A 24-year-old passenger on Freedom of the Seas toppled overboard from his balcony early Monday morning. The ship had departed from Miami on Sunday; the passenger, who was last seen by a family member and a friend at 1:45 a.m., was reported missing at 8:30 a.m. At that point the ship was sailing northeast of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.
He is still missing.
Freedom of the Seas was en route to San Juan when its captain turned the ship back Monday to return to the location where the young passenger was last seen. Officers are working with the U.S. Coast Guard -- which sent two HH60 long range helicopters to aid in the search. The search was called off at sunset last night, and resumed at daylight this morning; the ship returned to the area a second time.
Royal Caribbean has also alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), the Bahamian Maritime Authority and other ships in the immediate vicinity. As well, it made numerous announcements, searched the ship -- collecting onboard records, video and statements -- and secured the passenger's cabin.
As a result of the recovery effort, Freedom of the Seas is way off course in terms of its planned itinerary. The original plan was to call at St. Maarten, San Juan and St. Thomas. But the delay will cause the ship to miss its turn at St. Thomas. It will arrive a day late -- Wednesday -- in San Juan, stop in St. Maarten on Thursday, and then feature two sea days as it makes its way back to Miami, where it docks on Sunday.
This occurrence naturally resurrects the debate about the ease with which people can supposedly fall overboard, and Cruise Critic members are chiming in.
Writes DukeFamily, "Oh how I hate when these things happen! I have too many friends who have never cruised and hear this kind of thing and say 'I'm not going on a cruise -- I don't want to fall overboard!' You just can't fall overboard. Someone has to be doing something they should not do. When it happens and the cruise ship has to go into search and rescue mode, it adversely affects thousands of paying passengers and costs tons of money."
Dphippps2 had another thought: "I've often wondered how anyone could 'fall' from a cruise ship until my last cruise. This was our first balcony and we were looking over the railing when I noticed some people a few balconies over. They looked to be in their 20's. All of a sudden one of them threw his leg over the balcony railing and proceeded to act like he was going to jump.
"Answered my question."
The man overboard scenario, while undoubtedly tragic when passengers are not found, finds fellow travelers feeling less sympathetic when the person in question was doing something foolhardy. "I think the person overboard or their estate if they die should be charged (sued) by the cruise line and/or the Coast Guard," adds DukeFamily. "That might go a long way to address the personal responsibility aspect."
We'll keep you posted.
In the meantime, check out a recent From the Bridge missive on Fools Overboard by Cruise Critic's Carolyn Spencer Brown for general reactions to other overboard situations this year.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor