"After that it becomes international waters and they're under the, quote, 'Discipline of the United Nations,' which has a bunch of meaningless regulations that nobody enforces," Rockefeller said.
"They don't really have to worry about scrubbing up, or sexual predatory practices - you put four to six thousand people on a ship for God's sake, you have a lot of crime, a lot of sexual raping and all kinds of stuff," he said.
"It's a bad environment."
Rockefeller said cruise companies work in a "happy industry," where as long as they keep passengers happy and entertained, they can gloss over some of their safety and sanitary shortcomings.
"When everything's working fine - the sun's out and the engines are working - it's fine," he said. "But in the business of safety and consumer protection, you always have to worry about the day something goes wrong. That's what your responsibility is."
In response to the incident aboard the Triumph, Rockefeller said he penned a "not-nasty-enough letter" to Carnival Corporation chief executive Mickey Arison expressing his concerns.
He also asked Arison a series of questions regarding the ship's maintenance and matters relating to the company's passenger safety practices.
Rockefeller said he'll be interested to see the response he gets back from the company. If Arison doesn't answer the questions satisfactorily, Rockefeller said he'll likely end up under oath before his committee.
"If he doesn't answer them, I'll subpoena him and make him answer them," Rockefeller said.
Carnival maintains it has comprehensive maintenance programs in place that meet or exceed all regulatory standards and requirements.
"As always, the safety of our guests and crew is our foremost priority," the company said in a press statement last week.
"We are committed to learning from any incident that may occur on one of our vessels to apply lessons learned and prevent future occurrences," the company said. "We are presently conducting a comprehensive fleet-wide review that encompasses multiple operational areas, systems and training."
The company is expected to make an announcement regarding its first steps as part of the review in the coming days.
"In the meantime, we are confident that we will continue to provide our guests with a safe, fun and memorable vacation experience and look forward to welcoming them on board," the company said.
Meanwhile, Rockefeller said Congress should act soon to close the tax loophole that allows domestic companies to keep assets offshore free of taxation.
He said the average U.S. manufacturer pays 20 percent in taxes. He would like to see the cruise companies begin paying an amount similar to that as well, not the 0.6 percent Carnival currently pays.
He said it's something leaders should have done sooner.
"Shame on us, we will do that," he said. "Then they'll have to start paying 20 percent. Then they will have earned the right for the Coast Guard to help them, or for the Navy to help them."
He hopes paying their fair share in taxes will hold the cruise industry more accountable and make up for the costs to assist damaged ships.
"Now they're getting all that for free and reimbursing nothing to anybody," Rockefeller said. "It's just an American wrong, and they don't seem to be bothered by it."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.