Seriously, Why Do People Still Go on Cruise Ships?

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem Of The Seas is just the latest in a long line of recent near-misses and outright catastrophes.

byWill Sabel Courtney|
Seriously, Why Do People Still Go on Cruise Ships?

February 7, 2016, will go down as a night to remember for the passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. The 168,666-ton cruise ship ran headlong into the 30-foot seas and 75-mph winds of a winter storm off the coast of South Carolina on Sunday evening. The Anthem of the Seas was one day out of New York en route to the Bahamas when it hit the storm. As a precaution, the crew banished some 4,000 passengers to their rooms. (Though, as a consolation, Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez told CBS News that passengers were given carte blanche to raid their mini-bars.)

The ship suffered minimal damage, according to a Royal Caribbean press release, and the damage that was incurred “in no way affect[ed] the sea worthiness of the ship.” Social media postings from the passengers show that the storm caused a fair bit of havoc, unhinging ceiling fixtures and casting chairs, tables, planters, and pretty much anything else not bolted down onto the floor.

Mark Barney, a United States Coast Guard spokesperson, told ABC News that they’d been in contact with the Anthem of the Seas throughout the storm. No distress calls were issued, but Barney did say the Coast Guard is continuing to keep an eye on the situation. The ship is expected to make port in Cape Canaveral today as planned.

The Anthem of the Seas’s meteorological maritime mishap is just the latest in a long line of near-misses and minor accidents for the cruise ship industry. Anthem’s sister ship, Explorer of the Seas, suffered two major outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease in the last two years: a norovirus epidemic in 2014 that infected 684 of the 4,237 passengers and forced Royal Caribbean to cancel the cruise part-way through, and a germ outbreak late last year that sent 182 passengers running to the head with a stomach infection. The ship also had a minor collision with the Norwegian Star while docked in Bermuda in 2012, when strong winds from a storm pushed the other ship into Explorer’s stern. Neither ship was significantly damaged.

Princess Cruises’ Crown Princess suffered its own norovirus outbreak during a cruise from Venice, Italy, to Galveston, Texas, in 2012. Around 100 passengers came down with the disease, hot on the heels of two smaller norovirus outbreaks earlier that year. But the ship is better known for its 2006 “listing incident”: Believing the ship’s autopilot to be causing excessively tight turns, the second officer assumed manual control and, in an attempt to correct the problem, proceeded to spin the ship’s wheel from port to starboard and back again at increasingly violent angles. The tankslapper resulted in 14 serious injuries and 284 minor ones, most caused by flying deck chairs and other unsecured objects.

The list goes on. In 2010, a trio of rogue waves slammed into the Louis Majesty, killing two and injuring 14. Three years later, five more people died and three were injured on the ship—now renamed Thomson Majesty—when a lifeboat fell into the sea during a safety drill.

Carnival Cruise Line, though, has been the worst-hit over the last few years, with several of its most prominent ships incurring assorted tribulations. In February 2013, Carnival Triumph suffered a fire in its engine room that knocked out power to the ship, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico for several days; its septic systems rapidly overflowed, sending feces spilling into passenger areas. To add insult to injury, while docked in Mobile for repairs two months later, Triumph broke free of her moorings and crashed into an Army Corps of Engineers ship, killing one.

Triumph’s sibling Carnival Splendor also suffered an engine room fire in 2010, leaving it unable to move under its own power off the coast of California; passengers were air-dropped Navy rations by helicopters from the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan as the ship was towed to San Diego. The Carnival Dream suffered a generator malfunction in 2013 while in port in St. Maarten, knocking out some plumbing and forcing the cruise line to cancel its trip—this only days after the Carnival Elation suffered a steering malfunction and had to be shadowed into port by a tug boat.

But it was Splendor’s sister ship, the Costa Concordia, suffered the greatest cruise ship disaster in recent history. On a January 2012 cruise in the Mediterranean, the Costa hit a rock, opening a gash that flooded enough of the ship to cause it to capsize, coming to rest on its side in shallow waters. In spite of the slow sinking speed and calm waters, the mismanaged evacuation left 32 dead and nearly 300 marooned on board after the captain abandoned the ship.

A supposedly fun thing you’ll never do again, indeed.