Written by Kim Ford, Intern, Second Life Chattanooga

Over spring break I had the opportunity to go on a cruise with my best friend. We were to leave on Monday afternoon and return on Friday morning. Sailing from Miami Florida through two Bahaman Islands almost sounded too good to be true. As my friend and I explored the ship after we had set sail, we noticed that most of the staff was from different countries and their work seemed endless. There were also some questionable people who made me feel uneasy and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why.

My friend and I could not help but wonder what kinds of things occurred on cruise ships in regard to human trafficking. Could something so devastatingly evil have a place in paradise? In situations like this it is easy to second-guess ourselves when we witness scenes or behaviors that make us feel uncomfortable or that seem to look out of place. Questioning our thoughts can cause us to never voice our concerns, which could cause more harm than good. Once I arrived back in the States and had access to the Internet I began to search for stories that would answer the questions I had been struggling with. I was somewhat shocked to see how prevalent this issue was.

The most popular story is that of Amy Bradley, a 24 year-old woman who went missing while vacationing with her family on the Royal Caribbean cruise line in 1998. Although her family searched relentlessly for years, Amy was never found. Many believed that human trafficking may have played a role in her disappearance, but it was never confirmed. Unfortunately, the cruise line did not provide much help to the family and the little help they did offer seemed to be designed to protect the cruise line’s image and legal interests.[1]

Since this unfortunate occurrence, followed by many others, the security on these cruise ships has become more efficient. Airlines have also increased their security and awareness regarding this issue.[2]  This does not mean, however, that the problem has disappeared. While vacationing, whether it is on a cruise ship, airplane, or somewhere on land, it is important to maintain awareness of your surroundings and never venture off alone. It is important to take care of your own well being, but it is also important to look out for the well being of others.

Signs to watch for may include; evidence of being controlled, signs of drug addiction, unfamiliar with surroundings, substance abuse, submissive or fearful behavior, avoidance of eye contact, emotional distress, brandings or tattoos, etc. [3] If you see any of these signs or have concerns, please call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733). You can also call the Tennessee Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-558-6484.


[1] http://www.cruiselawnews.com/2011/01/articles/disappearances-1/mystery-of-missing-royal-caribbean-passenger-amy-bradley-returns-to-the-news/

[2] http://inpublicsafety.com/2014/12/airline-trafficking-signs-for-spotting-human-trafficking-in-transportation/

[3] Rescue & Restore