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Falling Off a Cruise Ship: What you need to know

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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.


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.  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.


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.

By Elaina Zachos, National Geographic
Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
For more cruise news and articles go to https://www.cruisecrazies.com

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All so true!  It is definitely a good idea to keep the drinking to a couple, also...saves you a hangover, too, when you want to get up early to go into port.  Must have one Pina colada, though...?

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That is very sad! There needs to be a solution to the problem. The fact that they are over drinking on a ship is a dangerous mix. This is the biggest revenue for the ships though so what can be done about it is key here. This could be several peoples' jobs watching cameras that the ship has. 

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I agree @Reneej1059 especially about the drinking and people doing dumb things. The ship and crew and can only do so much though. In the end, its the guest’s responsibility to behave appropriately, stop climbing over rails, stop disregarding the rules, and know when it’s time to say no to the next drink or seek out help when they feel like ending it all from the deck of a cruise ship.

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I agree it is very hard to fall off a cruise ship, unless your are drunk or you jump.  It is easier for a crew member to go over because of the work they are required to do.  A few simple facts here, the Cruise Lines really do not care about this issue because systems are available now that  Can tell the bridge in under one minute if anyone goes over the side and track them.  The second hidden secret is the cruise do not care about crew going over the side. This is clear from the fact that in many cases they do not even turn the ships around and wait hours to report.


It is cheaper in the long run to pay a couple of dollars to the family. The crews now on the big three cannot even sue in US Courts, which means the payouts are nothing for loss of life. Around US$50,000 dollars.


In  2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act  was passed in it is the requirement for the cruise industry to have these MOB Systems.  But a catch 22 was also placed in the act saying  required to have when the  current MOB technology is feasible.So the out the cruise lines use is to say the technology is not reliable and therefore not ready, something better is 12 months away. Sometime better will always be 12 months away.  Some great reputable manufacturers have systems they have tested and they work, they are proven  proven technology and  impressive.  But not 100%, so the lines have not done as they should.

Even if not 100% I say guest and crews lives are worth it, even if only 50%, most are 90% plus already. But the Cruise Lines again want the profits, Royal made over 3.5 billion dollars last year... is not the lives of guest and crew worth a 100 million dollar investment?

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