Do cruise ships have morgues?

Last updated on September 17th, 2023 at 07:25 pm

Look around on your next cruise – it’s common to see elderly people or those in seemingly poor health. Some choose to have one last trip as their health is failing or they’ve got a terminal illness.

Yes, cruise ships have morgues. 

Large cruise ships can have a population as large as an entire small town so it’s necessary that they are prepared for a passenger’s death – or deaths. It’s not uncommon for more than one passenger to pass away during a cruise.

Whatever the case, there is a morgue on the ship equipped with body bags, ready to hold a body until the deceased can be moved off the ship once it gets to a port.

Dealing with a death at sea on a cruise ship is a complex and sensitive matter. Cruise lines have protocols in place to handle such situations with care and respect. Here’s an overview of what typically happens if someone dies onboard a cruise ship:

Notification and Medical Assistance: If a passenger or crew member falls seriously ill or passes away while onboard, the ship’s medical team is immediately notified. They will provide any necessary medical assistance and evaluate the situation.

Determination of Death: The ship’s medical staff, following established procedures and guidelines, will make an official determination of the person’s death. In the event of a death, efforts will be made to contact the deceased person’s next of kin or emergency contact.

Embalming and Storage: Depending on the circumstances, the ship may have the facilities to embalm the deceased and store the body in a designated area specifically designed for this purpose. These facilities are typically equipped with refrigeration units to ensure the body is properly preserved.

Investigation and Documentation: Authorities, such as the ship’s captain and local law enforcement, will be notified of the death, especially if the ship is in international waters. An investigation may be conducted to determine the cause of death and ensure no foul play was involved. The ship’s staff will also complete necessary documentation related to the incident.

Coordination with Ports: The ship’s management will work with relevant authorities to determine the best course of action regarding the deceased person’s remains. This may involve arranging for the body to be transported to a port of call or repatriated to the person’s home country.

Support for Family and Passengers: Cruise lines prioritize providing support and assistance to the deceased person’s family during this challenging time. They may offer counseling services, help with travel arrangements, or facilitate communication with embassies or consulates.

Onboard Memorials and Funerals: Depending on the circumstances and the wishes of the family, the cruise line may facilitate a memorial service or funeral ceremony onboard the ship. These services are conducted with respect and sensitivity, providing an opportunity for fellow passengers and crew to pay their respects.

It’s important to note that the specific procedures and policies can vary among cruise lines. Each company has established protocols in place to handle these situations professionally and compassionately. In the event of a death at sea on a cruise ship, the well-being of the affected individuals and their families is a top priority.


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