Sudden chills, strange moans and the feeling someone is watching you... No, we're not talking about the cruise ship cabin with the broken thermostat and noisy neighbors. We're referring to ghosts, especially the kind that (supposedly) haunt popular cruise ports around the globe.
In honor of Halloween, we're paying tribute to the darker side of your favorite ports. You may head to Jamaica to catch some rays, but did you know about the mansion in Montego Bay that once was home to a human-sacrificing, voodoo-practicing madwoman? Paris makes a romantic stop on your river cruise, but you may cross paths with a spirit or two if you set foot in its Catacombs or cemeteries. Closer to home, a few turnaround ports are infamous for haunted ships, prisons and hotels.
Whether you're a believer or a skeptic, these ghost stories are sure to add another layer of intrigue to your pre-cruise planning. Time your visit right, and you can book a ghost tour to go looking for paranormal portside activity... if you dare.
Whether you're winding your way through Whitechapel's darkened streets searching out the scenes of Jack the Ripper's grisly crimes or creeping around Highgate Cemetery’s echoing catacombs, the ghosts of Victorian London are never far away…so they say. The Tower of London, first built in 1078, is rumored to be home to many of the city's most famous ghosts -- killed in a number of brutal ways. Visit the London Dungeon, in Southwark, to see all manner of ancient terrors acted out for tourists. And don’t forget the hidden burial grounds everywhere underfoot. So, if you find yourself in London on a dark evening, mind your step and keep a watchful eye for dark figures peering out from the shadows.
Known for housing some of the most infamous criminals like Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Alcatraz is believed to be home to several ghosts. Among the most haunted sections of "The Rock" is Cell 14D, one of the "hole" cells where prisoners were often kept in isolation for up to 19 days. Visitors and employees have reported feeling an extreme cold come upon them while in the cell or hearing cries and moaning coming from cell blocks A, B and C. Others claim to have heard the sounds of a banjo playing while in the prison. Perhaps it's Al Capone, who received special permission in his twilight years to practice his banjo.
Paris is home to plenty of haunts that will send shivers down your spine. Tour the infamous Catacombs, also called the "Empire of the Dead" -- tunnels beneath the city that house the bones of 6 million bodies buried there. Visitors to the macabre maze of tunnels report seeing -- and feeling! -- strange mists, shadows and ghosts. Want to stay above ground? Visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the largest in Paris. Sculptures, headstones and tombs cover the grounds, which serve as the final resting place for both the famous and commoner. Those brave enough to enter the Pere Lachaise have claimed to encounter ghosts, including those of Doors frontman Jim Morrison and Polish composer Frederic Chopin.
It would be strange if New Orleans weren't haunted, given that it’s been inhabited over time by French prisoners, voodoo practitioners and, if Anne Rice is to be believed, vampires. One of the most haunted homes is said to be the LaLaurie house, where in 1834 several severely tortured and mutilated slaves were found barely alive after a fire. Subsequent owners have claimed the house was plagued by ghosts and quickly moved out, but today it serves as luxury apartments. Another must-visit stop on any haunted New Orleans visit is Cemetery Number 1. Here Marie Laveau, the most infamous voodoo priestess in U.S. history, is said to walk among the tombstones cursing trespassers.
Sure, the Caribbean is sunshine-filled, but that doesn't mean there isn't a darker side. Enter Rose Hall, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. According to legend -- and perhaps later influenced by H.G. de Lisser's novel "The White Witch of Rose Hall" -- the mansion and its sugar plantation were run by Annie Palmer, a particularly cruel women who punished her slaves arbitrarily, practiced voodoo and was especially fond of human sacrifice. Locals took to calling her the "White Witch." Though she reportedly was murdered in the early 19th century, visitors to Rose Hall still claim to see and hear her ghost as well as the ghosts of her victims.
Rich with history, Boston is an ideal spot to visit if you're looking for spooky fall fun. Check out Boston Common, where public hangings took place until 1817; the Green Line subway, on which 10 people were killed during an explosion at the Boylston Street stop in 1897; and the Omni Parker House, a famous hotel that's said to be haunted by the ghost of its former owner. Ghost tours are offered if you'd like a more organized view of the city's dark past, and you just may get to enjoy some beautiful fall foliage while you're at it.
Nothing says "scary" quite like a trip to Transylvania around Halloween. Although it will require some planning to get there from Bucharest, a popular stop on river cruise itineraries, you'll likely want to visit Bran Castle ("Dracula's castle") in Brasov. It's a bit of a tourist trap, but while you're in town, you can also pay your respects at the grave of Vlad the Impaler (Vlad III) -- a former prince of Wallachia and the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula. Although his burial site is rumored to be at the Snagov Monastery, all that was found were animal bones when the tomb was opened.
When you board a Carnival cruise ship in Long Beach, you’ll likely note the port's permanent resident, Queen Mary. This retired Cunard vessel-turned-hotel is notoriously said to be haunted by the ghosts of past passengers, crewmembers and military personnel who served on the ship in WWII (when it was fittingly nicknamed the Grey Ghost). Take an after-hours ghost tour of the bowels of the ships to play hide and seek with kiddie ghosts, hear the clankings and groanings of disgruntled engine room spirits (so they say), or perhaps feel an invisible feline brush against your leg. Or book a pre-cruise stay and ask for a haunted cabin; you might hear the conversations or feel the presence of those long dead.
A castle where prisoners were left to die, subterranean vaults and narrow alleys of tenements where plague victims perished -- all these contribute to Edinburgh's haunted reputation. The Scottish City's Old Town is reputed to be the heart of the paranormal activity, starting with Edinburgh Castle, the spot for phantom pipers, voices of centuries-dead prisoners and even ghostly pups laid to rest in its dog cemetery. The South Bridge Vaults -- chambers built beneath the viaduct's arches -- were once home to 18th-century taverns and tradesmen; some say they'e now the stomping grounds of sinister ghosts. Take a ghost tour to see these and other haunted spots. The old, dark places you'll visit are spooky in their own right – whether you believe in ghosts or not.
Beneath Charleston's southern charm is a demonic underbelly of Civil War ghouls and antebellum apparitions (i.e., dead pirates). At least that's the claim. The historic port city, which Carnival Fantasy calls home, is reportedly teeming with haunted cemeteries, churches, slave markets, and converted inns and restaurants. A pre-cruise stay in the Battery Carriage House Inn, one of Charleston's notoriously creepy establishments, provides the opportunity to meet a dapper sprite known for lying down next to sleeping female guests. Many tour outfits offer nighttime ghost walks, which may touch on the Dock Street Theatre, where actor Junius Brutus Booth (John Wilkes' pop) has been spotted, and Poogan's Porch, where resident spirit Zoe St. Amad has been horrifying visitors since her death in the 1950's.
Some may say it's a myth, but the Bermuda Triangle -- also known as Devil's Triangle -- is one of the most infamous spooky spots on this side of the Atlantic. Legend has it that a number of aircraft and sea vessels went missing there in large part due to extraterrestrial activity. Though most of these theories have been proven false, you can still catch a tour of the area on an excursion with just about every cruise line with a Bermuda itinerary. So you be the judge -- just don't tell your loved ones to call us if you vanish.
Updated November 21, 2019