It’s Never Too Early to Start Thinking About Your Final Cruise

April 9, 2012 | By | 8 Comments

It started the way many other businesses do, says Abbie Strudley, spokeswoman for My Final Cruise (MFC), the first company in the ash-scattering-by-cruise-ship industry.
“We said, here’s a need that’s not being filled.”
The aim: Help people send off loved ones on a that final, inevitable voyage.

There are strict policies for what can and can’t be thrown overboard, governed by environmental agencies, cruise lines and the International Maritime Organization, a U.N. institution tasked with ensuring safety at sea. As to cremated remains, the urn must be biodegradable; the ship must be 12 nautical miles from shore (in international waters); and the cruise line, if it allows for ash spreading (most do), must be notified ahead of time so it can log the event.
That’s where MFC comes in. The company sells the approved receptacles (the “scallop shell,” in three colors, runs $324.95, while the simpler “locker” — which comes in six shades — is $149.95), makes sure that the ship and itinerary can fulfill the necessary requirements for ash spreading, and liaises with the line on the passengers’ behalf.
MFC has also been thrust into the cruise-selling business. Because the first question usually deals with where someone wants to scatter Uncle Larry’s remains, explains Strudley, MFC determined that it had to offer a full-service option. It does so via an affiliate cruise agent, who can also help arrange commemorative touches onboard, like a post-ceremony repast.
Book a cruise or buy an urn, and the administrative costs — to get the de-ashing ash okayed — are included. Otherwise, it’s $100.
The time of the ceremony depends on where the ship is — again the 12 nautical miles — and weather conditions. Under ideal circumstances, says Strudley, it takes about seven minutes for the urn to sink.

To mark where the urn was released, MFC offers “Virtual Headstones,” clip art flags on a Google world map that pinpoint the location, ship and time of the ceremony. Customers can decide whether or not the name of the newly departed is public or private, and the online entry may include an obituary, poem, picture or video. MFC wants to be seen as totally “above board,” says Strudley, so it is documenting the approved location of the act for everyone to see.

So far, MFC has received a couple of inquiries for cruises. There’s also one pending urn purchase, dependant on whether the associated cruise can fulfill the aforementioned requirements. Still, it’s more than they expected so soon after launch, says Strudley.
MFC’s business model isn’t concerned only with the dead. So far, it’s had the biggest response to its “my final wishes” element, says Strudley. While you’re still alive, you can fill out an online form outlining exactly what you want — your ashes scattered in the Mediterranean, for instance — after you’ve passed on.
With no trailblazers to guide the way, the folks behind MFC have had to “feel their way around a little” and think through “worst- case scenarios” as they attempt to build a solid reputation in a sensitive new industry.
“We don’t want deaths being staged as part of a stag party or something,” explains Sturdley. So the company requires customers to show them a death certificate — even though, of the agencies MFC has dealt with, only the Bermuda Maritime Administration requires one. Strudley says attempts to partner with cruise lines, which they initially pushed for, were unsuccessful. “Because it’s a sad occasion, lines don’t really want to associate with it,” she says. Still, as global environmental agencies tighten policies, she hopes that lines will start referring potential ash spreaders to MFC.
More of a do-it-yourselfer? You can, of course, make all of your own arrangements to spread ashes from a cruise ship. As Cruise Critic member Pam in CA explains in her first-hand account, the steps are the same — book a cruise, contact the line, get an approved urn. There’s just no hand holding.
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    Comments

    8 Responses to “It’s Never Too Early to Start Thinking About Your Final Cruise”

    1. Paula Byrne
      April 9th, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

      What a wonderful idea. My brother just passed away with directions to be cremated, but no instructions as to what to do with his ashes. As a former Navy seaman, this seems like a fitting way to honor his life.

    2. Monica
      April 9th, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

      what is the consequences to tossing the ashes overboard without consent..just curious..

    3. John Sykes
      April 9th, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

      Paula, the Navy will do this for your brother at no charge. They just did it for my father-in-law who served on the Enterprise during WWII. They provided a video, flag and certificate with exact co-ordinates. They did it from an aircraft carrier so we could not be there.

    4. Osprey
      April 9th, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

      We did this ourselves this past October aboard the Oasis. Our mom who was an avid cruiser, passed away and was cremated in Feb 2011, and this was how we chose to bury her. It wasn’t difficult or expensive. The urn cost less than $100, and Royal Caribbean was very accommodating. Well in advance of our sail, we contacted the pursers office with RC and they told us what was required (how to pack the ashes, what kind of urn, etc) and told us what to do on board- contact the purser’s office (AKA hotel director’s) office to schedule the burial (based on requirements, etc). We printed the documentation so we would have it when we went through security (go ahead and tell them that you are carrying cremains in your luggage- I’d keep it with my carry-ons since it is important. You will experience a brief delay going through security as they verify your documentation- we waited maybe 5 minutes before we were allowed through. Since we were upfront and had all our documentation from RC, it was pretty painless. Once aboard, the Hotel Director was very accommodating. We scheduled a time for the burial with the HD. When it came time for the burial, we were told that the ship was too close to the Cuban coast to preform the ceremony, and they actually altered the ships course to move to the 12 mile limit! We were escorted to the anchor deck which is the lowest exterior point on the ship. They allowed us to do conduct our own ceremony and burial and we never felt pressured for time. They also provided flowers to toss out as well. Very classy. A few days later they gave us a certificate of burial with the coordinates and signed by the captain and all the major crew. Their kindness and respect will not be forgotten.

    5. Kim
      April 13th, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

      re: Osprey – Thank you so much for taking the time to describe your mother’s burial. It sounds like a wonderful alternative to more traditional services and I’m going to pass your story on to my daughter to use when it’s MY “last cruise”! I wonder if the other cruise lines are as good about it as RC was with your mother’s burial – only because we tend to cruise with a couple of different lines. Thanks again for the information!

    6. Irene
      April 15th, 2012 @ 9:25 am

      Thank you so much for sharing.
      May your Mom Rest In Peace.

    7. Paige
      April 17th, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

      I had the cremains of both of my parents and decided that as a family we spent a lot of vacations at Gulf Shores, AL. I chartered a small boat for this. The captain had done it before and they were very repsectful of my wishes. I wrote a brief ceremony, passed out White Owl cigars that my dad loved, toasted with home-made wine coolers that my mom loved and sprinkled their ashes in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the music of Glen Miller, their favorite music. Tossed in two biodegradable flower wreaths and watched until they disappeared. It was a respectful but fun send off for them. That is they way they would have wanted it, they loved to have fun. The captain noted the coordinated for me and I had cards made with some of the pictures taken during the day to send to family and friends. I felt a real closure with this. RIP Mom and Honey. I love you.

    8. Sharon T
      March 10th, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

      Thank you for posting your experience. My spouse passed away last month, and his wish was to have his ashes buried at sea. (Cruising had been our family’s favorite vacation, and we even renewed our vows on Navigator after he had been diagnosed with a degenerative terminal disease.) We had purchased a salt container from the funeral home for his ashes for ocean disposal, but I didn’t know where to start. Our youngest had just started researching, and ran across your post. We’ll probably book the Oasis in a week or two based on your experience.

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