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Cruise Ships Are Required to Have a Morgue

Most passengers do not realize the cruise ship they are on has a morgue.

By Margaret MinnicksPublished 2 years ago 3 min read

When most people plan their travel on a cruise ship, the one thing they might not think about is someone dying there. It is estimated that at least 200 people per year die on cruises. However, that number could be much higher. A cruise ship worker on Reddit claimed to see at least three deaths a month.

Causes of Death Onboard

Most of the deaths onboard are from natural causes, especially among older adults. Some deaths are the result of accidents, heart attacks, strokes, overdoses, suicides, falling overboard, and even murders.

Murders are rare, but they do happen. They are usually committed by someone the victim knew and are not pre-planned. They often involve arguments that escalated onboard or from a previous history of abuse. A murder might take place by strangling, stabbing, or pushing someone overboard. No weapons are allowed on the ship.

The website records the number of deaths of passengers and crew members along with the causes.

What Happens With Somebody Dies on a Cruise?

Because people do die onboard, every cruise ship is required to carry a supply of body bags and be equipped with a morgue. The size varies depending on the cruise line, but most morgues can hold from three to six bodies. Larger ships can hold more.

Sometimes bodies are stored in the onboard morgue for up to a week or until the ship docks at an appropriate port. Then the body will be flown home. If the cause of death is unknown or suspicious, the case will be investigated by local authorities.

Video Showing a Cruise Ship's Morgue

Code for Death Onboard

Crew members use codes to prevent passengers from knowing what is going on. This is deliberately done to keep passengers from having their travel ruined. If there is a serious medical problem, the code is "operation bright start." The code for death is "operation rising star."

Passengers who go on cruises a lot have heard the rumor that when the ship has too many bodies to fit into the morgue, the ice cream freezer is used. Therefore, many passengers are seen walking or sitting around eating ice cream that had to be taken out of the freezer.

How Crew Members Help

Cruise ships are well equipped to deal with sickness and death onboard. Crew members are trained in a variety of roles. When a passenger dies on a cruise ship, a representative from the company's Guest Care Team is immediately assigned to help.

Ministers and specially trained people are available to talk to family members and close friends of the deceased. Small chapels are on some ships for those who want to use them.

A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line says, "Our crew is proactive. The line has procedures in place for dealing with these situations, including employees specifically trained to provide emotional and logistical support to grieving loved ones."

Disembarking the Body

Bodies are disembarked at the nearest port. They are taken off the ship very early in the morning to keep passengers from seeing the activity. A passport is needed for everyone who leaves the ship. Therefore, always carry your passport with you whenever you travel. Everyone should have insurance because the cruise line does not pay for anything related to getting a dead body home.

Death Certificates

Before the body can be flown home, the port that agrees to take the body must sign a death certificate. If a port is not equipped to handle the body, the body must be kept on board until another port can take it. If deaths occur within a few days before the ship returns, then it is not unusual for some cruise lines to keep bodies until the final destination.

Reporting the Death

All deaths on a cruise ship must be reported to local authorities. If the ship is from the United States, the death will be reported to the US Coast Guard. Other countries have a similar process in place.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you will never need to use this information. May all of your travels aboard a cruise line be pleasant and enjoyable.


About the Creator

Margaret Minnicks

Margaret Minnicks shares articles with readers all over the world. Topics include celebrities, royal family, movies, television, foods, drinks, health issues, and other interesting things. Thanks in advance for TIPS that are sent my way.

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  • Babs Iverson2 years ago

    Interesting information. Thank you for sharing. 😊💖💕

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