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Can you "FALL" off a cruise ship?

by Linda Coffman

May 2008 -- While the news has been full of a recent incident in which a woman fell to her death from Norwegian Dawn as the ship was bound for Bermuda, three luckier passengers went overboard from cruise ships last March. Yes, they were lucky indeed. All three were rescued alive. 

Is it that EASY to simply "fall" off a cruise ship? At Cruise Diva, we don't think so.

While we were happy the passengers were found last year, our curiosity was piqued... under what circumstances would an average passenger end up in the water? Unless that average passenger happened to be the height of a National Basketball Association super-star, our conclusion is that they might be behaving in a risky or foolish manner. 

For instance, the Cruise Diva is fairly average at 5'5" tall and if she sat on the railing, she could lose her balance and tumble overboard. She might fall by leaning w-a-y too far over the rail, but it would be quite a stretch. In addition, she could also slip and topple into the sea if she were standing on a chair. Amber Blecker, a top travel agent with Cruises, Inc., reminds us of "a long-running joke about the sport of balcony bungee jumping being a new ship activity," and warns that, "please, if you're going to do it, don't forget the bungee."

We're also reminded that springtime often also seems to be the silly season. That's historically when otherwise sensible young adults descend on warm weather resorts to do what tradition demands: get drunk and lose control. We don't mean to suggest that most, or even many, man overboard situations include spring breakers; however, we are struck by those that can be traced to an excess of exuberance and the high consumption of alcohol. Coincidentally, most such incidents seem to happen late at night.

This is Princess Cruises' account of a most fortunate and skilled rescue effort:

Grand Princess Rescue

3/25/2007 -- Grand Princess departed Galveston Saturday afternoon, March 24, at 5 pm on a 7-day Western Caribbean sailing carrying 2,783 passengers and 1,122 crew. This morning at 1:30 am local time, when Grand Princess was approximately 150 miles off the coast of Galveston, two passengers were reported to have gone overboard. 

After a four-hour search and rescue operation, we are extremely happy to report that the two passengers, a 22-year-old man and 20-year old woman, were successfully recovered, and appear to be in satisfactory condition. We would like to recognize the exemplary seamanship of the captain and crew of Grand Princess, as well as the support of the U.S. Coast Guard, for this successful rescue.

It appears that the passengers went overboard from the balcony of one of the passenger's cabins. When alerted to this, the ship stopped, initiated an emergency search operation, and returned to the position where the overboard incident was initially reported. Rescue boats were launched from Grand Princess, and the U.S. Coast Guard was notified. One passenger was rescued at 5:30 am, while the second passenger was rescued at 6 am.

It's interesting that such "falls" don't include children. Sure, youngsters are shorter, but could it be that they are also more careful than adults? Or, is it perhaps that some adults simply lose all sense of personal responsibility when on vacation? In the case of the Norwegian Dawn passenger, surveillance cameras indicate that she was apparently trying to climb between balconies when she lost her footing and plunged into the ocean.

Tragically, there have been instances of passenger suicides and suspicious disappearances over the years. But, by and large, a cruise ship is no different from any other vacation spot. Caution should be observed in any unfamiliar surroundings, particularly those that move.

Along with sun screen and a bathing suit, the most important thing to pack for your cruise is the good judgment you use in everyday situations.

So, how did that couple fall off the Grand Princess? As Fox News reported... it was late and it's called the Love Boat. You decide.

Illustration Courtesy of Princess Cruises

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