This week, we saw the rarest of travel stories: a “man overboard” incident with a happy ending.
A 22-year-old passenger aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas fell overboard off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico, in the early-morning hours. Fortunately, people aboard another nearby cruise ship — the Disney Magic — saw him and told the crew. The Magic sent a lifeboat and rescued the man.
Incidents of people falling off of cruise ships are extremely rare: only about .000085 percent of all passengers, according to one study (more than 21 million people went on cruises last year). That makes sense: Accidentally falling off a cruise ship is extremely hard to do. CruisePage looked at 80 man (and woman) overboard cases going back to 2000. They found that many of the victims were drunk, trying to climb railings or balconies, or some combination of the two.
Even more rare than someone falling overboard: someone who does so and survives. Out of those 80 incidents CruisePage looked at, only 16 of the people were rescued.
Here are some of the strangest “man/woman overboard” cases we’ve seen:
Rescued and suing
Woman blamed the Carnival Destiny for her ordeal. (Photo: AP)
This overboard victim not only lived long enough to tell the tale but lived long enough to sue over it. In October 2012, Sarah Kirby was on a Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Destiny when she fell from her balcony (she admits that she was drunk at the time). Kirby was rescued after about 90 minutes, during which, she told ABC News, “I just prayed to God over and over, please don’t let me die out here." She later sued Carnival, claiming that a ship’s bartender had plied her full of alcohol and that the crew didn’t rescue her quickly enough.
Party gets out of hand
How exactly did a pair of spring-break partiers aboard the Grand Princess end up in the Gulf of Mexico? (Photo: AP)
In 2007, two students came back from spring break with one heck of a story. A 22-year-old man and his 20-year-old female companion fell off a balcony into the Gulf of Mexico during a night of partying aboard the Grand Princess. What led to their terrifying plunge is unclear: Reports circulated that they had been either re-enacting the “king of the world” scene from “Titanic” or horsing around on the balcony (the fact that he was found naked had people speculating even more, although he says he’d taken off his clothes to help him swim). Fortunately for them, their friends saw them fall into the water, and they quickly alerted the ship’s crew. The woman was rescued about a half-hour after the man. Neither suffered life-threatening injuries; in fact, he was seen partying on the ship for the rest of the cruise.
That’ll show ‘er!
Some people leave the room during an argument, but one guy took it too far. (Photo: Thinkstock)
This 2009 incident is a case of a man literally going overboard during an argument. During a cruise aboard the Carnival Sensation, a 34-year-old man went over his balcony and into the Atlantic just off Port St. Lucie. Just before that, a witness reported hearing him argue with a female companion inside the stateroom and threaten to jump. ”Go ahead,” the woman reportedly responded. After he was in the water for about an hour screaming for help, the man was rescued by another ship, the Disney Wonder, which had changed its course to help. The Disney Wonder captain told ABC News that the victim was “beaming — big smile all over his face” after his rescue. But, the captain added, “I think he obviously regrets what had happened.” The man was taken to the hospital for physical and mental evaluation. Let’s hope they also threw in some couples counseling.
Teen’s quick thinking saved a man who fell overboard. (Photo: Facebook/NCL)
A teenager who took a family cruise on his summer vacation ended up becoming a hero. On June 12, 2011, 16-year-old Alex Giffel was on the Norwegian Spirit when he saw a passenger go overboard into the Mississippi River. Giffel, who apparently had listened to the safety demo, threw the man a life ring while his older cousin alerted the crew. The man was rescued. The next month, Norwegian and the Port of New Orleans held a ceremony to honor Giffel for his heroism.
A passenger aboard the Carnival Inspiration made a less-than-inspired decision. (Photo: AP)
Proof that good decisions are rarely made at 4 in the morning: In June 2009, a passenger aboard the Carnival Inspiration fell overboard about a mile southeast of Florida’s Mullet Key. The passenger, a 46-year-old man, later recounted that he had climbed the railing to get a better look at a pilot boat but slipped and fell. He was rescued almost three hours later, when someone on a boat found him hugging a pilot marker in the shipping channel.