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What If You Fell off a Cruise Ship

What If You Fell off a Cruise Ship - If you’ve reached the top of a Ferris Wheel, that dizzying fear of accidentally falling off might pop into your head. But on a cruise ship? Hey, these things can be taller than the Eiffel Tower! So it’s not that surprising if you’re standing there admiring the views and find yourself wondering… What happens if you fall overboard?

In August 2018, a UK woman was sailing on the Adriatic Sea. Seems like nothing out of the ordinary, just the perfect summer vacation out on the open water! The Norwegian Star cruise liner was heading to Venice, Italy after departing from Vargarola, Croatia. The woman was on the 7th deck, when, right before midnight, she fell off the back of the ship! It happened about 60 miles off the coast of a city called Pula.

Too far away to call for help…As soon as the crew found out about the incident, they launched a major search-and-rescue. They checked on board CCTV cameras to find out exactly when the fall happened. That way, they could pinpoint the ship’s precise location at that time. The liner also contacted the authorities, and they dispatched a patrol ship, a plane, and 2 rescue boats to look for the woman.

What If You Fell off a Cruise Ship

The search went on all night. The sun came up, and she was still nowhere to be found. But then, at about 9:30 a. m., they saw a figure off in the distance. Could it be her? As they approached, she must’ve spotted them too because she started waving her hands. When the rescue boat finally got to her, it was clear that the woman was exhausted, cold, and in slight shock.

But she looked pretty good for someone who’d spent the last 10 hours just floating in the sea and waiting for help! They found her about 1 mile from where she’d fallen. The rescue team took her straight to the hospital. After doing all the necessary checks, she was released with quite the story to tell! Ok, so is that the typical situation when someone goes overboard?

What If You Fell off a Cruise Ship

Sadly, no. The odds of surviving such a big fall and then spending the night in the middle of the ocean are slim, to say the least. But this woman had several factors in her favor. She worked as a flight attendant, so she likely knew what to do during an emergency more so than the average person. In one of her interviews, she explained that she tried to stay calm and sang throughout the night to keep herself warm.

She was also a pretty fit person, so she was able to keep herself afloat. On the bright side, falling overboard isn’t something you need to worry about if you’ve booked a cruise or would like to in the future. Most ships don’t come across such problems, and if they do, it’s incredibly rare. The Cruise Lines International Association says that this kind of thing happens only about once for every 1.3 million passengers.

If it makes you feel any better, you have more chances of catching the cold or flu on the ship! But in those few instances when a person does go overboard, what does that play-by-play look like? Well, a lot depends on eyewitnesses. If they can report it to the crew immediately, then that’s the ideal situation.

But no matter when they find out, an emergency protocol always follows. First, the bridge (that’s the captain’s room) gets notified. They’ll usually stop the ship immediately and probably even turn around. The bridge will also report it to the authorities and alert the coastguard so that they can send rescue boats and helicopters or small planes.

While all that is happening, the emergency crew members are getting together to find where the person fell. They throw life preservers overboard to make sure the individual has a flotation device while they wait for rescue. Those preservers could be a life jacket and one of those orange buoys you see attached to the deck’s railings.

What If You Fell off a Cruise Ship

Keeping yourself afloat in deep water is difficult and exhausting, so these devices can make all the difference. Again, if the crew knows about the incident from the get-go and the ship hasn’t covered much distance in that time, then they’ll release the lifeboats at once. If not, then search-and-rescue operations continue until the person overboard is located.

Time is of the essence, though. The vast unwelcoming waters of the deep sea aren’t easy to cope with. If nobody sees the person fall in and they only notice them missing later on, then the chances of successful rescue are not good – only about 10 to 15%. Why so low? For one, the ocean is really big! Finding one human floating among all that endless blue is no easy task.

And it’s not like the sea is spick and span, far from it actually. There could be floating debris and trash that might mislead rescuers. There’s also that difficult task of staying afloat so that rescuers can see you in the first place. Imagine having to continually move your arms and legs to keep all your body weight near the surface so that your head’s above it!

There is no floor beneath your feet – you have to hold yourself up. Now imagine doing that with an injury. If you fall from a considerable height, you risk fracturing bones when hitting the water. How so? Because water feels like concrete when you fall from high up! Remember the whole thing about some cruise ships being taller than the Eiffel Tower!? Yep, that’s a mighty big height, alright!

You can also get the breath knocked out of you…or worse. The temperature of the water can be a deciding factor as well. When someone falls into cold waters, they automatically go into a Cold Shock Response. Out of instinct, they try to inhale air while they’re underwater. And let’s not forget the risk of hypothermia.

What If You Fell off a Cruise Ship

When the water’s around 40°F, a person only has 60 minutes before their body just gets too cold. If it’s 50, that time doubles. At 60°, it triples, and so on. Basically, if you’re gonna fall, do it in tropical waters. Or, ya know, don’t fall at all…If you’re going for that final tip, then the odds are in your favor.

Modern cruise ships are the safest they’ve ever been, and they have plenty of ways to keep this from happening in the first place. Those preventative measures include increasing railing around the decks and making those barriers taller so that people can’t tumble over them. And recently, some state-of-the-art detection systems like motion sensors, radars, and tracking devices came out to add even more protection.

Long story short, nah too late for that -- the measures they take to prevent people from taking a spill overboard make ships one of the safest ways to travel. So, no need to go and cancel your long-awaited Caribbean cruise! But I already know what you’re thinking because I’m a Plan-B kinda guy myself.

JUUUST in case worst comes to worst and you accidentally take a tumble while peeking over the railing in awe of how big this ship is, here’s what you need to do to survive:

- Stay afloat. “Oh, really, Bright Side? I was planning on sprouting gills…” Ok, fine, got me there. Staying afloat is a lot easier when you have something to hold on to, but I imagine you didn’t have time to grab that buoy as you fell over the side. So, fill your lungs with air and lie on your back with your arms and legs spread out. Move them slowly to stay afloat. This position also helps rescuers spot you more easily. There’s another technique they learn in the US Navy. It’s called drown proofing, and it’s for rough waters. You stretch your body out but facing down, and lift your head for air.

What If You Fell off a Cruise Ship

- Keep your shirt on. No really. Being in the middle of an ocean, you’re prone to sunburn and heatstroke. So, keep your clothes on – they’ll protect you.

- Don’t drink seawater. You’ll get thirsty, for sure. But the high concentration of salt in ocean water is toxic to humans. Generally, we can consume tiny amounts of saltwater, but the body can’t process higher quantities. In other words, it’s the LAST resort. Just like that rundown hotel at the end of the island. The Last resort? Never mind.

- Stay put. The first instinct you’ll probably have is to swim towards the ship. The problem is, it’s more difficult to identify distances at sea, which means you’ll likely miscalculate how far away the ship is and just wear yourself out swimming in vain. Plus, the rescue team will start looking for you in the spot where you fell. Don’t leave that place!

- Stay calm Easier said than done, but you MUST conserve your energy. Panic does the opposite

– it wears you out faster and clouds your thinking. Just keep calm, stay positive, and wait for help to arrive – they’re coming, don’t you worry!