Every year hundreds of thousands of people flock on board cruise ships to sail the majestic oceans, explore exotic locations and eat mountains of food. While cruises are a fine way to have a vacation, there are definitely some things everyone should know before they board one….darker things. You see, cruise ships are actually nightmare vessels. Don’t believe me? These are seventeen facts that will make you reconsider the next time you decide to jump on board.
17. People Die On Cruises Every Year
From murders, suicide, illness, overdose, falling overboard, drowning, fires, natural disasters, and just going missing (we’ll get to that a little later), hundreds of people die at sea every year. Experts have estimated that an average of 200 cruise passenger deaths occur annually. That puts the number of cruise ship deaths at almost 3 per week.
Granted, a lot of these deaths are due to natural causes (given that cruise ships tend to cater to an older demographic), but either way that means at any given time there could be a dead person on your boat. No wonder so many cruise ships offer unlimited alcohol.
16. Your Toilet Will Most Likely Overflow
Cruise ships use vacuum flush toilets. These are incredibly efficient, yet incredibly sensitive. Somebody on the boat flushed a condom? Everybody's toilet floods. Let's just hope you aren’t stuck using it at the time. Cruise ship employees have reported people flushing all kinds of stuff ranging from pool noodles, to shoes, and even t-shirts. This kind of strange behavior leads to massive plumbing issues on cruises. Every. Single. Time.
15. Cruise Ships Are Pollution Factories.
Going on a 7-day cruise? Expect to be sailing on top of 210,000 gallons of raw sewage by the end of it. With all the cruise ships out there producing sewage, we’re dumping upwards of 1,000,000,000 gallons of sewage directly into the ocean. That’s one billion! With a B!
Just think of that the next time you see dolphins playing in the wake of the ship. They’re playing in your poop water. Gross. And if that's not bad enough, one cruise ship produces the same amount of sulfur dioxide fumes as several million cars to travel the same distance. Air quality on a cruise ship can be around 20 times worse than air downtown in any major city. So much for that fresh ocean breeze right?
14. Cruise Ships Like To Catch On Fire
Whether it’s just a small fire or a full-on explosion, there’s a chance it will happen on a cruise ship. Over 60 people per year are injured on cruise ships due to “operational mishaps,” which is a fun, jargony way of saying “Ship’s on fire, yo.” I mean at least if your boat catches on fire you can always jump into the ocean right? I mean sure, as long as you ignore everything I just told you in number 3. So the real question is, do I burn to death? Or do I dive into some poop water? Seems like staying on dry land is really the best option here.
13. All The Food Is Probably Super Gross
An average cruise ship has somewhere around 3000 people on board. But the biggest vessels boast a max occupancy of over 6000 people! All of those people have to eat. Multiple times a day. And it's not like they're flying in fresh food every single day. You see what I'm getting at with this?
All of the food for a voyage is packed on the ship before it leaves port. So those oysters you ate on day 4? Those are four-day-old oysters. That lobster bisque they served you on night six? Six-day-old bisque. It's no wonder that passengers frequently come down with “gastrointestinal illness.” Try enjoying your shore expedition when you're having to run to the bathroom every 5 minutes.
12. Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite
No, seriously, don’t let them. It's not unheard of to have a bed bug infestation in your cabin. While the ship might be super clean, the people coming on board might not be. And out at sea, there's only so many places those bugs can go. Bringing these nasty bugs home can be devastating for your home and property in addition to ruining a much needed vacation. Make sure you inspect your accommodations for bed bugs regardless of where you choose to travel.
11. Sometimes The Sewage Just Won’t Leave
I hate to hit the same point three times, but cruise ships have a lot of people on board who might have gastrointestinal issues and are probably using the facilities pretty frequently. When everything is going great, you'll never notice. But the second that ship loses power, that sewage will start to rise. To hammer this point home let’s talk about the Carnival Triumph cruise.
In 2013 the ‘Carnival Triumph’ lost power and the 3000+ passengers on board had to endure a scarce food supply, and sewage running down the walls and across the floors. For five days. With literally nowhere to go. “Oh but that was just one cruise,” you might say. Sure, except the ‘Carnival Dream’ (a sister ship of the ‘Carnival Triumph’) had the exact same thing happen a month later.
10. Getting Robbed At Gunpoint Is Not Uncommon
So you survived the gastrointestinal illness and the bed bugs and have made it to your port of call, congratulations! Now give me all of your money. You see, in a lot of countries a bunch of tourists stepping off of a boat into a foreign land can seem like easy pickings to the local criminals. I'm not talking about pirates here, though they are also a concern, but passengers who leave the ship can become targets for armed robbers. In 2013 55 tourists were robbed in St Lucia at once. But don't worry, it's not always guns, sometimes you're just robbed at machete point.
9. If You Vanish, Literally No One Will Care
I mean, except your loved ones that is. I touched on this earlier, but sometimes people just disappear, and a lot of the time no one knows (or cares) why. Take the case of John Halford for example.
Mr Halford straight up vanished during a 7-day cruise to Egypt. He disappeared right after sending a text to his wife saying that he would see her tomorrow at the airport. The cruise ship company claimed that he couldn't have accidentally fallen overboard and beyond that just sort of shrugged and told his family, “good luck with that”. I mean honestly, at this point the leading theory is aliens.
8. Cruise Ships Are A Ticking Time Bomb For Disease
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Travelers from diverse regions brought together in often crowded, semi-enclosed environments onboard ships can facilitate the spread of person-to-person, foodborne, or waterborne diseases.” The most frequently documented cruise ship outbreaks involve respiratory infections (influenza and Legionnaires' disease), GI infections (norovirus), and vaccine-preventable diseases other than influenza, such as rubella and varicella (chickenpox).
And I mean, if that just doesn't sound like the vacation of a lifetime, I have no idea what would be.
7. Sexual Assaults Happen Pretty Frequently
It's hard to imagine that when you stuff 3000 people on a boat with unlimited alcohol and the inability to go literally anywhere else that sexual assault isn’t going to be an issue. According to the FBI, sex crimes are the most frequently reported crime on cruise ships (second only to public swimming pool urination). The alleged persecutors include both the passengers and the crew. So it’s a good thing that it doesn’t happen very ofte- wait, you're actually twice as likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise ship than on land. Oh. Uhhh… Bummer.
6. Buying A Ticket Does Not Guarantee You A Safe Voyage
When some of the passengers from the famed “Carnival Poop Cruise”, who were justifiably upset that they were forced to spend their entire vacation floating around in a massive toilet in the middle of the ocean, got together and attempted to sue Carnival Cruise Lines, the company’s legal team didn’t bat an eye. Lawyers for Carnival claimed that by buying tickets the passengers had agreed to a contract that did not guarantee them a safe voyage and the judge agreed that Carnival didn’t have to pay any damage to the plaintiffs regardless of their claims of injuries. But, Carnival did offer them a voucher for another cruise at some point in the future. So that's nice.
So we've already established you have a pretty good chance of getting sick on your cruise, but that's okay because you can always just take a trip down to the infirmary right? I mean, yeah you can, but just know that the doctor on duty might not be licensed to practice medicine in the United States… or literally anywhere. Doctors can be signed up to work on the ship's infirmaries and are paid a salary and commission based on what is sold in the ship's infirmary.
These doctors are supposed to be licensed somewhere, be it the ship’s country of origin, it's port of call, or literally anywhere. And because the cruise line is not responsible for bad medical care as long as they have hired a qualified physician, if something goes wrong, you're out of luck.
4. The Laws Are Weird And Difficult To Enforce
Everybody knows that if you want to commit a crime, you sail for international waters. But just because you're in international waters doesn't mean your cruise will be a crime free for all. However, it does mean that you will be prosecuted under admiralty law which basically says the captain of the ship gets to decide what happens to someone suspected of committing a crime.
If a US citizen is involved, the FBI may investigate. But considering the fact that there are no police officers on board a cruise ship, by the time the ship returns to the states it's often too late to properly prosecute a criminal. This is due to the fact that jurisdiction depends on where the ship was located at the time the crime was committed, which can make it extremely difficult to get justice.
3. Sea Sickness, Cabin Fever, And Overcrowding
This one's probably pretty obvious. You're going to be on the ocean and with that comes seasickness. You see, as long as the weather cooperates on a vessel as large as a cruise ship you should be fine, but the second the waves start to pick up and the ship begins to rock, expect to get sick. Especially if you’re an inexperienced sailor. And there's only so much Dramamine can do for you.
On top of that, ‘cabin fever’ isn’t uncommon. Most cabins on a typical cruise ship are hardly considered “large.” How else are you going to stuff over 3,000 people onto a boat? And speaking of 3000 people, the ship is going to be crowded. Passengers have reported having to show up at the pool as early as 9 a.m. to stake their claim for a sun lounger and even then they're only five inches away from the next person over.
2. You Don't Get To Experience Any Local Culture
Depending on why you go on vacation this might or might not be a negative for you. But when you leave the United States on a cruise ship, you won't feel like you've left the United States at all. Almost everyone on the ship is American, everyone speaks English, and everywhere you go during the cruise, you’ll have 3,000 or so fellow Americans for company. Couple that with the fact that you only get between 6 to 8 hours at the destination port, and you're practically resigned to missing the opportunity to soak in any culture.
And if you want to go on an excursion? They’re super expensive. Like, twice what you would pay if you booked the excursion through anyone but the cruise line. But of course, you can't book it through anyone but the cruise line because if you’re late getting back to the ship the captain will just up and leave you. (And since all your stuff is on the boat, good luck finding a way back home.)
1. Sea Legs
Although you may not notice it while you're on board, the cruise ship is constantly rocking. This will inevitably mess with your inner ear and sense of balance. This has led to many cruise ship passengers complaining that even days after they've made their way back to dry land and their normal boring lives, they're swaying like they were on a cruise ship. You can honestly chalk this up as more of an annoyance than anything, but I mean let's face it, it's all part of the experience. Just try not to lose your balance and hit your head when you fall over puking your guts out from that gastrointestinal illness you got earlier. Good luck!