The horrors of the Carnival Triumph “Poop Cruise” a few years back brought to the world’s attention (and especially CNN’s) that not every seagoing excursion is a wonderland of drunken karaoke, all-you-can-eat buffets, and developmentally disabled yeoman pursers. While air travel is still the safest way to get to your destination, crossing an ocean on a boat sure as shit ain’t second. Yes, the odds of survival are astronomically in your favor should you choose to journey by passenger liner (as far as they’re willing to tell us, that is), but you should be aware that an expensive seafaring vacation can quickly turn into a watery nightmare, due to the harsh reality that …
#5. People Go Missing With Disturbing Regularity
Back in the age of pirates, I’d imagine, people disappeared pretty routinely from densely populated ships, likely related to unregulated plank-walking incidents and sexy mermaid/manatee confusion. But between 1995 and 2011, according to CruiseJunkie.com, a whopping 165 persons went missing after last being seen on a cruise ship, and 20 have gone overboard this year alone. In regards to the ones who have been declared dead, were they suicides? Murders? Alien abductions? A lot of the time, nobody fucking knows.
Although some important clues may be gleaned from barracuda poop.
Sure, sometimes there are indications of foul play or whatever. But the creepiest scenarios are the ones where the individual in question seems to, just like how Trevor Noah probably will in a few months or so, vanish completely off the face of the Earth.
Take for instance the story of John Halford, who was on a totally normal cruise to Egypt. He ate a totally normal meal, sent a totally normal text to his wife (who totally normally wasn’t there with him) telling her that he’d see her tomorrow at the airport, then poof. Nobody ever saw him again.
But the worst part of that story is when Lauren Hansen of TheWeek.com says: “Worryingly, Halford’s story is far from unique.” And while sometimes there’s a perfectly good explanation (usually the aforementioned ones, in addition to accidents that I imagine involve tidal waves of vengeful sea monkeys) a good portion of the time the authorities literally don’t have a single clue, and the missing persons’ families are left eternally bewildered.
Not to mention all the Judas Priest fans who were shocked to find out that he
even had a wife. Oh wait, wrong Halford.
That’s horrible enough. But as a final cherry on the grief cake, when some presumably bad shit goes down and a relative goes missing, the authorities sometimes can’t or won’t do much besides shrug their shoulders and maybe wish the family a hearty good luck with their own investigation. Does that sound crazy? Well, it certainly did to Kendall Carver, whose daughter disappeared from a Royal Caribbean cruise in Alaska. Carver was reportedly forced to spend $75,000 out of pocket on private investigators and lawyers. And as he told NPR’s Noah Adams:
“If something happens to you or a loved one on a cruise ship, you are on your own. Don’t expect the crew of the ship, our governmental agencies — which I would include the FBI — to assist you in your effort. You’re on your own.”
Unfortunately, Carver never received any Liam Neeson training prior to the incident, and his daughter remains unaccounted for. But as a result of his experience, he’s since dedicated his life to assisting people who find themselves in the same boat, so to speak. Please don’t punch me for typing that.
#4. The Locals At Your Port Of Call Might Want To Kill You
The basic point of taking a cruise is to eventually get somewhere else, right? Like a tropical beach, or some other likewise scenic destination where you can take a break from being a fixture at the onboard bars and get liquored up terrestrially, just for a change of pace. Unfortunately, in a lot of places, as soon as you step off the boat you may as well have taped a “kick me” sign to your back. And, even more unfortunately, that sign seems to often be mistranslated as “point a gun in my face and rob me.”
I don’t mean pirates. It was definitely sketchy for a while in the early aughts in terms of the neo-Blackbeards, but if you’re dopey enough to get on a cruise ship that’s bound for anywhere in the vicinity of Somalia nowadays, you probably deserve what you get. But even places that are commonly thought of as placid, carefree destinations can occasionally turn into a scene out of Captain Phillips. Passengers who leave the ship are a common target for armed robbers and can be especially ripe for the picking when they’re all bunched together like rubes on a tour bus. Like the time when 55 tourists were collectively relieved of their money and jewelry in St. Lucia back in 2013. And, reportedly, “robbing cruise passengers in bulk” in places like the Caribbean and Mexico is about as frequent as paying 13 bucks for a beachside daiquiri. Or, rather, it’s “not uncommon.”
“On second thought, I suppose I would like salsa lessons.”
One might not be especially shocked to hear about something like that happening in Mexico, where the drug cartels continue to make everyone’s life miserable. But it may come as a surprise that some islands in the Caribbean can be just as dangerous — enough to where the U.S. State Department and its embassies felt the need to issue a warning to travelers about just how dicey things can get over there. And that description can be taken quite literally, seeing as how the weapon of choice is often a machete. But if you really want to turn your cruise into an “extreme adventure vacation,” try visiting a locale with a sizable terrorist population, like Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. But don’t worry, the odds are still in your favor. After all, when a ship disembarked there just a couple months ago, out of all the passengers and crew only a relatively small percentage of them were shot and killed while visiting a local museum.
“And on your right you’ll see some masked gentlemen with AK-47s. Please don’t buy
any of their chewing gum, as it will only encourage them toward a life of crime.”
#3. Ships Can Turn Into A Gigantic Petri Dish For Disease
If you think seasickness and plentiful booze are the only things that can cause a cruise passenger to start heaving a technicolor yawn over the railings, the CDC would like to give you a few more reasons for why you might have to spend the majority of your trip abusing the cabin toilet:
The crowded, semienclosed environment of the cruise ship can facilitate transmission of infectious diseases from person to person or from contaminated food, water, air, or environmental surfaces. 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).
“I’m the king of the raaalph …”
There are all sorts of potential ways a ship can make you wish you had packed a hazmat suit, and the most common type of outbreak seems to involve norovirus, also known as the “winter vomiting bug.” What’s more, at least according to another CDC report, it’s not exactly uncommon for this viral strain to turn the passenger decks into a puke-and-diarrhea-filled Slip ‘N Slide. I’m sorry about getting so graphic there with the descriptions, but at least I’ll promise right now that I won’t wreck your day with any related images.
I’ll just give you this one. You can add some sepia poop-tones at your discretion.
In April 2015 over 200 people came down with gastrointestinal viruses on Celebrity Cruise’s Celebrity Infinity and Royal Caribbean’s Legend Of The Seas. And although Mexican ports were included on the itinerary, it seems unlikely that Montezuma had a vengeful hand in the proceedings. Seeing as how the immediate response by Celebrity (aside from watching teams of government epidemiologists and health officers being sent in to assess the situation) was to increase cleaning and disinfection procedures, one can only surmise that it’s just something that happens occasionally when you’re surrounded by filthy people on a filthy boat.
#2. Sexual Assaults And Other Crimes Are Relatively Common
Hard evidence can be just as hard to come by when you’re talking about crimes involving cruise ships. First of all, the industry obviously doesn’t want sordid information getting out that could damage their brands. And when you factor in elements like international waters, jurisdiction disputes, and loopholes, keeping embarrassing incidents on the down-low can be as easy as a shrimp cocktail shit. Furthermore, it’s reportedly standard operating procedure for the cruise line corporations to occasionally engage in a little … book cookery.
According to that link, some cruise lines don’t report assault cases unless someone gets their ass just flat-out whooped. So unless you got a crazy injury, you’re shit out of luck. And if you got some stuff stolen, unless it was worth 10 grand or more, don’t even bother reporting it, because they’ll just turn around and walk away mid-sentence.
And it’s not just the petty stuff that’s being swept under the rug. Sometimes these companies will continue to make claims of plausible deniability, even when corpses are involved.
Which is why you should never board a vessel with a figurehead
of Dershowitzocles, the ancient Greek god of defense lawyers.
And of course, whenever you mix rowdy people on vacation, umbrella drinks, and the inability to call a taxi to go somewhere the fuck else before things get out of hand, the specter of sexual assault is going to rear its ugly head. What would you guess is the highest reported crime on cruise ships? No, it’s not public-swimming-pool urinating. According to the FBI, it’s sex crimes, and the alleged perpetrators hail from both the passenger list and the crew. Yes, the crew. And just like with any other easily obscured malfeasance, companies up to and including Disney are allegedly more than willing at times to try to paint right over it like a rusty hull, allowing accused criminals to evade prosecution.
For all you know that could be an elder statesman of comedy or even a pudding salesman under there.
Sure, your chances of getting ham-handed on a ship by some drunken lout from Des Moines are slim, but … oh wait, reportedly it turns out you’re actually 50 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise ship than on land (as long as the land you’re talking about is Canada). Royal Caribbean seems to be an industry leader in this dubious regard (which makes a certain amount of sense, at least from what I know about royalty), but at least they’re doing something about it. And so is Congress, finally. Or perhaps I should say “eventually.” I’m sure they’ll get around to dealing with it, once they’re done sorting out the other vitally important issues facing our nation today, such as preventing kids from strangling themselves with window curtains and protecting the Mexican wolf. Or maybe, you know, combine all three into one piece of legislation and then send it to Guillermo del Toro for a script treatment.
#1. There May Be No Recourse When Your Voyage Turns Into A Disaster
I feel that I should emphasize something here: I would never want to imply that you should completely write off taking a cruise for your next family, pride, or hedonism function. The aforementioned “Poop Cruise” was an anomaly, after all, and certainly not every ship will catch fire and leave everyone stranded in the middle of the ocean, wallowing for days in their own filth. But you sure as hell can count on the fact that at least a few ships are going to light up like a Great White concert, every single year.
Thankfully, most crews are highly trained in fire-quenching emergency maneuvers.
There have been around 80 cruise ship fires in the last 20 years, not to mention stuff like accidental groundings, rogue waves (with or without vengeful sea monkeys), and any number of factors that could potentially place you in the middle of a Roland Emmerich movie. And should you manage to crawl your way onto shore after such a harrowing experience, you can apparently expect for the cruise line to fight like hell against reimbursing you for your misery, even if they were at fault. Because, after all, you bought a ticket. And that means you unknowingly signed a contract, you dope.
And if you agreed to ride in steerage, you’re implying
consent to be the first one on the lifeboat to get eaten.
When aggrieved victims of the “Poop Cruise” (wow, CNN was right; that thing is the gift that keeps on giving) tried to gain some kind of compensation for the time they spent in the eye of the shitstorm, the lawyers for Carnival claimed in no uncertain terms that the passengers were entitled to exactly Jack and squat, aside from the cost of the trip (and a voucher good for another cruise sometime in the future). And speaking of the tickets, the lawyers made the case that by buying them the passengers had essentially agreed to a contract that does not guarantee them a safe voyage. And even though the ruling judge almost immediately determined the crew to be negligently responsible for the fire, he also totally agreed with the defense lawyers that Carnival did not have to pay damages to the plaintiffs, regardless of their claims of injury.
A decision clearly based on the precedent set in the famous case of Christian v. Bligh.
Subsequent lawsuits saw a few of the passengers squeezing some money out of the cruise line, but after lawyer fees and travel expenditures, most of them didn’t break even. But hey, at least they got something, right? And maybe that, plus the cost of the tickets, might be enough to at least buy a shack somewhere in the middle of the Mojave Desert, or some other place that’s as far from Neptune’s shitty realm as possible.