A Carnival crew member went overboard around 1:00 a.m. yesterday from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship.  According to crew members, the crew member jumped.  Unfortunately, despite a prompt search, the crew member was lost.

The incident was not reported by Carnival’s corporate headquarters, nor was the incident reported by the press.  Instead the first person to report on it was a popular Cruise Director, John Heald, who was aboard the cruise ship at the time of the tragic incident.  Mr. Heald is employed as Senior Cruise Director - John Heald Carnival’s Senior Cruise Director and writes a very popular blog named, naturally enough, John Healds Blog

The article Mr. Heald wrote – A Very Sad Day –  explains what happened in a clear and sensitive manner.  You will not find any hint in the blog of the stiff corporate mumbo-jumbo which we see from most cruise lines.  One of the problems cruise lines face is that they are afraid to reveal tragedies like this.  When they say nothing, or delay, or sugar coat ugly facts, they lose credibility at best or look like they are hiding things at worst.

But Mr. Heald’s informative and respectful blog timely explained the circumstances which brought the cruise ship to a stop in the middle of the night.  It avoided speculation and conspiracy theories. It was the right thing to do.  Over a hundred readers commented, almost all 100% in support of the thoughts expressed in his article. 

Over 140 people have gone overboard in the last decade.  This is the first time I have seen such a prompt statement of a crew or passenger overboard by anyone associated with the cruise line which contained accurate and timely information and also conveyed the story in human terms. 

The industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association, should invite all of the public relations and corporate communications experts from all of the other cruise lines to a cruise with Senior Cruise Director Heald so they can watch a real pro in action.       


Photo credit:   Carnival-News.com

  • I was on the Carnival Fantasy with my husband when a newlywed jumped from one of the top decks to his demise. We were in the lounge when the ship abruptly came to a halt. We knew something was wrong.

    All night long the ship’s loudspeaker was calling out passenger names until only one name remained. The next morning at 6 am, crew members knocked on our door, asking for any information about the lost soul.

    Very sad cruise for us on such a happy ship.

  • John

    I was a passenger on the Balmoral when this unfortunate accident took place, I cannot fault the actions taken by the captain Mr Olaf Sovdsnes he turned the ship around immeadiately and commenced a search, we were accompanied by English and French warships but to no avail, the gentleman was not found. Sea temperatures were quite warm 67 degrees but body temperature would be leached away rapidly by the water and I suspect that within a very short time hypothermia would have rendered him unconscious. The subject was not discussed at any time, no doubt in respect to the family this is the first reference I have found since our return from what was a very memorable cruise.

  • Kevin Guidry

    I was on the Splender this past week when the crew member jumped. It was handled very well by John and the Captain. The shipped immediatley started a search pattern and continued this well into the morning. Mexican authorities arrived at sunrise and assisted in the search. The cruise ship was released from the search a few hours latter when the Mexican Coast Guard took over the opeartion. Hundreds of passengers lined the railings to help look for the missing crew member. It was no doubt a very somber cruise for the next few days. I would like to see some kind of internal investigation between the cruise lines regarding crew depression just as you have suggested in your blog. The crew members work very hard. If something is not done to relieve the pressure it will get worse and that will result in a loss of revenue. They would be better off taking a proactive approach. John would probably make a very good facilitator for the inital kickoff.

  • Steve

    My wife and I were on the Carnival Splendor when this incident occurred. I am a retired Police Officer and on many occasions have had to handle sensitive notifications to the public as well as several death notifications. Mr. Heald did an outstanding job handling a difficult situation. He initially made the announcement in the staterooms as well as throughout the ship. This announcement was made quickly, as the ship was still turning around to begin the search. Updates continued during the first hour of the search. At that point updates were continued, but only in the public areas throughout the ship. Many passengers went out on deck to provide “extra eyes” during the nigh time search. In addition to the search by the ship a smaller boat was immediately placed in the water to assist in the search. A prompt notification to Mexican authorities was also made. They dispatched a search vessel to the area as well.

    In the morning a letter from the Captain was delivered to every stateroom explaining what had occurred and apologizing for our delayed arrival at the first port of call.

    Later in the voyage both Captain Cupisti and Mr. Heald made announcements thanking the passengers for their understanding and all the kind words to the crew both during and after the incident.

    I can’t speak for Carnival Corporation or how they handled (or didn’t handle) this incident, but Mr. Heald and Captain Cupisti were very professional and did an outstanding job aboard the ship dealing with a very difficult situation.

  • Carolyn Beecher


    My husband and I were on that ship celebrating our Anniversary and we are still depressed and in awe. Can’t believe all we can think about is that crew member and his family!

    This was not the way we expected to enjoy our 13th Anniversary! Still very saddened. We all could use some counseling.

  • Priscila

    Akward to think that this same Cruise Director would “jump” from another Carnival ship a couple of years later…