Amazing caper: women smuggle $30 million worth of cocaine on Princess Cruises Sea Princess

The pair and accomplice nabbed in Sydney

By Patti Pietschmann
A pair of  20-somethings Canadian women (pictured above is one of them, Melina Roberge, from  her Instagram account) went on a dream vacation–a World Cruise aboard Princess Cruises Sea Princess that cost them $22,000 each.  But with $30 million worth of cocaine in their possession the fare seems a mere drop  in the bucket. By all news accounts the gals and an accomplice (again even though has one heck of a time. The fun stopped while being arrested in Sydney, however. It was the biggest coke bust ever.
According to, Melina Roberge, one of the women arrested posted steady Instagram photos under the heading  “Currently travelling”. The 22-year-old Canadian spent almost two months in paradise throughout July and August drinking from coconuts and posing in front of turquoise waters in her bikini. She was travelling with Isabelle Legace, 28, and Andre Tamine, 63, aboard the $20,000-a-head MS Sea Princess, stopping in idyllic locations including French Polynesia, Chile, Ecuador and sunny Bermuda.

How could this happen? It’s one of the most talked  about news stories in the cruise industry  this week and quite startling. When you board a cruise ship on embarkation day or after a port call you always go through security at the top of the stairs.  How was this missed? Where did they stow the stash?  Well prominent maritime attorney James Walker posted a piece on the subject which is a must read for anyone following the case:

The widely reported drug bust of three passengers this week on the Sea Princess cruise ship in Australia uncovered serious shortcomings in Princess Cruises’ shipboard security.
We have written about dozens of drug busts of relatively small quantities of cocaine on cruise ships over the years. But 95 kilos (over 209 lbs.!) of cocaine seems to be hard to believe. Many people have expressed their opinions that this must have been an inside job (we have no proof of this), given the use of screening equipment on cruise ships. But some people have questioned whether the drugs were loaded onto the ship along with food and provisions and then transferred to the passengers to be smuggled off the ship in their luggage. If the shipboard security team wasn’t involved, they obviously need to enforce far better protocols to carefully screen baggage and items brought onboard the ship.
IHS Fairplay published an article today saying that the drug bust “highlights the ability for more sinister items to be smuggled onto vessels.” In an article titled Drugs Find Highlights Cruise Security Threat, Fairplay says that “cruise companies were taking, and continue to take, security seriously but that the incident had to act as a wake-up call to revisit current systems.” It quoted Gerry Northwood, a principal of the international maritime security company MAST, explaining that cruise passengers don’t face the Cruise Ship Drug Bustsame restrictions as air travelers.


Northwood also warns that “If a terrorist were to secrete an explosive device inside a consignment of food, it is possible that the explosion would likely happen below the water line with obvious implications for the vessel and the safety of the passengers and crew.”
Commander Mark Gaouette, the former security head of Cunard and Princess Cruises, said in an interview today that the cruise industry should be concerned with the possibility of a terrorist group masterminding a gigantic conflagration on a ship. He cites the 2004 attack by an Islamic terrorist group which planted just eight kilograms of TNT in a cardboard box aboard the Superferry 14 in the Philippines. The resulting fire and explosion killed over a hundred passengers and sank the ferry.
Commander Gaouette is the author of Cruising for Trouble, Cruise Ships As Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals.