Cruise ships are massive, floating cities. Blocks of identical staterooms rise like luxury apartments, and with so many dining venues and amenities, ships feel less like nautical objects and more like shopping-mall food courts with swimming pools, waterslides, Jacuzzis, and casinos. Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, can carry more than 6,000 passengers and 2,100 crew members. With that many people aboard a ship, something is bound to go wrong.
According to CruiseJunkie.com, 22.1 million people took a cruise vacation in 2014, and there were only 22 incidents of man-overboard (MOB). In other words, tourists have a one in a million chance of falling off a cruise ship. “Alcohol is involved in 40 percent of the cases,” says Miami-based maritime attorney Jim Walker. There are a high percentage of cases of foul play, reckless acts, suicide, and other unexplainable maritime mysteries, but few people, according to Walker, are simply getting knocked overboard by a rouge wave or strong gust of wind.
In 2010, the Coast Guard established the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. The CVSSA regulates height requirements for railings and trains crew members how to respond to emergency situations. It requires that all ships built after 2010 have MOB technology –detection devices such as motion sensors, thermal detection systems and drones that are designed to alert the bridge to stop the ship when a passenger goes overboard.
While it’s rare for a passenger to fall overboard, it’s even rarer to fall off a cruise ship and survive. Luckily for these 10 hapless vacationers, their man-overboard stories had a happy ending.
10 Robert Mado
9 An Occurrence on the Crystal Harmony
8 Norwegian Spirit’s Teen Hero
Three hours after setting sail from New Orleans, the Norwegian Spirit was still making its way down the Mississippi River. At around 8 p.m. on June 12, 2011, 16-year old Alex Giffel saw a passenger go overboard. Giffel, who was on a cruise with his family, threw the man a life ring, and then told his 21-year old cousin to alert the crew. A rescue boat was dispatched, the man was pulled to safety, and the ship’s medical team treated him for minor injuries.
7 Frank Jade
At 1,186 feet long and 242, 999 tons, the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas is the second largest cruise ship in the world. With a ship that size it comes as no surprise the Oasis crew didn’t realize their passenger, 22-year old Frank Jade, had fallen overboard eight miles off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico.
6 Larry Miller
5 Couples Counseling on the Carnival Sensation
Florida, 2009. There was an argument…and then a splash. But this wasn’t a Carl Hiaasen-like caper about a greedy husband pushing his wife off a cruise ship for a Life Insurance policy. According to witnesses, a 34-year old man on the Carnival Sensation argued with his female companion in the stateroom and threatened to jump. “Go ahead,” the woman responded.
4 When Nature Calls
3 The Grand Princess Plunge
2 Sarah Kirby
In October 2012, Sarah Kirby, 31, was on a five-night Caribbean cruise with her fiancé and a friend when she toppled off the balcony of the Carnival Destiny, hitting a life raft on the way down. If that wasn’t bad enough, her late-night fall was caught on one of the ship’s cameras -a permanent reminder that drinking and cruising can be as dangerous as drinking and driving.
“I remember leaning over the balcony to look at the side of the ship and the next thing I knew I was in the water,” Kirby told ABC News.
1 Tim Sears
“Last thing I remember I was looking for my friend in the casino,” said Tim Sears. In 2003, the 33-year old Michigan man fell off the Carnival Celebration. Sears doesn’t remember falling into the Gulf of Mexico; in fact, he doesn’t remember anything. He has no idea how he ended up in the water.
“I’m coming to in the middle of the water and there’s no ship around and it’s total, total darkness.” Apparently, when Sears woke up in the water, he wasn’t wearing shoes or pants either.
What happened to Tim Sears remains a mystery. He admits to drinking but said he didn’t drink enough to warrant the sort of blackout he experienced. He says he may have leaned over the railing and fell, but he doesn’t rule out the idea that someone put something in his drink. After 17 hours in the ocean, sick from consuming salt water and badly sunburned, Sears was rescued by a foreign cargo ship heading for Texas.
Sources: news.com, cnn.com, cruisecritic.com, nypost.com, cruisejunkie.com
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