Are There Jails on Cruise Ships? (inc Brig Photos & Video)

Have you ever wondered if there are jails on cruise ships?

Cruise ships need to be equipped to cope with every eventuality that might come about while at sea.  Whether it be providing doctors and hospital space should anyone fall ill or even morgues if anyone dies onboard.

So it’s no surprise with so many cruise ships can carrying thousands of passengers at a time that at some point some people are going to get into trouble and break the law or act recklessly and will need to be detained.

Do Cruise Ships Have Jails

Do Cruise Ships Have Jails On Them?

All cruise ships have what is known as a brig.  A brig is a nautical term for a jail or detention area on a vessel. It’s used to detain guests that have broken the law or are considered a danger to themselves or other guests onboard.

The type of jail found on a cruise ship is typically very different from the kind of jail you might see on land.

Most cruise ship jails are like holding cells, where people can be held for a short period until they are transferred to another location, often the next port depending on the jurisdiction. 

There are not many photos or videos of real cruise ship jails, but we have done our best to track some down to give you an idea of what they are like.

Where are The Brigs on a Cruise Ship?

The brig is usually located beneath the passenger decks, near the security offices, and often near the cruise ship morgue.

Why Is a Jail On a Ship Called a Brig?

The nautical term “brig” for jail on ships originates from a type of sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts known as a “Brig,” which were commonly used as prison ships.

The terms jail and brig are used interchangeably on a cruise ship.  People with a  more nautical background or military are more likely to use Brig, whereas the general public is more likely to use the term jail.

Video of a Cruise Ship Brig

In the sneakily taken video below, you can see the brig is very close to the morgue and contains just a bed surrounded by padded walls.  No visible sink or toilet.

I don’t know the ship’s status at the time, but the whole deck area looks very untidy. Whether this is normal is hard to know.  Perhaps they don’t use this area of the ship often?

Cruise Ship Brig

Here’s a photo of a real cruise ship jail door:

The door is made of solid metal rather than jail bars and will be marked with the ” Brig ” sign.

There are no windows in the brig, and the only way to get fresh air is through small ventilation holes in the walls or ceiling.

The brig is usually located near the security office on the cruise ship.

You can find more cruise ship jail photos here.  You’ll see everything in them, but the floor is padded, even the beds edging.  This is to prevent the person being detained from harming themselves.

What’s is Cruise Jail Like?

A cruise jail is like a very small cabin with just a bed.  Some will have a toilet and sink.

Below is a photo of what it looks like inside a cruise ship brig on Carnival Valor.

As you can see, there is a small bed with bedsheets, a pillow, and nothing else.  There is little floor space, just enough to walk around one side of the bed and towards the door.   

The walls are padded, and the brig is lit from above.

As you can see, it’s very basic indeed.

What Happens When You Are Put in the Brig?

If you are put in the brig on a cruise ship, you will have your belongings confiscated, such as your cell phone, passport, and Cruise Card (the equivalent of a key card) confiscated.

You’d expect to be left in the clothes you wear unless they are unsuitable, then basic clothing will be provided.

There will be someone periodically checking on you every 30 minutes or so.

You will not be able to have any visitors, but you will be allowed to make phone calls to your lawyer or a consulate if you are a foreign national.

If you need to speak to a lawyer or any other type of professional, the cruise line will arrange for this to happen through the security office.

You will be given food and drink, but it will be very basic.

If you are on medication, the cruise line will make arrangements for you to receive your medication still while you are in the brig.

Generally, you will be held in the brig until the end of the cruise or the next port, when you will be disembarked and handed over to the authorities.

Reasons Someone Might Be Put in a Cruise Brig

There are a few reasons someone might be sent to the brig on a cruise ship.

The most common reason is for

  • Fighting or disorderly conduct
  • Public intoxication
  • Theft
  • Sexual assault
  • Drug possession
  • Vandalism

The cruise ship brig is like a small cabin, just large enough to fit a bed, toilet, and sink.

The walls are padded to prevent people from causing themselves any harm.

What If the Jails Are Full?

If the cruise ship brig is full, instead of using the holding cell, security may confine a guest to a cabin and guard the door 24/7 until they disembark at the end of the cruise.

Is the Brig Always Used?

The cruise ship brig is often considered a last resort.  Not every person that needs to be detained is sent to the brig.

Cabin Arrest

More often than not, people that need to be detained are kept in their cabin with security on watch.  This is known as cabin arrest.

Often it depends on the situation.  If the person is likely to be a threat to themselves or anyone else, or perhaps likely to commit further crimes by vandalizing a cabin, they will more than likely be confined to the brig.

Ultimately the decision of where the person is detained is decided by the captain who works with the security department to come to the decision.

Can You See the Brig on a Cruise Ship?

Some cruise ships offer full tours of the ship, including the lower decks that passengers don’t normally get to see.

One example is the Carnival cruise line “Behind the Fun Tour,” which sometimes allows guests to walk past the brig.

Do Cruise Ships Have Police Officers Onboard?

No, cruise ships do not have police officers onboard.  The cruise ship will have security staff, but they are not police officers. 

Can You Be Arrested on a Cruise Ship?

You can’t be arrested on a cruise ship, but you can be detained.  You will be held in the brig until the end of the cruise or the next port when you will be disembarked and handed over to the authorities.

Do Cruise Ships Have Security?

Cruise ships have their security department is responsible for the safety and security of all passengers and crew onboard. The cruise ship department is headed by the Chief of Security, who reports to the Captain.

Reporting to the Chief of Security will be security officers and supervisors from the security department.

Most of the security team comprises security staff who you will most commonly see around the ship.

Security on Cruise Ships

There are various positions within the security department, each with its specific rules and duties.

Here are some of the most common security positions and duties.

Security Staff Responsibilities

The cruise ship security staff are responsible for access areas and screening of passengers and crew as they embark on the ship. 

These are the staff who will carry out luggage checks for prohibited items for anything from

You’ll see them scanning the luggage as it passes along the conveyor belt and carrying out random spot checks. 

We looked into what they can see when we covered whether and how cruise ship scanners can see alcohol

Security staff patrols the cruise ship for potential security and safety issues.  As well as responding directly to any passenger or crew-related incidents, they are constantly looking for anything that might pose a security threat, such as fire, leaks, blockage of emergency exits, or unauthorized access to restricted areas.

They consistently carry out spot checks to ensure everything is as it should be regarding the all-around safety and security of the ship and everyone on board.

Security Guard Supervisors

Security Guard supervisors are responsible for dealing with guest and crew incidents, monitoring the ship’s CCTV security cameras, and completing investigations of any incidents.

How Many Security Guards on a Cruise Ship

The number of security staff working on a cruise ship will depend on the size of the cruise ship.

As a guide, a large cruise ship like Carnival Mardi Gras with a capacity of 5000 to 6000 would have about 25 to 30 security staff onboard, filling all the roles from security guard to the chief security officer.

Smaller cruise ships would have less but on a similar ratio of about 1 to 200. 

Do Cruise Ships Have Security Cameras?

Yes, cruise ships have CCTV security cameras installed in various locations around the ship.  The cameras are there for security purposes and to help investigate any incidents that might occur onboard.

Some examples of where you might find security cameras are in the following areas:

  • Lobbies
  • Elevators
  • Dining rooms
  • Bars
  • Nightclubs
  • Casinos
  • Show lounges
  • The pool deck
  • Outside on the promenade deck

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Jail on a Ship Called?

Jail on a ship is known as a brig.

Why Do Cruise Ships Have Jails?

Cruise ships have jails to detain anyone suspected of committing a serious crime or who poses a threat to themselves or others.

Do Cruise Ships Have Armed Security or Guards?

There are no armed guards on cruise ships.  Regardless of permits, guns are prohibited for everyone onboard, including passengers, crew, and members of the security departments.  

Even the cruise ship captain does not have a gun. 

During the embarkation process, prohibited items firearms are checked for and confiscated if found and may warrant further actions if found to violate maritime laws.

All forms of weapons are banned to ensure the safety of everyone onboard.


Cruise ships have jails or brigs, as they are often referred to.  They are mostly used for people who have committed a serious crime or for persons who pose a risk to themselves or others.

More commonly, a person who needs to be detained will be placed under cabin arrest.  The decision to use a jail will be the last resort and will be a decision made by the captain after liaising with his security department.

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