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Exterior Deck on Celebrity Silhouette
Exterior Deck on Celebrity Silhouette

11 Scariest Moments on a Cruise

Exterior Deck on Celebrity Silhouette
Exterior Deck on Celebrity Silhouette
Dan Askin

Last updated
Nov 21, 2019

Our readers have endured chilling witching-hour run-ins with drunk passengers, nearly been swept out to sea by massive swells, and witnessed the demonic powers of the Caribbean sun. The good news? Despite moments of terror, their love of cruising endures.

So, just in time for Halloween, we thought we'd highlight a few of the most chilling tales.

Lock all doors and windows, then click on the photo to the righ to read about some onboard horror stories (if you dare). And if you have your own harrowing tale, post it on the message boards

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Drowned in Alcohol

In the '70s I persuaded sis to join me for a two-night North Sea crossing (Hull to Amsterdam). In those days, she hadn't sailed on an overnight ferry, so she was nervous -- something about the ship sinking if she looked away from the horizon? The sleeping accommodation was in couchettes, with curtains separating them from the aisle. Sis, still thinking we might sink, managed to fall asleep; I took longer, enjoying the bouncy movement over the rough North Sea. Screaming woke us, and sis leapt up, yelling "We're sinking!" I jumped down from my top bunk, and landed in ankle-deep water. In the gloom, it was impossible to see, but the water was deepening. As we'd slept in our clothes, we grabbed a bag and followed the screaming. The first room we came to was brilliantly lit. Lying on the floor in four inches of water ...

... was a handcuffed man with another kneeling on his chest. Two others were standing by. "Get back!" they yelled at us. By now, sis had lost it, and we somehow ran through the water to the other end of the corridor. Here, the water ended, and puzzled, card playing passengers stopped and stared. Eventually, a crewmember rescued us, took us to a proper cabin, and explained ... a drunken youth had pulled the sprinkler system in our corridor. The water was pouring out and not escaping because of the high sills across the fire doors. We stayed in the cabin until reaching Amsterdam, where we were on a tour for the rest of the day. The sailing home was quiet, but in the middle of the night, someone stole my sister's sheepskin coat from her bunk as she slept.

--Story originally posted by Joecap.

It's Scarier When You're 7

We sailed into a storm. I was 7, and as my family and I we were leaving the Lido, I remember seeing the lights at the top of ship violently swaying back and forth. You could see the wind whipping around the the funnel. When we got back to our cabin, the ship made a sudden, violent left turn and I fell onto the floor. The dresser drawers slid open, the balcony door flew open, and all the glasses in the cabinet slid against the glass cabinet door. I put my life jacket on and we headed towards the midship stairs. Many more passengers were there, most of them in life jackets. We later found out that the plates and glasses on the Lido were broken, and all of the pools had emptied. I hope I will never have to repeat it again.

--Story originally posted by Mikey Faust.

An Almost-Ghost on the Old Queen Mary

Age 6.

Breaking the rules on the Queen Mary.

Being blown across the lido in gale force winds and rain, and as I was just going over the railing being yanked from behind and pulled back on deck.

I am 52 today, but still remember seeing the sea coming up to engulf me. Thank goodness and God bless the crew member that most assuredly saved my life.

--Story originally posted by SHayesShip.

Caribbean Sun Scares the Swimsuit Off of Me

Very first cruise back in the early 80's ... bunch of us ... all Canadians traveling alone ... wound up hanging out. One sea day, we were all on the deck in the sun ... decided to go for lunch ... one of the women said she'd catch up. After we had all gone to our cabins, showered, changed, headed for the Lido for lunch, we noticed our friend was not there. Her roommate had not seen her. Two of us went on the deck and found her ... she had fallen asleep in the sun! I have never seen anyone that badly burnt. We woke her ... all she could do was moan in pain ... except when we tried to get her on her feet to walk to her cabin ... then she screamed. Four of the guys carried her to her cabin using the lounge chair as stretcher ... others went for the Doc. The Doc told us to cut her bathing suit off. There was no room for embarrassment or modesty.

The Doc smeared handfuls of what she called Green Goop all over her from head to foot ... left a bucket of the stuff and told us to smear it all over her every four hours. It was moisturizer and topical anesthetic. She then put an IV in her arm for fluids and replaced it every four hours for the first day, then every eight hours the second day. That poor woman suffered in serious pain for two days ... she said the only thing that didn't hurt when she moved was her eye lids. On third day she felt better ... and got back into the cruise ... but not into the sun. Scary is seeing a water blister on person's back stretching from the back of their neck to the top of their butt.

--Story originally posted by TCF.

Sailing for Tulum, Boat Nearly Ends Up in Ruins

Few years ago, cruising the Caribbean in September... very rough seas. We didn't stop at Grand Cayman because of the weather. At Cozumel we took a small tender to Tulum. The waves were 10 to 15 feet, and the boat nearly capsized. It was one of 2 or 3 times in my life I thought, "This is it. I am going to die." Everyone was losing their breakfast. A lady was standing up in the middle of the boat and shouting at God saying, "Dear God. I know why you are killing me. But why are you killing all these sweet innocent people too?" I went to the stern and found what looked to be an old sailor who seemed unfazed. Next thing I knew, he was feeding the fish. Then we get to shore. I get off and kiss the land. Thought I was going to die. Then we got to go back the same way.

--Story originally posted by Bemidji Ty.

Typhoon in the Black of Night

First cruise ever was to Fiji. Small cruise ship with 42 cabins. Traveled in the daytime, anchored at night. On night 3 we were awoken by the raising of the anchor. We got up and went on deck. We were informed that we needed to find a safer harbor because a Typhoon was heading at us. The seas were rough and the reason that they travel in the daytime is so they can see the coral reefs. The islands don't have electricity, so everything is pitch dark except for our little ship ... The captain radioed the tribes on the various Islands and pretty soon on both sides of us on the beaches were lighted kerosene lanterns. It was like we were in a tunnel with lights on both sides. This continued for a couple of hours until we reached what the captain thought was a safe place to lay anchor. He was correct....

--Story originally posted by ST MARTIN GAL.

Are You Sure That Was Colombian Coffee?

6:30 a.m. and there is someone pounding on my door. I thought, "I'm gonna kill that cabin steward." I stumble to the door in my undies and a tank top. I open the door a crack, and only have one eye open. An armed female customs officer forces the door open, tells me to get out into the hallway. Then she yells at my husband and tells him to do the same. At this point I'm thinking ... what if that wasn't coffee we bought in Colombia? Her partner, and dog search the cabin, then walk out and close the door. My husband and I fully awake by this point, just sit there staring at each other. That has never happened before, or since. THAT was scary!

--Story originally posted by rucruizin.

The Mysterious Sound of a Burst Appendix

In 1989, my parents gave me a Caribbean cruise. My cabin was on the floor right below the main deck, and in the middle of the night I was awakened by a loud roar that sounded like a speeding freight train. The sound grew louder and louder, and I grew more frightened by the minute. I threw on my robe and went out into the hall, sure that I would find other cruisers ... but there was no one.

The sound was alarming by itself, but as the cabin began to shake and vibrate, my fear was rampant! I tried to ring the cabin steward, the purser, anybody! No one would answer. Deciding that I had no further recourse, I just sat down on the end of the bed to either await my imminent doom or for the crisis to pass. After what seemed like an eternity, the shaking and sound subsided. I found out the next morning at a bleary-eyed breakfast that the Asst. Purser's appendix has burst and he had been air-lifted off the ship from right above my cabin.

--Story originally posted by Reags

Specter of Caribbean Dictator's Past

"This happened over 30 years ago, when ships still made port calls in Haiti and Baby Doc [Jean-Claude Duvalier] was the dictator with his infamous secret police. It was our first time in Cap-Haitien and we took the tour to the Citadel, which included a horse ride up the mountain and back down with the aid of a guide. We were accompanied to the staging area at the base of the mountain by a couple of armed secret policemen. At the end of the tour, the guides asked for tips, but the police made sure that only one guide per tourist got a tip. My wife had somehow picked up a second guide who also asked for a tip. The police noticed, and whipped the extra guide in front of us horrified tourists. It was a relief to get back to our ship."

--Story originally posted by DeepWaterMariner.

Drunken Apparition Has Odd Way of Haunting

A strange drunk man entered my room at 3 a.m. while my husband and I were sleeping ... The batteries were dying (or dead) in the card reader. He was drunk and thought he was entering his room. My DH is a light sleeper and heard someone reaching clumsily for the light switch. He (drunk guy) turned the light on [and] my DH asked who he was and what was he doing ... Yup, well, 2 seconds later I woke up and saw a strange man standing in front of the door and screamed. Screamed pretty loudly actually. Loudly enough to scare drunk guy and cause him to urinate himself. (For this I now feel bad.) Drunk guy apologizes and leaves. I call security. They change batteries. I am awake all night.

-- Story originally posted by Spoiledliz.

More Death by Silliness

We were standing in a line after a long flight and I was not paying attention, and I started rubbing what I thought was my wife's back. All of a sudden my wife (who was standing beside me started laughing). I apologized to the lady, but she just after a long flight herself did not want me to stop. What scared me was that her husband was one big dude.

I was on a ship that ran out of Corona ... that was pretty scary.

The BILL!!!!!

Stories, in order, originally posted by dndcruise, Stags14 and SeaUS.

Publish date November 21, 2019
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