What happens if someone dies on a cruise ship?

Death On cruise Ship: More often than most people think, cruise ships experience fatalities. Although cruise lines make every effort to prevent bad press after fatalities that occur on board, data indicates that hundreds of individuals tragically pass away while on cruises each year.

It will be crucial for you to know what will and won’t happen next if you lose a loved one while on a cruise. Regretfully, the cruise line will not act in your family’s best interests, even though it may express its sorrow if news of your loved one’s passing surfaces. Rather, the cruise company will concentrate on shielding itself from responsibility, and it will be your responsibility to retain a cruise ship disaster attorney to make sure that your family’s case is handled properly.

How Many Cruise Ship Deaths Occur?

The number of fatalities aboard cruise ships is not well-reported in statistics. Between 150 and 200 persons are estimated to die each year. The unfortunate reality is that the real figure is far higher.

Statistics on fatalities on cruise ships are essentially nonexistent. Deaths from natural causes are rarely recorded, although accidents, homicides, and suicides are frequently documented.

The amount of fatalities on cruise ships isn’t exactly publicized by cruise operators. The CDC does, however, mandate that ships notify the ship’s port state of “any deaths or certain illnesses.”

91 cruise ship passengers perished between 2014 and 2017 when they arrived in Fort Lauderdale. Additionally, 129 naturally occurring deaths on board arriving vessels at Port Canaveral were reported between 2008 and 2018.

Although the majority of passenger fatalities are not the cruise line’s responsibility, hundreds of passengers experience them each year.

Nonetheless, taking into account the millions of passengers that take cruises, the number of fatalities from cruise ships is quite modest. Over 30 million individuals take cruises worldwide every year.

How Do Cruise Ship Deaths Occur?

Cruise Ship Deaths
(Credit: Centennial, Inc)

All age groups, from young children to elderly citizens, take cruises. However, it’s no secret that older people are the primary target audience for cruising.

Age-related mortality is the most common cause of death, which is not surprising considering the large number of older passengers that sail each year.

There are many other reasons why someone could die at sea, but heart attacks are the most frequent cause.

“The vast majority of deaths on cruise ships are natural, with most of them the result of heart attacks,” claims Cruise Critic.

In case you were wondering, it is extremely uncommon for a passenger to die as a result of jumping off a cruise ship.

What Takes Place on a Cruise Ship Upon Death?

Crew members are specifically trained to handle the logistics of removing a deceased passenger’s body from the ship and tending to the needs of surviving passengers and family members.

One cannot be ready for a loved one’s passing. Thankfully, cruise lines have staff members who have been specially trained to offer care to bereaved families.

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What to Do If a Loved One Passes Away While on a Cruise

This is a summary of things to anticipate when a loved one passes away while on a cruise:

1. Cruise Lines Is it appropriate to bury your loved one in the ship’s morgue?

morgue on cruise
(Credit: Trusted caskets)

The cruise line should deposit a deceased cruise passenger’s remains in the ship’s morgue. Although they are rarely advertised, morgues are present on every cruise ship. When the cruise ship reaches its next port that takes human remains, the passenger’s remains should be maintained in the morgue undisturbed. After that, the body will be unloaded from the ship and given to the local authorities.

Regretfully, although this is the ideal scenario, it doesn’t always occur. For instance, the Miami Herald recently published a story about an incident in which the corpse of a passenger was purportedly not interred in the ship’s morgue, but rather allowed to rot in a drink cooler.

2. The decision to send a loved one’s remains home rests with the family

It is the responsibility of the family to arrange for the return of their loved one’s remains home when the body of the passenger is taken off the cruise ship. This can be costly without insurance and difficult, particularly if the passenger’s body is in a far foreign nation. The cruise line will not help with this process even though it decided to leave the passenger’s remains behind. However, if you work with a knowledgeable cruise ship accident attorney, they will be able to assist you in taking the required actions to return your loved one’s remains home as soon as it is safe to do so.

3. Travel Guard

The significance of having travel insurance when taking a vacation overseas cannot be overstated.

Travel insurance policies typically cover medical expenses, theft, and return-home costs.

The cruise operator, along with the travel companions, will work with the insurance company to devise a strategy if the traveler possesses travel insurance. Occasionally, the family has to cover the costs out of pocket before claiming travel insurance.

4. The Cruise Company Will Look Into

The cruise line will investigate to ascertain the cause of death
(Credit: Sinequa)

The cruise line will investigate to ascertain the cause of death in the event of an aboard fatality. However, the cruise line will also be operating in its own best interests in this situation. Therefore, even though the entirety of the circumstances point to something different, the cruise company is likely to conclude that the passenger’s death was due to “natural causes.”

This captures one of the most heartbreaking truths about losing a loved one while on a cruise. The cruise line’s only objective after a passenger passes away is to reduce the possibility that the passenger’s family would file a wrongful death claim against it. The cruise line is exempt from disclosure requirements and will withhold its results if they raise questions about possible liability.

5. Providing a Certificate of Death

After the body disembarks from the ship, the port city country assigns the death certificate.

For the body to travel back home via plane, a death certificate is necessary. Not every port has the facilities required to hold a body or provide a death certificate.

The body will stay in the ship’s morgue until the cruise ship docks at a suitable port if the ship stops in a port that doesn’t meet these requirements.

6. Federal Authorities Could Look Into

If the circumstances surrounding a passenger’s death (typically as reported by other passengers or the passenger’s family) seem suspicious, federal authorities may also look into it. This occurred recently when a passenger aboard the Carnival Cruise Sunshine, which was leaving Charleston, South Carolina, died. Even though Carnival Cruise Line stated in a statement that “all indications about the death… suggest that it was a natural death due to a medical condition,” the FBI opened an inquiry because of rumors that the circumstances surrounding the death seemed suspicious.

7. The Family Will Require Legal Counsel for the Cruise Ship Accident

The family may not get all the information required to make a claim, even if federal authorities look into the accident. Investigating a suspicious death with the intent of bringing a wrongful death lawsuit differs greatly from investigating for federal law enforcement. Therefore, the passenger’s family members will still need to employ a cruise ship disaster lawyer to gather information that supports their legal rights, even though the government’s inquiry may result in criminal prosecution if charges are merited.

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What to anticipate from a cruise ship accident attorney

When you retain legal counsel after a loved one passes away aboard a cruise ship, your attorney will take immediate action to safeguard the legal rights of your family. While various circumstances necessitate different strategies, in a typical case, a knowledgeable cruise ship accident attorney will take the following actions:

  • Gaining access to your deceased loved one’s phone to look through any images or recordings that might be pertinent to your family’s wrongful death lawsuit
  • Conversing with guests aboard a cruise ship who may have seen your loved one’s accident or who may have reason to suspect that your loved one’s death was suspicious
  • Suing other cruise line workers and crew members who may know of your loved one’s passing
  • Formally discovering and obtaining from the cruise line accident reports, emails, texts, and other records
  • Interacting with federal investigators who looked into the demise of your loved one
  • Collaborating with medical professionals to ascertain the cause of death of a loved one; and,
    evaluating culpability using all available data and bringing a lawsuit against the cruise company before the time passes, to protect your family’s legal rights.

Speak with a Cruise Ship Lawyer About the Legal Rights of Your Family

We sincerely apologize if a cruise ship accident claimed the life of a loved one. What you and your family have gone through is not fair to anyone. We also advise you to discuss your family’s legal rights with one of our attorneys. Hiring a knowledgeable cruise ship accident attorney will be the first step on your family’s road to recovery if your family has a claim. Cruise lines are frequently held accountable for the deaths of their passengers. For a free consultation, contact us online or at 800-499-0551.

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