Cruise Passengers Lost at Sea

My wife M.C. Moewe, a reporter for the Jacksonville Business Journal, has been chasing an elusive story over the oceans of the world for several months: Cruise ship passengers who vanish while their vessels are at sea.

At least 12 passengers have gone overboard or disappeared since 2000, including five on Carnival Cruise Lines ships within the past 12 months. Some are suicides, others accidents, and at least one incident suggests the possibility of foul play. One was lost coming into Jacksonville last Thanksgiving, a new port for cruise embarkation.

Many incidents are completely unexplained, including one man who survived by swimming 17 hours until being spotted by a cargo ship. He awoke in pitch-black sea with no shoes, no pants, no ship, and no explanation for how he ended up in the water during a voyage to Cozumel, Mexico.

Because these people often go missing in open ocean, they may be the most difficult to resolve missing persons cases in the world. When your endangered missing adult report has a locale of "Int. Waters, San Juan, Puerto Rico," the futility of the case is pretty clear. The cruise industry does not track incidents.

Some victims even receive marketing mail after the cruise:

Crystal Tinder's 37-year-old fiance, Christopher Caldwell, went missing off the Carnival Fascination during a July sailing. A contact from Carnival came shortly after the cruise.

"Chris got an e-mail from the Carnival booking agent asking him if he enjoyed his cruise," Tinder said.


It's surprising that so few people, out of the hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers, jump or are pushed overboard.

Aren't you lucky the example was on a Carnival cruise and not Disney.

Put those punks out of business. Force them to suffer a loss. No profit = no business.

I spent every summer of my life living on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean--my father chartered cruise ships and we had new American passengers every two weeks come on board. In the 30 years we did this, not ONE person disappeared! This is a relatively new phenomenon and my feeling is that it is gang related--sex slavery, mafia, something--having to do with the various nationals who are crew members on these ships. They don't do background checks on these people, so you have no idea who they are yet they are in and out of your cabins daily. I would strongly recommend people NOT drink alcohol on these cruises--do not run the risk of getting slipped a Mickey. Ships have landing tag systems where every passenger is assigned a tag number. The ship should not leave port until all tag numbers are back on the board. If you have a buddy, your buddy knows if you are on board or not. I do NOT believe anyone commits suicide off a cruise ship--no reason to, especially if you are with family. It is definitely murder, but how can you prove it?

I think this problem has come about cause ships goto several ports. Several countries all diffrent police and many 3rd world countries with little police experience. The first cases i heard of were rape cases and they were committed in another country and came home to US. The person would have to go back to the other country to be charged. No one pays hundreds of dollars to commit suicide.

I've never been in cruise, 'cos I just hate ships =) Except river ships. But all that stories reminds me about Agata Ktisty detective stories )) Realy!

I have followed the stories of the disappearances, as well. There is a report out there, that suggests, that the passengers who have actually jumped from a cruise ship, willingly... Have been in a mindset of using the ship as a means of suicide. What people don't know is, that is illegal to use a commercial transportation system commit a crime. Taking your own life is your business, but. It's not legal, nor is it right to cause problems for everyone else, in doing so.

See also:

For those who need advice of help dealing with this topic further:

I am happily married with 2 children. But I have to say that after spending 3 days on board of the Carnival Fantasy Ship I almost wanted to commit suicide as well. It was simply an awful experience and I will never ever go on a cruise ship again. Why would I want to subject myself to 2000 people who are intoxicated 24 hours a day? I feel sorry for the hard working staff who are border line slaves having to serve fat and rude vacationers. Why would anyone ever go on a cruise?

According to the article in the link above, ten million passengers per year go on a cruise world wide. The article also states that 12 passengers have dissapeared from ships going to US ports since the year 2000. The article was written in 2005. So that would be approximately 12 missing passengers in 50 million. Yes, please tell everyone you know that cruises are dangerous to your health. In fact, put it in all the newspapers, and on TV, and anywhere else where we have a good chance of scaring people who don't read past the ridiculous headlines.

for the first 9 months of this year:

196,100 deaths caused by automobile acidents
275,447 drownings
629,843 suicides
123,434 injuries due to war

in the 5 years since 2000 there were 12 missing persons on cruise ships

The numbers are only one part of the story. Cruise ship disappearances, violent crimes aboard ship, and other serious injuries among guests have not been subject to the kind of oversight applied to other forms of international travel such as plane flights.

Before the press covered the disappearances and a Congressional hearing was called by Rep. Chris Shays, the cruise ship industry had not undertaken any of the victim and relative support efforts that airlines conduct after crashes.

Check out the International Cruise Victims support site -- set up by families whose loved ones went on a cruise and never came back -- before you trivialize the issue. It's not just disappearances, either. A rape that occurs aboard ship is highly unlikely to be prosecuted or result in a conviction.

I assume all the victims mentioned were real people. I stated the facts presented in your link and other easily verifiable sites. I did not 'trivialize' the issue. I was trying to give some perspective. If you do not also mention the other victims and injustices in the world, are you not trivializing those victims ? Are they any less important than the people you are drawing attention to ? I agree with you that the numbers are not the whole story but not mentioning the facts is also an injustice.

My son and I were aboard a major cruise ship in 2008 when a crew member went overboard somewhere between San Juan and the Bahamas - he was never found.

I think all passengers should carry tracking device, a key-ring say. These devices would be re-useable by the next set of passengers so the cost to the company would be minimal. This measure would also prevent tourist being left in port and allow family to locate each other on these massive ships! Also bear in mind that some people go away on holiday with no intention of returning home, through sickness, immigration or money worries.

i am tentatively planning a suicide at the end of a cruise i am to take around the holidays...i will reconnect with my family, have some wonderful times, and at the pinnacle of positive memories having been made, I plan to dive or slosh or whatever into the water, leaving all the garbage behind, m decision, my way. Just because the reason is not apparent to you does not indicate it does not exist. ppl who know me call me "sunshine" and believe i am always happy, when in reality i am the opposite. if u have never been in the depths, dont bother to write about how it had to be murder. Some of us just hate it here. if u hate your job, u leave, hate your house, you move, hate your life, u leave. it should be a personal choice

I'm sorry for your troubles. Before you go on the cruise, you should tell the people in your life why you feel the way that you do. They may be able to help.

A lot of people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and survive say that the first thought they have, after jumping, is that they made a mistake and wish they could take it back. Most people who jump or fall off cruise ships are not able to be rescued.

Add a Comment

All comments are moderated before publication. These HTML tags are permitted: <p>, <b>, <i>, <a>, and <blockquote>. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA (for which the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply).