Cruise ships might seem like they are all sunshine and smiles, but they have a shocking amount of secrets they won't let the passengers in on. Luckily, these cruise ship employees revealed for us just what passengers have been scheming behind closed doors. These monsters should have never been let onto a cruise, let alone any public space! Maybe think twice before you think about your next cruise ship vacation, it could be way more horrifying than imagined! Content has been edited for clarity.
"I have spent many years working on a Norwegian Cruise ship as a purser, which is the person in charge of all the finances throughout the ship and for the various staff members. I have come across some very, very bad passenger behavior. One experience that stands out happened during the holidays. At embarkation, we had a fairly large family group boarding, it was either six or eight people in total. The kids were in their early twenties, a boy and a girl, along with their mother, the mother's husband, and some other family friends. For some reason, probably a lack of the proper identification, the young man was denied boarding. We spoke with the young man, and we got the description of his suitcase so we could retrieve it and send it back with him ashore. We found the suitcase, offloaded it before setting sail, and we were finally on our way.
A few minutes after we set sail, the young lady came up to the purser's desk, screaming and shouting that we had completely ruined her Christmas, as her formal evening dress, ready to be worn during the upcoming holiday celebrations, was not in her suitcase. In fact, her entire suitcase was missing. Now, I have heard my fair share of screaming and shouting from customers over the years, but this time, it was unbelievable. Have you ever seen a toddler in the grocery store throw a tantrum over some sort of candy or toy that the parent won't buy for them? Well, this time it was even worse than that. This woman, who was in her twenties, was literally rolling on the floor in front of the purser's desk, screaming her lungs out, crying and cursing and swearing and demanding (with much cursing) that the captain turn the boat around and get her suitcase back, or else! Her daddy, who was not the man the mom brought with her on board at the time, was very rich and would sue all of us for everything we owned. We would lose all of our jobs, starting with the captain because we had totally ruined her Christmas. Apparently, her daddy would fly a helicopter and bring her dress over, so we had better get ready for the chopper to touch down on the ship any minute now.
Other passengers were stopping in shock, staring at her and show how disturbed they were by her bratty behavior. The family tried to calm her down, but that didn't help, and the family didn't really try hard enough. After some time was spent trying to figure out what exactly happened to her suitcase, as well as communicating with her brother who was left behind, we discovered what had happened. The description for the suitcase that the family gave us to offload was for the young lady, and not the brother!
The incident actually died down after a little bit of time. Maybe the woman got tired, maybe she realized that it wasn't any of our faults, or maybe she figured out that there was nothing that she could do about it. We arranged for the brother to rejoin the cruise in the next port with the woman's suitcase. Unfortunately for her, the next port stop was scheduled for after Christmas, so she didn't have her dress for the big night. The rest of the family apologized to us for her behavior, but the woman in question kept giving us all the evil eye for the rest of the cruise. She never apologized to us and never acknowledged how completely inappropriate her behavior was."
"There are a lot of 'professional complainers' and cheating people amongst all the guests on a cruise, who can actually make nice business from giveaways and compensations. I vividly recall one particular couple who, while being alone on the Carnival Cruise ship's corridor, hid the 'caution, wet floor' sign from view. Then they went straight over to the reception desk. The husband was literally shouting at the poor receptionist that his wife had just accidentally slipped in that corridor and injured her back. This couple even cause a small scandal! The manager was called in to calm the couple down. The medical staff treated the 'injured' woman. The safety officer even scolded the poor cleaning lady who was responsible for washing that corridor. Nobody was able to find the 'caution, wet floor' sign that ought to be there, so the guests were assumed to be right. They were offered quite a lot of financial compensation, as well as another cruise trip completely for free!
However, what these cheating guests didn't realize was that there are many security cameras on that ship, and some of them are designed to be hidden. So when the couple was invited to the manager's office the following day, they expected to settle the details of how much financial compensation they would be getting. The manager kindly greeted them, asked them to make themselves comfortable, then said to them. 'Before we proceed with the compensation, let me show you one short movie.' The couple watched with awe at the television screen, which showed them hiding the floor sign in a nearby locker, and then running to the reception area. With this proof in hand, the hotel manager offered the couple the choice of two methods of 'compensation': Either a trial at court, or to place them on a passenger blacklist shared by ALL cruise ship companies. That would deny them the ability to take any cruise ever for the rest of their lives. They chose the blacklist option. I can't say that I blame them!"
"All strange sorts of things happen on the Princess Cruise line I work on. I have seen a priest get busted for shoplifting in the souvenir store.
One elderly gentleman with bad hygiene sneaked out at night, in order to urinate on the carpet in the corridor. We were wondering about that. This guy must have been weirdly vindictive or had some sort of mental illness. There was no other way to possibly explain that.
One charming Russian gentleman, suffering from war experiences among other things, knocked out his wife with a straight punch in the face in front of all passengers during the Captain’s dinner. He then barricaded himself in his cabin, while drinking heavily. After a little while, he tried to jump overboard. We were hanging on to him by his legs, some crew members just hanging onto a fistful of his pants, just like in a movie. Meanwhile, his wife wiped her tears and proceeded getting amazingly wasted with her friend, with her two small kids locked in the family's cabin. There were clearly many more issues with the family than we could fix on that ship.
Another instance that comes to mind was when a guy politely informed the crew that he had booked the cruise in order to 'enjoy the landscape, do some fishing while ashore, and drink himself to death'. Apparently, his wife had left him. After some four days of drinking and no sleep, he started to hallucinate, so we had to duct-tape him to his bed. It ended happily, I should add. His wife finally got in touch with him and she was able to help him get the mental help that he so desperately needed."
"I was working this massive Emerald Waterways crew, when all of a sudden, we hit some super choppy and intense seas near the Faroe Islands. The entire crew actually had to put metal shutters over the windows on all of the lower decks, so no waves could flood the lower areas. Fortunately for me, I did not get sea sick during this rough encounter. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the doomed crew of this vessel, as well as most of the passengers. We ran out of vomit bags to hand out to both passengers and crew members. Many people weren't lucky enough to receive one. And the vomit bags we did have were not enough. My god, the entire ship was like a giant pile of vomit by the time that we set course for smoother waters. The smell alone was enough to make me want to jump ship and swim away. And then I was one of the people who had to clean this monstrosity!
During that same cruise, we were on another trip headed towards Nova Scotia. Suddenly, these two older gentlemen got into a massive brawl in our large cafeteria. Everyone was watching. A crowd gathered around the two men, and no one was bothering to step up and try and break up the physical altercation. Finally, the security came in and separated these two violent men. They took them to an undisclosed location on the ship. I'm not sure exactly what the fate of these two men was. I also wasn't sure who these passengers were or what prompted such an extreme reaction! Every time I encounter a polite and agreeable passenger, I feel truly blessed. I have survived with some truly heinous war stories."
"I worked with Holland America cruises for three years. I have so many horror stories. Our ship officers got a call from another ship from a Disney Cruise, which was off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. The ship found one of our passengers floating in the ocean. He wasn't even close to the shore at all, just floating in the open water. Believe it or not, he was alive and perfectly fine. We reviewed the security footage, and we saw that this guy was completely wasted on one of our lower decks one night. He was holding his phone, dancing to music all by himself. He climbed onto one of the lifeboats, and then he did an actual running jump into the ocean! He left his phone on top of the lifeboat. The way that he dove into the water, he didn't sustain any damage. The Disney cruise ship spotted him floating away after several hours and rescued him. His family had no idea that he had been missing because he had booked a separate room. Once we got this guy to safety he tried to tell people that a rogue wave pushed him off the side of the ship. Well, based on where he jumped form, that rogue wave would have had to be over forty feet tall, so no one bought it. I don't know if being totally wasted helped him survive the fall, it seemed like pure luck. I definitely wouldn't recommend it to anyone else."
"Unfortunately, this offense would be pretty common within the photography department on our Disney Cruise ship. When a guest purchased a photo, we would first slip it into a transparent protective sleeve, and then into a nice display frame with our logo on it. This was the policy for each photo before we even rung up the sale for the customer. We would frequently get people walking up to the register with their 'raw' photo, telling us that we 'forgot' to give them their sleeve and folder. Yeah, right! They were just trying to use our paid services for free with any old photo they had brought with them. We would never have forgotten to do such a thing! We would ask the mischievous customer, 'May I see your receipt, so I can see who rang you up? I need to give them a warning and make a notation in their personnel file.'
That was complete nonsense. We knew what was really going on, but we wanted to see how bold these idiot customers really were. Naturally, they never produced a receipt, and you could see on their face that they weren't expecting our questioning. Then the excuses would come pouring out. They would tell us things like, 'I threw it away!' or, 'My husband bought it!'. We would also ask them when they had bought the photo, so I could, 'Talk to the sales clerk on duty at that time.' Again, this was a lie, but often the customer would cite a time when our department wasn't even open! No one ever owned up to just trying to cheat us out of specific merchandise. What dirtbags! Not only were these customers trying to steal from us, but they were willing to let a random cruise employee take the heat for something that they didn't even do. To this day, I still get angry thinking about these awful people. I figure that it's about time for karma to come back around and punish them for their scheming."
"This was the first voyage of this new ship from Silversea Cruises. The ship held about 4,500 passengers, and there were five or six engines to power it. Three hours into the trip, I heard a loud thump and felt massive vibrations all around me. I was in an empty restaurant, and I saw plates and cups crashing to the ground with great force. I could see the crew members looked concerned, but they just continued on with their duties.I followed their lead and continued with my programming work. About three or four hours afterwards, there was anther loud thump and even more vibrations. Then absolute silence. After speaking to a couple of crew members, I found out that we lost two engines in the initial incident, and now we had just lost the rest. Apparently, some wasted passengers wandered down into the engine room, when it wasn't being monitored. I don't know what they did to it, but now we lost complete propulsion, and this ship was going wherever the ocean wanted it to. The passengers were notified that we would be running late, but meals would be on the house that nice. The ship did everything they could to avoid inciting any sort of panic. Twelve hours later, a helicopter dropped down crates full of engine parts to us. Finally, we had propulsion again after a few more hours of assembly. We put the offending passengers in the ship's jail cell. If anyone noticed the giant helicopter, we wouldn't tell them anything about it. Most of the passengers didn't seem to notice or care that we were delayed. But it was terrifying to be utterly stranded like that in open water, especially as the programmer with no knowledge of how the ships actually worked. I feared that this would be the end for me!"
"I used to be a crew member, and one time a guy working at the front desk jumped overboard after a crew party. He was found a few hours later by the coast guard, and everybody was asked to be discrete in order to keep the cruise running smoothly. Everything was fine until the captain came on the speaker system and said that we were delayed because a crew member jumped overboard. Then the madness began. Rumors appeared out of nowhere, and the rest of the cruise pretty much consisted of guests asking what happened to the crew member the whole time. A lot of horrible stuff happens onboard. I could write a book about my experience, maybe even more than one. Another time, a guy killed himself in his private cabin, while the rest of his family was onboard in another room. This time, it didn't leak to all of the passengers. I saw the family as they were being taken to the security office. I felt so horrible for them.
One time, a friend of mine was fired from the cruise we were working for getting wasted and urinating all over his cabin when the security guys came over to get him. He spent the night in the little jail cell we have on board before being dumped the following day in whatever port we were docked in. Finally, every time we would enjoy some ice cream in the special restaurant for the crew, people whispered that it was because they needed to empty the freezer to store a dead body. I never got confirmation on that rumor, but based on my personal experience working on cruises, that seems absolutely true."
"I'm currently working on an Oceania Cruise sailing out of New York City. Just a few months ago, we had this passenger go through a massive breakup with his girlfriend over the phone while he was on board. He went to his mother's cabin, told her goodbye, and before anyone could do anything about it, he jumped into the water. It was a 150-foot drop to the ocean. The rescue boats searched for hours and never found the body. Everyone assumed that he got sucked underneath the ship and into the propulsion system. The protocol for this sort of thing is not to tell the other passengers anything other than what they absolutely need to know. They didn't need to know about this, so all of us crew members needed to keep quiet.
Another horror story happened with some of our lower decks. There are a bunch of watertight doors that divide up the different compartments. They have several tons of force behind them when closing, and these doors will stop at nothing when they are set to close. We once had a contracted mechanic on board who was doing some temporary work, when he dropped a tool on the wrong side of a closing watertight door. He reached back to grab it, and his arm proceeded to get stuck. The door closed on his shoulder. It totally sliced his arm off, and he bled out and passed away before someone found him. We also didn't let the passengers know about this incident. You would be surprised what sort of secrets a cruise ship is hiding locked away."
"Generally, cruise lines are taken huge advantage of in terms of crimes and foul plays. This is mainly due to worldwide cruise lines' unspoken rules of maintaining the status quo and distancing themselves from any kind of bad publicity, by any means possible. This is why the ship's management so easily agrees to compensations in the form of free cruises and such. It doesn't mean that they will tolerate more abuse from there on out though. More than likely, upon agreeing to compensation of any kind, you will be made clear that it is a one-time deal only, and will not be negotiated any further. You will also be asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement most likely. In the event of violating it, you would be slammed with this massive lawsuit by the company's highly paid stable of lawyers. So it is kinda gambling on your part if you decide to go that way to begin with. In case of false accusations, it is a very sure way to get yourself in a world of trouble, and the least of them is getting blacklisted. Not all the cruise lines do that through official channels, but the info on troublesome guests travels very fast regardless.
In my line of work, I’ve worked on many cruise lines, but I've spent the most time on Grand Circle Cruises. Now I have seen people do the most unthinkable and depraved things you'll never expect them to. But we all forget that those coming for a cruise are not psychologically tested or examined with any sort of background security check. So there are all kinds of easily triggered, mentally unstable, and criminally insane passengers. They often can be extremely volatile and violent, and they come to stay together in the close environment with the other normal vacationing folks. They have easy access to drinks which put them into the 'mood' for action. Us crew members are forced to be friendly, and we are quite restricted in terms of what we can really do to punish unruly guests. So these monsters have the perfect playground to run amok.
In my vast experience, I dealt with murders onboard. There were many sorts of assault, along with thievery and illicit substance abuse. This was all on top of the regular misdemeanors and stupid things that the passengers would do. You name it, I've dealt with the aftermath of it. Oh, and don't forget that the adult film industry will often use cruise ships as movie locations, often without telling anyone onboard. It has been truly bizarre to uncover their true intentions.
The most despicable encounter that I experienced was the case that involved this mother and her two daughters in an assault case. Her two teenage daughters came to the ship's hospital, asking for the Morning After pill and acting so innocent. Now there are strict procedures when it comes to these sorts of underage cases. The medical staff logically followed up with the questioning. The teenagers claimed to be unaware of any rules. They told the staff how they spent the night entertaining a group of crew members in their cabin, and they just so happened to recall that pregnancy could be a result. Hence, their visit to the ship's hospital. Imagine the shock that fell across all of the higher ups when they heard about this. Immediately, all of us crew members, including myself, were apprehended and interrogated. The girls' mother was notified, and her statement was taken. A thorough investigation took place, and the mother was promised a massive compensation, along with way too many free cruises for anyone to possibly use up. Suddenly, we received some shocking news from our office over on the shore. Apparently, this little family was running a massive con on us! They had already done the same thing to a number of other cruise lines. It turned out that their names were totally blacklisted after being caught in their similar schemes. The family would always organize the same scenario: Accusing and squeezing the company of whatever they could, even though nothing had actually taken place. Accusing the crew members would be an automatic red flag for the staff, and it would put the family in a sympathetic light. The company would look terrible and be forced to let go of crew members, handing them over to local authorities for prosecution. We had iron-clad evidence that the family was lying to scam us to get lots of money and free cruise trips. But the mother never admitted to using her daughters for this sick scheme. She even went as far as to give an interview to the local newspaper, accusing us cruise lines, despite all of the massive evidence against her. It was beyond tragic."