Man overboard: Cruise ship overboards and how they happen

Ashley Kosciolek

We've all heard sad news reports of people going overboard on cruises. If you're someone who hasn't cruised before or who isn't familiar with ships, it sounds scary. But is it true? Can you really fall off a cruise ship? What do the authorities do in a cruise ship overboard situation?

Here's everything you need to know about what happens in a "man overboard" situation on a cruise ship and how to make sure it doesn't happen to you.

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Is falling off a cruise ship easy?

No. Cruise ships have railings — usually about chest height on the average person — on all open deck areas and cabin balconies. They are placed intentionally to ensure passenger safety.

The only way you risk a fall is if you're standing on furniture to peer over the side or climbing somewhere you're not supposed to. It's not possible for you to trip over a door frame or slip on a wet deck and fall off of a vessel.

Play by the rules and remain in control of your actions, and you don't have to worry about inadvertently falling overboard from a cruise ship.

How does someone go overboard from a cruise ship?

Accidental overboards can happen when cruisers have had too much to drink and climb on top of railings, enter restricted areas or attempt dangerous — and potentially fatal — stunts like climbing from balcony to balcony. One sad story involved a grandfather holding his baby granddaughter up to an open window to see the view and then losing his grip and dropping her.

It's impossible to discuss cruise-ship man-overboard incidents without mentioning that some of them are, in fact, intentional. Some cruisers purposefully jump off cruise ships to commit suicide. Passengers caught up in a physical fight or wishing to do harm could push someone off the ship, though it would take some effort.

Are man overboard situations common on cruise ships?

In many cases, stories of passengers "falling off" of cruise ships make it seem like it's a regular occurrence or that there's a grave risk you could be swept over the side while going about your daily vacation activities. In reality, one or two people go overboard each month out of roughly 2.5 million who cruise during the same time frame.

Between 2009 and 2019, there have been 212 man overboard incidents on cruise ships, according to a Report on Operational Incidents issued by the Cruise Lines International Association. That works out to roughly 19 overboards each year.

Cases of people falling off ships are also on the decline. "From 2009 to 2019, man overboard incidents have declined with an incidence of 0.00004 overboard reports per active lower berth (synonymous with a cabin's bed) in 2019," reports CLIA. "This is 64% of the figure recorded in 2009."

What happens when someone falls off a cruise ship?

When someone is determined to have gone over the side, the bridge — the ship's control center — will contact the coast guard, and a search will begin.

Officers will attempt to pinpoint when and where the incident happened, allowing the search to cover a particular radius where the individual is predicted to be. The search will be called off after either the passenger is found or the ship is cleared by the coast guard to continue its voyage.

If your ship is involved in a search for a missing passenger, it might have to skip a port call or delay its return home to account for the time spent retracing its route to look for the person overboard.

What should you do if you see a cruise ship overboard?

If you witness someone falling off a cruise ship, throw them a life buoy or other flotation device if you're near one. You can often find orange life rings attached to deck railings.

It's crucial to then alert a crew member that you witnessed a man overboard and have the crew alert the bridge. Note the time the overboard occurred. With this information, the bridge officers can identify the exact position of the ship at that time, so it can return to that location to search for the missing guest.

Can you survive going overboard from a cruise ship?

Unfortunately, it's rare that a passenger is found alive. A Carnival cruiser who fell off a ship over Thanksgiving 2022 made headlines when he was rescued after spending close to 20 hours in the Gulf of Mexico. He was lucky because his positive outcome is not common.

Overboards are particularly grim when the ship is moving, as the vessel's speed and current mean that a person can be swept away quickly. If they aren't immediately seen, it can be a while before the captain realizes what has happened.

Chances of survival vary, depending on the circumstances of the fall. A passenger could get injured, hitting part of the ship as they fall. Should they survive the fall, water temperature also plays a significant role in how long a person can survive. You have a better chance of waiting out a rescue in the warm Caribbean sea than in chilly Alaskan waters.

Of the 212 overboard incidents mentioned earlier, 48 of those (roughly 28%) were rescued alive, CLIA reports. That amounts to four or five rescues each year.

Any time an overboard occurs, cruise lines offer assistance to friends, family or other travel companions traveling with the passenger in question.

Bottom line

If you stick to the areas where you're allowed to be as a passenger, you don't have to worry about falling overboard on a cruise.

Always pay attention to safety messages and signage that indicates which parts of the ship are meant for crew only.

Have more cruise questions? TPG has answers:

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  • What is baked Alaska, and why is it paraded around cruise ships?
  • What are the largest cruise ships in the world?
  • What is a gentleman host on a cruise?
  • What is the Jones Act and how does it affect cruise ships?
  • What is a lido deck on a cruise ship?
  • What's a cruise cabin guarantee and will it save you money?
  • What's the difference between a cruise concierge and a butler?

Additional reporting by Erica Silverstein.

Cruise FAQs

How often do people fall off cruise ships.

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Have you ever wondered how often people actually fall off cruise ships? Well, let me tell you, it’s not as common as you might think! As someone who has worked in the cruise industry for years, I can assure you that safety is a top priority for cruise lines.

In this article, I will delve into the statistics, safety measures, and factors that contribute to incidents. We will also explore the role of surveillance systems and crew training in preventing falls, and examine notable incidents and the lessons learned from them.

Additionally, I will discuss the regulations and compliance within the cruise ship industry, debunk any myths surrounding cruise ship safety, and provide you with tips for staying safe on your next cruise.

So, sit back, relax, and get ready to embark on a journey of knowledge and insight into the safety of cruise ship travel.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Falling off cruise ships is a rare occurrence due to stringent safety protocols and passenger education.
  • Cruise ship safety regulations and regular inspections help to ensure the safety of passengers.
  • Precautions such as being cautious on wet or uneven surfaces and using handrails can reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Crew members play a crucial role in ensuring passenger safety through rigorous training programs and adherence to regulations.

Examining the Statistics: How Often Do People Fall Off Cruise Ships?

Do you ever wonder how often people actually fall off cruise ships? As someone who’s extensively researched cruise ship safety statistics and analyzed fall incidents, I can provide you with a meticulous answer. According to the statistics, the number of people falling off cruise ships is relatively low. In fact, it’s estimated that less than 1% of passengers fall overboard each year.

Cruise lines have implemented stringent safety measures to prevent such incidents, including the installation of high railings, surveillance cameras, and trained personnel. Additionally, many ships have developed advanced technology, such as motion sensors and alarms, to detect and respond to potential falls.

Understanding the safety measures in place on cruise ships is crucial for ensuring a safe and enjoyable vacation experience. With that in mind, let’s delve into how these measures work to protect passengers.

Understanding the Safety Measures in Place on Cruise Ships

Imagine yourself on a cruise ship, surrounded by safety measures that ensure your well-being while you enjoy your vacation. As a seasoned traveler, I can attest to the meticulous crew responsibilities and emergency response procedures that are in place to keep passengers safe.

Here are four key safety measures you can count on:

Expertly trained crew: The crew members undergo extensive training to handle any emergency situation effectively.

Regular safety drills: Passengers are familiarized with emergency procedures through regular drills, ensuring everyone knows what to do in case of an incident.

Advanced surveillance systems: Cruise ships are equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance systems to monitor the ship and identify potential hazards.

Quick response teams: Dedicated teams are ready to respond swiftly to any emergency, ensuring a prompt and efficient resolution.

These safety measures create a secure environment for passengers. However, incidents can still occur due to factors like alcohol, rough seas, and human error.

Factors Contributing to Incidents: Alcohol, Rough Seas, and Human Error

When you’re enjoying your time on a cruise ship, factors like alcohol, rough seas, and human error can contribute to incidents that may disrupt your vacation.

Alcohol-related incidents are unfortunately common on cruise ships, as passengers may consume excessive amounts and become impaired, leading to accidents and falls.

Additionally, rough weather conditions can be a significant factor in incidents on board. High winds, heavy rain, and turbulent seas can make it difficult for passengers to maintain their balance and stability, increasing the risk of accidents.

Lastly, human error, such as negligence or lack of proper training, can also contribute to incidents on cruise ships. It is crucial for crew members to be knowledgeable and experienced in order to ensure the safety of passengers.

Moving forward, let’s explore the role of surveillance systems and crew training in preventing falls without compromising your privacy.

The Role of Surveillance Systems and Crew Training in Preventing Falls

Ensure your safety on board by understanding how surveillance systems and crew training play a vital role in preventing accidents and maintaining a secure environment. Cruise ships are equipped with advanced surveillance technology, including CCTV cameras strategically placed throughout the ship. These systems allow for continuous monitoring of all areas, ensuring any potential issues or safety hazards are quickly identified and addressed. Additionally, crew members undergo rigorous training programs that emphasize the importance of safety protocols and emergency procedures. Their training enhances their ability to effectively respond to incidents and prevent accidents from occurring.

To further illustrate the significance of surveillance systems and crew training, consider the following table:

By combining these two elements, cruise lines are able to create a safe and secure environment for passengers and crew members. This ensures that incidents such as falls are minimized, allowing everyone on board to enjoy a worry-free vacation. Moving forward, let’s explore notable incidents and the lessons learned from them.

Case Studies: Notable Incidents and Lessons Learned

Discover the eye-opening case studies and valuable lessons learned from significant incidents that have occurred onboard cruise ships, shedding light on the importance of surveillance systems and crew training in maintaining a secure environment. Did you know that a study found that over 80% of falls on cruise ships were preventable with proper training and surveillance measures in place?

These notable incidents serve as stark reminders of the potential dangers that can arise when safety protocols are not followed diligently. For instance, there have been instances where passengers have fallen overboard due to inadequate surveillance systems or crew members failing to respond promptly.

These incidents highlight the need for constant vigilance and rigorous training to ensure the safety of everyone onboard. Moving forward, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of personal responsibility and following safety guidelines to prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place.

The Importance of Personal Responsibility and Following Safety Guidelines

In examining notable incidents and lessons learned from previous cases of people falling off cruise ships, it becomes clear that personal responsibility and following safety guidelines play a crucial role in preventing such accidents.

As someone who’s spent years working in the cruise industry, I’ve witnessed firsthand the importance of personal accountability when it comes to passenger safety. It’s not enough for cruise lines to provide safety measures; passengers must actively participate in their own safety as well.

By adhering to safety guidelines, such as always wearing a life jacket and staying within designated areas, individuals can significantly reduce the risk of falling overboard. Promoting a culture of safety onboard is essential, with crew members regularly reminding passengers of the importance of personal accountability.

This includes fostering an environment where passengers are encouraged to report any safety concerns promptly. Ultimately, by prioritizing personal responsibility and promoting a culture of safety, we can ensure a safer cruising experience for everyone.

As we delve into the next section about cruise ship industry regulations and compliance, we’ll explore how these regulations complement personal accountability.

Cruise Ship Industry Regulations and Compliance

Enforcing strict regulations and ensuring compliance with industry standards creates a tightly regulated environment aboard cruise ships, akin to a well-oiled machine.

Cruise ship safety regulations are put in place to protect passengers and crew members from potential hazards and accidents at sea. These regulations cover a wide range of areas, including emergency preparedness, fire safety, sanitation, and passenger safety.

Cruise ships undergo regular inspections to ensure compliance with these regulations, conducted by both government agencies and independent organizations. These inspections evaluate various aspects of the ship’s safety protocols and equipment, from life-saving devices to emergency evacuation procedures.

As a result, cruise ships are required to maintain a high level of safety standards and are continuously monitored to address any deficiencies. This commitment to safety sets the stage for debunking myths and separating fact from fiction in cruise ship safety, highlighting the industry’s dedication to ensuring a secure and enjoyable experience for all passengers.

Debunking Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction in Cruise Ship Safety

As we explored the topic of cruise ship industry regulations and compliance, it’s important to debunk myths surrounding cruise ship safety. Having worked in the cruise industry for many years, I can confidently say that falling off cruise ships is an extremely rare occurrence. In fact, cruise lines have stringent safety protocols in place to ensure the well-being of passengers.

This includes regular cruise ship emergency drills, where passengers are familiarized with evacuation procedures and safety precautions.

To further dispel misconceptions, it’s crucial to address the issue of cruise ship food poisoning. While it’s true that outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses can happen on cruise ships, they’re relatively uncommon. Cruise lines adhere to strict sanitation guidelines and conduct regular inspections to mitigate the risk of such incidents.

In order to ensure a safe and enjoyable cruise experience, it’s essential for passengers to be educated and aware. In the next section, we’ll discuss tips for staying safe on a cruise, providing valuable insights to enhance your journey.

Passenger Education and Awareness: Tips for Staying Safe on a Cruise

Passenger education and awareness are key to ensuring a safe and enjoyable cruise experience, so let’s dive into some helpful tips for staying safe on your journey.

Familiarizing yourself with the cruise ship emergency procedures is essential. Take the time to attend the mandatory safety drill at the beginning of your voyage and locate the emergency exits on your deck. Being prepared can make a world of difference in the event of an emergency.

Additionally, it’s important to be aware of common accidents on cruise ships, such as slipping and falling. Always use handrails when walking on wet or uneven surfaces and be cautious when getting in and out of the pool. By being knowledgeable and meticulous in your actions, you can greatly reduce the risk of accidents and ensure a safe cruise experience.

In the next section, we’ll discuss how to enjoy a safe and memorable cruise experience.

Conclusion: Enjoying a Safe and Memorable Cruise Experience

To truly savor a cruise that leaves a lasting imprint, let the waves of safety guide you and the memories will dance like dolphins in your mind.

When it comes to enjoying a safe and memorable cruise experience, there are two key factors that cannot be overlooked: cruise ship regulations and the importance of crew training.

Cruise ship regulations are in place to ensure the safety of all passengers on board. These regulations cover a wide range of areas, including emergency procedures, fire safety, and the maintenance of life-saving equipment. It’s vital for cruise lines to adhere to these regulations and for passengers to familiarize themselves with the safety protocols.

Equally important is the training of the crew members. From the captain to the housekeeping staff, every crew member plays a role in ensuring the safety and well-being of the passengers. Rigorous training programs are in place to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to handle any emergency situation that may arise.

By prioritizing these two aspects, cruise lines can provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all passengers. So, embark on your cruise journey with confidence, knowing that your safety is of utmost importance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any specific age groups that are more prone to falling off cruise ships.

In my experience, while cruise ship accidents can occur across all age groups, there is no specific age group that is more prone to falling off cruise ships. Safety measures are in place to protect all passengers.

What are some common misconceptions about cruise ship safety?

As an experienced cruise ship crew member, I can tell you that there are several misconceptions about cruise ship safety. However, it’s important to note that cruise ships have strict safety protocols and common precautions in place to ensure passenger safety.

How do cruise ship surveillance systems work to prevent falls?

Cruise ship surveillance systems use a combination of cameras, motion sensors, and alarms to prevent falls. These systems are strategically placed throughout the ship, constantly monitoring for any potential dangers and alerting crew members to take immediate action.

Can you provide examples of incidents where alcohol played a significant role in someone falling off a cruise ship?

Alcohol-related incidents on cruise ships can be disastrous. I’ve seen cases where excessive drinking has led to tragic falls overboard. To prevent such incidents, cruise lines enforce strict safety regulations and offer education on responsible alcohol consumption.

What are some specific safety guidelines that passengers should follow to reduce the risk of falling off a cruise ship?

To ensure cruise ship safety, it is crucial for passengers to follow crew instructions. This includes staying within designated areas, using handrails, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption. These measures greatly reduce the risk of falling overboard.

In conclusion, after delving into the statistics, safety measures, and factors contributing to incidents, it’s evident that falling off cruise ships is a rare occurrence.

The cruise ship industry has implemented rigorous surveillance systems and crew training to ensure passenger safety.

By debunking myths and providing passenger education, we can dispel any doubts and help you navigate your cruise with confidence.

So set sail and embark on a safe and memorable journey, where the horizon holds endless possibilities and the waves carry you to extraordinary destinations.

falling off cruise ship statistics

Meet Asra, a talented and adventurous writer who infuses her passion for exploration into every word she writes. Asra’s love for storytelling and her insatiable curiosity about the world make her an invaluable asset to the Voyager Info team.

From a young age, Asra was drawn to the power of words and their ability to transport readers to far-off lands and magical realms. Her fascination with travel and cultures from around the globe fueled her desire to become a travel writer, and she set out on a journey to turn her dreams into reality.

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How Much Do Cruise Ship Waiters Make

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Meet Asra, a talented and adventurous writer who infuses her passion for exploration into every word she writes. Asra’s love for storytelling and her insatiable curiosity about the world make her an invaluable asset to the Voyager Info team. From a young age, Asra was drawn to the power of words and their ability to transport readers to far-off lands and magical realms. Her fascination with travel and cultures from around the globe fueled her desire to become a travel writer, and she set out on a journey to turn her dreams into reality.

falling off cruise ship statistics

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Unforgettable journeys awaiting with holland america line's epic 2025 world voyages.

Step aboard for Holland America Line's Epic 2025 World Voyages, where a world of sophisticated and enriching experiences beckons – find out why discerning travelers are eagerly anticipating this extraordinary journey.

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Embark on a sophisticated exploration with Holland America Line's Epic 2025 World Voyages, where opportunities for enriching experiences abound. From the moment you step aboard, a world of possibilities awaits, promising a journey that transcends mere travel.

Discover what sets these voyages apart and why discerning travelers are eagerly anticipating the chance to be part of something truly extraordinary.

  • Luxurious accommodations, personalized service, and exclusive perks await guests on Holland America Line's 2025 World Voyages.
  • Adventurous itineraries feature iconic sites like the Panama Canal and Antarctica for unforgettable experiences.
  • Diverse dining options, world-class entertainment, and rejuvenating spa treatments enhance the onboard experience.
  • Early bookers enjoy exclusive offers like complimentary Wi-Fi, air credits, and personalized services for a memorable journey.

Luxury Cruising Experience Highlights

Indulge in a truly opulent cruising experience aboard Holland America Line's 2025 World Voyages, where award-winning accommodations and personalized service await us at every port of call. The luxury of these Holland America Line cruises is unparalleled, with guests treated to a level of service that goes above and beyond. From the moment we step on board, we're greeted with exclusive perks designed to elevate our journey to new heights. For early bookers, there are enticing offers such as complimentary Wi-Fi, air credits, and additional onboard spending credits, making the experience even more delightful.

The 2025 World Voyages feature adventurous itineraries that take us to iconic sites around the globe. From transiting the Panama Canal to cruising in Antarctica, every moment is filled with wonder and excitement. These voyages offer more ports, longer stays, and luxurious overnights ashore, allowing us to immerse ourselves in each destination fully. Holland America Line's 2025 World Voyages are truly a dream come true for those seeking a luxurious and unforgettable cruising experience.

Destination Highlights and Excursions

vacation activities and sights

Exploring UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef awaits travelers on Holland America Line's 2025 World Voyages, offering immersive shore excursions in Australia and New Zealand. These excursions provide a chance to discover vibrant cities, spectacular scenery, and unique experiences along the way. Picture witnessing awe-inspiring landscapes in national parks such as Fiordland National Park and Magnetic Island National Park, where nature's grandeur unfolds before your eyes.

Here's a glimpse of what you can experience during your cruise:

Moreover, indulge in culinary delights with destination dining experiences showcasing fresh flavors and locally sourced ingredients. Don't miss cruising through iconic locations like Milford Sound and the Great Barrier Reef for unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.

Onboard Amenities and Entertainment

Immerse yourself in a world of luxury and entertainment aboard Holland America Line's 2025 World Voyages, where a plethora of onboard amenities and captivating entertainment options await. Embark on a culinary journey with diverse dining options and specialty restaurants that cater to every palate, ensuring a delightful cruise experience.

Indulge your senses in world-class entertainment featuring live music, theater shows, and cultural performances that will leave you mesmerized.

For those seeking relaxation, the spa and wellness center offers a sanctuary of tranquility with a range of rejuvenating treatments to pamper yourself. Engage your mind and creativity with enrichment activities like cooking classes, art workshops, and educational lectures that promise to enrich your journey.

Stay connected with high-speed internet access to share your adventures with loved ones and make use of the onboard libraries for moments of quiet reflection. Holland America Line's 2025 World Voyages promise a perfect blend of relaxation, enrichment, and entertainment for an unforgettable cruising experience.

Exclusive Offers and Early Booking Bonuses

travel promotions and discounts

For guests considering Holland America Line's 2025 World Voyages, exclusive offers and early booking bonuses await, providing a range of enticing perks and amenities. By booking early, travelers can secure benefits like complimentary Wi-Fi, air credits, and onboard spending credits, enhancing their journey from the start. These early bookers also enjoy special amenities such as roundtrip airport transfers and personalized services that add a touch of luxury to their experience.

Moreover, those who secure their spots early for the 2025 World Voyages gain access to limited availability offerings, ensuring they don't miss out on this epic adventure. Additional advantages like luggage delivery and crew appreciation services further sweeten the deal for those eager to embark on a voyage exploring the wonders of the world with Holland America Line.

Don't miss the chance to seize these exclusive early booking bonuses and make your 2025 World Voyage unforgettable.

Unforgettable 2025 World Voyage Itineraries

Embark on a journey through the extraordinary 2025 World Voyage itineraries with Holland America Line, traversing diverse landscapes and continents aboard luxurious ships like Zuiderdam and Volendam. These epic voyages promise unforgettable experiences beyond the ordinary.

Travelers will have the opportunity to explore iconic destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, Cape Town, Antarctica, and the Arctic Circle. What sets these voyages apart are the extended stays at various ports, allowing guests to immerse themselves in different cultures through expert-led activities.

From learning about local traditions to indulging in authentic cuisine, every moment promises to be enriching. Holland America Line's 2025 World Voyages offer a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation, ensuring that all travelers can create lasting memories while enjoying the comforts of luxurious ships.

Get ready for a once-in-a-lifetime experience filled with immersive cultural encounters and expertly curated activities.

Is Holland America an Old People Cruise Line?

We offer a refined cruising experience attracting a range of guests. While popular with mature travelers, activities cater to diverse ages. The ambiance is sophisticated yet relaxed, with enriching programs for all who love travel.

How Much Is the 2025 World Cruise?

The 2025 World Cruise with Holland America Line ranges from $3,719 to $7,119 per person for cruise-only fares. Various North American homeports like New York, Seattle, Vancouver, and Fort Lauderdale offer departure options for this epic journey.

When Did Carnival Take Over Holland America?

We're diving into the past to answer your question! Carnival took over Holland America in 1989. This move added a distinct brand to Carnival's cruise portfolio, providing Holland America with needed resources and stability.

How Old Is Holland America Cruise Line?

Holland America Line, established in 1873, boasts over 148 years of history in the cruising industry. We've seen the company evolve, blending classic elegance with modern amenities. Our commitment to excellence endures.

As we sail into the sunset, the memories of our epic 2025 World Voyage with Holland America Line will forever be etched in our hearts.

From the majestic Panama Canal to the breathtaking landscapes of Antarctica, every moment was a masterpiece of adventure.

With each port of call, we immersed ourselves in diverse cultures and UNESCO World Heritage sites, creating a tapestry of unforgettable experiences that will stay with us for a lifetime.

Embark on your own journey and let the world be your canvas.

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5 Highlights From Holland America Line's Historic 150th Anniversary Celebration

Journey through Holland America Line's 150th anniversary celebration to uncover surprising highlights and rich maritime heritage – a celebration not to be missed!

holland america line s milestones

As we explore Holland America Line's momentous 150th anniversary celebration, one may not realize the depth of historical significance intertwined with this event. From the iconic Rotterdam ship retracing its first voyage to the lesser-known culinary delights and themed pop-ups, the highlights offer a glimpse into a world where maritime heritage meets modern luxury.

Discover how this milestone celebration unfolded, revealing surprises around every corner and showcasing a blend of tradition and innovation that captivated guests and honored the company's enduring legacy.

  • Twilight view of lower Manhattan and Statue of Liberty sail-by added charm.
  • Musical composition by Steven Schoenberg and former musicians' ensemble enhanced elegance.
  • Culinary delights and themed pop-ups dazzled guests with creativity.
  • Commemorative bell, unique stamp, and original share preserved company's rich history.

Special Events and Exclusive Experiences

Celebrating Holland America Line's 150th Anniversary, we were treated to a series of unforgettable Special Events and Exclusive Experiences that showcased the company's rich history and commitment to excellence.

In the heart of New York City, guests marveled at a twilight view of lower Manhattan during the celebration. The highlight was when Captain Bas Van Dreumel expertly maneuvered the Rotterdam 360 degrees in front of the iconic Statue of Liberty, offering a stunning backdrop for the festivities.

Adding to the grandeur of the evening, a special musical piece composed by Steven Schoenberg was performed by a 25-piece ensemble, filling the air with enchanting melodies that resonated with the historic surroundings. Moreover, guests were captivated by on-board video content produced by an Ellis Island researcher, underscoring the meaningful partnership between Holland America Line and the historic landmark.

Additionally, an exclusive presentation of ship models by Captain Timmers to the Ellis Island director further enhanced the evening, providing a unique glimpse into the maritime heritage that has defined Holland America Line for 150 years.

A Tribute to Maritime Heritage

celebrating maritime history and culture

With a rich history steeped in maritime traditions, Holland America Line's tribute to its heritage shines a light on the pivotal role the company has played in shaping the world of oceanic travel. As we delve into this celebration of maritime history, let's explore some intriguing highlights:

  • The Rotterdam ship, responsible for transporting 10% of all European Atlantic passengers, played a crucial role in immigrant transportation.
  • The collaboration with The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation showcased Captain Werner Timmers' ship models, emphasizing the company's deep immigrant history.
  • A special musical composition by Steven Schoenberg added a touch of elegance to the festivities, resonating with the soulful spirit of the sea.
  • A 25-piece ensemble, comprising former Holland America Lines musicians, serenaded guests with melodies that echoed through the ship, evoking a sense of nostalgia.
  • Through these tributes to maritime heritage, Holland America Line not only honored its past but also invited guests to embark on a journey through time, connecting with the essence of oceanic exploration and discovery.

Culinary Delights and Themed Pop-Ups

Indulging in a symphony of flavors, our journey through Holland America Line's 150th anniversary celebration is enriched by the culinary delights and themed pop-ups aboard the Rotterdam. The culinary experiences onboard highlighted the premium dining options available on Holland America Line ships. Guests were treated to special themed dining events that showcased the culinary expertise and creativity on the Rotterdam. One highlight was the treats by Culinary Council Member Jacques Torres, adding a touch of sophistication to the festivities. Moreover, guests were delighted by a Chocolate Surprise Parade, where delectable offerings tantalized taste buds and added a sweet touch to the celebration.

To give you a taste of the culinary delights and themed pop-ups onboard the Rotterdam, here is a peek at some of the offerings:

Entertainment Extravaganza on Deck

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As we stepped onto Deck 2 Music Walk, a vibrant array of nightly entertainment awaited us during Holland America Line's 150th Anniversary celebration. The atmosphere was alive with music and energy, setting the stage for unforgettable experiences. Here are some highlights of the entertainment extravaganza on deck :

  • Guests were treated to blues, rock n roll, and classic standards at Deck 2 Music Walk, offering a variety of musical genres to enjoy.
  • The World Stage featured captivating shows that were sure to impress all guests with their talent and creativity.
  • B.B. Kings All-Stars Blues Club boasted an 8-piece band complete with vocalists, rhythm, and horn sections, providing a lively and soulful atmosphere.
  • This club quickly became a favorite spot for dancing and soaking in the vibrant sounds of live music during the celebration.
  • To top it off, the ship's nightlife included a delightful Chocolate Surprise Parade featuring treats by Culinary Council Member Jacques Torres, adding a sweet touch to the evening festivities.

Commemorative Memorabilia and Collectibles

Amidst the vibrant entertainment extravaganza on Deck 2 Music Walk during Holland America Line's 150th Anniversary celebration, a notable feature was the display of commemorative memorabilia and collectibles. One highlight was the 150th-anniversary bell presented at Hotel New York, symbolizing this significant milestone in the company's history. Princess Margriet of the Netherlands added a touch of elegance by pouring champagne over the bell during a special ceremony.

Artist Frank Janse contributed to the occasion by designing a unique 150th Anniversary gold-foil stamp. Additionally, founding families shared the original company share, a priceless piece of history that was showcased alongside the bell. These commemorative items, including the bell and the original share, are set to be preserved in special collections to honor Holland America Line's rich heritage and legacy for generations to come.

The display of these items added a sense of nostalgia and reverence to the anniversary celebration, underscoring the company's remarkable journey over the past 150 years.

Is Holland America a High End Cruise Line?

Yes, Holland America Line is a high-end cruise line known for its premium service, elegant ambiance, and classic cruising experience. With upscale amenities, luxurious accommodations, and personalized service, it caters to discerning travelers seeking sophistication and refinement.

Which Is the Best Holland America Cruise Ship?

We believe the best Holland America cruise ship varies based on personal preferences like amenities, destinations, and onboard activities. Ships like Rotterdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Koningsdam, and Zuiderdam offer unique features for diverse guest experiences.

No, Holland America Line is not just for older adults. It offers activities for all ages, creating a sophisticated yet inclusive atmosphere. From families to young adults, there's something for everyone to enjoy on these cruises.

What Makes Holland America Line Unique?

We blend rich history with modern luxury, offering enriching experiences on the high seas. Our focus on impeccable service, diverse itineraries, and cultural immersion sets us apart. Let's sail together on Holland America Line.

In conclusion, Holland America Line's 150th-anniversary celebration was a true testament to the company's rich history and lasting impact on the maritime industry. From special events to culinary delights and entertainment options, the festivities truly showcased the resilience and adaptability of this iconic cruise line.

As the saying goes, 'Smooth seas don't make skillful sailors,' and Holland America Line has certainly weathered many storms to become a beloved fixture in American culture.

Cheers to another 150 years of success!

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Uncover the transformative leadership style of Christine Duffy, where innovation and resilience intertwine, leaving a trail of inspiration and empowerment.

christine duffy s innovative leadership

With Christine Duffy at the helm of Carnival Cruise Line, her leadership philosophy embodies a blend of innovation and resilience that captivates those around her. As we explore the inner workings of her inspiring approach, we uncover a tapestry woven with threads of empowerment and strategic vision.

What sets Duffy apart is not just her accomplishments but the profound impact she has on those she leads. Let's unravel the layers of her strategies and principles to discover the essence of her transformative leadership style.

  • Navigating uncertainty with patience and informed decisions, prioritizing long-term benefits.
  • Inspiring innovation and resilience, redefining excellence in the travel industry.
  • Fostering open communication and collaboration, building trust and confidence within the team.
  • Empowering women leaders, driving positive changes, showcasing adaptability, resilience, and innovation.

Leadership Philosophy

In navigating uncertain times, Christine Duffy's leadership philosophy champions patience and informed decision-making as pillars of guiding others through ambiguity. At Carnival Cruise Line, we understand the significance of steady hands at the helm during turbulent waters.

Duffy's emphasis on humility and long-term benefits resonates deeply with our commitment to delivering exceptional experiences to our guests. Her approach aligns seamlessly with our values, emphasizing the evolving nature of leadership in challenging situations.

By prioritizing thoughtful and strategic decision-making over impulsive actions, Duffy sets a standard that inspires us to navigate uncertainty with grace and wisdom. As we face the ever-changing landscape of the travel industry, her vision guides us towards a future where innovation and resilience define our path forward.

Under Duffy's leadership, we embrace the freedom to explore new horizons while staying true to our core values, ensuring that Carnival Cruise Line continues to set sail towards success.

Innovative Strategies

effective teaching methods used

With Christine Duffy at the helm, our approach to innovative strategies has revolutionized the guest experience on Carnival Cruise Line. In the dynamic travel industry, we've embraced cutting-edge tactics to elevate every aspect of our guests' journey. Here are four key strategies that have set us apart:

  • Tailored Youth Programming : By introducing customized activities for younger travelers, we ensure that families of all ages can create unforgettable memories onboard.
  • Flexible Dining Choices : Our commitment to diverse culinary experiences allows guests the freedom to savor a wide range of flavors, catering to individual preferences.
  • Varied Entertainment Options : From thrilling performances to relaxing lounges, we offer a spectrum of entertainment to suit every mood and taste, guaranteeing a truly immersive experience.
  • Exciting Shore Excursions : We go beyond traditional port visits by curating unique and exhilarating excursions, enabling travelers to explore each destination in a distinctive way.

Through these innovative strategies, we continue to redefine excellence in the travel industry, ensuring unparalleled freedom and delight for all our guests.

Team Empowerment

Our focus on team empowerment under Christine Duffy's leadership propels us towards a culture of open communication and collaboration, fostering innovation and excellence. President of Carnival Cruise Line, Duffy encourages a sense of ownership and empowerment among team members, valuing their opinions and ideas. By supporting professional development opportunities, she enables growth and skill enhancement, ensuring each team member reaches their full potential.

Through transparent leadership, Duffy builds trust and confidence within the team, empowering them to tackle challenges and drive success. Recognizing and celebrating achievements further motivates individuals to strive for excellence, creating a dynamic and empowered workforce.

Communication Excellence

effective collaboration and understanding

Embracing a culture of communication excellence, Christine Duffy champions transparency and trust within the organization, fostering robust engagement through various platforms and active listening practices.

The principles guiding our communication approach under Duffy's leadership include:

  • Openness : By encouraging open dialogue and feedback, we create a space where every voice is valued, fostering a sense of belonging and inclusivity.
  • Accessibility : Utilizing diverse communication channels, such as town hall meetings and virtual forums, ensures that information flows freely and reaches all team members.
  • Empowerment : Through active listening and prompt responses to concerns and ideas, we empower individuals to contribute meaningfully and drive positive change.
  • Alignment with the Board of Directors : Our communication strategy aligns closely with the vision and goals set forth by the Board of Directors, ensuring a unified direction and cohesive decision-making process.

With a clear, direct, and inclusive communication style, Duffy strengthens relationships, boosts morale, and drives productivity, ultimately fostering a culture of collaboration and success.

Impact on Leadership Skills

Christine Duffy's impactful leadership style is evidenced by her successful tenure as President of Carnival Cruise Line within Carnival Corp, showcasing strong decision-making abilities and strategic vision in navigating the company through various challenges. Recognizing the importance of effective leadership skills, Duffy's approach emphasizes patience, humility, and informed decision-making, particularly in times of uncertainty. Her ability to empower and inspire the next generation of women leaders in the industry underscores the lasting impact she has on leadership development.

Duffy's strategic leadership style has been instrumental in driving positive changes and fostering growth within Carnival Cruise Line. By recognizing the importance of cultivating a diverse and inclusive leadership team, she sets a visionary example for future leaders to follow. Through her actions and decisions, Duffy highlights the significance of adaptability, resilience, and innovation in leadership roles.

Who Is the Female CEO of Carnival?

We are the female CEO of Carnival Cruise Line, leading with empowerment and positive change. Our approach focuses on growth and inspiring leadership. We are committed to fostering a culture that empowers women in leadership roles.

How Many Cruise Lines Does Carnival Own?

We own and operate nine distinct cruise line brands, including Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Holland America Line. Our diverse portfolio of 105 ships caters to a wide range of travelers, offering unique experiences worldwide.

In conclusion, Christine Duffy's inspiring leadership approach is a beacon of success in the industry. Her innovative strategies and focus on team empowerment have set a high standard for leadership excellence.

By championing women in leadership roles and promoting growth, Duffy is paving the way for a brighter future in the cruise line industry.

As we reflect on her impact on leadership skills, we're inspired to strive for greatness and make a difference in our own leadership journeys.

Affiliate disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

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Man overboard! How easy is it to fall overboard on a cruise ship, and how can you survive?

falling off cruise ship statistics

  • Between 2009 and 2019, there were 212 incidents of crew or passengers going overboard from a cruise ship, and only 48 were rescued.

"Man overboard!"

That cry is one of the worst things you can hear while you're on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. It means someone has spotted a passenger or crew member either going over the side of the ship or in the water, and a life is at stake.

In July, the U.S. Coast Guard called off a search after a 30-year-old man was reported missing on Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Elation cruise ship and cruise officials said surveillance video showed him jumping off. Three weeks previous, a 42-year-old woman fell off the 10th deck of the Royal Caribbean International but was rescued by the ship's crew . In May a 35-year-old Carnival Magic passenger went overboard east of Jacksonville and was never found. James Michael Grimes, 29, made national headlines after he survived 20 hours in the Gulf of Mexico last November.

How easy is it to fall overboard on a cruise ship?

It's not easy at all.

All ships have "safety barriers that are regulated by U.S. Coast Guard standards and prevent a guest from falling off," according to Carnival spokesperson Matt Lupoli. Every open deck and balcony is required to have railings "not less than 42 inches from above the cabin deck," according to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010  (CVSSA), with thick metal or Plexiglas panels underneath to prevent anyone from slipping through.

That's usually about chest height for the average person.

Some cruise lines are adding overboard detection sensors which use thermal cameras and micro radars to detect incidents and alert crew members.

How do people fall off cruise ships?

"I'll stress that people don't just fall over the side," said Brian Salerno, senior vice president of global maritime policy at Cruise Lines International Association, the industry's leading trade group. "There are railings and they're pretty high. It's almost always the result of an intentional act."

Standing on deck chairs, climbing on the railing and other unsafe practices can lead to tragedy.

Alcohol can play a role in overboard incidents, said Michael Winkleman, a maritime attorney with Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A., who has represented travelers in overboard cases. "Usually, it's just people not making smart decisions because they're dramatically overserved and they end up going over," he said.

But security cameras often indicate the jump was intentional, as seems to have been the case with 30-year-old Jaylen Hill in July. Hill was reported missing by family members on the Carnival Elation and the cruise line said surveillance video showed him jumping over the side. The U.S. Coast Guard search was called off about 36 hours later.

Occasionally it's the result of a crime. In January 2018, Lonnie Loren Kocontes , 62, of Safety Harbor, Florida, was sentenced to life in prison for strangling his ex-wife and throwing her body off a cruise ship in the Mediterranean in 2006 in order to inherit more than $1 million.

That same year a Kansas woman died after  falling from the balcony , but it wasn't an accident. Eric Duane Newman, 55, of Topeka,  pleaded guilty in 2019 to second-degree murder  for strangling Tamara Tucker, 50, of Lawson, Missouri, and pushing her off.

What happens when someone goes overboard on a cruise ship?

The ship goes into emergency mode. The bridge will contact the Coast Guard and a search will begin. The ship will stop and the crew will try to pinpoint where and when it happened so they can start a thorough search in that area.

The captain also will notify other ships in the area who are then obligated to help search.

The ship will keep searching until the Coast Guard clears it to continue its voyage to the next port. The Coast Guard will continue searching, widening the radius of the search based on probable locations, conditions and ocean currents, until they feel they're unlikely to find the person.

What should I do if I see someone go overboard on a cruise ship?

If you see someone fall or jump off a cruise ship, immediately throw them a flotation device if there is one nearby. Life buoys and orange life rings are available throughout the ship. Having something to hang onto increases the person's chances of staying afloat and makes them easier to spot.

Shout out or notify a crew member as soon as you can and note the time so the bridge officers can identify the exact position of the ship at that time. Speed is of the essence. A cruise ship travels miles in a few minutes and does not turn around quickly.

Describe the person as best you can, including how fit they appeared, what they were wearing and if they were holding anything that might float, as all those factors will affect likely survival times .

What should I do if I go overboard on a cruise ship?

Don't panic. Find something that floats, if you can. Treading water can be exhausting in the open ocean

"Even a small buoyant device will help you — something you can use with your arms around or your neck over just to help relieve some of the stress if you're not a great swimmer or you're having a hard time staying afloat," survival expert Cat Bigney told The Insider.

Don't drink any salt water and if you're fortunate enough to have any fresh water with you, conserve it. If you can, pull off some clothing and wrap it around your head to avoid the sun.

If there are floating things around you, such as garbage, collect what you can to make yourself easier to spot. The Coast Guard has an increasing radius to search depending on where they think you are, and anything at all you can to do increase your chances can help.

How many people have gone overboard from a cruise ship?

Not very many as compared to the number of passengers over time. Worldwide, as of 2023, 386 cruise and ferry passengers and crew have gone overboard since 2000, according to a list from CruiseJunkie .

Between 2009 and 2019, there were 212 overboard incidents globally involving passengers and crew, according to  statistics compiled for CLIA  by consulting firm G.P. Wild (International) Limited.

Generally speaking, however, cruises are pretty safe. An estimated 20.4 million people took cruises in 2022, according to statistics site Statista , with signs of higher numbers this year.

Do people die when they go overboard?

Not necessarily. It depends on whether the person was conscious when they went over, if they were injured by the fall or impact with the water, how well they can swim or if they have a flotation device, the sea and weather conditions, the water temperature, and how quickly the crew or the Coast Guard can rescue them. There are also the risks from overexposure, hypothermia, dehydration, and predators.

A 42-year-old woman spent an hour in the water after falling from the 10th deck of the Royal Caribbean International in June but was rescued by the ship's crew.

But unless the person was seen going over or spotted immediately, the odds may be against them. If the ship is moving the person may be rapidly swept away and if the location isn't known a single person's head can be extremely difficult to see in the vast, rolling ocean.

How many people are rescued after falling off a cruise ship?

Of the 212 listed as overboard between 2009 and 2019, only 48 people were rescued.

But miracles do happen. In 2018, a cruise ship worker was rescued when another cruise ship spotted him 22 hours after he went overboard northwest of Cuba, long after the Coast Guard had called off the search.

Contributing: Nathan Diller, USA TODAY

Why falling off a cruise ship is so deadly

falling off cruise ship statistics

A 35-year-old Australian man who fell overboard on his way back to Brisbane. A Louisiana teen who jumped ship on a dare. A 7-year-old boy who died after falling into the ocean, followed by his mother, who tried to save him.

Overboard incidents on cruise ships are incredibly rare. But when they happen, they usually end in death, experts say.

The Coast Guard said last week it had given up on its search for 30-year-old Jaylen Hill, who went overboard during a four-day Carnival Cruise trip from Florida to the Bahamas. It searched more than 1,300 square miles for him.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the Hill family,” the Coast Guard said on Twitter.

Hill was reported missing by a travel companion hours after he was last seen. Experts say such time gaps between a fall and the start of a search are a big part of why overboard incidents are so deadly.

Even if crew members are immediately aware of the incident, it takes the average ship at least a mile to turn around. The ship usually dispatches life boats and alerts authorities, such as the Coast Guard, which may not be close enough to assist, said Ross Klein, a cruise industry researcher and retired professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland. In many cases, ships are not aware that someone has gone overboard until a travel partner reports them missing, which could be hours or days later.

By then, it’s often too late.

“It’s a huge ocean. Just being found at all would be incredible,” Klein said. “The longer you are out there, whether you’re alive or not, the lower the possibility of being recovered. The vast majority of people are gone forever.”

Even in cases where a fall is noticed immediately, a lot can go wrong.

“The fall itself can kill you, a cruise ship engine can suck you underneath the water, fear and anxiety or intoxication could prevent you from swimming — there’s many different scenarios,” said Brett Rivkind, a Miami lawyer who specializes in maritime law and represents families in overboard cases. A person can also become unconscious from hypothermia in as little as 15 minutes , depending on sea temperatures.

At least 386 people were reported to have gone overboard, voluntarily or by accident, from 2000 to 2020, according to data Klein compiled. He began tracking overboard cases in 1995 using media reports, tips, information requests and other methods, later serving as an expert witness before Congress.

“People overboard was an area that hadn’t been studied, and, really, there was no data,” he said. “Even within the industry, they said back in 2012 and 2013 before Congress that they don’t keep track of this.”

While it’s true that tens of millions of people vacation on cruise ships every year without incident, experts say a combination of mitigatable risks and loose safety regulations are contributing to deaths.

In a 2020 study , a professor examined more than 620 cruise deaths from 2000 through the end of 2019. He found that overboard incidents — falling, jumping or being thrown — were the leading cause of death among passengers and crew members, accounting for 23 percent of all deaths.

“It’s a lot more common than people think,” said the professor, Travis Heggie, who tracks tourist deaths around the world at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

Death rates for overboard incidents vary significantly among cruise lines, according to Klein’s calculations, which he said proves more can be done to protect passengers.

Only a handful of cruise lines have installed man-overboard systems, which use sensors or other technology to immediately detect when a person has fallen or jumped off the vessel, Klein said. (The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 requires vessels to “integrate technology” for detecting falls overboard “to the extent that such technology is available,” and some operators have argued that existing technology is not reliable enough yet.)

The safest cruise lines were able to rescue only 40 percent of overboard passengers, and most save far fewer, he said. The rescue rate was as low as 6 percent on at least one cruise line.

7 facts about the world's biggest cruise ship

The amount of alcohol being served on cruise ships is also a concern cited by several experts, who said passengers are being overserved. Alcohol is involved in up to 60 percent of overboard cases, according to Klein, and alcoholic drinks have become one of the leading sources of onboard revenue for cruise lines in recent years.

“Cruise lines make a lot of money serving alcohol,” Rivkind said, “and what they’ve done over the years is, they’ve moved to all-you-can-drink policies. They often allow them to drink as many as 15 alcoholic beverages a day. To me, that’s a big source of the problem.”

Defenders of the industry often characterize cruise ships as a microcosm of a city, with the same problems that come up on land. But Heggie and others disagree.

“Nobody is saying 23 percent of hotel client deaths are from falling off balconies,” he said.

falling off cruise ship statistics

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People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it?

People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it?

On May 12, 2016, Samantha Broberg—a mother of two and stepmother to two more—boarded the Carnival Liberty in Galveston, Texas with two girlfriends.

Here’s what her family has been able to glean about the 33-year-old’s roughly 12 hours  onboard that ship , which has a capacity of over 4,000 passengers and crew, and boasts a rum bar, a tequila bar, and a sports bar, as well as a casino and a Mexican cantina. Broberg—who at 5’5,” weighed 120 lbs—was served 19 drinks, her husband alleges in an ongoing civil suit  (pdf) he brought against Carnival. Just before 2am, after leaving a bar, she climbed onto a deck chair that was pushed up against a railing on the pool deck.

She sat for a few brief moments on the more than 3.5-foot-high railing, with her back to the sea, according to Carnival’s trial brief  (pdf). Then she fell backward into the Gulf of Mexico, a moment that was caught by the vessel’s thermal camera system.

As the night gave way to the early morning, Broberg was simply gone—drifting, sinking, struggling, we’ll never know. Broberg’s friends woke up and reported her missing to cruise staff sometime between 9am, her husband alleges  (pdf), and the “middle of the next day,” according to Carnival’s trial brief. (Carnival declined to comment on this case.)

Samantha Broberg

Carnival staff searched the ship, but it wasn’t until 5pm on Friday, May 13—a full 15 hours after her fall—Broberg’s husband alleges, that Carnival summoned the US Coast Guard (USCG), which launched a search and rescue mission. Broberg was later declared missing and presumed dead. At the Coast Guard’s directive, the Liberty continued on its course.

Of the millions of people like Samantha Broberg who step onto cruise ships each year, few are aware that their personal safety is in the hands of one of the world’s most globalized, legally complex, and opaque industries. While the vast majority will not meet tragic fates like Broberg’s, her story shows how the expectations passengers have about their rights and safety on board a cruise ship do not always match the reality.

Since 2000, 284 people have fallen off cruise ships—and another 41 from large ferries—an average of about 1.5 people per month. The cruise industry says that accidental “falls” don’t happen when passengers are behaving responsibly. And online commenters on cruise forums generally dismiss those who go overboard as drunk, careless, or stupid, and see these events, while unfortunate, as no more than a Darwinian culling of the vacationing population.

And yet, even though a relatively small number of people fall from cruise ships into the sea—and critics of the industry tend to focus more on environmental damage and norovirus outbreaks—man-overboard incidents remain a vexing problem.

Why do people still die as a result of them, despite the fact that technology exists to detect falls? And, after a person is swallowed by the ocean, what power do their loved ones have to find out what happened, hold any guilty parties responsible, or demand reform?

The answers to these questions reveal a cruise industry that is surprisingly unencumbered by the accountability and consumer protection we expect from other industries, combined with poor labor practices that advocates and workers say have driven some crew members to suicide. Most of the nearly 30 million passengers  (pdf) who travel on a cruise each year, roughly a third of them American, are blissfully unaware of this reality. When “man overboard” incidents get tabloid headlines, they’re framed as macabre, bizarre, isolated occurrences—not a problem that an average cruiser needs to worry about.

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“Intentional or reckless”

The cruise industry often claims that cruising at sea is safer than vacationing on land. “Last year, almost 27 (26.7) million people took a cruise holiday, and there were nine overboard incidents involving passengers. This equates to about one incident per seven million passengers,” the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry’s trade organization and lobbying arm, told Quartz in an emailed statement.

Thanks to minimum railing heights of one meter (39 inches) and other structural barriers, CLIA insists that man-overboard incidents (known in the industry as MOBs) are only “a result of an intentional or reckless act” and there are “no known cases of someone acting responsibly who has accidentally fallen over the railing of a cruise ship.”

Indeed, man-overboard incidents don’t happen often enough to deter many passengers from taking a cruise vacation. And yes, it’s true that some incidents are intentional acts.

Because there is no official agency or centralized system for tracking MOBs globally, the most comprehensive data available come from Ross Klein, an academic and author from Memorial University of Newfoundland who has been researching the cruise industry and tracking MOB incidents since 2000. His data —which are what tell us that 325 people have gone over the railings of cruise ships and ferries in the past 18 years—are largely based on local media reports and tips from onboard observers, both crew and passengers, as well as those incidents verified by the cruise lines and authorities. (Klein includes passenger ferries that contain overnight cabins and multi-day itineraries due to the similar dynamics at play onboard, including alcohol service and entertainment for passengers.)

Klein has testified in front of the US Congress four times, and been an expert witness or contributed expert opinions in several court cases, including Broberg’s. Even CLIA, in its 2018 operational incident report—which is assembled by the cruise and maritime management firm GP Wild and tracks “significant cruise industry casualties identified from the public domain”—cites Klein’s data as a source. For the period of 2009 to 2017, that report found 164 MOBs, an average of 18 incidents per year (or, put another way, one to two per month, assuming equal distribution). This figure is not directly comparable to—though also not wildly different from—Klein’s, due to a differing time window, and the fact that GP Wild does not include ferries, nor uncorroborated reports that result from direct tips to Klein.

When the cruise industry says man-overboard incidents are all “intentional or reckless,” the suggestion is that nothing more can really be done to prevent these tragedies. It would be impossible to predict a person committing suicide, or a passenger choosing to climb on a railing, so how can the ship owners be blamed when a person does just that? As Carnival argued in its trial brief in the Broberg case, it was her “own negligence—in becoming intoxicated, climbing up on and sitting on a deck railing, or both—[that] was the cause of her injury.”

But this stance seems to suggest that it’s normal to only safeguard people who are “acting responsibly.” In fact, it’s not hard to come up with examples from modern life (not to mention case law) where safety precautions are meant to protect even those who act foolishly and against their own self interest.

From anti-hazing laws in fraternities, suicide barriers on bridges and other tall structures, and intoxication laws for those operating heavy machinery—authorities do all sorts of things on land to prevent self-inflicted harm or death, and to hold companies and entities responsible if they fail to take measures that could prevent such harm from happening. Furthermore, laws concerning the service or sale of alcohol on land in the US and other countries can hold a business or person liable for serving a visibly intoxicated person alcohol, if that person goes on to cause the injury or death of a third party.

In the global cruise industry, one or two people are statistically likely to fall overboard from a cruise ship each month, and somewhere between 17% and 25% are rescued (according to Klein’s data and GP Wild’s, respectively). The percentage rescued might be significantly higher, advocates say, if cruise ships were to adopt a relatively new technology that would set off an immediate automated alert any time a person goes overboard. Of course, such alerts—and the likely false positives that would crop up in any such automated system—would also force ships to launch more search-and-rescue missions, potentially disrupting itineraries for thousands of paying passengers, and causing cascading expenses and hassles for cruise companies.

That a cruise passenger’s statistical likelihood of dying as a result of an MOB is very low cannot be denied. But Michael Lloyd—a former sea captain with 50 years at sea, and now a marine-safety consultant, victims’ advocate, and cruise industry critic—posited a useful thought experiment. He asked me, as a journalist covering the travel industry, to imagine what would happen if, every month, one to two people died on an airplane for a predictable operational reason, such as sustaining a traumatic head injury during turbulence due to failure to wear a seatbelt. It’s a scenario I find impossible to imagine, after years of flight-safety demonstrations, seatbelt checks, and back-of-the-seat cards.

“The airlines have got it absolutely right,” Lloyd says. “There is a clear chain of command that passengers follow, so safety measures are obeyed. Aircraft rarely ditch into the water and yet, the planes still carry life jackets and they still demonstrate them every time you get on a plane. That’s down to a difference in attitude towards safety and shows just how far the marine industry is still behind.”

There’s also the fact that, as journalist and former airline pilot William Langewiesche hauntingly wrote in Vanity Fair  of the sinking of a US-flagged cargo ship in 2015, “disasters at sea do not get the public attention that aviation accidents do, in part because the sea swallows the evidence.”

Image for article titled People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it?

The moment of impact

Even though Broberg’s fall was captured on thermal camera, that camera footage was only viewed hours later, after her friends figured out she was missing. The system that captured her backwards topple did not alert the ship’s crew, or stop the ship to attempt to rescue her from the water.

Had it done so, it might have made a difference. Any search-and-rescue mission will be reliant on an approximation of the victim’s location. But if someone falls overboard without being seen, as Broberg did, “there is little chance of survival,” according to captain Lloyd.

Indeed, though most cruise ships have video surveillance equipment installed, someone has to be monitoring those images at all times to know if a person has gone overboard—no easy feat on a mega-ship carrying thousands of people. A so-called “complete” MOB-detection system eliminates the need for a human to witness the incident in real time, either in person or on a CCTV screen. It does this by installing a network of sensors (including radar, infrared, and/or video) designed to detect when a body has fallen overboard. It then sends an automated alert to crew, who can immediately view roughly 10 seconds of footage from the triggered location on the ship to see if a search-and-rescue mission should be launched (or if it was a false alarm triggered by a seagull or wave).

So why did the Carnival Liberty  apparently have no such a system installed to detect Broberg’s fall? In its only comment for this story, Carnival told Quartz that “All of our ships have man overboard cameras and for several years now our company has been testing man overboard alarm systems. Historically these systems have been unreliable, generating a significant number of false alarms. The technology has been gradually improving and we continue to actively test it on our vessels.”

Moreover, Carnival was not required to have a complete MOB-detection system installed. Section three of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act ( pdf )—a landmark piece of legislation passed by US Congress in 2010 to regulate the cruise industry—requires that cruise vessels which embark or disembark in US ports “shall integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers or detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.” Language in earlier versions of the bill did not allow cruise lines to choose between image capture or overboard detection technology. But thanks to wording change—one that, according to Klein, cruise industry lobbyists pressed for—vessels which only install video surveillance are not breaking the law. (CLIA did not respond to a request for comment on the question of lobbying for this change.)

The US Coast Guard, which is responsible for policing cruise ships when they are in US waters, as well as enforcing the CVSSA, confirmed this reading of the law. It’s worth noting, as some critics have , that several US Coast Guard officials have gone on to work in high-ranking CLIA posts after retirement. CLIA did not respond for comment on this matter.

On the whole, the cruise industry has argued that the complete MOB technology is not yet advanced enough to be used. That said, cruise lines remain vague when it comes the status of MOB-detection technology on their ships. While some cruise lines have mentioned installations of this technology in  media reports , an evidence submission  to the Coast Guard, and a press release , those lines declined to discuss specifics when asked by Quartz. In the reporting of this story, nearly every cruise line contacted—other than Royal Caribbean, the CEO of which I interviewed aboard the Azamara Pursuit on Aug. 29–declined to comment on the status of MOB technology on its own lines, instead preferring CLIA to speak for them.

CLIA says that despite testing, “few systems have shown practical application on a cruise ship sailing the high seas.” Meanwhile, Richard Fain, the CEO of Royal Caribbean, says his “understanding is the tech is not yet at a viable stage. Like many areas of technology, the promise is often better than the actuality today … You do need technology to work. And actually work in real life, not in a laboratory and not in a sales brochure.”

In 2016, after the US Coast Guard asked for a status update on MOB-detection technology, three commercial providers submitted evidence detailing the efficacy of their systems. The best-known of these systems is the MARSS MOBtronic , which has been commercially available since 2012 and is currently in use on one cruise ship and in development on another (MARSS did not reveal which cruise lines use its technology). It’s also used on mega yachts and commercial ships, according to the company, and soon will be deployed on New Zealand’s navy ships.

Using radars and infrared cameras, the company says its system has been shown two false positives per week on average (which it notes is low compared to other systems) and has been tested extensively in all maritime conditions. MARSS senior vice president of research Alberto Baldacci told Quartz that all installations of the system “have been successful and the clients have shown high appreciation for our technology,” though he notes no real-life MOB incidents have yet occurred on vessels using the system.

Image for article titled People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it?

For cruise industry critics who want to see these systems installed across the entire industry, there is a glimmer of hope. The International Organization of Standardization (ISO) has been working with stakeholders in the industry—including Klein, cruise safety advocates, and CLIA—to establish a non-binding global standard for how these systems should work and be installed. The finalized standard is due in 2019 and, while it will remain entirely voluntary even once finalized, it will in theory provide best practices for companies looking to install this tech.

The US Coast Guard told Quartz that “once the final ISO standard is promulgated, the Coast Guard will use that standard as the basis to draft enforceable regulations” in the US. Meanwhile, MARSS says its system is already compliant with a draft version of the standard—and falls well under the ISO’s maximum false positive rate of one per day on average—based on independent testing done by its clients.

Rob Griffiths, vice president of maritime policy for CLIA, told Quartz that before this standard is finalized, false positives arising in real maritime conditions remain an issue.

“CLIA member lines continue to conduct pilot programs with this novel technology and while some of these systems do show early promise, without an international standard and the associated testing protocols, it’s difficult to fully and adequately evaluate the systems,” Griffiths said.

According to various manufacturers, the cost of such a system is between $300,000 and $500,000 per vessel—a significant expense, but less prohibitive when you consider that a 1,000-foot-plus mega-ship costs upwards of  $1 billion  (paywall) to build. Installing a system fleet-wide would be an expense in the tens of millions for the large companies. But in the absence of enforced regulation, Klein says, “why spend money they don’t have to?”

Of course, automatic MOB technology could also trigger other costs for cruise companies. It’s easy to see how automated alarms—recording real MOBs and occasional false positives—could result in significant disruption to ship itineraries and tours, and routing and port delays, as well as missed flights and other inconveniences for passengers upon their return to land. (While cruise ships do sometimes participate in search and rescue missions, whether or not to so is often a calculation based on how far they’ve traveled since the incident, as well as guidance from authorities.) The financial consequences to cruise lines of this happening once or twice a month—and more, perhaps, with false positives—could certainly add up.

Robert Gardana, the lawyer for Broberg’s husband—who spoke to Quartz broadly about MOB technology, but not the specifics of the case he is trying—argues that cruise ships shouldn’t wait until a law and corresponding regulation from the Coast Guard force them to implement what he says is clearly life-saving technology; the companies should install it voluntarily, or do it in response to litigation.

There is some precedent for this happening in other industries, such as chainsaw manufacturers, Gardana points out: “Over the years, certain protections like chain-breaks have been added to chainsaws to diminish that potential risk of human-tissue injuries—which is something the chainsaw industry did on its own; it wasn’t forced to by way of regulation.”

There’s a reason they’re called “booze cruises”

James Walker is a Miami-based maritime lawyer who represented the cruise lines as a defense attorney until 1997, when he had what he calls a crisis of conscience  and started representing crew, passengers, and other people affected by cruise-ship crimes and accidents. He’s also the author of  a widely read blog  where he closely tracks and critiques the industry. Walker says that in all the conversation about preventing MOB incidences, there is an unwillingness from the cruise lines to acknowledge their role in one obvious cause: “The fact that [people have] gone overboard because they are intoxicated from consuming the cruise line’s alcohol.”

It’s hard to say how many MOB incidents involve alcohol. There is no centralized reporting mechanism and cruise lines are not required to divulge this information to anyone. Of course, there is also rarely a body to recover, autopsy, and determine what an individual’s blood alcohol level was when they fell, jumped, or were pushed.

Klein’s data only includes a relatively small number where alcohol was definitively confirmed as a cause. But he emphasizes that those are only cases where media could confirm intoxication prior to the incident. Given that media reports are often based on information provided by the cruise lines, he notes that this number likely under-represents the role of alcohol.

Broberg’s husband’s complaint alleges that “there is a direct correlation between Carnival’s over-service of alcohol and falling overboard, particularly in the early morning hours, after the cruise ship’s casino and other bars close.” It also charges that Carnival failed to follow its own procedures when it comes to an already-intoxicated passenger, which include refusing further service and escorting them back to their stateroom with an hour of supervision. Carnival argues in its trial brief that Broberg’s status as a “functional alcoholic” who had a “drinking problem, but could maintain the appearance of sobriety” meant her highly intoxicated state was concealed from crew members, so they couldn’t follow the protocol they are trained to carry out per Carnival’s Responsible Alcohol Service Manual.

It’s no accident that drinking is so central to life on board a cruise ship. Cruises have their roots in the “booze cruises” of the Prohibition era, according to Kristoffer Garin’s book about the history of the American cruise industry, Devils on the Deep Blue Sea : “The destination didn’t much matter, as long as the ship carried French champagne, Scotch whiskey, and Jamaican rum.”

From a business perspective, there’s also little incentive for the cruising companies to curb alcoholic indulgence. Each of the big three lines—Carnival Corporation & plc, Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd, and Norwegian Cruise Lines—made between 26% and 30% of its 2017 revenue on drinks and extras sold onboard, according to their annual reports. One can surmise that is at least part of the reason guests are rarely allowed to bring their own booze —and why cruise enthusiasts spend so much time online dissecting the best drink packages, including popular  all-you-can-drink options.

But the fact that man-overboard incidents happen an average of 18 times per year on cruise ships—and that some of them involve alcohol, as Broberg’s case does—points to a predictable risk on seafaring vessels that are designed to provide a booze-soaked good time.

“You’ve got passengers coming on a cruise ship…. they’re in an unfamiliar environment, they don’t know the rules, they don’t know safety, they’re naïve,” Klein says. “And then the first thing you do is they start plying you with alcohol. There’s no warnings around the railing. There is no alert to people about watching their alcohol consumption because it makes you vulnerable to crime.”

The main purpose of these ships is clear: “ Choose fun ” is Carnival’s slogan. Norwegian’s is “ Feel free .” That’s all well and good, but captain Lloyd says the cruise industry’s approach goes against centuries of maritime tradition, in which safety is the main priority, and the operational crew of the ship—not the entertainment and hotel side—is seen as the ultimate authority. He says the cruise industry’s emphasis on “fun” necessarily makes providing top customer service, and a good time for vacationers, its main priorities.

“The rise of the modern ‘hotel’ cruise ships is something fundamentally different than what we had seen at sea before,” Lloyd says. “It was as if the ships were becoming part of Las Vegas rather than part of the sea. We saw this shift, and then the operational officers and crew of the ship [became] subservient to the hotel staff, who were seen as the money-makers.”

Norwegian declined to reply to questions sent in regards to this story. Carnival did not directly respond to questions about the role of alcohol in MOB incidents. CLIA said ”however uncommon, CLIA cruise lines take seriously the possibility of guests engaging in unauthorized risky activity that could lead to them going overboard,” and is testing systems to detect when that’s happening, as well as enhancing crew training.

Royal Caribbean told Quartz that the cruise line’s “staff is trained in ‘safe serve’ practices and we have strict guest conduct policies to discourage overconsumption.” It added: “we see no evidence that these incidents are more prevalent than they are in the general population.”

Looking for help in a company town

Let’s say you’re on a mega cruise ship, one designed to hold 5,000 or 6,000 passengers—plus around 1,000 to 2,000 crew. Then, your travel companion goes missing. What do you do? Of course, you turn to the ship’s security team. Which is to say: You turn to a multinational company that is rightly concerned about maintaining its reputation for offering fun, safe vacations for families.

When you step onto a cruise ship, you arrive in a floating city of a few hundred to a few thousand souls that has no independent law enforcement on board. Once you set sail and pass into international waters, your rights are different from where you live, where you booked the trip, and where the brand you bought your ticket from is headquartered. In the event of any wrongdoing, crime, or foul play on board, passengers’ first points of contact are employees of the cruise line. In other words: You are looking for help in what is essentially a company town.

With MOBs or serious crimes, of course law enforcement authorities are supposed to be alerted. But once the cruise line escalates the matter, who is in charge? Often, it’s the legal and justice system of a country most of the travelers have never set foot in. Thanks to several centuries of maritime law culminating in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which was signed in 1982 and ratified by 167 states, jurisdiction in international waters—also called “the high seas”—broadly lies with the flag state, or the nation where the ship is registered. Questions of labor, environment, and safety are also determined by the flag state. Should an incident happen while a vessel is sitting in a port, jurisdiction would lie with the port state, and cruise lines often report incidents that occur on the high seas to law enforcement in their next port of call, as well as to their ship’s flag state.

Image for article titled People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it?

Together, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian comprise nearly 80% of the cruise industry  (paywall). And for the millions of travelers who climb aboard one of the big three cruise lines each year, there is a fair likelihood that the Bahamas, Panama, Bermuda, or Malta are in charge of their fate on the high seas. According to a database compiled by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2016, 70% of cruise ships are registered in these nations, commonly called “open registries” or “ flags of convenience ,” as ship owners needn’t have any meaningful tie to the nation to flag their ship there. The flag states also benefit from this arrangement, in the form of registration fees and tonnage tax from cruise companies who flag their ships there.

US maritime laws and vessel requirements are much more stringent than those of, say, Bermuda or Panama—it’s no coincidence that only one large passenger cruise ship, Norwegian’s Pride of America ,  is currently registered in the US. This is despite the fact that Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Carnival all have their corporate headquarters in Miami, Florida, giving the impression that they are tried-and-true American brands. Presumably for tax purposes, these lines are incorporated in Liberia, Bermuda, and Panama respectively.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO)—a specialized agency of the UN—develops the standards and regulations that are expected of flag states who have signed onto UNCLOS, as well as other maritime safety treaties. CLIA frequently notes , as it did to Quartz, that it experiences “robust enforcement” from the IMO. But there is actually no entity which polices whether or not flag states enforce these IMO regulations on the vessels they register. In other words, the IMO can’t prevent a flag state from continuing to register ships, even if that state is failing to uphold the standards and regulations that the IMO establishes.

This leads to a situation where, in terms of cruise-ship safety and enforcement, “you’re only as strong as your flag state,” says Dr. Richard Caddell, director of the maritime law program at Cardiff University. “I think the flag of convenience states have improved considerably in many respects, but a high proportion of maritime casualties, especially involving massive pollution incidents, are still often registered to a flag of convenience.”

CLIA, Norwegian, and Carnival did not respond to questions about flag of convenience registries. Royal Caribbean told Quartz that ”the cruise industry is heavily regulated in numerous jurisdictions” and that it works “closely with regulatory authorities to improve safety laws, and regularly participate[s] in discussions and studies to advance industry best practices.” It added that it is compliant with all CVSSA requirements, regardless of where a vessel sails, and that its ships are regularly inspected by flag and port state authorities.

A floating city with no police

Cruise ships position themselves as carefree bastions of fun, with cocktails at every turn. Put another way, though, a cruise ship is a “floating city with no police,” which is how one advocate for cruise-ship safety, Kendall Carver, describes them. “If you had a town with 4,000 people, orientated around bars and drinking, without any presence of law enforcement, would you expect more things to go wrong than in the next town over?”

In 2006, Carver founded the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV). For him, the cause is personal: In 2004, Carver’s 40-year-old daughter Merrian went missing from the Celebrity Cruises ship  Mercury  (owned by Royal Caribbean) while on a cruise to Alaska. Though a crew member reported her missing while the cruise was underway, Carver alleges his daughter’s disappearance was not reported to the FBI or to her family, who didn’t even know she had booked a cruise.

According to Carver, when police finally traced Merrian Carver’s whereabouts to the ship via a credit-card receipt, it took Royal Caribbean three days to confirm she had even been on the ship. By the time police had confirmation, 28 days had passed since she was last seen. And nearly 15 years later, after subpoenas, private investigators, and much anguish, her family still has has no idea what happened to her.

Royal Caribbean told Quartz that, in reference to the Carver case, “the FBI concluded there was no evidence of foul play in the disappearance and several court rulings dismissed any claims against the company. Our guests’ safety and security has always, and continues to be, our first priority.”

Carver, who received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Policy Award from the US Justice Department in 2017 for his advocacy work, decided to press for change in the industry at large. ”If someone has told me when we started off what was involved with this subject,” Carver told me in August, “I wouldn’t have believed them.”

Image for article titled People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it?

It’s true that millions of people go on cruise ships each year, so it’s statistically probable that some things will go wrong on board. Cases like Carver’s and other high-profile disappearances,  have obsessed a corner of the internet and media for years. Did they jump? Were they pushed? Did they just walk off the ship? Did they fall victim to human trafficking?

Despite the mystery and morbid intrigue, CLIA often points to a 2017 analysis  (pdf) carried out for the industry group, which found that reports of three crime categories—homicide, sexual assault/forcible rape, and aggravated assault—are much lower on cruise ships than on land.

It’s important to note that the crime data analyzed only included statistics for crimes committed on ships that are required to report per the US’s CVSSA, the same piece of legislation that governs MOB technology. Among other provisions, the law requires that cruise lines report any of nine crimes —homicide, suspicious death, a missing US national, kidnapping, and assault with serious bodily injury among them—as soon as possible to the FBI when an American citizen is involved, regardless of where the crime occurred. (Thanks to a wording loophole in the CVSSA, another piece of legislation had to be passed in 2014—tacked onto a Coast Guard funding bill—to make sure that reporting meaningfully happened.)

But cruise lines are not required to report crime and incident data for all passengers, crew, and across all lines, jurisdictions, and territories to any one authority or body. Instead, incidents are reported piecemeal to individual flag states and port states where required. The same is true of the maritime shipping industry at large, which is why it’s hard to find reliable accounting of MOBs in other shipping sectors. CLIA, when asked if it would support a centralized reporting system, did not respond.

CLIA notes that in addition to being compliant with IMO standards and the CVSSA’s requirements—the latter including providing information to guests about their rights onboard a foreign-flagged vessel, and having a crew member trained in crime prevention and evidence collection on board—a victim’s home country has “full authority to investigate” in the event of a crime. However, that still requires the crime be reported in a timely manner and that an initial investigation be carried out by cruise-line employees in a way that preserves any evidence for independent officials. It also requires that concurrent jurisdiction be negotiated by the victim’s home country with the flag state, as well as the port state where the ship next docked.

And it’s not unheard of for all this to happen while the ship—and the floating crime scene on board—sticks to a tightly scheduled itinerary. CLIA, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival did not respond when asked how often cruise vessels divert their itineraries to accommodate flag or port state investigations.

Because of the complexity, some of these mysteries remain unsolved, and some victim’s families say the cruise lines aren’t doing enough to find answers—or even that they jump to conclusions that fly in the face of evidence. Among the aggrieved is the family of Nathan Skokan, aged 22 at the time of his death.

In public announcements onboard the Independence of the Seas following Skokan’s MOB—as well as in a press release and media statements made immediately after—Royal Caribbean said that Skokan had jumped overboard intentionally.

His family disputes this. In a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean, in which a jury trial began on Dec. 10, Skokan’s parents alleged that  in his last 12 hours onboard the ship (pdf), he was served six martinis, at least seven vodkas, two vodkas mixed with Red Bull, and one cognac. They also allege that Royal Caribbean had already been told by eyewitnesses that the fall was not intentional when it made the announcement, and that a crew member had seen Skokan extremely intoxicated just 20 minutes before his death.

In their suit, the Skokan family argues that Royal Caribbean prematurely and inaccurately called their son’s MOB in December 2016 an intentional act, adding to their trauma and anguish. Paul Hoffman, the Skokan family’s lawyer, reached by Quartz, declined to comment on behalf of his clients due to the ongoing trial. Royal Caribbean also declined to comment on a case still before the court.

The labor below

Vacationers like Broberg and Skokan aren’t the only people who plunge overboard on cruise ships. According to CLIA’s operational incident report, between 2009 and 2017, there were 43 MOB crew fatalities. Between 1995 and the first half 2017, 23% of MOBs were crew, according to Ross Klein’s data (this percentage was prepared by Klein for a legal case, which is why the date range goes back to 1995). So far in 2018, he has counted seven crew MOBs, with one of those resulting in a rescue.

UNCLOS’s flag-state structure not only determines passengers’ rights, but the labor conditions of those who work onboard. Jacqueline Smith is a maritime coordinator from the International Trade Federation (ITF), a group of trade unions representing transport workers, including cruise ship workers. She says “the ‘veil of secrecy’ and lack of legislation or the willingness from the flag state to enforce legislation make it easier for companies that register their vessels in FoC [flag of convenience] registers to exploit seafarers.”

It’s standard practice for cruise ship employees to sign contracts that commit them to three, six, or nine months of working seven days a week. Employment contracts that force arbitration in the event of any injury, mishap, or wrongful death—thereby limiting the compensation they are entitled to—are also commonly used.

CLIA and Carnival did not comment on any questions regarding labor practices on cruise ships. Royal Caribbean told Quartz that in addition to abiding by all applicable International Labour Organization (ILO) standards for seafarers and negotiating crew contracts through collective bargaining with international unions, “all of our shipboard employees are provided with free room and board during service onboard, mandatory rest hours, medical coverage, sick pay, and disability pay, compensation in the event of death in service, a retirement plan and many other benefits.” It added that all onboard standards are agreed with industry bodies including seafarers’ trade unions.

A large majority of cruise ship employees is hired from the Philippines—which accounts for roughly a third of cruise ship labor—and other poor countries. But as  Walker writes , “few Americans seem concerned with the working conditions on cruise ships faced by citizens of the greater world community.” Meanwhile, Americans, British, Australians, and other employees from wealthier nations tend to have  customer-facing roles , such as on-board entertainers and events leaders, and work shorter hours than their below-deck colleagues (a pattern mirrored in the US restaurant industry ).

Image for article titled People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it?

One longtime cruise ship worker from the Philippines, who spoke to Quartz on the condition of anonymity, helps moderate a private Facebook group for Filipinos working or looking for work in the industry, with more than 110,000 members. He says while provisions like the ILO’s Maritime Labor Convention, which went into effect in 2013, have helped improve life onboard, there are still plenty of realities that crew often need help adjusting to when they sign up for a job on a ship. Long hours, working seven days per week, the stress of high performance, being away from family, managers who abuse their power (particularly with female crew), and working amidst constant motion are among the stresses he has heard workers complain of.

While pre-ship medical evaluations to screen for mental health are standard, the cruise ship worker said, ”If you’re hit by depression and too much stress from [your] working environment, it can create emotional stress.”

Another former cruise ship employee from the Philippines, who says he completed seven cruise ship contracts in the galley and hotel side, said in a Facebook comment: “Working on a cruise ship, especially an American cruise ship is like a hell, especially in the galley…eight- to nine-month contracts no days off, man you need to be mentally tough or else you might end up in depression that could end up in disappointments and lead to suicide.” Reached via Facebook, he says he now works in a tanker ship, where he has found better conditions.

It’s hard to know for sure how many crew MOBs are a result of intentional acts or suicide. And of course, enough people work on cruise ships that it’s statistically probable some of them might commit suicide even if they never stepped on board. But Walker argues that there is little consideration of the fact that these harsh labor conditions might be leading  some to jump .

For example, in 2017 a 24-year-old crew member from Mauritius who worked as a pool cleaner allegedly jumped off Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas . Though the CCTV did not capture the moment he fell, the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA)—who, as the flag state’s naval authority, conducted the  investigation  (pdf)—alleges he jumped from a blind spot on deck four. The BMA also revealed that roughly seven hours passed from the time he jumped to the time he was reported missing by his supervisor. Another three hours elapsed before a search of the ship was conducted and the US Coast Guard notified.

Though it reported the incident, Royal Caribbean said in the report that it did not know whether the Coast Guard conducted a search-and-rescue mission. In addition, the report suggests no medical records were available on board to determine if the crew member had underlying mental-health conditions. Royal Caribbean told Quartz it reported the incident to the proper authorities and does not comment on employee medical records. The Bahamas Maritime Authority’s only suggestion in its report was that “a review of possible impediments to all cameras should be made and rectified where found.”

Walker says this is typical, noting that thorough investigations into MOBs that involve crew don’t happen often enough and that when they do, they rarely address the underlying issues of mental health that many crew members may be facing. And to that end, there have been numerous calls on popular crew center websites and petitions to put psychologists on board cruise ships to provide mental health support to crew.

However, Royal Caribbean told Quartz that it does not agree with the claim that there is a lack of mental health support for crew, leading to suicides. “Mental health issues are difficult anywhere in society and we see no evidence that these tragedies are more prevalent than they are in the general population.” It added that medical care for crew includes referrals to specialists where required. CLIA and Carnival declined to comment.

A way forward

It bears repeating that not many people each year fall overboard on cruise ships. But some do, month after month. There was another incident just last week in which a 26-year-old man went overboard in the Florida Keys, one of at least three MOBs in the last month, including a 69-year-old Dutch woman  discovered missing in Martinique and a 27-year-old British crew member  lost in Mexican waters. In each of these cases, the person’s absence was only discovered several hours after they disappeared.

The familiar pattern of circumstances that tends to surround these incidents begs a question: What responsibility do corporations have in the process of optimizing their business models to become multibillion-dollar floating profit machines? While companies may be able to explain away how one person, or two, or even 100 people end up in the water—at what point does a low statistical likelihood become an imperative to make a change?

And then there is the reality faced by loved ones of the deceased. Unlike in a plane crash , families like Broberg’s are limited in the amount of damages they can claim in a wrongful death suit when the death occurred on the high seas, insulating the cruise lines from any major financial fallout resulting from MOBs.

As Walker told me earlier this year , “there is very little, if any, legal or financial accountability of the cruise lines when a passenger dies in international waters.” If a suit is filed in the US, it’s subject to the Death on the High Seas Act, under which surviving descendants of a maritime fatality can only claim for “pecuniary damages,” such as funeral expenses and lost wages the deceased individual might have earned, but not suffering or loss of companionship. This has prevented cruise lines from, say, being liable for the deaths of non-earning children who drown in their pools .

For cruise passengers on cruises that don’t visit US ports, the Athens Convention , passed in 1974 and revised in 2002, limits liability for death or personal injury to roughly $350,000 per case (in some cases, it can go up to roughly $550,000). What’s more, long contracts , filled with legalese, which cruise passengers agree to when they buy their ticket, can limit cruise lines’ liability even further; in the case of Costa Concordia disaster—which killed 32 people—the cruise line’s contract stated it would pay no more than $71,000 per passenger in cases of death and personal injury.

There are some avenues for change. US congresswoman Doris Matsui from California was an original co-sponsor of the CVSSA, and in 2017 proposed bipartisan legislation to further strengthen that bill, known as the Cruise Passenger Protection Act. Among other measures, the act would amend the clause pertaining to man-overboard technology to say that cruise lines must implement complete MOB-detection tech, not just image-capture. It would also entitle a deceased individual’s family to claim full compensation, similar to aviation accidents .

Other measures that the cruise lines themselves could implement themselves include providing a “specific verbal briefing concerning MOB procedures,” which was the suggestion of one coroner in Australia during an inquest into the death of two passengers in the Tasman Sea on the Carnival Spirit in 2013. In addition, Lloyd notes that plexiglass railings could be used, rather than ones that are easy to climb, as Broberg did. Written signage could alert passengers of high-risk areas where people have fallen overboard before.

Cruisers, for their part, are also starting to demand change; some cruise enthusiasts are beginning to encourage cruisers to ask cruise lines why, if this tech is available and MOBs continue to happen, it’s not being installed, especially on newer ships.

Klein says that in addition to the cost, cruise lines’ unwillingness to implement common-sense measures to reduce the likelihood of MOBs could come down to the fact that doing so would involve admitting they happen on a semi-predictable basis.

“Cruise lines argue these events are not foreseeable,” says Klein. “Logically, if they take steps to ameliorate the risk of going overboard, they admit foreseeability, which may introduce greater liability for their failure in reasonable duty of care.”

And of course, those steps would require cruise lines to actively remind passengers that amid all that fun and freedom, there’s also risk—to acquaint them with the terrifying truth that every so often, a carefree cruise vacation turns into an unimaginable maritime tragedy.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said MARSS MOBtronic will be installed on a US Navy ship. It will in fact be on New Zealand Navy ships.

The US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. For a list of international numbers, please see here .

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Cruise lines have regulations in place to prevent passengers from falling overboard.

Scared of Falling Off a Cruise Ship? Here's What You Should Know.

Despite recent reports, cruise ships are still a safe way to vacation.

Some might consider cruise ships havens, where passengers can destress freely and there's always something on tap. Still, although extremely rare, bad things can happen on them.

On April 12, crewmembers began a frantic search after choppy conditions tossed a woman from a P & O cruise liner . The ship, called Pacific Dawn , halted as fast as possible and turned around to search for her. Although the crew alerted other ships in the area, the search continues, as the woman has not been found.

Since 2000, reports say roughly 300 people on cruise ships have fallen overboard . There were 17 cases in 2017 and so far in 2018, there have been five.

These stats are low, considering the number of passengers on cruise ships has increased—today, more than 20 million people take cruises each year . All things considered, a fear of going overboard shouldn’t be an excuse to not take a cruise.

Safety First

Falling overboard is one of the rarest events that can happen on cruise ships , and there are specific safety standards in place to reduce the risk. High railings on public decks prevent passengers from getting blown or swept off accidentally, and security cameras record what’s going on in public places. There’s no official detection system for people who fall overboard quite yet, but the Coast Guard reportedly has technology in the works .

Overboard incidents are most commonly reckless or deliberate accidents induced by drunkenness. But cruise ship bartenders are trained to see when someone has had too much to drink and, like on land, they will stop serving them. Cruise ships also have on-board physicians and security officers to monitor people who might be at risk.

Too much alcohol consumption can also exacerbate conditions like bipolar disorder and depression. A small percentage of overboard situations are the result of suicides or foul play. Even when patrons have fallen overboard, crewmembers can circle the ship around to save them if they’ve been notified in a timely manner.

Aside from patrons falling overboard, other deaths take place aboard cruise ships , but they often don’t get as much attention. But of those deaths, most are of elderly passengers. The odds of dying on a cruise ship are roughly 1 in 6.25 million . It's much more dangerous to drive in a car, where the odds of dying in a crash are about 1 in 645 .

On a cruise ship, one of the biggest risks isn’t falling off—it’s the spread of diseases. Contact with ship railing, bathroom doors, and open food buffets can quickly spread contagious viruses like norovirus , which plagued hundreds aboard a Royal Caribbean International cruise in 2014.

Related: These Places Deserve More Travelers

Maletsunyane Falls in the Semonkong Maseru District, Lesotho

To prevent the spread of disease, some liners will sanitize railings, handles, and other objects with virus-killing alcohol. The best protection against gastrointestinal disease is to wash your hands and avoid contact with potentially infected people.

Cruising Along

In terms of falling overboard, river cruises are safer than their open water counterparts. River ships are smaller than traditional ocean liners , so the chances of a deadly fall are slimmer. (Smaller cruises also make it less likely to contract viruses.) River cruises also go on much tamer waters , and they sail closer to the shore.

Out of all the vacation options out there, cruise ships are still among the safest .


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What Happens When Someone Falls Off a Cruise Ship

By Elissa Garay

A cruise ship deck.

All products featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Most cruisers have been there: While sipping a frothy cocktail out on deck, you peek over the railing to behold the power of the ocean and ship's wake below, and can't help but entertain a split second of anguish in your otherwise blissful cruise vacation . My goodness, you think, What would happen if somebody actually fell off this thing? Luckily, for the overwhelming majority of cruisers who hit the high seas every year, the answer to that nightmare cruising scenario rarely requires answering. However, when such tragedy strikes—and hits the headlines—we can't help but shudder at the thought of it. Here, we've looked at the stats and spoken to industry experts for insight into the hows and whys behind a man-overboard incident, what the real risks are, and how the cruise industry handles it.

How often does somebody go overboard?

According to statistics compiled on , which documents man-overboard occurrences on passenger cruise ships and ferries, there were 27 worldwide cases in 2015, 16 in 2016, and—off to a disturbingly strong start as compared to last year—11 to date for 2017. Considering that more than 24.6 million passengers cruised last year, this is hardly an epidemic: Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry's leading trade organization, cited man-overboard episodes occurring at a rate of about 1 per 1.3 million passengers.

Still, founder and Memorial University of Newfoundland professor Ross Klein cautions that the numbers shouldn't be dismissed, and may actually be higher since they aren't always reported by the cruise companies or media. He explains, "I suspect most passenger disappearances on ships frequenting U.S. ports are reported, but I don’t have the same confidence around disappearances in other parts of the world, and especially not with regard to the disappearance of crew members."

Why does anybody fall overboard?

"I think the word 'falling' is a misnomer," suggests Klein. "People don’t normally fall overboard," he says, adding, "Some might jump—there is a proportion of cases known to be suicide—and some are pushed or thrown overboard." Michael McGarry, CLIA's senior vice president of public affairs, agrees, noting that cases are "nearly always found to be the unfortunate result of intentional or reckless acts." Indeed, irresponsible behavior brought on by alcohol intoxication is the most commonly cited culprit, though, in many cases, the circumstances are simply unknown, given that there is frequently a lack of witnesses and evidence to turn to.

The vast majority of cruise ships still rely solely on more primitive means to document cruise ship falls: eyewitness accounts and unmonitored surveillance cameras.

Do cruise ships do enough to prevent people from going overboard?

Chris Gray Faust, senior editor at , emphasizes, "Cruise lines want passengers to be safe, and they focus a great deal on helping to ensure that." Indeed, lines outfit their ships with features designed to prevent such occurrences, including minimum railing and balcony heights, though some industry critics feel that alcohol limits could be better imposed by a more carefully trained staff.

Miami-based maritime attorney and industry watchdog Jim Walker laments that apart from Disney Cruise Line, major cruise companies have avoided integrating the state-of-the-art "man-overboard detection systems" that are out on the market today. Citing high-tech features like radar, motion sensors, infrared technology, tracking capabilities, and alarms, Walker explains that these potentially life-saving systems "seem to be readily available, they seem to be reliable, and they seem to be long overdue." Walker chalks up cruise line "penny-pinching" for the lack of implementation, while the CLIA has argued that these systems' effectiveness in a wide range of sea conditions has not been sufficiently proven.

As such, the vast majority of cruise ships still rely solely on more primitive means to document cruise ship falls: eyewitness accounts and unmonitored surveillance cameras. However, the pending congressional legislation of the Cruise Passenger Protection Act , requiring more stringent interpretation of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010's ambiguous clause on necessitating man-overboard detection systems, may soon change that.

no smoking sign and seatbelt sign illuminated on a plane

How prepared are cruise ships if somebody does go overboard?

When a man-overboard situation arises, cruise lines employ an established emergency protocol (following recommendations from the International Maritime Association), though precise procedures depend on whether the fall was witnessed or discovered after the fact. If it’s the former, the bridge will be notified, the emergency crew mustered, and life preservers thrown out to mark the spot where the person went down. The ship is then repositioned to return to the point of the incident, while a lifeboat is readied. Challenging search-and-rescue operations ensue, which may include the aid of other area ships, while the U.S. Coast Guard or other local authorities may send in planes or helicopters to help scan the waters.

Time is of the essence. If the fall or jump is not observed and immediately reported (which is most frequently the case), there is considerably less chance of the rescue being successful, leaving cruise lines dependent on reviewing closed-circuit camera footage. There is no pre-set limit to how long the search will last, however; in general, as long as there is hope, the search will continue.

What are the chances of surviving a cruise ship fall?

Sadly, most cases—an estimated 85 to 90 percent—end in death. Sea survival expert Mike Tipton, a University of Portsmouth professor and co-author of Essentials of Sea Survival , notes that variables like the height of the fall (which could lead to trauma from hitting a part of the ship), the temperature of the ocean, and the sea state and weather conditions (including visibility) all factor into the probability of survival, along with rescue team response time and the passenger's own mental state and swimming capabilities. The majority of mortalities are owed to physiological responses to frigid seawater, including a "cold shock" gasp response and the ensuing physical incapacity that takes place during the first few minutes of hitting the water, and, later on, the potential for hypothermia setting in. "The best thing you can do in the first few minutes of immersion is try to rest, relax, float," he says, suggesting that restricting movement and conserving energy is the best strategy to increase your survival odds.

Faust encourages cruisers to keep things in perspective, though, concluding, "It’s worth keeping in mind that the incidence of passengers falling overboard is incredibly low," adding, that all the same, "Travelers should always be sure to stay alert , be cautious, and follow safety precautions, as they would on any vacation—whether at sea or on land."

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How Many People Survive Falling Off Cruise Ships Each Year?


Are Cruise Ships Giving Your Family Grief?

Only 17% to 25% of the fallen passengers survive. Some laws, like the Cruise Vessel Safety Act, protect passengers; however, when passengers are on board the ship and fall overboard or become victims of a crime, the reality is much different than expected. Below, the top cruise ship lawyer in Los Angeles, Michael Ehline, explains everything you and your loved ones must know.

Samantha Broberg: A Case Study on Intoxication on a Cruise

Samantha Broberg boarded a Carnival cruise ship in Galveston on May 12, 2016. After having 19 drinks onboard the cruise ship, Samantha headed to the 3.5-foot railing after her drinks at the bar and sat there for a moment before she fell into the Gulf of Mexico. The next day, her friends on the cruise ship reported to the relevant cruise ship authorities that Samantha had disappeared.

Cruise passengers helped search for Samantha on the cruise ship, but she was never found. The captain reported the incident to the Coast Guard 15 hours after Samantha had disappeared; the Coast Guard instructed the cruise ship to move forward as Samantha would’ve been dead by now. Her husband went on to sue the Carnival Cruise Line for such a delayed response. The federal judge ruled that the cruise line was not responsible for Samantha’s disappearance.

This is one of many disappearance cases, and although cruise ships are much safer than other modes of travel, the regulations and standards for the cruise industry remain opaque.

Statistics: How Many Fall Overboard on Cruise Ships?

From 2000 to 2016, within a span of 16 years, there were 270 fall-overboard cases reported by the cruise companies, with 2015 seeing the highest number of fall-overboard cases – 27. The Cruise Lines International Association argues that the increase in the number of sea travel passengers has resulted in a spike in falling overboard cases.

However, the concerning bit is that crew members on many cruise ships, or cruise ship workers, do not report overboard cases, resulting in a presumably low count. The cases might be more than what we all believe them to be.

Upon further research, investigators found that just under half the number of overboard accidents happen on Carnival Cruise Lines, with Royal Caribbean following in a close second. More than 20% of the people die during their rescue, while 60% of the surviving passengers die a few minutes after getting rescued.

How Do Passengers Fall Overboard on a Cruise Ship?

An investigative report explored the details of overboard incidents. This helped people find out how passengers end up going overboard.

The study found the following as the common reasons behind such cases:

  • Drunkenness

Although these three reasons are the main factors resulting in overboard cases, there have been other reasons why people fall overboard. There was a man overboard incident where a person stood on a table while the cruise was at its full speed.

His table rocked, and that person fell over the very low railings, throwing the man overboard. This is just one of many man-overboard incidents involving someone thrown from a moving vessel at sea under steam.

Intoxication was a massive factor for a woman suing a cruise line for allowing her to drink to the point where she got intoxicated and fell aboard. She even filed damages against the company for taking a considerable time to rescue her.

There are many reasons for passengers falling overboard, and the Safety Act is there to ensure passenger protection from cruise companies.

Short Time for a Cruise Line to Rescue Fallen Passengers

The high seas are a dangerous place to fall overboard, especially when ship owners and other passengers are unaware of the passenger disappearances. They are realizing that being too late considerably decreases the chances of a fallen overboard passenger, with many ships refusing to turn around to conduct a search operation. The vast majority of the cases involve the late realization of a missing passenger who falls overboard.

The deadly sea gulps them down if the ship does not get to the fellow passenger who has fallen overboard. At times, with lower seawater temperatures, hypothermia kicks in, while deadly sharks are in danger in warm waters.

Only 17% to 25% of the fallen passengers make it out alive and live to tell their tales. Having the right safety equipment and technology can set off an alarm and save the passengers before it’s too late, thus increasing the percentage of surviving passengers.

“Falling Overboard Is an Act of Recklessness” – Cruise Lines

Cruise lines argue that even having safety rails to the required height according to the Safety Act has not stopped passengers from falling overboard. They said that passengers who get drunk or act wild or carelessly are the only reason for overboard cases on a cruise ship.

However, the industry is slow to adopt any technology that detects falling passengers or those who disregard such incidents. The public also shrugs the issue aside when they hear about passengers falling overboard, blaming it on the passenger being reckless. This attitude and the negligence on behalf of the shipping industry have resulted in such overboard incidents where cruise lines argue that they are unaccountable.

Such arguments don’t make sense if you consider how air travel and the air industry have extreme security and safety protocols in place to protect their passengers. Although the chances of a plane crashing in the sea are very low, airlines must demonstrate safety protocols before the flight and have life jackets under each seat in case of such incidents.

When a cruise ship blames the incident on the overboard passenger stating that it was the reckless actions of the passenger that led to such an incident, they mean that nothing can be done now. Carnival Cruise Line has argued that they can’t predict passengers who act recklessly or in intentional incidents, so it’s not fair that ship owners get blamed for such events.

Man Overboard Systems Can Save Lives

Having a crew member trained to follow the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act is a way to ensure the protection of passengers; however, having the latest technology can help save more lives.

If a person falls overboard, cruise ships only stop and return to the spot after the passenger gets reported missing. In many cases, the missing passenger gets reported to the crew’s cabin when it’s too late. A reported missing passenger fuels a search investigation on the ship first, and if the person is not found, the ship reports the incident to the Coast Guard. This results in a lot of delays causing loss of lives.

Ensuring the best technology to detect falling passengers and raising the alarm can eliminate the response time and save the passenger there and then. However, such technologies are not yet implemented on a ship. They have systems that remove the need for crew members on watch duty to watch surveillance footage monitoring thousands of passengers.

Carnival Cruise Lines was asked why its ships did not have man overboard systems, to which the cruise line responded that the systems were unreliable and not advanced enough for use. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the industry and the passengers as other companies have started to implement advanced man overboard systems, which have shown positive results.

Ehline Law – Los Angeles Cruise Ship Attorneys You Can Trust

Ehline Law and our group of Los Angeles cruise ship attorneys have substantial experience holding cruise lines responsible for negligent acts, crimes, and the inability to follow the safety act. We have won many cases against cruise lines, recovering millions for our clients .

If you’ve gotten hurt on a cruise ship or your loved one has fallen overboard, you might have a legal case against the cruise ship. We are here to understand your case, collect relevant evidence, and hold the shipping company responsible.

Let us help you in these dark times by punishing the cruise line and getting you compensation for your loss! Contact us at (213) 596-9642 and get a free consultation with our Los Angeles cruise ship attorneys. You can also use our website form to talk over text or email.

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Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.

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Cruise Ship Deaths – Annual Statistics, Causes and Real Examples

You may be wondering how many people die on cruise ships annually. It’s inevitable that with so many people taking a cruise, some will die onboard. The majority will die from natural causes but not all are as innocent.

In recent years there have been many incidents of accidents, suicides, and murders.

How Many People Die on Cruise Ships Each Year?

There are many sources which quote 200 as the number of cruise ship deaths each year. The real number is likely to be higher as not all cruise lines and countries share their death statistics. The majority of deaths that occur onboard cruise ships are from natural causes although some die in accidents, murders, suicides, or overdoses. 

In the article, we will look at common cruise ship death causes and some examples which made it to the mainstream media.

Cruise Ship Death Statistics

There are relatively few sources that provide accurate death statistics for cruise lines. Accidents, suicides, and murders are well reported but deaths from natural causes are often missed from the figures. The website records many of the deaths that happen on cruise ships including deaths of crew members.

There are approximately 30 million people who took a cruise in 2019. Assuming that each took a cruise for one week that means that there are around 500 thousand guests at sea at any one time.

200 deaths out of 30,000,000 yearly passengers equate to 1 in 150,000 guests. This means that there are around 3/4 deaths per week.  

Royal Princess

Cruise Ship Deaths – Murders

Although cruise ship murders are incredibly rare, they do happen. Murders are usually committed by a person that the victim knows and the majority of cruise ship murders involve arguments that escalate or a previous history of abuse.

For obvious reasons murders which happen on cruise ships are very rarely pre-planned.

It’s worth noting that guns are not allowed on cruise ships under any circumstances and as a result, most murders are either stabbings or involve pushing the victim into the ocean.

Tamara Loraine Tucker Murdered on Carnival Elation

Tamara Loraine Tucker was allegedly murdered by her ‘long term love’ onboard the Carnival Elation in 2018. The couple was taking a four-night cruise from Florida at the time.

An argument broke out just before midnight in their cabin on the 13th deck. Her partner Eric has admitted that he strangled her and pushed her over the balcony. She fell two decks down to deck 11 and died of blunt force trauma.

Eric was charged with murder in the second degree.

Tamara Loraine Tucker cruise murder

Kristy Manzanares Murdered on The Emerald Princess

In 2017 Kristy and Kenneth Manzanares were taking a cruise to Alaska onboard the Emerald Princess. Kristy was a 39-year-old mother of three and was traveling on the cruise with her husband and three teenage daughters.

Kenneth beat Kristy to death and attempted to throw her body overboard. He was caught by another person dragging her body out onto the balcony.  The murder took place in adjoining cabins on deck 9, cabins D726 and D728.

The video above shows news footage from the time of the incident. It was reported that other passengers heard Kristy’s screams and that the teenage girls suspected that their dad would do ‘something like this’.

Almarosa Tenorio Murdered on The Royal Princess

In 2018 Almarosa Terorio was cruising on the Royal Princess with her husband when she fell to her death. The couple was actually cruising in an inside cabin at the time but witnesses report seeing a man strangle her and then throw her overboard. The incident happened on the lido deck.

She fell down from deck 16 onto a lifeboat on deck 7 with such force that it actually broke the glass on the lifeboat. Many passengers report seeing blood and glass. The ship was held while the incident was investigated.

Darla J Mellinger Murdered on The Ryndam – Murder-Suicide

In 2015 Darla J Mellinger was murdered onboard Holland America’s Ryndam by her husband. They were taking a 14 night Caribbean cruise to celebrate the Easter holiday.

It’s reported that her husband John found a text from Darla to another man. He broke some glass in the cabin to make a weapon and stabbed Darla to death. After the murder, he hung himself in the bathroom.

Prior to the cruise, Darla had been to the hospital a stab wound to the chest which the pair had explained was caused by an accident.

Holland America Ryndam

Recommended Watching: Cruise Ship Killers

If you’re interested in cruise ship murders I recommend you watch the series Cruise Ship Killers. The show has changed the names of the people involved but the murders are real. It’s a little dramatic, but I enjoyed watching it.

Cruise ship killers is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

If you don’t have Amazon Prime you can use this link to sign up for a 30 day free trial. (It’s definitely possible to watch all episodes within the 30 days if you want to). Note: When you watch the show you’ll probably be curious as to who each episode is based on, I have written a guide which covers that here: Cruise Ship Killers – The REAL Deaths Behind The Show (Episode Guide)

Cruise Ship Deaths – Suicides

Sadly there are a number of people who decide to end their lives on cruise ships, mostly by jumping from the ship. It’s not only passengers who do this but also sometimes crew too.

I was actually on board a cruise where a man went overboard. We heard an announcement in our cabin and our next port stop was canceled so that we could search for the missing man. A number of other cruise ships also came from close by to join the search. He was never found and was presumed dead.

What would happen if you fell overboard on a cruise? The following post details step by step the processes that are in place:

Cruise Ships do Stop if You Fall Overboard – Here’s What Happens

Crew Suicides and Coronavirus

In 2020 an increased number of crew members committed suicide during the coronavirus crisis. In may 2020,  5 crew members committed suicide on board cruise ships. Most jumped to their deaths and some hung themselves in cabin bathrooms.

Crew members at the time were unable to leave their cruise ships and were facing months at sea, sometimes quarantined to their cabins, with no real end in sight.

Norwegian Encore Mini Suite Balcony Cabin

Cruise Ship Deaths – Accidental Deaths at Sea

Accidents happen at sea in the same way that they happen on land. Cruise ships are incredibly safe and the safety of passengers and crew is the primary concern for all.

That said many accidents still happen onboard when guests break rules, enter restricted areas, or simply just have bad luck. Accidents don’t just happen at sea but also when guests are on land on excursions.

Common examples of accidental cruise ship deaths include:

  • Trips or Falls
  • Accidents in Port
  • Entering restricted areas
  • Climbing from a balcony to another balcony

Salvatore Anello – Royal Caribbean Accidental Death

One of the highest-profile and most heartbreaking accidental death stories to occur on a cruise in recent years is that of grandfather Salvatore Anello who dropped his 18-month-old granddaughter from a window on to the dock below. The accident happened on the Freedom of the Seas.

“I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t dangling her out of a window. I just wanted to knock on the glass with her as we did together so many times before. I was just so horribly wrong about our surroundings,” he said. – source.

Salvatore pleaded guilty to negligent homicide. In the above video he explains what happened and how he is trying to rebuild his life for his family.

Larent Mercer – Royal Caribbean Accidental Death

In 2019 a 16-year-old boy died when he tried to climb across outdoor balconies after losing his room key. Sadly this isn’t an isolated incident with many other people also meeting the same fate.

Some passengers who have died in this way have done so because they were trying to climb from deck to deck or to show off to friends and fellow guests.

Harmony of The Seas was docked in Labadee, Haiti at the time and the boy fell to his death landing on the pier below.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t EVER try to climb on, or around, cruise ship balconies. Losing your room key isn’t a problem at all, lots of people do it, and if you do you just need to go to reception to get a new card issued to you.

Royal Caribbean Harmony Of The Seas Children

Despite all of the warnings some guests still do not respect the cruise lines rules and they try to do things like jump from the balconies. Guests who do such irresponsible things are usually banned from the cruise line for life, and from other cruise lines too. The video below shows one of these people.

No cruise line wants to have to recover a dead body or clean up the mess!

Cruise Ship Deaths – Swimming Pool Drownings

As with any swimming pool, there is always a risk of drowning. On some cruise lines, you will find lifeguards but this isn’t mandatory and not all cruise lines have them. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have recently added lifeguards but Princess cruises are one cruise line that doesn’t have lifeguards on duty.

There have been multiple drownings on Princess ships.

In 2014 a 29-year-old woman drowned on board the Sapphire Princess. A year later in 2015, an 8-year-old boy was found drowned also onboard Sapphire Princess.  In 2019 a man in his 30s was found drowned on board the Caribbean Princess.

Of course, Princess aren’t the only cruise line where this has happened:

In 2019 a 10-year-old boy drowned on a Genting cruise ship.

In 2015 an 8-year-old boy drowned onboard Liberty of the Seas.

In 2015 a 10-year-old girl drowned on board the Norwegian Gem.

There are many more examples.

Sapphire Princess Calypso Pool Deck 14 Post Refurbishment

Costa Concordia

In 2012 the Costa Concordia struck an underwater rock and capsized near Tuscany. The cruise ship was only eight years old and the captain on board was Francesco Schettino.

I’ve cruised with Costa since the event and many people still refuse to cruise with the cruise line because of this accident. In reality, it wasn’t the fault of Costa cruise line but that of a severely negligent captain.

Francesco Schettino

Francesco decided to change the route of the cruise ship which caused the accident. The ship sailed closer to land than she normally would and as a result, she overturned. 32 people lost their lives and captain Francesco was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

It’s a maritime tradition that the captain always goes down with his ship. Meaning that the captain should make sure that everybody else is off the ship before they disembark. Francesco didn’t do this and decided instead to save himself. He disobeyed orders to go back to the ship.

Now you go to the bow, you climb up the emergency ladder and coordinate the evacuation. You must tell us how many people, children, women and passengers are there and the exact number of each category,” said officials to Francesco Schettino. “What are you doing? Are you abandoning the rescue? Captain, this is an order, I am the one in charge now. You have declared abandoning ship,” he said, adding: “There are already bodies.” “How many?” Schettino says, prompting the cutting reply: “That is for you to tell me, what are you doing? Do you want to go home?” – source.

Costa Concordia On Side

It’s estimated that the disaster cost Costa Cruises, owned by Carnival, around $2 billion dollars. To learn more about how the cruise industry overcame this disaster and other disasters similar to it, check out this video below:

Cruise Ship Deaths – Accidental Deaths in Port

As mentioned above some passengers do get injured, or die as a result of their activities when in port or on land. Cruise ship and organized excursions are usually very safe but it’s impossible to remove all risks from every activity.

Ovation of The Seas

One of the largest losses to life in recent years from an accidental death in port is when the Whakaari volcano in New Zealand erupted in 2019. Guests from Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of The Seas were visiting the island at the time.

At the time of the eruption, there were reportedly 47 people on the island and 19 people were killed, most on Royal Caribbean’s excursions. The victims included children as young as five.

Tourists on White Island

Cruise Ship Deaths – Natural Causes

The majority of people who die on cruise ships do because of natural causes. Common causes are strokes and heart attacks as these strike quickly with little warning. People don’t send to board cruises if they have ongoing serious medical problems that aren’t well managed.

Travel insurance can get very expensive if you have pre-existing medical conditions.

It is incredibly important that you have travel insurance for any cruise. Onboard medical expenses are very expensive and costs can quickly add up if passengers need to be airlifted off the ship. I’ve been on a couple of cruises where the ship has had to make extra called to drop off passengers who were unwell.

Never ever ever ever cruise without travel insurance! Even if you are just cruising to the Caribbean from the USA, you NEED insurance. Compare quotes (for free) here: – USA – UK

Bruce Campbell

In 2019 Bruce Campbell was playing bingo onboard the Carnival Sunshine when he suffered a stroke. He was originally sent to a hospital in Freeport, Bahamas but they didn’t have the medical facilities to treat him.

He was cruising with his wife at the time and they didn’t have the necessary funds to get him back to America. Amazingly an anonymous donor donated the $20,000 needed for Bruce to be flown back to the US for treatment. This highlights the importance of travel insurance mentioned above.

Sadly Bruce later passed away but he was able to donate his organs to save numerous other people’s lives.

The video above talks more about this story.

Peggy Bowman

Peggy Bowman died at the age of 89 on board a Cunard cruise. She took a world cruise annually and died shortly after visiting the port of Honolulu in Hawaii. Peggy had been cruising since the 80s and died of a heart attack on board.

What a way to go!

To learn more about the process of what happens in the situation where somebody dies on a cruise, including how the body is transported home and where it is stored, check out this post:

Cruise Ship Deaths: What Happens Next? Step by Step Process Guide

To Conclude:

Many people die each year on cruises although the exact number isn’t known. The majority die from natural causes or accidents but there are a few who are murdered or commit suicide. Death is inevitable with so many passengers cruising each year.

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Man Overboard: What Happens When Guests Go Overboard on a Cruise Ship

Doug Parker

Doug Parker

  • August 9, 2023

A life preserver floating in the ocean with a lightning storm

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Man overboard is a term used to describe someone who has gone off the cruise ship and requires rescue.

And while it’s understandable for people who board a cruise ship to worry about going overboard, actual man overboard incidents are rare, considering how tens of millions of people sail each year without incident.

Man overboard incidents tend to get much heavy media coverage, leading those unfamiliar with the cruise industry to believe it happens frequently.

mardi gras trip report life ring wake

But what, exactly, does a “man overboard” incident entail ? How often does it happen? And when someone does wind up in the water, what happens next? This article will explore these questions based on research, expert interviews, and cruise line policies.

What is a Man Overboard Incident?

In simplest terms, a man overboard incident is exactly what it sounds like. Somehow, a person winds up going into the sea and needs rescuing. How they wound up going over the railing is less critical than the need to get them out of the water as quickly as possible.

How often do people fall off cruise ships? 

ocean explorer cruise ship

So, just how often do people go overboard? As it turns out, an expert in the field can answer that question.

Professor Ross Klein of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, has been gathering information regarding man overboard incidents since 1995. As of 2023, he has tracked 387 situations in which passengers or crew members on board cruise ships or ferryboats went overboard. 

Meanwhile, the Cruise Lines International Association reported 212 man overboard incidents , specifically on cruise ships, between 2009 and 2019.

Doing the math, that averages out to around 19 incidents each year. On its face, that can sound quite shocking until you look at the big picture and realize that it’s 212 people out of the 224 million who took cruises during that time. The odds of hitting the Powerball Jackpot is one in 292 million.

Is it hard to fall off a cruise ship?

PO Cruises Pacific Encounter

Generally speaking, going overboard is almost impossible unless you are doing something you probably shouldn’t. Sadly, it’s much easier to jump off a cruise ship , which is entirely different (although it still qualifies as a “man overboard” incident.).

Looking at the history of such incidents, most incidents fall into one of these categories:

  • Alcohol or drug-related
  • Reckless or irresponsible behavior
  • Suicide attempts
  • Rough sea conditions

Sadly, in many cases, we never truly know how or why the person went overboard. Most often, they are alone during the incident, which is why it can sometimes be hours before their absence is discovered and the severity of the situation is realized.

And as one might expect, these situations often have tragic, fatal endings. Not all man overboard incidents result in a person’s death. In July of 2023, a woman tumbled off Mariner of the Seas while attempting to take a selfie and was rescued shortly after. 

What happens during a man overboard on a cruise?

Carnival Venezia's loungers during sunset

A man-overboard incident will immediately trigger a coordinated, systematic, and ship-wide emergency response designed first to ensure that a man overboard incident occurred, as false alarms can happen from time to time. That said, here’s a look at what happens during a man overboard incident.

1. Crew response 

Once the bridge team is aware of the situation, they will sound the internal alarm followed by the word Oscar three times on the PA system. The words “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” will be heard throughout the ship, alerting the entire crew to what has occurred.

If the passenger can still be seen, the ship will stop and deploy lifeboats and rescue boats to retrieve them. 

A search-and-rescue mission will commence if the passenger is reported missing. Rather than stopping, the ship will return to where it is believed the person entered the water.

A view of the ocean from the deck of a cruise ship

2. Search and rescue efforts

The ship’s command will notify the local Coast Guard and participate in the search and rescue mission.

The Coast Guard has several key responsibilities during a man overboard incident, including coordinating with the vessel to obtain all the necessary details about the situation once they receive a distress or emergency call. 


The Coast Guard’s search and rescue operation may involve deploying aircraft, cutters, and a specialized rescue team. If the victim is found, the Coast Guard will conduct a medical evaluation and arrange a transfer to a shoreside medical facility either via cutter or helicopter. 

Passengers who have gone overboard and located by the ship are brought on board for further evaluation and treatment before being transferred to the Coast Guard.

While every cruise ship has a highly detailed systematic approach for a man overboard emergency, there is no guarantee that the victim will be found. Unfortunately, only a few people are successfully rescued during a man overboard incident.

What can I do to prevent falling off a cruise ship?

MH 60 jayhawk helicopter

What happens in the aftermath of a man overboard situation is the cruise ship’s and crew’s responsibility. But as passengers, there are things we can do to avoid putting ourselves in this dangerous situation.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re on the upper deck of the cruise ship .
  • Do not stand or sit on the railings or other precarious perches; don’t put your head outside or lean through the open windows or over the balcony railing.
  • Be mindful when moving about the ship during bad weather or when traversing rough seas.
  • Never leave a child unattended or allow them to climb atop furnishings near railings or balconies.
  • Always follow any instructions issued by crew members to the letter. 

Man-overboard technology and modern-day cruising

During discussions about cruise ship safety, one of the most common questions is whether vessels have systems to detect when someone goes overboard, and if not, why?

As it turns out, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 required US ships to implement technology that could “be used for capturing images of passengers or detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.” 

As you might guess, the “to the extent that such technology is available” has been something of a loophole, giving cruise lines the ability to avoid implementing these systems. Questions have also been raised about the reliability of the technology in question. 

An image of a cruise ship sailing in the ocean, with no signs of a man overboard.

Proper use of a man overboard (MOB) system can mean the difference between a successful rescue and a tragic outcome.

However, when you look at the cruise industry collectively, the technology is on very few cruise ship ships. Disney Cruise Line is the only cruise line on record saying its vessels have the system installed.

In spring 2023, man overboard detection company MARSS MOBtronic made significant progress after conducting 120 tests using their system and achieved a 100% success rate in detecting people who had fallen overboard.

Those systems come at a price. MARSS recently told USA Today that each installation starts at around $200,000.

“Most cruise lines will claim that MOB systems are not reliable and give false-positive results, and as such, the systems are not really ‘available,'” says Jim Walker, an attorney with Walker and O’Neill Maritime Lawyers. “Manufacturers will tell you that the systems are highly reliable — around 97 percent. I have seen such systems, and they are impressive in my view.”

He adds that “sailing without a system will always result in delayed search and rescue efforts. It’s truly akin to searching for a needle in a haystack.” 

A man overboard signal device on a boat

If someone goes overboard in the middle of the night and it’s not noticed until the next day, the ship could be as far as 100 miles away by the time it’s reported.  

One thing cruise ships have in place is closed-circuit television monitors (or CCTV), which record activity around the ships. CCTV footage is generally used to compile important information about the individual in question, including where exactly the man overboard took place.

During an incident, the security team can also review the footage to determine the last place the guest used their onboard spending card, rewind the tape to that time, and follow the guest around the ship until they reach the moment they’re looking for.

But can CCTV footage be used in court?


Any time a person goes overboard, authorities open an active investigation. Some cases occasionally make it to the courtroom.

Often, litigation involves the family of the person who went overboard. A lot of the cases filed are where the guest was overserved alcohol. The outcome of these cases is in the hands of the jury.

Walker says that “the FBI has jurisdiction when there is a report of a suspicious death to request or subpoena CCTV footage when a person goes overboard,” adding that he is aware of several cases in which this has happened. And yes, he says, “cruise lines are required to respond to a subpoena from the FBI.”

He has not, however, “heard of the FBI or Coast Guard making a request for MOB data for no reason other than there are so few cruise ships which have installed such systems.” 

mardi gras trip report sunset

It’s doubtful that you will ever be in a man-overboard situation. Not only is it rare that you will find yourself going overboard but there’s little chance of you ever being on board a ship when such an incident happens. 

Being prepared and aware of your surroundings is always a good idea. Hopefully, the information we’ve provided will help you avoid putting yourself into a dangerous situation while also giving you an idea of what to do — and not to do — should you see someone going overboard. 

How long does it take to find someone who has gone overboard?

There is no definitive answer. Several factors come into play, including when the ship was notified of the situation, the time of day, water temperature, location, ocean conditions, and the amount of time that has gone by will all impact the outcome.

Why do people jump off cruise ships?

There are a variety of reasons that guests go overboard. Several factors can lead someone to consider it, such as alcohol, mental health problems, chronic pain, feelings of hopelessness or erratic or reckless behavior. If you know of anyone on a cruise who is expressing thoughts of ending their life, contact the ship immediately so that they can get help for that person.

What if I see someone jump off a cruise ship?

If you see someone jump off a cruise ship, immediately shout “Man Overboard” loudly enough for everyone to hear while visually tracking the person, throwing a life ring, and dialing 911 on the ship’s phone. Do not jump into the water to rescue the person. Even the strongest swimmer may not be prepared to deal with the harsh realities of the ocean.  

Can someone survive falling off a cruise ship?

Surviving a cruise ship fall will depend on several factors, like how quickly the overboard is reported/discovered, the response time of the crew members, the water’s temperature, the person’s ability to swim, their physical condition, and the weather. 

man overboard cruise ships

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Man Overboard: What Happens If You Fall Off a Cruise Ship?

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The ocean is a vast place of adventure and relaxation for over 30 million cruise passengers per year. But amid this maritime wonder is a rare but genuine danger: the risk of falling off a cruise ship.

Around 20 to 25 individuals fall overboard every year , often due to intoxication or deliberate actions. However, with odds of 1 in 1.3 million, such incidents are exceptionally uncommon.

Cruise lines follow strict safety protocols established by maritime safety standards, ensuring crew members are ready to act swiftly and efficiently in man-overboard situations. Modern cruise ships are even equipped with advanced technologies designed to detect people when they go overboard from a cruise ship.

Let’s explore how prevention, personal vigilance, what happens when someone falls off a cruise ship, and the outcomes.

Table of Contents

What Happens If You Fall Off a Cruise Ship?

Two Princess Cruises cruise ships in open sea off the coast of Bimini, Bahamas to exchange provision and transferring crew.

If you fall off a cruise ship, the situation is serious , and immediate action is necessary. A “man overboard” incident prompts the vessel to follow a strict emergency protocol.

The ship makes an emergency announcement to inform the crew (and sometimes passengers) of the man overboard situation. All crew members are trained to respond to these emergencies, including conducting a search and rescue operation.

The secret code used to alert cruise ship crew is “Oscar Oscar” to indicate a man overboard situation​.

The moment an overboard incident is detected or reported, the ship’s officers are alerted. Crew members mark the location of the incident throwing flotation devices into the water to mark the spot and aid the person in the water​

The ship will turn around and return to the location of the incident.

Unfortunately, stopping a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean isn’t easy.

Cruise ships travel at 22 knots and take over a mile to stop and turn around. By the time the cruise ship returns, the person is unlikely to be at the original location. Ocean and wind cause the individual to drift away from their original location, highlighting the importance of immediate action when someone jumps off a cruise ship.

A small rescue boat searches for a passenger who fell of the side of a cruise ship in Alaska. The rocky shoreline is visible in the background

The bridge team notifies the appropriate authorities and enlists the help of nearby vessels who join the search. It’s not just cruise ships that aid in the search. Nearby ships in the area, like cargo ships, the US Coast Guard, and fishing vessels, join the search for the missing passenger.

Time is of the essence when a passenger falls overboard.

If a fall is not observed and immediately reported, the chance of rescuing the victim is considerably smaller. New cruise ships have advanced overboard detection systems . But older vessels rely on someone witnessing the fall and alerting the crew.

There is no time limit for how long a search will last. In general, search efforts continue as long as there is hope that the person is alive.

How Do People Go Overboard?

A life preserver on a cruise liner used when someone falls overboard

There are many reasons people fall off cruise ships. Here are some reasons why individuals might find themselves unintentionally over the guardrails:

  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption : You might lose your balance and coordination after having a few drinks too many, making it risky to lean or climb on railings.
  • Reckless Behavior : Engaging in unsafe activities, like trying to move from balcony to balcony, standing on chairs, or climbing the railings, can result in a fall.
  • Intentional Acts : Unfortunately, there are instances where a cruiser purposefully jumps off the cruise ship to commit suicide.
  • Accidents Accidents are rare, but accidents do happen—perhaps when leaning too far or slipping on a wet deck, leading to a situation where a passenger goes overboard.

It’s worth reminding you that man-overboard incidents are extremely rare.

It is uncommon for a cruise passenger to “fall” off the ship. The railings on cruise ships are reasonably high and reach at least chest height for most passengers.

Most people who fall from a cruise ship do so intentionally or result from reckless behavior.

How Many People Fall Off Cruise Ships?

Beautiful view from deck of cruise ship. sunset. row of lamps. lifebuoy

An average of 20 to 25 people fall off cruise ships each year. Because a man overboard situation can happen on any vessel in any part of the world, no government authority compiles accurate statistics on the number of overboard incidents on cruise ships.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) , the voice of the world’s cruise industry, reports that the odds of falling overboard are astonishingly slim. According to CLIA, falls occur at a rate of about one in 1.3 million passengers .

The chances of falling overboard are incredibly low.

Cruise ship safety is paramount, and many of those who go overboard do so intentionally by jumping from a cruise ship railing or falling while taking risky actions like climbing balcony railings.

However, it’s worth mentioning that the actual figures might be slightly higher. The reporting of these incidents can sometimes fall through the cracks, not captured fully by cruise lines or the media spotlight.

The table below shows how many people fall overboard on cruise ships yearly compared with the number of passengers that sail on cruise ships and passenger ferries. The numbers were compiled by Cruise Junkie .

How Many People Survive Falling Off Cruise Ships?

Norwegian Jewel in Skagway Alaska performing a lifeboat drill

Sadly, most cases of falling off a cruise ship end in death. Approximately 72% percent of man-overboard incidents result in death . Only around 28% of instances result in survival, highlighting the importance of cruise vessel security and safety measures.

There are several factors contributing to the low survival rate.

Firstly, the height of the fall significantly impacts survival chances. Cruise ships are towering structures; the world’s biggest cruise ships are over 20 decks high. A fall from that height is like hitting a concrete wall due to the water’s surface tension at high speeds. The impact when you hit the water can cause severe injuries, making it difficult to stay afloat, or even instant death.

If you survive the fall, the ocean and weather conditions impact your survival chances .

The water temperature plays a significant role. Cold waters lead to hypothermia, drastically reducing survival time. Ocean currents and the time of day (affecting visibility for rescue efforts) are also critical factors.

Notably, being in good physical condition can enhance one’s ability to survive. For instance, a woman credited her fitness and yoga practice, allowing her to survive after she fell overboard on NCL’s Norwegian Star cruise ship and tread water for 10 hours ( full story at ABC News ).

Ultimately, while the prospects may seem grim, survival is not impossible. The stories of missing passengers or crew members who have survived a fall over the side of a ship serve as stark reminders of the human will to live and the importance of safety and preparedness when embarking on a sea voyage.

Safety Measures and Technologies

Megaphone Announcement speak on a cruise ship

When you’re cruising on the open sea, your safety is paramount. Cruise ships have various safety features to prevent and respond to man-overboard incidents.

Preventative Measures:

  • Railings: To start, the railings on cruise ships have high railings to prevent accidental falls. They’re a physical barrier between you and the sea and are designed for your protection, helping prevent overboard incidents on cruise ships. It’s crucial that you avoid climbing or sitting on them.
  • Surveillance Systems: CCTV cameras monitor public areas on the ship 24/7. The cameras help detect if a passenger falls overboard or risky behaviors that could lead to such situations. Unfortunately, if no one is watching the cameras, they won’t alert crew members to incidents.
  • Man Overboard Detection Systems: Some cruise ships have sophisticated man overboard detection systems. These systems use sensors, radar, and thermal imaging to detect a person falling into the water and instantly alert the ship’s crew. Many older ships don’t have specific man-overboard systems; instead, they rely on someone witnessing someone fall and alternating the ship’s crew.
  • Restricted Access: Access to certain areas of the ship is limited, especially during rough sea conditions or at night, to reduce the risk of accidents. Crew members close off specific decks during high winds to prevent accidental falls.
  • Crew Training: Crew members undergo rigorous training in safety procedures, including procedures for responding when someone falls overboard. Cruise ship staff train to act quickly and efficiently to rescue overboard individuals.
  • Passenger Education: Cruise lines provide safety information and educate passengers on the importance of responsible behavior on board through safety videos, briefings, and literature.

These systems work together to detect a person falling into the ocean swiftly. This often enables a quick response from the crew.

Prevention Tips to Prevent Falling Overboard

View of the horizon from a balcony on the Oasis class cruise ship wonder of the seas with breakfast room service on the table

While enjoying your cruise, your safety is crucial.

Staying alert and following certain guidelines can significantly decrease the chances of going overboard.

Here are a few tips to ensure you stay safely aboard.

  • Pay Attention to Safety Briefings: Pay attention to the in-cabin safety video and muster drill. You’ll learn important safety information, the location of life jackets, and what to do during an emergency.
  • Avoid Excessive Alcohol Consumption: It’s ok to drink, but don’t go crazy. Alcohol inhibits your judgment and decision-making and reduces your balance.
  • Adhere to Designated Areas: Stick to public areas and avoid restricted zones. These areas are off-limits for a reason and can be dangerously close to the ship’s edge.
  • Supervise Children: Closely watch children and ensure they understand the importance of avoiding railings.
  • Don’t Climb or Sit on Railings: Getting a better view is tempting, but climbing the railings is extremely risky. Keep both feet on the deck at all times.
  • Be Mindful of Weather Conditions: Inclement weather can make decks slippery. Be extra cautious and avoid deck areas if the ship is experiencing rough seas.

Do Cruise Ships Stop if You Fall Overboard?

Yes, cruise ships do stop if someone falls overboard. When a passenger or crew member goes overboard, the ship’s crew initiates an emergency protocol to address the situation. This protocol involves multiple steps designed to maximize the chances of rescuing the individual.

The moment an overboard incident is detected or reported, the ship’s officers are alerted. Crew members mark the location of the fall while the captain turns the ship around to begin searching for the passenger.

However, due to their size and the momentum they carry, cruise ships take a mile to stop and turn around. The process of stopping a cruise ship is complicated and takes time. During that time the person overboard could drift away from the initial location due to ocean currents and wind.

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At least 10 people on cruise ships went overboard this year, and 2 miraculously survived

  • At least 10 people have gone overboard off major cruise line ships so far in 2023.
  • Two of those people were rescued and survived.
  • Despite these cases, overboard incidents are very rare, a cruise line trade association said.

Insider Today

The chances of you falling overboard off a cruise ship are extremely low .

But at least 10 people fell off major cruise line ships so far this year, turning fun-in-the-sun vacations into disaster situations — and only two survived the fall into the ocean.

Here's what happened to the passengers who went overboard:

Warwick Tollemache fell off a Royal Caribbean ship and wasn't found during a search

The family of 35-year-old Australian cruise passenger Warwick Tollemache told Nine News he was a "kind, beautiful, and gentle soul who was adored by everyone who knew him."

Tollemache fell into the Pacific Ocean after going overboard off Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas on April 26 at about 11 p.m. while the cruise ship was hundreds of miles off the coast of Hawaii.

The ship's crew immediately launched a search for Tollemache and the United States Coast Guard was ultimately called in to help. The Coast Guard called off its search after crew scoured the waters for two days.

Authorities didn't say how he fell in.

Ronnie Lee Peale Jr. was in his 'happy place' before he fell off a Carnival ship and was never seen again

Virginia resident Ronnie Lee Peale Jr., 35, was on a Carnival Magic cruise to celebrate his partner's birthday when he fell into the water on May 29 after officials say he leaned over a balcony railing on the vessel.

Peale Jr. went overboard as the ship was about 186 miles east of Jacksonville, Florida, and returning from the Bahamas. Carnival Cruise Line said security footage showed he "leaned over the railing of his stateroom balcony and dropped into the water" at about 4:10 am.

The Coast Guard searched over 5,171 square miles and more than 60 hours, but crews could not find Peale Jr.

"He loved the cruise life," Peale Jr.'s fiancée Jennilyn Michelle Blosser told WTKR . "Being able to drink, gamble, and socialize put him in his happy place."

A Royal Caribbean passenger beat the odds when she plunged off the 10th deck of the ship and was miraculously saved

Some who fall in are lucky to be alive.

A 42-year-old US citizen — whose name wasn't publicly revealed — fell overboard from the 10th deck of Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas vessel on June 25 at around 5:45 p.m. as the Curaçao-bound liner was more than 30 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

The woman miraculously survived the fall. One witness told Business Insider that passengers lined up on their balconies and quickly banded together to try and guide the rescue boat as it scanned the water for signs of the woman.

Witnesses said cruise crew members managed to find her and brought her safely back on board in a roughly 45-minute ordeal.

The overboard woman was found to be in "good health" after the fall, the Coast Guard said. A rescue expert told Business Insider her survival was "nothing short of miraculous."

Jaylen Hill jumped off a Carnival cruise ship and was not found during a search, the company said

Carnival Elation passenger Jaylen Hill, 30, went overboard on the vessel on July 23 as the ship was on a four-day Bahamas sailing and on its way back to Jacksonville, Florida.

Hill's travel companion reported him missing after he wasn't seen all day. A Carnival spokesperson said that the cruise line determined Hill "jumped" from the ship "after an exhaustive on-board search and a review of security camera video."

The Coast Guard called off its search for Hill when he wasn't found after covering more than 1,347 square miles.

Reeta Sahani who 'could not swim' went overboard on a Royal Caribbean ship while traveling with her husband

Reeta Sahani was on Royal Caribbean's Spectrum of the Seas with her husband on July 31 in the Singapore Strait, the last day of their four-day cruise to Malaysia.

Sahani couldn't swim, her son would tell The Straits Times .

The 64-year-old mother went overboard while the cruise was on its way to Singapore.

Sahani's husband, Jakesh Sahani, woke up in the middle of the night and discovered his wife was not in their cruise cabin, the Straits Times reported. He notified the ship's officials, who, according to the news outlet, told him that his wife was seen on CCTV footage sitting on the ship's railing at about 4 a.m.

The couple's son, Apoorv Sahani, told the Straits Times that the "ship's crew thinks she jumped."

Apoorv Sahani later said in a post on X that his family was given footage from the cruise ship. "With the footage, we have unfortunately learnt that my mother has passed away," he wrote.

Kenneth Schwalbe fell off a Princess cruise ship and couldn't be found

California resident Kenneth Schwalbe , 59, was traveling on the Emerald Princess ship when he went overboard on August 11 about eight miles off the coast of Hilo, Hawaii.

According to Hawaii authorities, police received a report on the morning of August 11 that Schwalbe was last seen on board the ship at around 8:30 p.m. the day before. Authorities searched the ship but couldn't find him.

Hawaii police said that surveillance footage from a camera on the exterior of the ninth deck of the vessel showed Schwalbe "falling from the ship" at about 4:18 a.m.

The Coast Guard couldn't find Schwalbe.

Sigmund Ropich was vacationing with pals before the teenager went overboard from a Royal Caribbean ship

College student Sigmund Ropich of Texas was vacationing with his friends on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world in August, his sister Savannah Ropich told Business Insider.

On August 29 as the ship was off the coast of Cuba, the 19-year-old Sigmund went overboard .

The ship's crew immediately launched a search and rescue operation but found no sign of Sigmund. Cuban officials called off their search for Ropich after they couldn't find the teen.

Savannah Ropich said in a Facebook post last month: "Although we are continuing to celebrate my brother's life, it does not equate to compliancy with @wonderoftheseas. I am still enraged by the fact that we are celebrating my brother's life without his body."

"The mishandling of the search and constant miscommunication throughout prompts the question.. was my brother's life valued by his ticket and age?" she wrote. "If so and if not, to what extent does this company value a human life to respond with appropriate actions of urgency?"

Royal Caribbean didn't respond to Business Insider's request for a response to Savannah Ropich's criticisms.

A crew member went overboard off an AIDA Cruises ship but couldn't be found during a search

The crew member went overboard off the German cruise ship, called the AIDAperla, on October 22 as the vessel was traveling from Hamburg to Spain.

The cruise ship company said in a statement to Sky News that the captain "immediately initiated all necessary rescue measures in close coordination with the local authorities."

However, the search for the crew member wasn't successful .

Another lucky Royal Caribbean passenger was rescued after going overboard

A passenger traveling on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas vessel went overboard on October 29 after the ship departed Barcelona and was saved.

"The ship and crew immediately reported the incident to local authorities and began searching for the guest. Thankfully, the guest was successfully recovered and was brought on board," the cruise line told Business Insider.

A person who said they were aboard the vessel at the time posted on social media that they could see spotlights and rescue boats from their balcony during the nighttime search.

A Carnival cruise passenger was seen on surveillance footage jumping off the ship

Tyler Barnett, a 28-year-old father of two from Houma, Louisiana was on a week-long cruise with his younger sister and their uncle when he went missing in the middle of the night.

Barnett was last seen aboard the Carnival Glory — which was heading to the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico — around 11:40 p.m. on November 12, the day of the ship's departure from New Orleans, his mother, Elisha Reid, told Business Insider.

For over 24 hours, Carnival crews searched the ship and the Coast Guard scoured a 200-mile section of the Gulf of Mexico looking for signs of Barnett.

But, on November 14, Carnival said it had finally found footage of Barnett that showed him climbing up onto a lifeboat and jumping off the ship around 1:40 a.m. on November 13, the company told Business Insider in an email.

The cruise line at first told Barnett's sister, who was also on the ship, that there was no surveillance footage of her brother that night, Reid said.

Reid said she found out her son was missing from a cousin, not the cruise company.

"I have my moments where I break, but I'm keeping the faith," she told Business Insider as the search continued. "I'm keeping the faith. I just want him home."

Despite these cases, overboard incidents are very rare, according to a cruise line trade association

According to a report from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), there were 212 overboard incidents from 2009 to 2019, and only 48 — or 28.2% — of those who fell overboard were successfully rescued.

"Even one incident is one too many," CLIA told Business Insider, explaining, "The vast majority of cases are either reckless behavior or some form of intentional act. People don't just inadvertently fall over the side of a ship."

According to CLIA, cruise lines have maintained an exceptional safety record and cruising is one of the safest forms of travel.

From 2009 to 2019, the number of "operational incidents" declined by 41% and the rate of "man overboard incidents" declined by nearly 35%, while the industry's total capacity grew by 68%, CLIA said.

falling off cruise ship statistics

Watch: The rise and fall of the cruise industry

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BREAKING: Denver Broncos release quarterback Russell Wilson

Passenger rescued after falling off 10th deck of cruise ship, Coast Guard says

A Royal Caribbean passenger was rescued this week after having fallen overboard from the 10th deck of a cruise ship near the Dominican Republic, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Officials were alerted to the rescue of the 42-year-old woman, an American citizen, at about 5:44 p.m. Sunday, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

The Mariner of the Seas cruise ship was about 27 nautical miles south of Punta Cana on its way to Willemstad, Curaçao, when the passenger went overboard, the statement said.

“The passenger was recovered alive and reported to be in good health, after reportedly falling into the water from 10th deck of the ship," it said. "No medical evacuation of the passenger was requested by the cruise ship. The passenger was being kept on the cruise ship’s medical facility and later transferred to the Hospital in Willemstad, Curacao for evaluation."

The Coast Guard said it is investigating.

In a statement Wednesday, Royal Caribbean confirmed a passenger went overboard Sunday close to the Dominican Republic.

“The ship and crew immediately reported the incident to local authorities and began searching for the guest. Thankfully, the guest was successfully recovered and was brought on board. Our Care team is now offering assistance and support to them and their traveling party. Out of privacy for the guest and their family, we have no additional details to share,” the statement said. 

The ship continued the trip as planned, Royal Caribbean said.

Matthew Kuhn, who was on the cruise ship with his family, told WOFL -TV of Orlando , Florida, that he watched rescue efforts from his balcony.

“I think it was amazing to see everyone was on their balcony. Everyone was trying to help, and the crew was very receptive to everyone,” he said.

Kuhn said that he didn’t expect the passenger to be found alive and that he was pleasantly surprised he was wrong.

“Holy crap, they found her, and she’s alive,” he told WOFL.

Kuhn, who declined to comment to NBC News on Wednesday, shared some videos he posted on Twitter of the rescue efforts.

In one of the v ideo s , a small boat can be seen in the distance and people aboard the cruise ship are heard clapping, whistling and cheering.

Antonio Planas is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital. 

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Impact of COVID-19

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Coast Guard Suspends Search for Passenger Who Fell From Cruise Ship

The U.S. Coast Guard said on Sunday that it halted its search for a woman who went overboard from a Carnival cruise ship near Ensenada, Mexico.

falling off cruise ship statistics

By Johnny Diaz

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended a 31-hour search for a passenger who fell off a cruise ship near Mexico, the authorities said on Sunday.

The woman, who was not immediately identified, was aboard a Carnival cruise ship when she fell on Saturday morning “from the balcony of her stateroom,” Carnival Cruise Line said in a statement. The company said the ship had been on a three-day cruise to Ensenada, Mexico, and the Coast Guard said the woman fell near there.

Carnival did not provide further details of how the woman fell overboard.

On Saturday, the Coast Guard said that it had deployed a cutter called the Forrest Rednour as well as a helicopter, and that it was working with Mexico’s Navy to find the woman.

Crews started searching early in the morning on Saturday and into Sunday, the Coast Guard said. It led a search of about 520 square nautical miles, it said.

One passenger told a California news station, KABC-TV , that he heard someone say, “Man overboard, man overboard port side” on the ship’s speakers. He said that when he looked over the balcony of his room, he saw crew members tossing life preservers into the water.

Daniel Miranda, another passenger, told the station that cruise officials said that they had “verified through the cameras” that a woman had fallen into the water. A photo he took, broadcast by the station, also showed that the area of the ship where the woman fell had been cordoned off with blue tape.

After more than 31 hours scouring the area, the Coast Guard said on Sunday that it had suspended its search “pending additional information.”

The cruise company said in its statement that after assisting the Coast Guard, its ship had returned to Long Beach, Calif., as scheduled on Dec. 12. “Our thoughts are with the guest and her family, and our Care Team is providing support,” the company said.

In California, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents went to the ship “with an evidence response team” to assist in the case, a spokeswoman for the bureau said on Monday.

It is increasingly uncommon for passengers to fall from cruise ships, according to Carolyn Spencer Brown, who has covered the cruise industry for about 25 years, currently as chief content officer of Cruise Media LLC.

“It’s becoming much more uncommon than it was 20 years ago,” she said, citing the “increasingly sophisticated design specifications” that have prioritized safety on ships.

“They are designed to keep you safe,” she continued. “You really don’t hear about it very often, and when it happens, typically there are other factors involved.”

In 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act , which required ships be equipped with rails no shorter than 42 inches above the deck, and with alarms and other technology to help signal and find passengers who go overboard.

In 2018 and 2019, 26 and 29 people fell overboard from cruise and ferry ships, according to , which lists cases reported by the news media, including those involving people who jumped. In 2020 and 2021, when far fewer passengers took cruises because of the pandemic, the site recorded three incidents.

Ross A. Klein, who tracks the cases of people who fall overboard on his website,, wrote in a June 2019 report that information on people who fall overboard is limited “as cases may not be publicly reported.”

Falls overboard could involve intoxication, accidents or deliberate jumps, Mr. Klein’s report said, but he warned there was reason to be cautious with labels because of the lack of information.

“Alcohol intoxication is known in only a small percentage of cases, largely because there is no systematic reporting of persons overboard, and no accounting of behavior prior to a disappearance (such as alcohol consumption),” the report said.

Asked about how many people have fallen overboard from Carnival ships in recent years, a spokeswoman for the company said she did not have any further information other than the statement about this weekend’s search.

The ship traveling to Ensenada this weekend, the Carnival Miracle, debuted in 2004 and can accommodate more than 2,100 guests and 934 crew members, according to the company.

Johnny Diaz is a general assignment reporter covering breaking news. He previously worked for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and The Boston Globe. More about Johnny Diaz

What are cruise ship overboard detection systems and why doesn't every ship have them?

The Harmony of the Seas cruise ship as it sails from the STX Saint-Nazaire shipyard, western France, out to sea.

  • Cruise ship overboard systems aim to cut down on response time and notify the crew when someone goes overboard.
  • Not all cruise ships have the systems yet, but some have installed them.
  • Passengers rarely go overboard by accident, one industry expert said.

"Safety in Travel” is a six-part series focusing on the travel safety tools available in different industries, how they can affect the overall experience, and how travelers can make use of them. If you'd like to contribute to our future reporting and share your experience as a source, you can click here to fill out this quick form .

Sherry Boleen got up early to watch the sunrise with her family during a cruise to Mexico over Thanksgiving. But when she arrived at her siblings' cabin on Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Valor ship around 6 a.m., her stepsister said their brother, James Michael Grimes, never came back to the room.

The family was sailing with roughly 20 relatives, so Boleen thought maybe he'd slept in one of their rooms. "He's notorious for just falling asleep anywhere, anytime," Boleen, who is 31 and lives at Fort Benning in Georgia, told USA TODAY. "And so I was like, 'Or he's just asleep on a lawn chair somewhere or whatever.' "

After looking for him around the ship to no avail, she said, she notified the cruise line, which began an hourslong search that ended with the U.S. Coast Guard rescuing 29-year-old Grimes from the water   later that day around 8:30 p.m. after he had gone overboard.

James Michael Grimes spent approximately 20 hours stranded at sea.

Grimes, who was found about 20 miles south of Southwest Pass, Louisiana, told PEOPLE magazine in December that he remembered having some drinks and winning an air-guitar competition before waking up in the water. He did not respond to interview requests from USA TODAY.

While the incident ended with his safe return to shore, it raised questions about cruise ship overboard detection systems – a new technology that aims to cut down on response time and notify the crew as soon as someone goes overboard.

Carnival spokesperson Matt Lupoli told USA TODAY in an email that as soon as the line was notified, "Carnival Valor’s crew immediately searched the ship, retraced the ship's route, and coordinated with U.S. Coast Guard officials."

"During the search, another mariner spotted Mr. Grimes in the ocean and contacted the USCG, and the rescue was made," he said. "We remain greatly appreciative of all the efforts that brought Mr. Grimes to safety."

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What are cruise ship overboard detection systems?

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 requires passenger vessels operating in the United States to "integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers or detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available."

Cruise lines were given an option because when the law was passed, there were no available products that could reliably detect passengers going overboard, according to Brian Salerno, senior vice president of global maritime policy at Cruise Lines International Association, the industry's leading trade group.

"The problem was tuning the technology just right so that you wouldn't be getting false alarms every time a seagull flew by the ship," he said. "It's just human nature, if you have alarms going off constantly, they become less and less important."

In the years since, multiple companies have worked to develop more dependable technology, and CLIA and its member lines worked with the International Organization for Standardization to develop a standard for them.

The standard was finalized around the time the COVID-19 pandemic began, Salerno said, which delayed the process, but some ships have adopted the detection systems.

Boleen said security on board told her that while the Carnival Valor had camera footage from the bar where her brother was last seen, it did not have cameras everywhere because it was an older vessel.

Lupoli said cameras "may not have 100% visibility" in certain places on ships. "We do know that he left a bar on Deck 3, and we later found his clothes and wallet on Deck 6," he said.

In addition to security cameras, Lupoli said, all ships have "safety barriers that are regulated by U.S. Coast Guard standards and prevent a guest from falling off."

How do overboard detection systems work?

Technology company MARSS' MOBtronic system is among those that developed the system for cruises.

The product, which uses thermal cameras and micro radars to detect when someone has gone overboard and can alert crew members, along with other features, is installed on "quite a few" vessels, including one cruise line's entire fleet, according to CEO Johannes Pinl, though he could not name specific lines.

He said he expects the system to receive certification in accordance with the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standard within the first half of 2023.

Salerno said that certification will give cruise lines greater confidence in spending money on overboard detection technology. For its part, MOBtronic starts at around $200,000, Pinl said. Typically, between four and 12 sensor stations are mounted on the ship's exterior, depending on its size and design.

"Overall, considering how much a cruise ship costs ... these investments are minor," he said.

How many cruise ships have overboard detection systems?

Salerno declined to name specific lines but said a number of ships have installed the detection technology. "I think we'll start seeing more and more of the detection equipment once the certification process is complete," he said.

He said he expects that at least one manufacturer will receive certification in accordance with the ISO standard this year.

  • Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line and MSC Cruises did not answer USA TODAY's questions about whether or not they have the systems installed on their ships and referred inquiries to CLIA.
  • Royal Caribbean International and Princess Cruises did not respond to USA TODAY's questions about whether or not they had installed the technology.
  • A spokesperson for Disney Cruise Line confirmed the technology is available on its ships, but was unable to share more details.

How many people go overboard on cruise ships?

Between 2009 and 2019, there were 212 overboard incidents globally involving passengers and crew, according to statistics compiled for CLIA by consulting firm G.P. Wild (International) Limited. Only 48 people were rescued.

"I'll stress that people don't just fall over the side," said Salerno. "There are railings and they're pretty high. It's almost always the result of an intentional act."

The CVSSA requires passenger vessels to have rails that are "located not less than 42 inches above the cabin deck." Many cruise ships complied with that even before the law was enacted, according to Cmdr. Jason Kling, Detachment Chief at the U.S. Coast Guard's Cruise Ship National Center of Expertise, which conducts compliance inspections of cruise ships embarking passengers in U.S. ports or embarking U.S. passengers.

Why do people go overboard on cruises?

Alcohol can play a role in overboard incidents, said Michael Winkleman, a maritime attorney with Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A., who has represented travelers in overboard cases. "Usually, it's just people not making smart decisions because they're dramatically overserved and they end up going over," he said.

He noted that cruise lines have procedures in place to prevent overserving passengers, but in instances when a passenger believes the cruise line contributed to their going overboard, Winkleman said, they could bring a lawsuit. Most suits of that kind are resolved with confidential settlements.

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"My advice, which I think applies across the board with cruising, is don't leave your common sense at the port," he said.

Regardless of the cause, Salerno said overboard detection systems are aimed at improving the likelihood of a positive outcome. "The sooner the search can begin, obviously, the better the chance of recovery," he said.

In the search for Boleen's brother, she said she believes the crew could have benefitted from an overboard detection system. "I feel like it just would have saved so much time," she said.

Have you or someone you know had an emergency during a cruise sailing?

WGHP-TV  Greensboro

PHOTOS: Carnival cruise ship damaged after slamming into pier amid strong winds

TAMPA, Fla. ( WFLA ) — A Carnival cruise ship docked in Jamaica was left damaged after its side slammed into the side of a pier.

The Carnival Magic made contact with the pier in Ocho Rios after a pier fender — the protective structure that helps prevent ships from colliding with the pier — fell off amid strong winds on Tuesday morning.

The ship, which departed from Florida on Sunday, had docked at the pier shortly after 8 a.m. local time, a few hours before the incident took place.

Carnival Cruise Lines confirmed the incident in a statement to Nexstar’s WFLA, but said operations continued as normal following the collision.

“Carnival Magic was involved in an incident while in Ocho Rios, Jamaica on Tuesday morning, Feb. 6 when strong winds and swells caused the pier fender to collapse under pressure, and the ship made contact with the pier,” reads a statement shared by Carnival.

The cruise line said no one was injured during the incident.

For the safety of the guests and staff aboard, the ship left the area and docked at a nearby pier. All guests that were ashore were able to get back on the ship.

Carnival also said weather conditions caused several cruises to cancel their docking in the Grand Cayman on Wednesday.

The Carnival Magic left Miami on Sunday. Its itinerary included stops at the Bimini Islands and Ocho Rios before its scheduled return to Miami on Saturday.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to FOX8 WGHP.

PHOTOS: Carnival cruise ship damaged after slamming into pier amid strong winds


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  26. Norwegian Cruise Line ship docks in Mauritius after illness scare

    Feb. 26 (UPI) --A Norwegian Cruise Line ship has docked in Mauritius, a small island off the coast of Africa, after an illness isolation order was lifted Monday.More than a dozen passengers ...

  27. PHOTOS: Carnival cruise ship damaged after slamming into pier ...

    TAMPA, Fla. — A Carnival cruise ship docked in Jamaica was left damaged after its side slammed into the side of a pier.The Carnival Magic made contact with the pier in Ocho Rios after a pier ...