After a British tourist fell overboard a cruise ship in the Adriatic this week, there has been a lot of talk about safety on board cruise ships.  Despite all the speculation over whether she fell overboard or jumped, she was really lucky to survive this ordeal.

The reason she is deemed lucky is because of where she fell and what time of year it was as the water in the Adriatic see is generally above twenty degrees and it has minimal wind in August, which means calm conditions. She fell off the Venice-bound Norwegian Star at around midnight and spent ten hours in the water before she was rescued. In this blog, we will look at how people fall overboard and how to prevent it.

How does Someone Fall Overboard?

Having been on many cruises, we find it hard to believe that it’s even possible to fall overboard.  There are safety precautions everywhere as well as high railings and constant people around to prevent missteps.  But it does happen, whether the person is reckless or silly, or sadly, suicidal.

Why do People Fall Overboard?

The number of alcoholic drinks consumed on board also has an effect, which can lead to reckless and silly falls.  This can be prevented by drinking responsibly, having water between drinks and making sure to line your stomach with some food if you are on a night out.  Remember that reckless behaviour will not only ruin your cruise, but also other passengers’ experience and cause bad publicity for the whole cruise industry.

Alcohol is not the only reason for reckless behaviour though. It has happened to people standing next to the railings to take that perfect selfie.  See our safety precautions below.

Staying Safe on Your Cruise

Here are some safety precautions on how to behave responsibly:

Health and Safety on Cruise Ship

  1. Do not drink too much and definitely do not use illegal drugs on a cruise.
  2. Do not engage in horseplay around near the ship’s railings, safety first.
  3. If you really must take that selfie, stand firmly on the deck, never a table or a railing.
  4. Never boost fellow passengers, especially children, onto railings or tables for a better view.
  5. If your cruise ship is sailing in rough weather, do not go near the guard rails. The ship could roll and cause you to fall overboard.

Keeping Others Safe

While it is hard to predict and prevent someone jumping to end their life, there are some things you could do. Notify the ship’s doctor if your companion, or any passenger for that matter, expresses suicidal thoughts are behaves strangely. Encourage them to seek help as soon as possible.

What Happens after Someone Falls Overboard?

The crew will be alerted, and life boats will be lowered to begin a search for the person.  Several life ring buoys will be thrown down in the hope that the victim has not already been injured or pulled under the ship.

Everyone on the ship will be impacted as the vessel will have to stop or turn back and stop all engines. The Coast Guard will then be called, and they often use a low flying plane or helicopter to scan the water.  Crew and passengers will keep an eye out for the person.

While there is no time limit to the search, it will be up to the captain’s discretion and the tools he has available.  The search will continue as long as there is still hope of finding the person.

The Impact of Someone Falling Overboard

When someone falls overboard, the repercussions extend far beyond the personal safety of the person who fell. Not only are lives at risk (not just the victim but also the rescuers), but a huge amount of money can be spent on rescue operations and fuel, stress levels sharply increase for both passengers and crew, and cruises can be delayed. It’s a situation no one wants on their cruise.

What to do if you do fall Overboard

Although this is extremely unlikely to happen to any cruise passenger, as cruise ships are incredibly safe, here are some tips in the unlikely event that it does.

Prof Mike Tipton, an expert in sea survival at the University of Portsmouth said in an interview: “If you fall in, float first. Don’t try and do anything before you get your breathing under control,” Tipton said. “The general advice is to stay still, because that’s where you’re most likely to be found.”

Here Are 5 Tips to Follow:

  1. Get to the surface, calm your breathing, then call for help.
  2. Look for something to hang onto while you float, such as a piece of plastic or wood.
  3. Try to stay in the same space, as your cruise ship will have to turn around to rescue you. If you see any other vessels, try to attract their attention.
  4. If the water is cold, conserve body heat by curling your body into as much of a ball as you can while treading water. Do not flail about as this will lead to loss of body heat and possibly hypothermia.
  5. If the water is warm, there is a possibility you will encounter sharks. If you suspect this is possible, do not thrash around in the water and try not to urinate, as this will attract their attention.