In what a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said was the first case of its kind in the New York area, five women and four men were taken into custody last month after the QM2 arrived at the New York Cruise Terminal in Red Hook, the New York Daily News reported Monday.
The illegal immigrants were not stowaways -- their names appeared on the ship's passenger list -- and they had access to the cruise liner's amenities, the newspaper said.
The accused smuggler, Fatt Kwee Wong, told agents he received $3,000 for each of the nine passengers from an unidentified person in China.
Authorities said a fingerprint check showed Wong, 49, was wanted for smuggling aliens into Bermuda.
Wong was carrying a Japanese passport on the QM2 and aroused suspicion at the immigration checkpoint when he was unable to provide the names of his nine companions, officials said.