I Just Learned What Happens When Somebody Dies On A Cruise Ship And I’ve Got Chills

<span class="copyright">John M. Chase via Getty Images</span>
John M. Chase via Getty Images

As of November 2023 there were 323 cruise ships operating worldwide and on average, a cruise ship can host around 3,000 passengers.

With these kinds of numbers in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising to learn that around 200 people die on cruises every year.

There’s no good way to go, but maybe the holiday of a lifetime is a decent last hurrah?

What happens next, though? Is the body immediately shipped back to the person’s homeland? Is there a morgue on board?

What happens when somebody dies on a cruise ship

According to the Maritime Injury Guide, there are quite a few steps that crew must follow if a passenger dies on board.

First, port authorities must be notified and the medical staff on board immediately examine the body. The rest of the staff assigned need to look after the other passengers and loved ones of the deceased person.

All of this happens under the special code that’s widely used on cruise ships to alert that somebody’s died. This is called “Operation Rising Star”.

The body is then moved to a morgue. The Maritime Injury Guide explained that most cruise ships are required to have a morgue on board, and, on bigger ships, these can contain up to 10 bodies.

Free ice cream can be a sign that people have died

According to a former cruise worker, free ice cream can be a sign that too many people on board have died, and the staff need to make freezer space.

Dara Starr Tucker said on her TikTok account: “If the crew suddenly makes a bunch of ice cream available to the passengers... it is often because more people have died on the ship than they have room for in the morgue.”

Cory L Buckner then commented: “Cruise ship medic here. Can confirm the cruise ship and ice cream correlation.”