Nobody wants to think about what could go wrong on vacation, but at some point, you might find yourself offhandedly wondering about cruise ship morgues. Do they exist? Where are they housed? What happens if someone dies on a cruise ship?
Are there morgues on cruise ships?
Yes, there are morgues on most of the world’s largest cruise ships. The larger the ship, the larger the morgue’s capacity. Vessels are also required to carry body bags.
Cruise morgues are stainless steel refrigerated rooms with shelves where bodies are stored, either until the end of the voyage or until they can be disembarked in a port of call and repatriated.
Morgues are located on ships’ lowest decks, generally along what the crew refers to as “I-95” — the long corridor that runs from one end of the vessel to the other. It houses storage for everything from food and alcohol to fresh flowers and miscellaneous ship equipment. (Don’t worry; the morgues are kept well away from areas where food is stored.)
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What happens when someone dies on a cruise ship?
All cruise lines have procedures in place to handle the situation if someone dies during a sailing. When it happens, ship officials immediately notify shoreside authorities. Members of the medical team will assess, and the body will be moved to the morgue until further arrangements can be made.
The onboard team is equipped to assist the deceased’s travel companions with things like emotional support, notification of family members, and arrangements for early disembarkation and repatriation.
Returning a body home is expensive if the person who died didn’t live close to where their body is removed from the vessel. The cost associated with it is the responsibility of the passenger or their family or other travel companions, rather than the cruise line. (Note that some travel insurance policies offer coverage for it.)
How soon a body can be offloaded depends on several factors, including local regulations, where the ship is in its itinerary and where the vessel is flagged. Generally, remains are removed from ships in the next major port of call, where the proper infrastructure exists to handle them.
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