14 Passengers Arrested for Drugs Before Rave Cruise


Published Jan 9, 2019 2:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

Last weekend, more than a dozen passengers waiting to board an electronic dance music (EDM) cruise were arrested in Port Canaveral for alleged possession of illicit drugs. The Brevard County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and Port Canaveral conducted inspections prior to boarding, using drug-sniffing dogs, luggage searches and other methods to detect illicit substances, resulting in multiple arrests. 

The majority of the suspects received misdemeanor possession and drug paraphernalia charges. Two individuals were charged with trafficking for alleged possession of larger quantities of MDMA. 

It is the second year in a row that law enforcement personnel have made large numbers of drug-related arrests before Holy Ship! EDM cruise events. In 2018, police detained about four dozen Holy Ship! passengers from two back-to-back cruises on suspicion of drug possession, including multiple individuals who were accused of intending to sell drugs on board. 

Compared to the general population, rave attendees self-report significantly higher use rates for MDMA, ketamine and other psychoactive substances. Drugs associated with raves (notably MDMA and PMMA) have also been linked to fatalities, and EDM festivals have occasionally been canceled after drug-related deaths: in 2016, the city of Buenos Aires banned large EDM concerts altogether after five club-goers died of suspected overdoses.

Strict enforcement

In years past, a limited number of attendees for the Holy Ship! cruise have posted advice on social media forums about the best ways to smuggle banned substances onto the ship, including MDMA and marijuana. The event's organizer discourages these discussions, and in the past it has blacklisted attendees for participating in them. 

Prior to this year's cruises, organizers posted an advisory warning about the strict security measures in force at the terminal. "Forget about your right to privacy, you are passing through a port where all local and federal laws apply and are strictly enforced," the organizer's site cautioned. "Every person and each piece of luggage will be inspected by dogs trained to detect explosives and contraband."

In a statement, vessel operator Norwegian Cruise Lines emphasized that it does not permit illicit substances on board.

"We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to prohibited items aboard our ships, within our terminals, or at our destinations," NCL said. “Along with the organizers of the event, we are cooperating fully with local law enforcement to ensure the welfare of all guests attending the festival."