Cruises: petri dishes for crimes and disease

All that could go wrong aboard a seafaring vessel

At the very end of the 19th century, Albert Ballin set forth to create the world’s first cruise ship. The ship, named the Prinzessin Victoria Luise, allowed passengers to enjoy thec pastimes of the time period while staying in state of the art cabins. Travelling to various destinations by the start of the 20th century, the Prinzessin Victoria Luise was one of the first Caribbean cruises.

However, only a few years later, the Prinzessin Victoria Luise crashed on a voyage. While no one died in that incident, less than a decade after that the Titanic sank, killing over 1,500 people.

There are numerous other examples of cruise ship disasters, such as the sinking of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy in 2012 that claimed the lives of 32 people. Even discounting the potential negligence of a captain and crew, deaths on cruise ships are far from unheard of.

An individual example is that of George Smith, a newlywed who disappeared while on his 2005 honeymoon. His disappearance left a string of mysterious clues, including a bloodstain. Even so, the FBI investigation that followed came up with nothing conclusive, and the case remains unsolved.

While Smith’s case may not have been determined to be a crime, crime certainly exists on cruise ships.

According to a 2019 report examining crime at sea, sexual assault of all magnitudes is the highest reported crime on cruise ships. The report added that, historically, there has been a lack of transparency in reporting crimes on cruise ships, as cruise lines have largely been left to police themselves.

As a result, the history of crime on cruise ships has seen a pattern where victims have often been coerced into not reporting crimes or pressing charges.

In 2014, a woman on a cruise ship was violently assaulted by a crew member, only for 911 calls placed by passengers who heard her pleas for help to be assigned a lower priority than an overflowing toilet.

That’s not even mentioning the number of people who have gone missing while on ships as either a tourist or an employee.

Cruise ships are also notorious for exploiting their workers. Cruise ship employees often work 100-hour weeks for low pay and remain on call constantly. Research done in 2015 found that working conditions onboard cruise ships left many employees exhausted physically and mentally.

Additionally, one research subject working in finance explained that they did not feel secure in their employment, as the cruise line could terminate or amend their contracts and could change their work schedule with little to no notice.

On top of all of this, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic showed how disease onboard cruises can spread like wildfire. In February of 2020, a passenger who tested positive for COVID after disembarking the Diamond Princess cruise ship spread the virus to over 700 other passengers, leaving the entire ship on lockdown.

The Diamond Princess was just the first of many cruise ships affected by the spread of COVID. By March, there were dozens of ships with tens of thousands of people on board trying to find a port that would allow them to dock. Many found themselves stranded at sea for months.

If these reasons aren’t enough to make you steer clear of cruises, some estimates place the cost of a weeklong cruise in 2023 at anywhere from $1,900 to over $3,000 per person. That is potentially as much as a U of M faculty of arts student’s tuition for an entire semester, depending on their course load. Or, alternatively, hundreds of Disneyland churros. Think about all you could do instead of spending money on a cruise.

Disregarding my irrational fear of the ocean, cruises are essentially petri dishes for crime, disease and exploitation. No one should be subjected to being on a cruise as either an employee or a passenger.

Stay alive and healthy by staying off cruise ships.