ship has an SSO who is in charge of all security operations on the vessel.
- Security Supervisor – Oversees and manages a team of security guards. Reports to the SSO.
- Deputy Security Officer – Assists the SSO and helps oversee the cruise security operations. Typically 2nd in command of security.
- Security Guard – Front-line security personnel that patrols the ship, responds to incidents, and enforces rules and policies.
- Assistant Security Guard – Entry-level security role, works under the supervision of security guards and supervisors.
- Guest Security Supervisor – In charge of coordinating passenger screening and embarkation security checks.
- Company Security Officer (CSO) – A senior security manager based on land at the cruise line’s corporate office. Oversees policies and supports SSOs.
Do Cruise Ships Have Security Cameras?
Yes. Every cruise ship has an extensive security camera system to monitor public areas and enhance security.
Security cameras on cruise ships are strategically placed in places like bars, casinos, theaters, pools, elevators, exterior decks, and hallways. Cruise ships do not place any cameras inside the cabin or stateroom.
You can expect to find more cameras in places like a brig, security office, and main entrance, where more surveillance is needed.
What kind of holding cells are on cruise ships?
Every cruise ship has a small brig onboard, serving as a short-term detention place. The security staff oversees the brig which has just a few cells, similar to a police station jail. They are designed for temporary detention when necessary.
Can cruise ship security make arrests?
Cruise ship security officers do not have the authority to make arrests in international waters. However, they can detain suspects until the ship reaches the next port, where they can transfer them to local authorities who do have arrest powers. The person may be held in the brig until the ship reaches the next port of call.
What happens if someone commits a crime on a cruise?
Cruise ships will detain suspects in their cabins or the ship’s jail (brig). Evidence is gathered, and the security team coordinates with local law enforcement to investigate and determine charges. Once in port, suspects are handed over to the police or other authorities for arrest and prosecution.
So, yes, jail on a cruise ship is real, and they are called ‘Brig’. But they are not used often.
If a guest commits a serious crime or shows violent behavior, the cruise ship’s captain and security team will be forced to put them in a brig for a short time until the ship reaches the next port of call. Once the cruise reaches the port, the person will be handed over to the authorities or police.