Why I’ll Never Be Caught in a Cruise Ship Disaster

From death to diarrhea.

Over one century ago, a grand ship named the Titanic sunk in the North Atlantic Ocean, killing 1,502 of her 2,224 occupants. Since then, there have been countless cruise ship disasters of varying degrees–several in the last year alone–and yet, millions of people board these dens of death, destruction and, well, diarrhea annually. Here, some things to think about before you get on that ship.

“It’s like Katrina in the Dome but it’s afloat”
That’s how a passenger aboard February’s ill-fated Carnival Triumph cruise described conditions aboard the boat that had cruisers pooping in bags.

The Norovirus
When you get it at home, you call it “the stomach flu.” But when it breaks out on a cruise ship, they give it the much more ominous name of norovirus, that highly contagious thing that seems to break out on big boats at an alarming rate. Symptoms include “forceful vomiting” and watery diarrhea. Yum. Think that only happens on budget cruises? Think again. Even luxury liners like the Queen Mary 2 have had outbreaks in recent years. Once you are stricken with the dreadful bug, there’s little you can do but sit in your room and wait it out.

I don’t know about you, but when I go out to eat, I like someone to actually, you know, serve me my food–let alone when I go out to eat while on vacation. Almost every cruise line relies on buffets for much of its food service. What’s wrong with buffets? They are the front line in the microorganisms’ war against your body. (See “The Norovirus,” above). Food that wasn’t very good to begin with sits out only to be sneezed and coughed on and otherwise contaminated. And because buffets are all-you-can-eat, you’ll over-indulge, increasing your chances of illness with each gluttonous bite.

The average cruise ship cabin is just 175 square feet and many are just 100 square feet. The only thing worse than having the norovirus and having to poop in a bag is having to do so in your 10-by-10 “stateroom.” If you do decide to book that cruise, go big.

As many as 90 percent of the oceanbound get seasick at one time or another, and many are impervious to the prescribed remedies. Here’s hoping you’re a 10-percenter.

Boats sink
It’s not just the Titanic. Though cruise ship-sinking is a relatively uncommon occurrence, it does happen, as we saw with that iconic 2012 photo of the overturned Carnival Costa Concordia. And remember the Achille Lauro, the cruise liner that was hijacked in the 1980s by the Palestinian Liberation Front? That sunk in the Indian Ocean years later.

Still not convinced? Here are some videos documenting the kind of thing you might have on your next cruise vacation.