How cruise ships prepare for pirate attacks

Cruise ships travel right across the world and from time to time they must cross ‘pirate-infested waters’! We are no longer referring to the Jack Sparrow-type of pirate but of course, Somali pirates, who are active in the Gulf of Aden. Cruise ships passing through this area must take extra precautions to ensure the safety of their passengers and today on Spectrum of the Seas, I experienced a Safe Haven drill as the ship approached the Gulf of Aden.

It is highly unlikely that pirates would be able to board some of the larger cruise ships, like Spectrum due to the height of the Promenade decks but smaller cruise ships have been attacked in the past.

In 2005, Somali pirates fired AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades at the luxury cruise ship, Seabourn Spirit, in an unsuccessful highjacking attempt. The cruise ship was able to fend off the pirates with water cannons.

In 2009, MSC Melody was attacked by pirates but some of the passengers, who spotted the skiff approaching, managed to throw some of the pool furniture at the pirates to stop them boarding the ship.

Safety Precautions

The following precautions are being taken on Spectrum of the Seas during its time in the Gulf of Aden:

  • The Promenade Deck (5) is closed throughout the passage
  • The open pool decks are closed at night
  • Passengers have been asked to close their stateroom curtains and keep lights off from dusk
  • Tables in the Windjammer buffet have been moved away from the windows
  • A ‘Safe Haven’ drill has been carried out so that passengers know what to do in the event of a potential attack
  • Armed security officers have been brought onboard the cruise ship to protect the ship and its passengers

Safe Haven Drill

On the announcement of the code word ‘Safe Haven’ over the cruise ship tannoy, passengers are instructed to move away from windows and outside areas of the cruise ship to head towards the middle of the ship.

pirate safe haven drill
The Royal Promenade during the Safe Haven drill.

Today, we took part in this drill and immediately afterwards the Promenade Deck was closed. This will stay closed until 2nd May when the cruise ship is out of the danger area.

Pirate cruise ship drill
The Promenade Deck is closed whilst the ship is in the Gulf of Aden

I spoke to one of the crew members, who was able to inform me that they were about to welcome three armed security officers onboard. Spectrum of the Seas had already one member of this team, totalling four skilled security professionals. The three additional security officers were being transferred from Explorer of the Seas (which has just sailed through the Gulf of Aden). The officers from Britain are highly trained and experienced in dealing with potential pirate attacks.

The Captain was also happy to inform us that the Spectrum of the Seas has the latest technology and engineering to be able to detect pirates and the capability to accelerate away from potential threats.

Final Thoughts

Although the whole experience seems slightly surreal, it’s reassuring to know that every precaution is being taken to protect the cruise ship and its passengers. Cruise ships take this route frequently, especially when repositioning, and although there has been reports in the past of pirate attacks, the chance of anything serious happening is very slim.

Happy cruising!


Laura is a UK cruise blogger based in Cornwall, UK. She founded Cruise Lifestyle in 2016 to share useful advice about cruising, destinations and food.
Last port visited: Bridgetown, Barbados
Next port of call: unknown, but she can’t wait for cruising to resume safely!

Find me on: Twitter



  1. May 13, 2019 / 3:52 pm

    Its always reassuring to know that they have procedures for every possible attack. Its weird that I find the disease spread on cruises far more than possible attacks considering how rare they are.

    • cruiselifestyle
      May 18, 2019 / 8:45 am

      As long as people wash their hands regularly the spread of germs is minimised. Cruise ships have hand sanitizers everywhere in public areas to help.

  2. May 15, 2019 / 2:15 am

    It is good to know that the cruise ships take such precautions while crossing pirate waters. There is a safe haven drill that definitely prepares the passengers how to act during a mishap. The promenade door being closed throughout the time is the prime step in the whole process. I wish I can also attend the drill someday to know how it feels.

  3. May 15, 2019 / 7:38 am

    Brought up on a diet of books about the high seas and the romance of pirates this is something that really interests me. I know in real the pirates can be vicious and cruise ships need to take all precautions. But was never aware about the safety precautions followed meticulously by cruise ships. The Safe Haven reminds me of the fire drills that we have on our offices.

  4. May 15, 2019 / 8:59 am

    I have been on multiple cruises before but never even thought about this topic. Hence, it was really interesting for me to read about all these measures cruise ships take to protect them selves from pirate attacks. I wasn’t aware they had such safety precautions. Thank you for sharing this informative article and keep up the great work!

  5. May 15, 2019 / 9:08 am

    I had always thought that pirates were a thing of past. Thanks to your interesting post, my misconception is cleared. It is always good to know that sufficient precautionary measures are taken in the cruise ships for an unlikely event of pirate attack. Yes, it does sound surreal, but I am sure that safety is first for the cruise ships.

  6. Amar Singh
    May 15, 2019 / 5:48 pm

    I have only made a single journey on s cruise ship and must say this never transpired even that they’re was still a scare from pirates. Yes you rightly said that there are the modern day pirates not the jack sparrow types and these huge floating cities need to be protected. Some great pointers here you shared and ones I would notice next time I get on a cruise ship.

  7. May 16, 2019 / 12:35 pm

    I never thought pirates are this active on regular cruise paths. Taking cautions would always be better though. Thanks for sharing the details. I was quite fascinated by the whole safety protocol that cruise ships follow.

  8. May 19, 2019 / 6:24 am

    Goodness! It never occurred to me that this was something cruise ships would have to consider but of course it makes sense they would have to do that. How interesting to have all those safety precautions. I think that would make me quiet nervous in some ways. Were other passengers nervous at all?

    • cruiselifestyle
      May 20, 2019 / 3:47 pm

      The passengers didn’t seem to be worried on the cruise. We thought it was quite exciting as really it would have been very difficult for pirates to have got on board. A bit of a shame that access to the outside at night was restricted.

  9. May 19, 2019 / 10:00 am

    Oh it looks so scary when I think of getting attacked by pirates while on a cruise ship. I always used to thought that pirates were in ancient days, but yes I can remember some incidents from recent past about attacking of cruise ships. It is good that cruise ships have some armed force and necessary arrangements for safety from pirates.

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