11 Shocking Facts About Cruise Ships

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11 Shocking Facts About Cruise Ships

Shocking Facts About Cruise Ships

Cruise ships can be magical places, full of exciting activities, great food, and amazing entertainment, all interspersed with stops at fabulous world locations. But there is also a dark side to the cruise industry.
The ships endure most every negative feature of society itself, all condensed into a small space that you can’t get away from once the voyage has commenced. From crime to rampant illness to sheer grossness, the following horrifying facts about cruise ships may make you reconsider your next vacation.

1. The food is not always the freshest

The food is not always the freshest

When a cruise ship departs from harbor, it needs to have enough food on board to feed all of its guests for the entire length of the voyage. While vacationers might expect to have unlimited amounts of high end cuisine, there have been more than a few cases where ships ran out of food before the cruise’s end.
But even worse, as the cruise does near its end, the food that was loaded on Day 1 is no longer very fresh. That can lead to rampant food poisoning, as it did in December 2017, when almost 200 passengers aboard the Ovation of the Seas got violently ill after indulging in a “bottomless brunch.” That same month, 332 passengers aboard a Royal Caribbean ship had a similar experience. To look at the big picture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 1 in 10 guests will contract some type of food-borne gastrointestinal illness during their cruise.

2. Viruses spread like wildfire

Viruses spread like wildfire

Again, tight quarters can lead to the spread of all kinds of yuckiness, including illness-causing viruses. From the common cold to the kill-me-now agony of norovirus, spreadable germs can be found on the surfaces of all public areas, including the food buffets. Factor in the generally poor air quality on cruise ships (more on that later), and one sick passenger can bring down most of the rest.

Sometimes the delicate plumbing can be at fault for the spread of disease. In February 2013, the Carnival Triumph passengers were at the mercy of raw rising sewage on board for five days after a small fire. The 3,143 traumatized passengers later reported “sewage running down the walls and floors,” causing the media to nickname the event “The Poop Cruise.” Only a month later, a similar disaster occurred on another Carnival ship, the Dream. More like a Nightmare, we’d say.

3. The ships easily fall victim to plumbing failures

Viruses spread like wildfire

The plumbing on cruise ships is designed to be very efficient…at dumping raw sewage into the ocean. Relying on a vacuum flush system, when a guest flushes something that clogs the system, every toilet loses suction. And just as on shore, people can be really inconsiderate about what they try to flush. Sometimes it is things they may have assumed could be flushed, like a tampon or condom. But other times folks try to get around the rules for packing out everything they brought in. Lazy customers have been known to try and flush pool noodles, t-shirts, and shoes.

4. Wait, the sewage goes where?

Wait, the sewage goes where?

A standard-sized cruise ship is estimated to produce between 140,000 and 210,000 gallons of sewage every week. When we look at the industry as a whole, it adds up to more than 1 billion gallons of sewage per year that gets dumped directly into the ocean.
Because sewage is full of bacteria, that practice has the potential to be harmful to both marine life and the humans who choose to swim in the ocean.

5. They are serious polluters

The ships easily fall victim to plumbing failures

Beyond the dumping of raw sewage and harmful bilge water directly into the ocean, cruise ships gobble up a lot of fuel and consequently emit about as much sulphur dioxide into the air, per day, as 13.1 million cars.

A German environmental association, Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU) determined that the air quality on these ships is about 20 times worse than what is found in busy cities. This is due to the fine dust and soot that belches from the ships’ funnels, as well as the harmful nitrogen oxides and heavy metals that are distributed as a side-effect of the combustion of marine diesel fuel and heavy oil.

6. Alcohol-fueled crime is a real problem

A lot of drinking combined with tight spaces can be a trigger for high rates of certain crimes, especially sexual assault and fighting. In 2016, there were 92 total alleged crimes reported to have taken place on a cruise; 62 of those were sexual assaults. And according to FBI statistics, the rate of conviction for perpetrators of these on-board crimes is low, with only 7% of sexual offenders ultimately punished.
When it comes to fighting, the issues are often ongoing because the parties are not able to entirely avoid each other after a disagreement. Be aware, as well, that cruise ships can be prime hunting grounds for petty thieves. Guests often leave personal belongings lying around as they drink and/or take part in recreation, and tend to spend a lot of time away from their rooms.

Alcohol-fueled crime is a real problem


7. Operational mishaps, including fires, are fairly common

Operational mishaps, including fires, are fairly common

There are lots of moving parts and systems that propel large ships, and sometimes mechanical failure does occur. According to research firm G.P. Wild, each year about 60 people are injured and 10 die on cruise ships due to operational mishaps. Problems like small fires or actual explosions are the most common. Other problems involve collisions, sinking, or stranding.

While problems like this occur anywhere, they are especially traumatizing on board a ship in the middle of the ocean, because escape is often impossible.

8. People fall overboard more frequently than you’d think

People fall overboard more frequently than you’d think

While perhaps not the biggest danger in taking a cruise, a 2016 report by industry consulting firm G.P. Wild says that about 19 people fall from a cruise ship or ferry each year.

Luckily, it is not necessarily a death sentence. Between 2009 and 2016, only eight of those falls resulted in a fatality. Still, we recommend staying back from the railings if you’ve been drinking or haven’t gotten your sea legs yet!

9. Pirates are real, and they’re out there

Pirates are real, and they’re out there

The Piracy Reporting Center of the International Maritime Bureau reports that in 2009, pirates originating along the coast of Somalia attacked 214 vessels. However, to put that startling fact in perspective, only 47 of the 214 attempts resulted in a hijacking. Twelve of those ships, including their combined 263 crew members, were held for ransom.
The good news is that cruise ships are not often the preferred targets for pirates, but that doesn’t mean that passengers are not subjected to misery due to the threat of piracy. In 2017, guests aboard a 104-day cruise spent 10 nights in complete darkness and silence in an attempt to avoid attracting pirates. The passengers were scared, especially when they were asked to participate in drills designed to counter a pirate attack.

10. Bed bugs can spread like wildfire

Bed bugs can spread like wildfire

Despite all efforts by the crew, bed bugs frequently hitch a ride aboard cruise ships in the luggage of one or more guests. The fact that many guests come aboard from a hotel rather than home exacerbates the problem. Once on board, bed bugs can spread rapidly due to the tight quarters.
Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done until the cruise is over, because mitigation requires intense heat treating and there’s nowhere for guests and crew to evacuate during that process.

11. They must be prepared with space for a morgue

They must be prepared with space for a morgue

People die all the time, including on cruise ships. Cruise operators are required to have body bags on board and a designated space t to be used as a morgue. The space they must have dedicated depends on the size of the ship, but since it’s hard to predict how many people will die per cruise, sometimes the staff needs to get a little creative. As reported by Reddit user Thatcsibloke, a former cruise ship employee, the contingency plan for storing excess bodies is usually the walk-in freezer where food goes. In extreme cases, a helicopter will meet the boat in order to take bodies to shore more rapidly.
Taken rationally, these 11 cruise ship horrors do not necessarily mean that something bad is bound to happen if you choose this kind of vacation. It’s just that when things do go wrong, it’s a very unpleasant experience for those affected. For the average person, cruises can still represent a thrilling way to see the world. We do recommend, however, that people who have breathing issues or very sensitive stomachs think twice before embarking.

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