What happens when someone dies on a cruise ship?

It’s no secret that large cruise ships have medical professionals on board at all times. In fact, Celebrity Cruises captain and content creator Kate Mccue called out for doctors and nurses looking to put their people-saving skills to work while exploring the seven continents. These facilities’ capabilities are impressive, and while major surgeries are reserved for mainland services in ideal scenarios, it’s not out of the question for onboard doctors to get to work if time is of the essence.

However, from time to time, the efforts of medical professionals aren’t enough. Also, passengers who die on a cruise ship are just as likely, if not more so, to pass peacefully in their sleep. So what’s the procedure when the worst happens at sea?

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“It’s obviously a very sensitive process,” our source explains: “You have different teams doing different actions. For example, as soon as a dead body is discovered, if they don’t die in the medical centre and they die overnight, there are different teams that have to deal with different things.”

“They’ve got the facilities to contact their family, and we buddy them up with someone for the next few days, until they get off, to make sure they’ve got whatever they need and they can grieve. People are very different. Some people just want you to be there 24/7 and talk to you about anything and everything, and then others will just want solo time, so you just want to check in with them.”

Unsurprisingly, if a deceased guest is discovered in a cabin, the area can be designated a crime scene – even if no foul play is suspected at first glance.

If no suspicious circumstances are suspected, it’s time to move the deceased guest from the place of their passing – which comes with a unique set of potential problems. Our source recalls having to ferry a body, on one occasion, from a stateroom to the cruise ship morgue, which is found towards the bottom of the ship by the medical facilities.

“We shut off areas of the ship, and we can register lifts so we can go into a lift and know that no one else can get into that lift, so guests won’t have the doors open to us.”

Depending on the cruise ship’s itinerary, bodies are stored ready to be disembarked at the next port or released to the relevant services on home turf if the ship’s course is coming to an end – an easier result for bereaved loved ones ready to start making arrangements.

So, what does our avid sailor think of the “ice cream party” rumour?

“I’ve worked at sea now verging on 10 years, and this is a rumour that goes around. On the ships that I’ve worked on [large cruise ships], that would never be the case.”



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