Cruising for Trouble

Cruise Ships as Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists, and Common Criminals

by Cdr. Mark Gaouette
Foreword by Kendall Carver


At the end of 2009, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines launched Oasis of the Seas—the largest passenger ship ever built, dwarfing the largest aircraft carrier. Putting "that many eggs (8,457 passengers and crew) in one basket (with 16 decks)" poses a colossal security concern.

Print Flyer
Cover image for Cruising for Trouble

March 2010


Pages 285
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Crime/General

This book offers an alarming inside look at the security preparations of the cruise industry and the potential for cruise ships to be the target for pirates, terrorists, and criminal activity.

Cruising for Trouble exposes the acute vulnerability of cruise ships to piracy, terrorism, and crime, both on the high seas and in domestic and foreign ports-of-call. While cruise ships have ramped up in size and passenger capacity to become floating skyscrapers housing as many as 7,000 passengers, and while piracy incidents have increased since 2008 as the world economy has deteriorated, there has been no corresponding increase or enhancement in onboard security personnel, external tactical units, preventive screening, or coordinated response planning to guard against the growing threat of acts of piracy and internal and external terrorist attacks.

Commander Gaouette reveals to cruise passengers the very real security dangers they unwittingly face when they saunter up the gangway of a cruise ship for a carefree holiday. He sounds a clarion call to national and transnational security agencies, maritime regulators, legislators, and customers to compel the cruise industry to strengthen and reform its security programs before catastrophe strikes. The author, a longtime cruise industry insider who now serves as a top maritime security official in the Department of Homeland Security, details the many security defects and vulnerabilities of cruise ships, identifies the remedies, and makes the case for their urgent implementation. Extensively documented and illustrated, Cruising for Trouble is a vividly told cautionary for the ten million Americans who taken cruise-ship vacations each year and the millions more who would like to. As well as modeling the potential threats to cruise ships from pirates and maritime terrorists—who mimic each other's methods, overlap each other's territories, and might well find it mutually beneficial to combine their forces and resources—Commander Gaoutte recounts many actual examples of cruise-ship insecurity that have been swept under the carpet or spun by the cruise industry: pirate attacks, fires, onboard crime, mass food poisonings and infections, and the mysterious disappearances of cruise-ship passengers.


  • A combination of photographs from the author, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Coast Guard, and API illustrate innovative security measures found on cruise ships, results of terrorist attacks, fire, piracy, and victims of cruise ship incidents.
  • Provides a list of acronyms found throughout the book, such as the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) codes and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
  • Includes over 500 endnote references
  • Offers a comprehensive index


  • Critiques what the cruise industry has done and failed to do behind the scenes to ensure for the safety of the passengers who go on cruise vacations
  • Discusses the governmental and international organizations devoted to protecting the maritime domain
  • Covers in detail several high-profile investigations regarding cruise ship disappearances, mysterious deaths, and the response of the cruise lines
  • Looks at maritime terrorism and its affect on the cruise industry from the seizure of the Achille Lauro in 1986, the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, to a planned terrorist attack on cruise ships in the Mediterranean in 2005
Author Info

Commander Mark Gaouetteis a maritime security consultant to the Department of Homeland Security. As director of security for Princess Cruises and Cunard Cruise Lines, he oversaw the implementation of the International Ship and Port Security Codes and Maritime Transportation Security Act regulations in 22 cruise ships at 250 ports worldwide. He pioneered the deployment of Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) on cruise ships to repel pirates. He served with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service as a force protection officer during Operation Enduring Freedom, as a regional security officer assigned to high-threat U.S. embassies in the Middle East and Latin America, and as a naval intelligence officer.



“From pirate attacks to crimes against passengers, Commander Gaouette’s book offers a rare insider’s view into the world of cruise ship security. Gaouette provides a unique perspective of the security challenges facing the cruise industry and its history of overboard passengers, sexual assaults, and unsolved crimes. Passengers should take notice that there are real dangers both onboard cruise ships and in the high seas surrounding them. This is an overdue wake up call to the cruise industry.”

—James Walker, Esq., maritime lawyer, 26 year member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States, and author of

"The book Cruising for Trouble is a must read for anyone interested in terrorism, global security and geo-politics. Gaouette's book reads like a novel, but is true, which comes from a lifetime of experience as a homeland security expert and State Department special agent. You won't be disappointed."
—Fred Burton, VP, Stratfor and author of Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent

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