Sexual violence occurring on cruise ships has long been a topic that cruise companies are hesitant to address.

Cruise lines are required by 2010’s Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act to release quarterly information on all alleged onboard crimes, but the truth is that women are routinely subject to unwanted sexual advances and violence that isn’t reported to crew members.

Royal Caribbean Cruises has received the first-ever best practices certification from the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) after the cruise line reached out to the organization about becoming certified.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety and security of our guests and crew,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, in a statement. “We set high standards for ourselves and on the most important subjects, we look to experts for guidance.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises brands were reviewed by RAINN across 11 key areas including prevention efforts, victim care services, security staff training and prospective passenger screening.

Royal Caribbean reported three allegations of rape, and three allegations of other sexual assault, in the first half of 2014. It has yet to offer more up-to-date crime reporting statistics.

Over the same period, Carnival Corp. reported nine alleged rapes and seven alleged other sexual assaults.

Carnival Corp. has reported nine alleged rapes over the first half of 2015, while Norwegian Cruise Line reported four alleged rapes over the same period.

The Coast Guard itself only has statistics available from Jan. 1, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2014.

“The idea behind this certification is to give organizations and companies very clear guidelines they can execute to really make prevention and response programs as strong as possible,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of RAINN.

The certification process took about four months and occurred in two phases. First, RAINN reviewed RCC’s policies regarding sexual assault in more than 2,000 pages of documents.

“Their policies were overall in very good shape,” said Berkowitz. “With every organization there are always things that could be improved and their policies met best practices guidelines.”

Afterwards, RAINN representatives visited Royal Caribbean’s corporate office and eight cruise ships, performing about 25 staff interviews in each location. The goal was to gauge how well-trained Royal Caribbean’s workforce is to deal with sexual assault of both guests and staff.

“There was a significant amount of staff training updated regularly and the staff training was very specific,” said Berkowitz.

Berkowitz said RAINN has been contacted about certification by several companies across the travel industry.

“We expect to do similar projects for other cruise lines, and are also developing standards specific to the hotel industry,” said Berkowitz.

Photo Credit: Cruisers onboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. Scott Oakley / Flickr