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Six worst cruises of the decade: Pirates, storms, and stomach bugs

Feb 15, 2013 8:00 am

Skift Take

If the cruise industry can rebound from these six horrific trips, it’s only be a matter of time before bookings bounce back as die-hard cruisers move on from the shock and first-timers choose to take a risk.

— Samantha Shankman

Report: Social Media Customer Service in the Travel Industry

As the cruise ship Carnival Triumph approached the dock in Alabama this morning, passengers chanted “Let me off! Let me off!” Four days earlier, an engine fire had knocked out the ship’s power and transformed their pleasure cruise into a nightmare. Drains and toilets overflowed, sewage coated cabin floors, and many passengers moved their bedding out into corridors or on to the decks in a bid to escape the stench.

It is hardly the first bad cruise story, nor is it likely to be the last, yet the cruise has never been more popular. According to the Passenger Shipping Association, UK passenger numbers for cruises are running at an all-time high, with an estimated 1.72 million of us taking to the seas for our holidays in 2012, and no sign of those numbers slowing. It’s even (perhaps) becoming cool: California music festival Coachella has taken to the seas, while Barge to Hell is the cruise for heavy metal lovers less keen on slumming it on a festival campsite.

And that is despite the horror stories. Any holiday, of course, has the potential to turn sour, but few can do so quite as spectacularly as the cruise. Here are six of the worst cruises of the past 10 years:

Pirates attack the Seabourn Spirit

In 2005, passengers on luxury cruise liner the Seabourn Spirit got a taste of old-fashioned adventure on the high seas when pirates attacked the ship off the coast of Somalia. No passengers were injured and the pirates never boarded, but the ship came under machine-gun fire and was struck by rocket-propelled grenades.

Another messy Carnival

In an incident strikingly similar to the chaos on the Carnival Triumph, an engine fire on the Carnival Splendor in November 2010 left it stranded in the Pacific with overflowing toilets and more than 4,000 hungry and angry passengers.

The chilly end of the Explorer

Around 100 holidaymakers were forced into lifeboats in rough and icy water when the MV Explorer took on water and sank 75 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula in November, 2007. Fortunately, a Norwegian rescue ship was able to bring all on board back alive.

Illness on the Mercury

An outbreak of norovirus brought a Caribbean dream to an unpleasant end when over 400 passengers were struck with stomach aches, vomiting and diarrhoea in February 2010, aboard cruise ship Celebrity Mercury.

Tragedy on the Costa Concordia

Thirty-two people died and many more were injured when Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized off the coast of Tuscany in January last year. More than 4,000 other passengers and crew members were safely evacuated.

Tables and chairs run riot on the Sun

When a heavy storm off the coast of New Zealand hit the P&O ship Pacific Sun, 42 people were injured as unsecured furniture careered back and forth across the floor. When, two years later, CCTV footage of the chaos turned up on the internet, it amassed well over a million views.

Have you been on a cruise that ended in a disaster – or disappointment? Share your experiences with us below.

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