How Many People Fall Off Cruise Ships?

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View of a cruise ship

Setting sail on the open seas on a cruise ship is a fantastic way to vacation. However, it can also be very dangerous if you’re not careful. It’s not uncommon to hear of passengers going overboard. So how many people fall off cruise ships each year?

We want you and your loved ones to have a remarkable time no matter where you’re cruising. Luckily, we have some basic things you can do to reduce the chances of experiencing a tragic situation.

Today, we’re looking at some of the dangers of cruising and how you can stay safe. So dawn your life vest, and let’s get started!

Are Cruise Ships Dangerous?

Passengers have some inherent risks when boarding a ship. However, most vessels have high-tech safety features thanks to technological advancements over the last several decades. In addition, most follow strict regulations that help minimize risks, but accidents can and do still occur.

Fires, mechanical failures, and adverse weather conditions can create issues for passengers and crew members. Additionally, cramming several thousand people into a small space increases the risks of passing sicknesses. 

According to the CDC, people commonly experience gastrointestinal infections, respiratory infections, and other health issues due to cruising.

Experts found that 623 people died while on cruise ships from 2000 to 2019. A majority (90%) of these deaths involved passengers. Additionally, 15.5% of these deaths were the result of cardiac-related issues. 

Surprisingly, falling overboard accounted for 21.1% of the deaths during the same timeframe.

How Many People Fall off Cruise Ships?

According to Cruise Lines International Association, 212 “overboard incidents” occurred from 2009 to 2019. This is an average of 19 passengers per year accidentally or intentionally falling into the sea. Unfortunately, of those 212 incidents, only 48 (22.6%) were rescued.

It’s important to note that passenger vessels must follow strict security and safety requirements. One requirement is that railings be at least 42 inches above the deck. Despite their height, accidental overboard accidents still occur more often than they should.

Can You Survive If You Fall off a Cruise Ship?

Unfortunately, the odds aren’t in your favor if you find yourself overboard. These falls can be upwards of more than 100 feet into the water thousands of feet deep. Some compare the impact to that of hitting a wall of concrete. This often results in individuals almost instantly breaking their necks.

If that’s not enough, you must also deal with the turbulent seas. These can suck you under and make keeping your head above water nearly impossible. 

Fighting against these forces can quickly lead to exhaustion. The average swimmer doesn’t have enough stamina to last the hours it takes rescuers to locate and get to them.

So while it is possible to survive falling off a ship, it’s typically not likely. It’s certainly not a risk we suggest anyone take. The potential for a tragedy is far too high, and it’s not worth it.

How Do Most People Fall off Cruise Ships?

Despite tall railings, most passengers fall off ships by accident. This is often due to slips or falls during reckless behavior. Typically, alcohol consumption plays a significant role in these accidents. 

With impaired judgment, many passengers take risks they wouldn’t otherwise consider. Climbing on or over railings or entering restricted areas are the most common risks. 

Unfortunately, these incidents often occur when someone tries to capture a picture or document the risk they’re taking. Seriously, no amount of likes or viral fame is worth it.

It’s also important to note that not all of these cases are unintentional. Some individuals decide to take their own life by jumping overboard. The odds of survival are minimal, especially at night. However, the pain left for the friends and family of these individuals is significant.

A group of friends drinking on a cruise

5 Tips for Staying Safe on a Cruise Ship

If a cruise is in your future travel plans, you can do some things to maximize safety. Here are five of our best tips to help you and those in your crew stay safe.

Pay Attention During Safety Drill

It is a requirement for cruise lines to complete a muster drill with their crew and passengers. A muster drill prepares passengers on how to act and where to go in case of an emergency. 

How they conduct these will vary based on the company. The purpose is to communicate critical safety information with passengers in case the ship experiences an emergency.

While it is only a drill, it’s still something you should take seriously. Knowing where and when to go during an emergency is essential. These drills are relatively quick, but the information they provide could save your life.

Keep in Mind: SOS on Your iPhone Could Save Your Life! Click the link to see how SOS helped this hiker.

Close up of a cruise ship upper deck

Follow Health and Safety Guidelines

You live in close quarters with thousands of people on a ship. As a result, following health and safety guidelines is essential. Wash your hands regularly, use hand sanitizer, and avoid touching your face. 

If you’re sick, wear a mask. You want to do all you can to prevent spreading germs.

If you begin to feel ill, visit the onboard medical team. These trained medical professionals can provide you with care. They can even offer medicine so you can get back to enjoying your cruise as quickly as possible.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Being aware of your surroundings is a meaningful life skill you should develop. This is especially important on a ship, where the consequences can be deadly. 

Be mindful of ledges, railings, and other passengers. You don’t want to cause someone or something to go overboard because you’re not paying attention.

There’s a time and a place for messing around and having a good time. If you’re anywhere near the railings, it’s the wrong time and place. Do all that you can to always remain aware of your surroundings.

Drink Responsibly

Cruises are notorious for passengers enjoying large quantities of alcohol. Many even offer unlimited drink packages. Even if they don’t intend to, individuals can easily drink more than they usually would.

Alcohol impairs your judgment and can cause you to behave or do things you wouldn’t otherwise. Unfortunately, when floating in the middle of the ocean, inebriation can get dangerous.

There’s nothing wrong with having a good time and enjoying an adult beverage, but please do so responsibly. We don’t want anyone accidentally falling off a cruise ship when drunk.

Close up of drinks at a cruise ship

Stay Within Designated Areas

While it may be tempting to enter a restricted area, it’s not a good idea. It can land you in hot water with security and be dangerous. Depending on the situation, you could fall overboard or get hurt.

Areas have restrictions for a reason. You may not understand it, but it’s the rules. You’re not doing yourself or the crew any favors by entering them. Violators could face criminal charges or get removed at the next port.

Keep in Mind: Looking to start planning a cruise? Here’s where you should take a cruise this summer!

Don’t Go Overboard While Cruising

Millions of people cruise every year without going overboard. However, the risks are real, and it’s a danger that everyone in your party should take seriously. Don’t let a tragedy ruin your dream vacation. 

By following the tips we’ve shared today, you increase the odds that you return safe and sound. You can enjoy many more adventures by land and sea.

Were you surprised by how many people fall off cruise ships?

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