Skip to content

Man overboard: Why do people fall off cruise ships?

March 23, 2022
3 min read
Man overboard: Why do people fall off cruise ships?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor's Note

This article contains references to suicide and might be distressing to some readers. Help is available 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Editor's note: This article contains references to suicide and might be distressing to some readers. Help is available 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

We've all heard sad news reports of people going overboard on cruises. If you're someone who hasn't cruised before or who isn't familiar with ships, it sounds scary. But is it true? Can you fall off a cruise ship?

The short answer is yes, but it won't happen if you're playing by the rules.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

For more cruise guides, news and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter.

In many cases, stories of passengers "falling off" of cruise ships make it seem like it's a regular occurrence or that there's a grave risk you could simply be swept over the side while going about your daily vacation activities.

Cruise ships have railings -- usually about chest height on the average person -- on all open deck areas and cabin balconies to ensure safety. The only way that you risk a fall is if you're standing on furniture to peer over the side or climbing somewhere you're not supposed to be. It's not possible for you to just trip over a door frame or slip on a wet deck and fall off of a vessel.

Accidental overboards do happen sometimes when cruisers have had too much to drink and climb on top of railings, enter restricted areas or attempt dangerous -- and potentially fatal -- stunts like climbing from balcony to balcony.

It's impossible to discuss cruise-ship man-overboard incidents without mentioning that some of them are, in fact, intentional.

Overboards are particularly grim when the ship is moving, as the vessel's speed and current mean that a person can be swept away quickly. If they aren't immediately seen, it can be a while before the captain realizes what has happened.

When someone is determined to have gone over the side, the bridge -- the ship's control center -- will contact the coast guard, and a search will begin.

Officers will attempt to pinpoint when and where the incident happened, allowing the search to cover a particular radius where the individual is predicted to be. The search will be called off after either the passenger is found or the ship is cleared by the coast guard to continue its voyage.

Unfortunately, it's rare that a passenger is found alive.

Any time an overboard occurs, cruise lines offer assistance to friends, family or other travel companions traveling with the passenger in question.

The bottom line is that, if you stick to the areas where you're allowed to be as a passenger, you don't have to worry about falling overboard on a cruise. Always pay attention to safety messages and signage that indicates which parts of the ship are meant for crew only.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases