Just How Hard is it to Fall Off a Cruise Ship?

In the past two weeks, three people have gone overboard on cruise ships — a drunk 35-year-old off the Florida coast, and a couple 20-somethings who’ve asked for the circumstances of their tumble to be kept secret. So what gives? Are you actually at risk of going overboard when on a cruise?

Carolyn Spencer Brown of CruiseCritic.com says: “It is so hard to fall overboard that when someone does go over the side, it’s either because, sadly, it’s a suicide attempt or it’s because they’re being incredibly foolish.”

Douglas Ward, author of ‘Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships,’ suspects “that drink is usually involved in these kind of circumstances.”

Douglas Stallings, editor of ‘Fodor’s Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises,’ agrees, saying: “Many of these incidents involve excessive use of alcohol.”

So no, you’re not at risk, unless you’ve been getting hammered.

But not so fast. Even though statistics provided to Congress by cruise lines show that less than one in one million passengers went missing over a three-year period, organizations like International Cruise Victims still exist. These critics say that cruises are dangerous, and that — especially when foul play is involved — the cruise lines don’t thoroughly investigate. Additionally, a recent Congressional hearing found that crime reporting on cruise ships is inconsistent.

However, in spite of these high profile incidents, chances are that Douglas Stallings is right, and “cruise ships are considerably safer than any other place you’re likely to vacation.”