What if Someone Dies on a Cruise Ship?

By Anna Duncan

Cruise ships are a popular form of vacation, with millions of people taking advantage of the unique combination of luxury and adventure they provide. However, while the majority of cruises run without incident, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong. One such potential disaster is the death of a passenger while on board.

In such an event, cruise ships have a number of protocols in place to ensure that all necessary procedures are followed. First and foremost, medical personnel on board will do their utmost to try and resuscitate the individual, as well as provide any other medical assistance that may be needed. If this is unsuccessful, then the deceased individual will be moved to a refrigerated storage area until they can be removed from the ship.

At this point, it is up to authorities in the country where the cruise ship is registered to take over proceedings. Depending on where this is located, this could involve notifying police forces or coastguards in order to investigate what happened. As part of this investigation, it may also be necessary for an autopsy to be conducted in order to determine cause of death; if foul play is suspected then further action may need to be taken depending on local laws and regulations.

In addition to dealing with legal matters associated with a passenger’s death while on board a cruise ship, there are also other considerations which must be taken into account by both passengers and crew alike. Not least among these is how best to handle grieving family members and friends who may have been travelling with them or who were expecting them home at some point in the near future. In these cases it can often be helpful for the cruise line itself to offer some form of psychological support or counselling services in order to help those affected by the loss come to terms with what has happened.

Overall, while no one wants for something like this scenario ever happens on board a cruise ship, it can unfortunately occur from time-to-time due to various factors – either medical or criminal – and so it’s important for everyone involved (passengers and crew alike) understand what needs doing if such an event does occur.


The death of someone onboard a cruise ship can understandably leave those affected feeling devastated and confused as they try to come terms with what has happened. As such, it’s important that all necessary steps are taken by both passengers and crew alike in order for proper procedures (both legal and emotional) can be followed accordingly.