Carnival Elation
Carnival Elation Credit: CruiseMapper

ProPublica has published a detailed examination of health and safety reports for nearly 300 cruise ships that make port in the United States, including 13 that have docked in New Orleans since 2014.

The story details all the things that could go wrong on what’s supposed to be a relaxing few days at sea: getting a nasty stomach bug, falling down the stairs, having something stolen — even falling overboard, drowning or being sexually assaulted.

Because these incidents happen at sea, sometimes in international waters, the process for dealing with them is not the same as on land. Criminal allegations are handled by private security employees. In some cases, passengers find they have limited legal remedies because of terms written into their tickets.

Victims sometimes find themselves without much recourse as private security staff juggle the competing priorities of responding to and reporting wrongdoing and protecting the interests of their employers. Only a fraction of crimes aboard cruise ships are publicly reported, and many less serious crimes, like petty theft, may never be reported at all. According to Coast Guard crime statistics, at least 94 people have been sexually assaulted on cruise ships since 2010.

We reviewed ProPublica’s database of health and safety inspections for ships that have docked in New Orleans. We found a few serious incidents and plenty of lesser violations.

On Oct. 23, 2013, an employee on the Carnival Conquest cruise ship died while it was in port in New Orleans.

Nearly 30 people were arrested on fugitive warrants at the Port of New Orleans throughout 2013 on another Carnival ship, the Elation. Several others were arrested on similar warrants as they boarded other ships, including the Norwegian Jewel and the Carnival Conquest.

Here’s a rundown of what we found:

Ships that docked in New Orleans in 2015

Carnival Elation, Carnival Cruise Line: Crimes were reported on this ship every month in 2013, including 28 passengers arrested for fugitive warrants. The ship docked in New Orleans several times a month that year.

But not everything was so serious, including this incident in October 2013: “Passenger stubbed toe at terminal – refused medical treatment.”

Carnival Dream, Carnival Cruise Line: In June 2013, a case of sexual battery was reported involving two U.S. passengers. On July 20, 2013, a passenger committed suicide. The cruise ship did not dock in New Orleans either month.

On Oct. 7, 2014, a non-food service employee worked with symptoms of stomach flu until fainting. The ship was operating out of New Orleans during that time.

Amadea, Phoenix Reisen Cruise Lines: The ship failed a health and safety inspection in November 2012. With 103 problems, it received a score of 63 out of 100. (Anything below 86 is considered failing.) That particular voyage did not embark out of New Orleans.

Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Cruise Line: In 2011, two employees, a hairdresser and a restaurant steward, continued to work while suffering from repeated cases of diarrhea. Neither of these voyages embarked from New Orleans.

Serenade of the Seas, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line: A Nov. 7, 2010, inspection noted a particularly gross finding: “According to the hand written pool records, the pool was not closed at the time of the fecal incident.” The “fecal accident” was removed and the pool was disinfected. The ship was not operating out of New Orleans at that time.

Oriana, P&O Cruises Cruise Line: A March 5, 2013, inspection found cockroaches near cooking equipment. The ship had left the Port of New Orleans on March 2.

AIDAvita, AIDA Cruise Line: On Feb. 7, 2015, a food-service employee continued working and using the employee cafeteria while suffering from symptoms of stomach flu. On a separate voyage later that month, the AIDAvita stopped in New Orleans.

Azamara Journey, Azamara Cruises Cruise Line: Two non-food-service employees continued working while suffering from symptoms of stomach flu during a March cruise. That happened on March 18; the ship made a port call in New Orleans from March 29 to 30.

Ships that docked in New Orleans in 2014

Grande Caribe, Blount Small Ship Adventures Cruise Line: The Grand Caribe failed its health inspections in September 2012 and August 2013. The ship did not have a dedicated medical staff, according to the August inspection. Instead, certain staffers were responsible for isolating sick people and dispensing medication. Neither of these trips operated out of New Orleans.

Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Cruise Line: On several occasions, passengers fell while navigating the boat, breaking their hands, wrists, forearms, ankles and even their teeth one time.

In January 2012, while the ship was docked in Miami, an employee fell into an open space from a removed deck grill plate, breaking multiple ribs and injuring two spinal discs and a kidney.

On May 9, one of the ship’s lifeboats didn’t work during a test because of a faulty fuel pump.

Neither of these voyages left from New Orleans.

Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Cruise Line:  On April 23, 2014, a food-service worker continued to work while suffering from diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The Norwegian Jewel had left New Orleans on April 20.

In January, several crew members who suffered from gastrointestinal symptoms continued working before reporting their sickness to medical staff, according to an inspection. The ship wasn’t operating out of New Orleans that month.

In August 2013, an unresponsive passenger was found outside a sauna and later died. The ship’s doctor believed the sauna might have contributed to the death, but the coroner concluded that the passenger had died from heart disease. This trip didn’t embark from New Orleans.

Azamara Quest, Azamara Cruises Cruise Line: From Jan. 24 to Jan. 25, 2014, a musician suffered from eight episodes of diarrhea while he continued to work. In March 2013, a food-service worker continued working while suffering from symptoms of stomach flu.

On March 30, 2012, the Azamara Quest was stranded off of the southern coast of the Philippines after a fire in one of the engine rooms. One employee was seriously hurt and five others suffered from smoke inhalation. The ship was able to reach a Malaysian harbor on the island of Borneo the following night. That trip did not embark from New Orleans.