11 Nightmare Stories from Cruise Ship Workers

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There are some amazing crew stories on the internet about their time working on cruise ships, including lots of very funny tales about their time on board.

But there are clearly some nightmare scenarios as well, including some where the passengers have absolutely no idea anything is even going wrong!

Majestic view of a cruise ship's bow as it cuts through the blue waters of the ocean under a bright, cloudy sky, showcasing the grandeur and scale of oceanic travel.

I’ve picked out 11 of the best nightmare stories from cruise ship workers – how would you have reacted during these incidents?

A Silent Tragedy

A man dead in a hot tub wearing sunglasses

A passenger tragically passed away in a hot tub during the first night out of port. A crew member recounted that for hours, the man’s demise went unnoticed as he remained propped up, with his sunglasses concealing the situation. During this time, other passengers joined the hot tub, mistaking his lack of interaction for antisocial behaviour.

The grim reality was only discovered by the crew when they came to close the pool area for the night. The body was discreetly moved to the ship’s morgue.

Remarkably, aside from the deceased’s family, none of the other passengers was made aware of the incident, preserving the tranquillity of the voyage for the rest.

From Redditor Wolfgang7990

Bullet Scare

Close-up of a person's hand with fingers extended, wrapped in a clean white bandage, indicating a recent injury or medical treatment.

During a routine voyage, an unexpected and alarming incident occurred when a bullet was fired from the shore at the ship’s navigation bridge. The bullet ricocheted off the bridge and struck a crew worker’s hand, causing no serious injury but leaving her understandably shaken. She subsequently took a few weeks off to recover from the traumatic experience.

While the ship awaited the arrival of local police to investigate and record statements, the guests were informed of a delay in departure under the pretence of taking on fresh water. Remarkably, this harrowing event remained a well-kept secret, never reaching the ears of the guests or the public.

From Redditor ElGofre

The Unplanned Swim Home

A dramatic scene with a crew member leaping from a cruise ship into the sea at sunset, near a tropical island. The serene beauty of the setting sun casts a warm glow over the scene, highlighting the contrast between the grandeur of the ship and the freedom of the open water.

On a cruise near Australia, a crew member hailing from a nearby Pacific island made a dramatic exit. As the ship sailed away from his homeland, he chose that moment to resign, leaping overboard in an attempt to swim home.

However, the ship was already about a mile away from the island, turning his bold endeavour into a risky situation. The crew member was eventually rescued.

Blaming a Rogue Wave

A man is seen floating on his back in the ocean at sunset, with a distant cruise ship and a lifebuoy nearby, creating a narrative of an unexpected turn of events in a seemingly serene seascape.

A bizarre rescue unfolded off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico, when a passenger from one cruise line was found floating in the open ocean by a ship from another line. Astonishingly, the man was discovered alive and unharmed.

Upon reviewing security footage, it was revealed that the man, intoxicated and dancing alone on Deck 5 in the middle of the night, performed a running jump off a lifeboat into the sea, leaving his phone behind.

His drunken state seemingly protected him from injury upon hitting the water. He was subsequently rescued by the passing cruise ship.

Adding to the oddity, his family, travelling on the same ship but in a different room, was unaware of his absence. The man later claimed to the news that he was pushed off the ship by a rogue wave, a statement met with scepticism given that such a wave would need to be over 40 feet tall to reach Deck 5. Possible, but the security footage undermined his story.

From Redditor too-tsunami

Fake Terror Threats At Sea

A dramatic scene unfolds on a cruise ship deck under clear skies, with FBI agents and K-9 units interspersed among passengers. The tension is palpable as agents stand vigilant, contrasting with the usual leisurely cruise atmosphere

Aboard the Legend of the Seas, a bizarre incident occurred one morning. The staff, accustomed to typical onboard dramas like brawls or passenger liaisons, were summoned unexpectedly by their manager while they were enjoying some ‘relaxing’ time after their shift.

They learned of a terrorist threat specifically targeting Americans on the ship, originating from a note found in the toilets. The situation escalated with the FBI and their dogs boarding, receiving an unusual welcome with applause from the crew and passengers.

The plot took a surreal turn when the perpetrator was revealed to be a 23-year-old pregnant woman, desperate to reunite with her boyfriend, who had recently been released from jail. Her identity was uncovered through a matching note found in her room.

In a strange twist, her family chose to remain onboard for the remainder of the cruise. Meanwhile, her boyfriend, interviewed on CNN, disassociated from her.

Amidst this chaos, the crew was instructed to open the shops to distract passengers. This led to complaints from guests eager to disembark in Hawaii to visit a volcano, adding to the surreal atmosphere of the ordeal.

From Redditor Lazeniabeach

Stormy Debut

A cruise ship braves tumultuous seas under stormy skies, illustrating the dramatic conditions during Storm Katie. Towering waves and fierce winds encapsulate the vessel's challenging journey.

In his first weekend on his maiden voyage, a crew member faced the wrath of Storm Katie off the British coast in 2016, enduring winds over 90mph/145kmph.

Working in the onboard stores, he witnessed significant stock loss, including shattered Swarovski crystal sculptures, as the ship rolled violently. Navigation was challenging due to the ship’s constant list, and routine activities were upended.

Adding to the turmoil, a recent norovirus outbreak had escalated to a “red level” hygiene alert, necessitating strict sanitisation protocols and disrupting normal operations. Despite the chaos and discomfort, there were no serious injuries or damage to the ship.

After enduring this ordeal for several days, the weather cleared, and the alert was lifted. The crew celebrated their resilience with an exceptionally memorable party.

From Redditor ElGofre

From Redditor Puzzleheaded_Job835

Inebriated Leap

the lifeboat deck of a cruise ship

During a crew member’s tenure on a cruise ship, a memorable incident unfolded when a guest, cut off from the bar for excessive drinking, caused a scene. 

Escorted by security to his cabin, he redirected his anger towards his wife, who promptly locked him out on the balcony. In a rash decision, the man jumped off the balcony but fortuitously landed on a lifeboat decks below. 

Miraculously unharmed, likely due to his intoxicated state, he was disembarked at the next port. His wife chose to continue her cruise solo, a decision that seemed quite reasonable under the circumstances.

From Redditor bestbet33

Shortcut Gone Wrong

Ship docked at Ocean Cay

Once, a drunk passenger thought that using the gangway between the ship and the dock was going to be too slow a process, so he thought it would be easier just to jump from the ship.

He didn’t make it, falling between the ship and the dock. Thankfully, he escaped without injury.

From Redditor Puzzleheaded_Job835

The Great Toilet Paper Shuffle

A group of ship officers stands perplexed in a flooded storeroom, as water gushes from a broken pipe onto stacks of toilet paper boxes labeled 'Super Soft,' soaking the supplies.

On the second day of a 14-day voyage to Antarctica, disaster struck in the form of a burst water pipe in a storeroom, drenching the entire supply of spare toilet paper.

Faced with a potential crisis, the cabin stewards embarked on a stealthy mission. They meticulously rotated toilet paper rolls between cabins with lower and higher usage, carefully managing the limited resource.

Remarkably, this operation was so discreet that none of the guests noticed the shortage. As a result of this close call, toilet paper storage was reorganised, with supplies now strategically hidden in each cabin, rather than in a central location.

From Redditor myjobisawesome

Secret Fires

Firefighters in full gear battle a blaze in a cruise ship's crew area, with smoke billowing and hoses aimed at the flames. The urgency is palpable as crew members coordinate the firefighting effort across multiple decks.

Over a span of 2.5 years on a cruise ship, the crew confronted three major fires, all breaking out in areas designated for the crew. Each time, these emergencies were swiftly and effectively handled by the ship’s highly trained fire team. The passengers remained oblivious to the true nature of these incidents, only noticing the absence of their waiters during dinner service.

This scenario underscores the extensive training that cruise ship crew members undergo to manage such critical situations. Unbeknownst to the passengers, their waiter wasn’t just serving meals but was also part of the team that played a crucial role in safeguarding the entire ship.

From Redditor wanderinggal

DJ Gone Rogue

cruise guests panicking and wearing life jackets

An incident aboard a Carnival cruise ship, narrated by cruise director Big Sexy Josh, now a Carnival travel agent, involved a DJ who, under the influence of alcohol, made a reckless decision.

At around 3 am, the DJ accessed the ship’s intercom system and announced an abandon ship order. This ill-advised action resulted in utter chaos and panic among the passengers and crew.

The aftermath of this pandemonium led to a significant change in the ship’s protocol, with stricter limitations being placed on who could access the intercom system.

From Redditor tortuga_tortuga

Final Word

It’s a good thing that most cruises go smoothly, right? Because these stories sound horrendous – I’m glad they are rare.

I’ve stuck to cruise ship stories from workers, but there were loads from cruise guests as well. Have you ever experienced a nightmare cruise, or had something shocking happen during your sailing? Leave your tale in the comments!

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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1 thought on “11 Nightmare Stories from Cruise Ship Workers”

  1. On the first day of our very first cruise, departing Brisbane Australia for 7 night Pacific Island tour, a rather large man had a heart attack and sadly passed away just before we left the wharf. We were only told a passenger had suffered a medical event, but my neice had walked into the area just as it all happened, so police, coroner etc had to be called and his family and their luggage all removed from the ship. Very sad for them and everyone on board was sympathetic once the real story came out. As a result our departure was delayed 8 hours which meant we missed our first shore excursion to New Caledonia. The one place I really wanted to see and had been the most particular about covid rules etc.
    The rest of the cruise (Pand O) was great. Think it made us appreciate it all the more.
    You never know what life is going to throw at you.

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