Sailing home with a full morgue

Fancy booking one last cruise? It's 'a helluva way to go'

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The comfort and conviviality of cruising makes for happy days.

The comfort and conviviality of cruising makes for happy days.


It's an unfortunate fact, but for some, that 'last hurrah' cruise really is!


WHEN you’re having a wonderful relaxing holiday, death doesn’t usually come up in the conversation. But when a fellow passenger says, as we neared the end of our cruise, “I’ve heard the morgue’s full”, it has a sobering impact.

Fellow passengers, some I may have passed in the corridors or seen queueing for lunch, may now be dead, or their partner may have died. It’s a sad thought, initially. 

There were people on board grieving. Messages had to be sent home. Plans needed to be changed. And there was the upsetting task of organising the return of a body.

But I say “initially sad” because on further thinking, it’s one helluva place to end your life; and on this particular cruise, there were more than a few who must have been on “that last one”. 

They’re not sure if their health or their partner’s health will hold up for many more years, so they book “one last one” because you never know, do you?

Ships’ morgues are well away from public view.

Ships’ morgues are well away from public view.

I’m not sure what it was about this particular cruise – whether it was the cruise company, the destination or the itinerary that only had six stops over the 20 days (the rest being “at sea”) – but it obviously suited many who didn’t want to be getting off and on again. 

They just wanted to be on a ship that provided beautiful views every day for nearly three weeks, good food 24 hours a day, free entertainment and maybe a win in the on-board casino. This explained the large number of over 70s and 80s.

On one occasion, at 2.30 in the morning, the speaker in our room suddenly came alive. “This is a medical alert. Will all emergency medical staff attend room number … on deck number … immediately.”

Needless to say, that was a little disconcerting and made getting back to sleep difficult; but it was explained to us later that the whole ship has to be alerted when there is an emergency in the middle of the night. It is the quickest way of alerting all the medical team – no matter where they are – and achieving the quickest attendance at the emergency.

We found out it was an elderly gentleman who was 85 and travelling alone.  And unfortunately he didn’t make it. 

First you feel sorry for him. But hang on. He was 85. If you were alone and that age and had the choice, where would you like to be when your time was up?

I’m not encouraging older people to start booking cruises en masse with the intention of “dying at sea”, but ageing baby boomers are cruising like there’s no tomorrow. 

Most have a great time and most of them come home. But some will enjoy the best way to travel in this time in their lives and not see out the trip. 

So as cruise companies cater more and more for our ageing population, so too I imagine, they’re increasing the size of their morgues!