Cruise Ship Workers Share The Behind-The-Scenes Disasters Passengers Didn’t Know About

What’s more relaxing than a tropical cruise? You may have an awesome time splurging on the buffet, swimming on deck-top pools, and lounging in the sunshine. However, those who run your cruise ship have a massive responsibility: keeping a whole bunch of people happy, safe, and above the water. As it turns out, plenty can go wrong while you’re floating on a hunk of metal in the middle of the ocean.

Plenty of people go overboard, start fires, get into heated fights, plug up toilets, and more while sailing the high seas. Somehow, most of the time, the crew is able to hide even the most obscure happenstances from curious passengers. Still, some disastrous experiences on cruises are too scarring to be forgotten by those who managed them – and may deter even the most adventurous people from ever vacationing on one! These cruise workers decided to share the most disturbing and bizarre events they ever had to cope with while at work on the sea…without sending a single passenger into panic!

Don’t forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!

#35 This Is A Truly Crummy Situation

The water pipe burst in a storeroom and soaked ALL of the spare toilet paper. This was on day two 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.


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#34 Wait… Can You Repeat That?

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 and perfectly fine.

They reviewed the security footage, and in the middle of the night, this guy was drunk on Deck Five and could be seen holding his phone, dancing to music by himself. He then climbed onto one of the lifeboats and did a RUNNING JUMP into the ocean. He left his phone on top of the lifeboat. His body was so fluid from being drunk that he wasn’t injured when he hit the water. The cruise ship spotted him and rescued him. His family didn’t know he was missing because he had booked a separate room.


#33 Well, You Have To Admire Their Commitment To The Law

The 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 authorities wouldn’t even allow the chief medical officer to start CPR.

The coroner had an approximately six-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 seven-day rail trip to Denali (it was a 14-day gimmick… seven days at sea, seven-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.


#32 Sure Glad That Wasn’t In The Spotlight

I was playing a production show (guitar) and 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 excrement everywhere. The show was canceled and the passengers didn’t find out why.


#31 Thank God They Weren’t Deboarding

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. 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.


#30 What Beef Did They Have With This Cruise?

Somebody shot at the navigation bridge of the ship from the shore, the bullet bounced off and hit my colleague on the hand (no real damage but it scared the heck 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.


#29 Not Exactly A Perfect Couple’s Retreat

A few cabins down, a man and woman who were cheating on their wife and husband, respectively, got super tipsy 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 jellyfish and were super cold the whole time. That must have been the scariest most terrible eighteen hours of their lives.


#28 Did No One Question The Freaking Earthquake?

One story that comes to mind with passengers (travel agents and family) was the first sailing out of the yard. The ship can hold about 4,500 passengers, she’s a big girl and has five or six massive engines to power it. About three hours into the sail away, I heard a loud thump and massive vibrations all around, I was in an empty restaurant and saw plates and cups crashing to the ground from the vibrations. My first thought is to always see how the crew reacts, if they are calm, you can stay calm; if they freak out, you better start moving. I could see some concern but they continued on with their business, so I followed their lead and continued doing my work too.

About three to four hours after that, another loud thump and even more vibrations… then silence. After speaking with a few crew members, found out we lost two engines on the initial incident, and now we just lost the rest. Whatever the reason was, we lost complete propulsion and this beast of a ship was going to go wherever the ocean wanted it to. Passengers were notified that we will be running late but to continue having fun and beverages were on the house, no other info was given (smart to avoid panic). About 12 hours later a helicopter was scene (early morning hours) above us dropping down crates of engine parts, and a short time after that, we had propulsion again… and the passengers had no idea why we were delayed and didn’t seem to care.


#27 That Could Have Been Really, Really Bad

A pipe burst and flooded the kitchens. It was a waste pipe so we had to throw everything out and get a sanitation company to meet us at our next port and go out and buy all new inventory. We gave out vouchers for food but if we had been further from port, that would have been awful


#26 Is There Even Room For This Many Fires?

Fires. I worked on a cruise ship for two-and-a-half years and we had three major fires. They were all in crew areas and were controlled and extinguished by our awesome fire team. The passengers never knew what happened, only that their waiter had to leave in the middle of dinner service. People don’t realize how much training the crew members go through to handle these situations. And they will never know that their waiter just helped save the whole ship.


#25 This Could Have Been The Next Titanic

We were cruising through this area that had a few small islands and a few larger islands. I was on bridge watch but 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 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 a very quiet and very awkward hour with that guy.


#24 Talk About Being A Spoiled Brat

I worked on a ship almost 15 years ago. Many stories. This happened to a friend of mine. A family came on. They had a teenage son, who was not interested in the cruise. As soon as the family got to their room, he jumped off his balcony (which is insanely dangerous). They fished him out, and the family got kicked off the ship.


#23 They’ve Sure Got Some Enemies

When my dad’s ship was in the Falklands as a troop carrier, it was nearly sunk by a French Exocet missile fired by the Argentinians. I believe it was closer than 100m before it was destroyed.


#22 Way To Screw Up Everyone’s Day, Guys

We got complaints one day of the toilets in one of the passenger cabins not flushing. After the engineers spent hours flushing out the sewage system to get into the right pipes turned out the only couple onboard had been dumping all their rubbers down the toilet which had clogged the whole system. I guess people were having fun on this boat!


#21 Well, That’s Not Spooky At All

Leaving Southampton to New York we took the exact path the Titanic did, during winter.

Sailed through a hurricane north of Germany. We were surprisingly close to tipping over. In a few places, machinery weighing thousands of pounds came off their moorings and slid around.


#20 But Really… What Was The Warrant For?

I was loading a cruise ship and a man with a warrant once jumped off the side of the ship, into the Hudson River, swam to the west side highway and hailed a cab just to avoid getting arrested. Police were waiting for him to come through customs.


#19 They Must Be Super Picky Eaters

I worked on a cruise ship in Hawaii. One time we ran out of rice and the crew employees refused to work until we got more. We made an emergency port on Oahu and got more. I don’t think anyone noticed except for the kitchen crew.


#18 At Least He Got The Final Word

A guy got into a fight with his family and jumped. The ship circled back and used spotlights from their stage shows to look in the water. They could hear screaming briefly but the guy was never spotted. These were shark waters as well, so he either drowned, or was eaten, or a little bit of both.


#17 If The Computers Crash, You’re Basically Screwed

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 occurrences 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.


#16 It Can’t Get Any Worse Than This

Stranded on the ocean with our sewage system backed up. Never go on a cruise.


#15 Captain Should Be More Diplomatic

I used to be a crew member, and one time a guy working at the front desk jumped overboard after a crew party. He was found a few hours later by the coast guard, and everybody was asked to be discrete in order to keep the cruise running smooth, and everything was fine until the captain came on the PA and said we were delayed because a crew member jumped overboard. Then the madness begins, rumors appear out of nowhere, and the rest of the cruise was pretty much guests asking what happened the whole time.


#14 Please Tell Me He Was Fired…

One of our spa attendants lost it: I mean seriously lost it. He had worked for the ship for years and was slowly building a ‘hit list’ of employees that he was planning to off.

He was slowly sending himself weapons in pieces so that it wasn’t caught by ship security in incoming packages, and was nearly done when his roommate found the list.


#13 If You Wanted To Know Where They Hide The Bodies…

I’m working on a cruise ship currently. One time we had to turn around to take someone to a hospital, and then there was a fire in the laundry room, and it was also pretty rocky seas.


#12 I Guess That’s One Way To Go Out Happy

Someone died. On one specific cruise, we were on in 2008, a man who used to be a sailor took his life. He wanted to die at sea, stopped taking his meds, had a small heart attack in the cafeteria but was okay. Then, he spent the whole night dancing with his family who he brought on a cruise and he died the next morning. Had to be kept in the freezers until the next stop in Greece where his family got off and went back to Hungary. All the other passengers were informed that he went home due to his health issue because it was a very public thing but it was for his funeral. They still come back to the ship every year.


#11 How (Literally) Crappy Is This?

One of the waiters had to go to the backroom really bad but it was during the dinner rush so the supervisor told him to wait. He ended up running out of the restaurant and soiling his pants on the way out and left a trail behind him.


#10 So, This Wasn’t Exactly A Celebration

Used to work on cruise ships. Generally, we leave ports of call around four or five, never really staying later than that due to port regulations.

One night, we had a Surprise Late-Night at a port. All the passengers and most of the crew had a wonderful time. It was a port of call with a very active nightlife.

I was part of the last groups coming back to the ship and noticed a few men in scuba suits entering and leaving the water. Large machinery and the water off the stern of the ship sporadically lighting up. Almost like someone was welding underwater.

A few days later I was in the mess hall and heard that the ship underwent heavy maintenance to repair an area taking on water.


#9 The Dogs Kind Of Give It Away

I work on a passenger ferry, we found some weapons being smuggled into the country, had to keep that quiet. Kind of hard to do with police dogs onboard.


#8 Cool Down, Everyone, No Need To Panic… Right?

We were sailing from Hawaii to San Francisco to dry dock and make repairs to our ship when a propellor bugged out a day and a half into what should have only been seven days at sea, so it added a day and a half to the voyage. People were panicking. Everyone thought we were going to run out of food until the captain reminded everyone we had enough food for a month at sea, and if it was any longer, some perishables might spoil, but they could fly in supplies in an emergency if needed. We arrived in San Francisco with no more delays. Anticlimatic, I know.


#7 How Did They Not Evacuate?

Our engine room had an explosion. We were prepared for a possible abandon the ship signal. They didn’t tell the crew what happened. The ship just stopped middle of the ocean. Then were told we are heading back to port. My friend worked in the engine room and told me about the explosion. It was very hush-hush. Till this day only a select few know what really happened.


#6 Okay, So, That’s Super Morbid

A passenger went missing and nobody could find him for a couple days. It turns out he passed away in the fan room so everyone had been breathing in his aromas for a while. We definitely kept that one under wraps.


#5 Um… What The Heck?

A Mexican cartel boss was on our ship as a guest on a Caribbean run, and in the dead of night, they intentionally veered into U.S. waters long enough for Navy SEALs to creep on and snatch him.

No one even knew. Someone found an article about it the next day.


#4 Is This Even Legal?

The ship always needs a certain number of crew members on board so when it’s your week/cruise to be a designated crew member your passport and ID are confiscated so you literally cannot leave the ship.


#3 Ma’am, I Think Your Kid Is A Psychopath

A teenage girl and her ten-year-old brother had a serious argument on an open deck at night. She was much bigger than him. She picked him up by his throat and held him over the side of the ship. We were doing a Baltic run and between some ports with serious distance between them, so the ship was sailing around 26kts and it was pitch black. Security happened upon them while this was happening and, thank god, prevented an either intentional or accidental Oscar (man overboard). The girl was kept in the brig until morning, and the family was disembarked and repatriated immediately.


#2 An Unsuccessful Search-And-Rescue Mission

On a QM2 transatlantic crossing, one of the kitchen staff got sloppy 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 three nearby merchant ships, try to search for him. Of course, it was foggy and you couldn’t see 100 yards but just about everyone was on the railings with binoculars trying to search for the poor guy. A wedding even stopped onboard, the whole party out looking once the announcement came that we were in the search area. After (shockingly) nothing was found, the concierge desk set up a multinational-currency donation box to send to his family back in Chile. There were four days left in the trip at that point and every day that box was stuffed to capacity. I hope it helped them.


#1 Fires, Death, And Jumpers, Oh My

There are small fires in places like the kitchens that happen somewhat regularly. Most of the time they’re controlled quickly and no one even know they happened.

People, unfortunately, pass out all the time, especially on some of the nicer lines that are basically floating retirement homes. Ironically, it’s when there’s a survivable medical emergency that guests become aware of it when they need to do an emergency evacuation either by tender boat or helicopter.