What Happens if You Die on a Cruise Ship?

A modern cruise ship is a floating city often populated by elderly people. So on board deaths are common. How does the crew respond? In a fascinating article at io9, Keith Veronese explored the physical and legal challenges of corpses on cruise ships:

Cruise ships are required to carry body bags, and maintain a small morgue. This morgue is not merely additional space in a ship kitchen's freezer area, but a separate area for storing the bodies of deceased passengers. Most ships dedicate more space than needed, featuring individual refrigerated units for six to ten bodies.

The bodies of deceased passengers are unloaded when the cruise ship stops at its next port, but only if the port country is willing to accept the body and issue a death certificate. This can be a very complicated process filled with plenty of paperwork left for those alive, when a friend or loved one traveling with them dies abroad. [...]

Cruise ships rarely alter their course if a passenger dies — but if an immediate surgery is required, the ship can change direction, or a helicopter can come to meet the ship. If a passenger dies on a short cruise, say in the middle of a five- to six-night journey through the Caribbean, the body is often stored on board until it reaches the return port in order to decrease complications for the family.

In one bizarre case in 2009, an 87-year-old woman died thirty-six days into an 114-night Holland America trip around the world. (This extremely long cruise often sees multiple deaths: three passengers had died on the previous voyage.) The woman's son was accompanying her, and he dealt with the paperwork and arranged the cremation of her body at a nearby port. And then he stayed on board ship for the remainder of the journey, accompanied by the cremated remains of his mother.

Link | Photo: Salicia

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