People Just Disappear: 5 Reasons Cruise Ships Are Nightmares

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

Evgeny Sergeev/iStock/Getty Images

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, 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.

Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images
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 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.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
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

koi88/iStock/Getty Images

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."

Vadim Zholobov/iStock/Getty Images
"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

ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images News/Getty Images

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.

Spotmatik/iStock/Getty 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.

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E. Reid Ross

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