One of the first comments from the Carnival Destiny cruise ship about a passenger going overboard earlier this week was by another passenger who remarked on Twitter that it took well over a hour to complete the rescue. The tweet stated that the overboard passenger had to tread the water for one and one-half hours.

Another person left a comment to my article about the incident, stating:

"The woman’s friends who knew she had fallen had a difficult time convincing the crew to stop the ship. They chose to search the ship first. Fortunately a passenger in an above deck had reported hearing a splash and that info convinced them to stop the ship and look in the water. She was not rescued for over an hour. She tried to swim after the ship until it disappeared and she was left in total blackness. . . ."

Coast Guard regulations and the requirements of most cruise ship safety management systems (SMS) Carnival Destiny Cruise Ship Rescue required by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) state that the vessel must immediately take steps to rescue a person who goes overboard.

Vessel operators must also notify the Coast Guard and other vessels in the vicinity if the overboard person is not "immediately" located in the water. Once a man overboard is reported, most SMS cruise line policies require a prompt reduction of speed of the ship, a "Williamson Turn" to head the ship back to the location of the overboard person, the deployment of extra look-outs, the use of spotlights, and preparation to deploy life craft. While this is happening the captain can order a muster and head count if there is any doubt about whether a passenger went overboard. 

Why didn’t this occur in this case?  If the comments by other passengers are true that the cruise ship did not promptly turn around and the overboard passenger was forced to tread water for over an hour, this is in violation of Coast Guard regulations and basic maritime rescue procedures.

Last month, a similar incident occurred on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas. A young woman went overboard and reportedly struck the arm of a passenger standing on a lower balcony. The passenger reported the incident immediately but the cruise ship sailed on and did not report it for over two hours.  The cruise line initially falsely stated that it immediately initiated a search and notified the U.S. Coast Guard. When confronted with the fact that it actually delayed for over two hours, Royal Caribbean said that it decided to search the ship first so as to avoid unnecessarily causing the Coast Guard to deploy search aircraft and rescue vessels.  

Unlike the Carnival case where the passenger was eventually rescued and taken to a hospital ashore (photo above), in the Royal Caribbean case the passenger was never found and her body was never recovered.

There were many comments after the fiasco aboard the Allure of the Seas that no one can survive a fall of 100 feet from a cruise ship, but the Carnival Destiny incident shows otherwise. In both cases, there were criticisms by other passengers that they were inconvenienced by the delay and/or they missed the next port because of the overboard. Cruise lines have to then deal with whining customers and unhappy people demanding credits and discounts.  

Are cruise ships under so much pressure to keep their itineraries that they are ignoring basic search and rescue protocols? 

Yes, everyone should be happy that the Destiny passenger survived. But the issue needs to be explored to understand why the ship delayed in searching in the water rather than wasting time looking around the ship.The next overboard will not be so lucky. 

The notion advanced by Royal Caribbean’s PR people that cruise lines can delay a rescue for a couple of hours is preposterous. It’s exactly the opposite of what the applicable maritime rules and regulations require.  After all, the Allure of the Seas is touted as the largest cruise ship in the world. In an emergency, no one has the luxury of searching an entire floating city before initiating a search and calling the Coast Guard for help.

A person struggling in the water at night does not have time to wait a hour or two for help.    


Photo credit: Jetaria Taylor

  • Steve Smith

    As someone who has been through this procedure, I can tell you that it takes 1 1/2 hours to stop and turn that size ship around and return to the sight of the person jumping.

    WHILE in this process, the staff would indeed be searching the ship.

    It does no one any good to publish misreading information about incidents like this.

    You should be ashamed.

  • Mr. Smith:

    As a well know Carnival fan and poster on Carnival Funville, Cruisemates and Cruise Critic under name of “Musical Cruiser,” you naturally must feel inclined to come to this cruise line’s defense and sing a happy tune. But posting a comment like your’s above is silly.

    Over the course of one and one-half hours, a cruise ship can travel over 35 miles. It does not take 35 miles to turn a ship around.

    Thank you nonetheless for reading Cruise Law News.

  • Sarah

    I was on this cruise this week and I saw them rescue this woman first hand from my balcony. She is extremely lucky to be alive! I heard the initial announcements that someone may be missing and possibly of gone overboard. It does take time and the proper permissions to divert from course and turn a cruise ship around. It was extremely dark with no moon or stars and I think they were very lucky to find her and get her back to shore for immediate treatment. Unfortunately for the rest of the guests, our holiday was ruined because this drunk girl fell overboard.

  • nedelko

    thats crazy one of my freinds was on board on a cruise to jamaica last week and saw the whole thing happend he saw the pax falling overboard aperently she was really intoxicated he saus it took an hour to rescue the pax and the ship turned back towards key west to drop her off

  • lady k

    Being a passenger on board we were very excited and happy that the woman was rescued. unfortunately for the other 1000+ passengers we didn’t get anything we paid for. no Jamaica or Grand Cayman. I want to know why the,Coast Guards did just come and get the woman and remove her from ship we were closer to Jamaica then Key West. we literally spent 4 days in water with nothing to do but be pissed off about not getting our moneys worth. the itinerary onboard, the good, and ports of call were very disappointing, we renamed the cruise the “Carnival Mystery”

  • Allen & Anna

    To Steve Smith…It is not misreading information when we were all there witnessing took them almost 20 to 30 minutes to put a life boat in the water…WHY?

  • Roberta Cohen

    The girl jumped according to her drunken best friend who witnessed her jumping and instead of telling cruise first , told boyfriend first . When the announcement was made that there was a person overboard , they went together and explained they were on ship together . Apparently a threesome gone wrong . I believe had no one else reported it the two would of kept quiet . Very sad that people can’t hold their liquor .carnival should deem them responsible . As for the woman running her mouth telling everyone she jumped and thought it was funny , you should be ashamed of yourself . You are a train wreck and home wrecker . Yelling that your best friend ruined your vacation ! You should of been the one to go over board!!!

  • Jim

    I was on board, rumors of what happened were flying.They did turn immediately; the girl was in the water 1 1/2 hours, they were searcing with lifeboats deployed for at least 1 hour. Getting that boat turned around and then stopped in the area where she went over in 1/2 hour was awfully good work in my book. My wife talked to a crew member the next morning. She knew the crew member who pulled the girl from the water. He said the victim had signs of being beaten up and that cameras recorded her being thrown over. I talked to a ship officer who said that she first landed on a lifeboat cover directly under her balcony. It broke her fall and otherwise would have hit the water with much more force. He said that it is rare that they pull someone out alive. Regarding circumstances, he would only say that the FBI was investigating and so he couldn’t give more details. He did say that the ship’s doctor made the call to divert to Key West because the victim had internal injuries that needed attending. My family was disappointed, but we still had a great time. Anyone who reads the fine print knows that port destinations are always subject to change. If this was someone’s worst experience (other than the girl who went over), that person has a very sheltered existence and she/he should praise God that the worst experience in life was that they went to Key West instead of Jamaica (the diversion to Coszmel was Sandy’s fault). I’ll take Key West over a dead body pulled from the water anytime.

  • Michelle

    Seriously? You can’t ‘fall’ overboard without purposely climbing, and at 12:10 in the morning, she was probably drunk. Either way, it is called being a stupid idiot. And if you believe some woman who says ‘she swam after the ship until it disappeared and she was left in total blackness’, to gather yourself after falling 100 feet and hitting a brick wall of water, hitting a life boat as you fell, and believe that someone was able to comprehend to swim after a boat is dulusional. And then to think you saw her and see her swim, not at 17k of speed in the dark. She is lucky she did not get sucked under the boat and sent through the propeller. She ruined a vacation for MANY people, and I was on my first ever cruise, and I found the lack of self control of many passengers sickening. And I am glad the waited to turn around and be 100% sure that they needed to, because if they waisted time to look for someone who was not in the water . . . I side with the captain.

  • Cindy

    Wow – I read lots of articles and comments at this site and usually don’t say anything but this time I have to.

    Those passengers who are mad because their vacation was ‘ruined’ need to get a grip on reality.

    Is your vacation ‘ruined’ because a passenger needs to be medivaced? Probably not, you’re sympathetic (if you’re human).

    Was this young lady intoxicated? Probably. If she purposely jumped, then she’s stupid. Given that you’re talking about Carnival, it’s not surprising.

    But put it all in perspective. You have the means to take a vacation on a floating resort and it’s ‘ruined’ because you missed a port? If a cruise I was on missed ports, I’d shrug and say – more time to lay by the pool! What can be so bad about that?

  • Andrew

    @ Michelle… according to you’re the life of a person is valued at the cost of your cabin. Yay for humanities future.

  • Cruiser

    My wife and I were on this boat as well and I have to say, if you were not there to experience it, you shouldnt be writing slanderous articles. We were right there as this hero of a passenger was pouring his soul out to security of what he thought he saw and heard. He even said that he hoped he was wrong, and it didn’t really happen, but was pretty convinced he saw this passenger hit the water. Within 10 minutes of this guy reporting the ship was already turning around and an announcement was made. From what I’ve heard it was only at this time that boyfriend reported her going overboard confirming the witnesses story. There seems to be more to this story than the surface. And at no point did the crew and staff ever appear negligent and only concerned about making ports of call. In fact, it was the opposite. There only concern was for safety of the passenger. All of us for that matter as the second port was diverted due to the formation of Sandy. Do I believe Carnival should make it up to disappointed passengers, yes. It is a business and just like in any business you should keep your customers happy. But at the end of the day they did what they had to do.

  • Michelle

    @Andrew, don’t put words in my mouth. You (ass u me) to much.

    @Cruiser from 10/30, very well said! I continued to have fun, and I felt the crew did a great job trying to keep everyone calm during every situation that happened.

  • first hand knowledge
  • Pat Cremeans

    As far as I am concerned. The inebriated dumbass that went overboard should have swam to Cuba. She ruined what was supposed to be an awesome cruise for us 1st time cruisers. I don’t know about other people but I do know that I was looking forward to beautiful islands of Jamaica and Cayman Islands.I do not blame Carnival for not going to the Cayman islands because of Sandy but I DO blame the inebriated dumbass for missing Jamaica. I know there are gonna be people who criticize what I am saying and to those of you that do,walk a mile in the shoes of the peoples vacation that were ruined. I think Carnival could do more than offer 20% off on a future cruise to all of us that were on the ship.Am I glad that the woman was found alive let alone found at all? All I know is she better be a very religious person after this incident because as much hatred that this woman had caused others to have about her,only god and few others cared that this woman survived.

  • read btween the lines

    It really seams that the poster “first hand knowledge” is the guy/boyfriend that let this girl get too drunk to stand and was the reason she went over. He of all people should be charged with negligence for letting this person get .195 drunk cuz that is what it takes to become stumbling drunk as was stated in the reports given by the boyfriend and girl friend that were in the cabin. either way those two are totally responsible for her going over and ruining everyone else’s cruise and had I been on that cruise I would be suing the three of them and not carnival. Those three should have been charged with reckless endangerment and told to replay the any entity that was involved in the rescue of the jumper.

  • Jerry Bob

    According to Inside Edition and this woman’s admission she was drunk. Now she has an attorney and is suing the cruise lien. She was quoted as saying because of this incident she is afraid to go swimming. How about some personal accountability and responsibility. What a lousy dame and smut lawyer. Hopefully the judge will rule claim denied. If not, they can live the adage, nothing good comes from ill gotten gains. The rest of us will pay the tab with increased cruise fares if she wins this suit. When is this kind of legal embarassment going to stop.