Riots, “Real Housewives,” and sexual harassment—the week in bad cruise news

Get me outta here.
Get me outta here.
Image: Reuters/Gerardo Garcia
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Dreaming of booking a cruise? You might want to stay away from news about the cruise industry, because the past seven days have been an utter mess.

Last week, a Carnival Cruise ship was forced to make an unscheduled stop in New South Wales after what the Washington Post described as “near anarchy” broke out. Disturbing footage of the brutal mass brawl—which was allegedly started by about two dozen people from one belligerent family—went viral on social media. Security guards struggled to contain the unrest, and the video of them man-handling passengers went viral. Some passengers reported “a constant state of fear,” and 23 members of the family that apparently instigated the trouble were removed from the ship.

The cruise line released a statement touting its refusal to allow such conduct: “The ship’s highly trained security staff have taken strong action in relation to a small group of disruptive guests who have been involved in altercations on board. The ship’s security team is applying our zero tolerance policy in the interests of the safety and comfort of other guests.”

Meanwhile, in Colombia, it was reported that the cast of the reality show Real Housewives of New York City boarded a luxury yacht for a cruise that quickly devolved into chaos and horror. The ship not only had to have its own anchor sawed off, but also caught fire when it got out to sea. Rough seas added to the trouble, leaving the housewives “awash in vomit,” in Page Six’s colorful language. There were also not enough life vests to go around—a legitimately alarming situation, whatever your views on reality TV shows that glorify a life of wealthy indolence. Bravo reportedly had to offer counseling to its stars after the traumatic incident.

If that hasn’t convinced you to stay on dry land for a while, a new report from the US Department of Transportation might. It found a 23% increase in incidents of sexual assault on cruises over the prior year. As Fast Company reported, there were 76 incidences of alleged sexual result to the FBI in 2017. All three major cruise lines saw increases, with Carnival Cruise at 35 reports, up from 28; Royal Caribbean up to 17, from 15; and Norwegian Cruise Line increasing from 11 to 15. And all this comes on the heels of the death of the reality TV star Joel Taylor, who died of a suspected drug overdose on a Royal Caribbean ship in January. Some have argued that cruise ships’ “zero tolerance” policy for drugs discourages those who have overdosed from seeking vital medical help—thereby increasing the risk of death.

It’s not news that things go wrong on ships—just as they do on dry land. But if you’re setting sail to escape the drama of real life, the last week has shown that even on the high seas, things can get a little too real.