Cruise Ship Employees Reveal Stories About The Biggest Problems Passengers Never Discovered
Cruises can be some of the best vacations a person can take - and also some of the worst. A pleasure cruise can pretty quickly go all Titanic. Ships have to be fully self-contained, so all it takes is one sick passenger, one little kid with lice to infest a whole ship, one broken pipe - and it could all go sideways. Things go wrong on cruises all the time, but most passengers never know about it. One reddit user asked:
Cruise Ship workers of reddit, what was the biggest "oh sh!t" moment on the boat, that luckily, passengers didn't find out about at all?
Antarctic Toilet Paper
Water pipe burst in a store room and soaked ALL of the spare toilet paper. This was on day 2 of a 14 day voyage to Antarctica. The cabin stewards had to swap around rolls of paper between "low use" and "high use" guest cabins and it came right down the wire. None of the guests found out or realized. Now toilet paper is hidden in every cabin instead of a centralized location.
The Special Freezer
Currently working on a cruise ship - people die on cruise ships, and the bodies are kept in a special freezer. Most guests will never know. I mean, you gotta do something with the body if you're at sea. Spent a lot of time in the casino on my last cruise.
Same few faces there each night. Day 3 or 4 one of the guys doesn't show. I comment on it to a dealer and she says something about
"Yeah - my guess is he ended up in the freezer... you see a bunch of people who come here for their end... maybe his money ran out."
Not Landing The Helicopter
The last cruise I was on, somebody needed surgery and so the coast guard came to collect the passenger. Rather than land on the deck (it did have a helipad), they just hovered and EMTs were lowered to the deck, they strapped the kid into some kind of gurney, then raised him into the helicopter.
At the reception, I asked the captain why the helicopter didn't land and he just said they didn't need to land. I imagine it's similar to picking someone up in the city. Sure, you could find a place to park and walk to where they are and escort them back to your car, or.... you could just double park out front and tell them to hurry the hell up.
Drier lint fires are the number one cause of shipboard fires nowadays.
Always empty the lint catcher, folks.
Bankrupt Cruise Line, Stranded Workers
I worked on a cruise ship, and unbeknownst to the passengers and most of the crew, the ship was on its last cruise. The company was going bankrupt and when the ship landed, that was it. Everybody was out of a job, and a lot of the immigrant workers were stranded in a foreign port.
Ran Right Off The Ship
I worked on a cruise ship for three years! I've got a lot of these kinds of stories, but here's my favorite one:
Our ship officers got a call from a ship of a completely different cruise line, off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. They found one of our passengers floating in the ocean. He wasn't even near the shore at all, just floating in open water. He was alive & perfectly fine.
We reviewed the security footage, & in the middle of the night this guy was drunk on Deck 5. He could be seen holding his phone, dancing to music by himself. He then climbed onto one of the lifeboats, put his phone down & did a RUNNING JUMP into the ocean. His body was so fluid from being drunk that he wasn't injured when he hit the water. It wasn't a suicide attempt, he was having a blast. We think he just got too into it?
The other cruise ship spotted him & rescued him. His family didn't know he was missing because he had booked a separate room.
This guy told the news that a "rogue wave" pushed him off the side of the ship. He was on Deck 5, so the wave would have been over 40 feet tall. No wave was seen on the video, nor did any other ships report a wave anywhere near that large.
Don't know what happened after that. The entire crew was talking about it for weeks before it hit the news, though.
Extra Lifeboat Drills
I was on the Costa Serena in January 2012. Just cruising around the Mediterranean. Woke up one morning and ALL of the crew and wait staff at breakfast we're stone cold and depressed looking. They made us do an extra life boat drill that morning, to all of our confusion. Found out later that day that our sister ship, the Concordia, sank overnight but didn't have many other details.
My now wife wasn't on the trip and didn't know the exact name of the ship I was on..and found out before us. She was terrified till the next morning when I could get on to the ship's internet connected computer.
We also found out the crew was especially depressed because a lot of them had family on the other ship and very little information. The captain of the other ship (who was probably drunk) had a civilian girlfriend in the bridge when he shouldn't. He ordered the ship to steer closer to the rocks to get a better view. He ignored all alarms and navigated by eye because he claimed to know better than their navigation equipment. When they struck, he lied to the coastal authorities and said they just had a minor power outage. This heavily delayed rescue /assistance. Then he tried to sneak on board a lifeboat ahead of passengers. People died as a result of all this.
The Italian Coast Guard had to order him to get back on the ship and help. He's in prison for the deaths he caused.
Took a few days, but things got back to fairly normal. I just remembered doing life boat drills and thinking they were a waste of time... Then we found out and learned that lesson
He Died. She Finished Her Vacation.
Ship just arrived in Whittier, Alaska (the port for Anchorage) and an elderly passenger dropped dead while walking down the gangway. A conflict ensues between the port security and the ship's medical team. The port security didn't want the ship's medical team to get involved because it technically happened off the ship and the local authorities had jurisdiction. There really was no saving the guy but the ship's medical team at least wanted to try but the local authorites wouldn't even allow the chief medical officer to start CPR.
The coroner had a ~6 hour ETA so the port authorities bagged up the body and stuffed it in an x-ray machine storage container in port (guarded by local police) until the coroner could arrive to take the body to Anchorage.
The wife of the deceased continued on to finish the vacation for the 7-day rail trip to Denali (it was a 14-day gimmick... 7 days at sea, 7 day scenic rail trip). My understanding was the cruise line comped her entire vacation, arranged for the remains to be returned home at no cost to her, and provided a personal escort/assistant for the remainder of her vacation.
I was playing a production show (guitar) was standing on stage with a wireless unit alone to play Purple Rain, and then all of the sudden the house lights came on and the curtains closed. Everyone in the audience looked at me, and I ran off the stage. Turns out a sewage pipe burst backstage and there was literal, actual sh!t everywhere.
Show was cancelled and the passengers didn't find out why.
Hurled Himself Overboard
A QM2 transatlantic crossing one of the kitchen staff got drunk one night and hurled himself overboard in the North Atlantic. The ship basically found out the next morning when the first mate kept calling on the ship wide intercom for him to go to his post. That afternoon, the captain announced what happened and that the ship was turning around to, with the help of 3 nearby merchant ships, try to search for the him. Of course it was foggy as hell and you couldn't see 100 yds but just about everyone was on the railings with binoculars trying to search for the poor guy.
A wedding on board even stopped, the whole party out looking once the announcement came that we were in the search area.
Nothing was found. The concierge desk set up a multinational-currency donation box to send to his family back in Chile. There were 4 days left in the trip at that point and every day that box was stuffed to capacity.. I hope it helped them.
All of the computer systems run on Windows 7, including all of the automation in the machinery space, security system, fire detection system etc.. When Windows updates it will restart the computers, as it does with a normal desktop, unfortunately it can also take out every computer at the same time and we're flying blind until it finishes.
People may be more worried to hear that there is a hole in the hull yet they're actually fairly common occurances in older ships and easily plugged.
Fires happen occasionally. The most terrifying was a crankcase explosion. The fire suppression systems are good at extinguishing them quickly enough though so they're not even a concern to the crew ... unless Windows is updating at the time.
I was a cruise ship worker for a few years and on a route between two cities there was a really bad storm. So a few minutes after the passengers got off, the storm got so rough that the ship was ripped off the docks and drifted out to sea. Bye Sweden.
Because it takes quite a while to start up the engines it took some time until we got back to the harbor. Not really dangerous, but if it had happened while the passengers were deboarding it could have gone badly.
Bullet Fired From Shore
Somebody shot at the navigation bridge of the ship from the shore on my last ship, the bullet bounced off and hit my colleague on the hand (no real damage but it scares the hell out of her, ended up going home for a few weeks). While we waited for the local police to come on and investigate and take statements, guests were told we were delaying the departure to take on fresh water.
I'm still shocked that never leaked out.
Cocaine And Group Sex
Was a casino dealer with a major (you know their name kind of major) cruise line for five years. The biggest thing the passengers never know about is that the crew gets LIT.
Cocaine use is rampant due to cheap costs and quickly metabolizing (out of your system in a day or 2). Cocaine in Panama and Bahamas etc. is waaaayyyyyyy stronger than any here.
Group sex: It's not like orgies everywhere but I've seen some pretty buttoned down, conservative types lose there morals quickly. Vacation mode and booze and drugs etc...plus not having to worry about reputations and all makes for some good times.
Catching Human Waste In Garbage Cans
I used to work on the Tahoe Queen as an engineer. We would cruise around Lake Tahoe for 2.5 hours and do lunch or dinner cruises. Between cruises, it was my responsibility to pump the feces out and pump on water if we need it. A lot of times we don't need more water, or we don't have enough poo to warrant pumping.
This was one of the times where we needed water, but not to pump poop.
Problem is, the water systems on large boats/ships can be a funny thing. Long story short, I left a valve open where I shouldn't have, and started taking on water into the water tanks, which, while in transit, apparently overflow into the sewage tanks. The sewage tanks quickly began to fill up, and I spent the last 1.5 hours of the cruise catching human waste in trash cans.
I don't know that anyone would have necessarily panicked.... but I don't think people would like to know what was going on right below where they were eating.
Check For Whales
If you're pushing 140 revs on the shaft and the ship still won't break 15 knots, check the bulbous bow for whales. The weight of a dead whale will slow a ship down. Cruise ships hit whales quite often and the passengers never know.
I was on bridge watch during a cruise around Alaska. It was right at the end of the hour so I had just been relived. Luckily, because I still had my night vision, I was still hanging out on the bridge just chatting with my relief and this new chief mate.
That's when I saw what looked like a shadow on the water, it was extending left from an island. Something about it didn't look right so I kinda did something a little out of character for our role as deckhands and jumped over to the the big spotlight and flicked it on. That's when we saw, just a few boat lengths in front of the ship a rock and gravel shoal. It was low tide and this big long shoal was just smack dab in front of us
This new chief mate cranked it hard over and luckily we missed it. It did rock the boat quite a bit and we all just stood there in shock. Lucky nothing more came of it other than a hard turn. Thank god it was the last hour this new chief mate was on watch and thank god I was relieved from bridge watch. Apparently it was was very quiet and very awkward hour with that guy.
He was fired that day and sent packing. It turns out all he was doing all night was following the GPS plots. Those are guides, not actual tracks one should follow without using the radar, charts and all the other aids to navigation we have. This idiot was just following a line and doing no proper navigation at all. He wasn't even marking the chart or logbook properly, just copying what the GPS said. Apparently that's all he had ever done in the open waters of the gulf, just follow a line so that's all he did in the tight and confined waters of Alaska.
Sometimes I think about the things that could have gone wrong. What if I had just left the bridge instead of staying to chat, my partner didn't have night vision yet so he would not have seen it. What if my relief had shown up late, or early, what if the conversation was a little different? What if I had just thought that shadow was just from the trees on the little island and not flicked on the light? So many things could have gone wrong and who knows how it would have turned out. Would it just have been a collision with a soft sand bar and some paperwork, or would we have hit hard rock and torn the bottom open drowning most of the crew asleep in their underwater rooms? SO many little variables and any one of them could have changed the outcome.
I provide software and services for most of the major cruise lines and spend a lot of time "cruising". On the new builds is when you see a lot of crazy stuff happening.
When a brand new ship is built they have to go through what's called Sea Trials. This is a full systems check for multiple reasons, biggest ones being safety, emissions, and engine/navigation testing. This happens without passengers , and a lot of stuff breaks usually. They will list the ship (lean it all the way to one side) as hard as they can and hold position while doing a circle or figure eight pattern in the water. I had a ~600lb wine cooler (fully stocked) fall face down about 12" away from me while installing a PC at a bar. It sounded like a stick or dynamite exploding from the pressure of all the bottles hitting and simultaneously breaking. I froze staring at it and as I started to come out of the initial shock, four security crew members came running around the corner, no one else around except me and about $10k in broken wine (and the cooler wasn't cheap either). I just stuck my hands in the air, and slowly exited the scene. I'm pretty sure if I was standing one foot to the right it wouldn't have been pretty for me.
Found out the yard workers forgot to bolt it down (as per protocol), oops.
Freddie Mercury And A Free Steak Dinner
I was a musician aboard a cruise ship. One time, a guest entertainer (a fly-on act who joins the ship for a cruise to perform one show) thought he was fcking Freddie Mercury or something. He decided to literally throw out his CDs like ninja stars into a completely dark audience.
One ended up hitting some old woman a half an inch below the eye and she had to go to medical. The husband wrote the cruise director a very threatening letter basically saying "my wife almost went blind so I strongly suggest you give us a free steak dinner."
Cheaters Overboard And Into The Jellyfish
One time I was on a cruise, and a few cabins down a man and woman who were cheating on their wife and husband, respectively, got super drunk and fell over the edge of their balcony. From really high up. It was at night too.
The whole cruise ship stopped once it was reported and it took like an entire day to search for them. Apparently the man had his jeans or something because he had inflated them somehow and they were floating holding them.
They reported that they were stung by multiple jelly fish and were super cold the whole time. That must have been the scariest most terrible eighteen hours of their lives.