Broward News

Cruise Ship Catastrophes: From Viruses to Pirates to Flying Furniture

​The Italian Coast Guard on Wednesday halted efforts to recover bodies from the wreckage of the Costa Concordia, a massive cruise ship that capsized last week off the coast of Italy. With at least 11 people dead and more than still 20 missing, the accident has already dealt a financial blow to the industry, which happens to employ quite a few South Floridians and brings millions of tourists to the region each year. 

Details of the accident are still being worked out, and it will likely take months or even years before authorities wrap up full investigations. But initial reports indicate that the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, decided to showboat for the beach-dwelling locals and steer the 114,500 ton machine way too close to the shore. The boat hit a rock and soon capsized.

Having a d-bag of a captain who jumps ship -- and then later claims he was catapulted out of the boat -- isn't the only way of risking life and limb on the high seas. From viruses to toxic gas, here's a quick look at some other notable factors that can really fuck up your vacation. 

Mass Illness: Outbreaks of noroviruses and other illness-inducing bugs on cruise ships are so common that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- many years ago -- had to establish its ominously named Vessel Sanitation Program just to keep track of them all. Among the more recent sick ships is San Francisco's Sea Princess, which "had more than 350 cases of norovirus" over a two-month period in 2011. On one voyage alone, the "highly contagious gastroenteritis infection" hit 53 of 2,196 passengers.

Overbooking: Only wusses and fire inspectors care about "maximum occupancy." But ship captains should probably pay attention to those words too. In July 2011, a Russian cruise ship called Bulgaria hit the Volga River with 208 people onboard. The boat was supposed to carry only 120. More than 100 of them ended up dead when the double-decker rolled and "sank in eight minutes."

Pirates: Unless Kurt Russell Capt. Ron is at the helm, nobody wants to hear the word pirates murmured while floating miles offshore. In December 2008, a gang of pirates lurking in the Gulf of Aden opened fire on the M/S Nautica while it was traveling from Egypt to Oman. The ship made a clean getaway after the captain "gunned the engine," and the whole saga lasted only five minutes. 

Flying furniture: You know some shit went down when 240 people get injured by flying furniture. That's what happened when the Crown Princess "unexpectedly heeled to its side" in 2006 just outside Port Canaveral. Like a lot of these incidents, investigators attributed the unexpected 16- to 18-degree tilt to human error. 

Toxic gas: Overpriced drinks -- check. Crappy-sounding band with a quirky Caribbean fashion sense -- check. Toxic gas leak -- check. In 2005, three people died onboard Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas and more were injured from an alleged leak of hydrogen sulfide. A lawsuit alleged that the company didn't take care of the ship's ballast tanks, which "contain mixtures of gray water, puper water, and sea water." All these types of water can apparently blend into a killer gas. 

Vanishing persons: More people than you think board cruise ships and never return. Amy Bradley is among them, vanishing from the Rhapsody of the Seas while it was nearing Curacao, Antilles, in March 1998. A blog post from her mother notes that Amy was last seen with a cruise ship band member named "Yellow," but an extensive FBI investigation turned up nothing. 

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Chris Sweeney