The Biggest Cruise News Stories That Caught Attention in 2023

Which cruise news headlines caught the most attention in 2023? How many of the top 10 stories do you remember?

It has been a crazy year for cruise news, but which stories are the craziest? We have compiled our Top 10 list of cruise news stories for 2023, from pier runners to unexpected onboard floods to port limits and more.

Counting Down the Year’s Top Cruise News Stories

A lot of factors go into whether or not a news story is a top favorite, from timing to uniqueness to overall popularity. In 2023, Cruise Hive brought you well over 1,700 cruise news stories, from information and announcements about new ships, to itinerary changes, to ship damage, to storm updates. Counting down the top 10 stories throughout the year as viewed by Cruise Hive readers brings us…

#10 – Another Cruise Destination to Limit Cruise Ship Arrivals

In a trend increasing at many destinations, the Orkney Islands on the northern coast of Scotland began considering implementing restrictions on cruise ship arrivals in August.

While local residents and businesses do not want to completely ban ships, frequent visits of larger vessels can be overwhelming to the main port in the region, Kirkwall, which has a population of just over 10,000 residents. On some days during the busy 2023 season, Kirkwall saw as many as 7,000 cruise ship guests or more visiting in a single day.

Cruise Ship in Scotland
Cruise Ship in Scotland (Photo Credit: MikhailBerkut / Shutterstock)

More than 230 cruise ship visits were scheduled to the region during 2023, and while the estimated £15 million boost to the economy is welcome, it is important to balance the needs of residents along with welcoming guests.

Travel advisories are common to many regions, but an increased warning level for Jamaica in May advising travelers to reconsider visiting the island nation raised eyebrows for cruise guests. Crimes such as armed robbery, sexual assault, and homicides were cited as reasons for the raised alert level, along with ineffective police response.

Cruise Ships in Jamaica, Caribbean
Cruise Ships in Jamaica, Caribbean (Photo Credit: STUDIO MELANGE / Shutterstock)

Jamaica is the sixth most popular Caribbean cruise destination overall, with many amazing activities for guests to enjoy. Fortunately, no cruise lines dramatically revised their itinerary plans to exclude Jamaica, though the country has remained at a Level 3: Reconsider Travel alert level at least through the end of 2023.

Cruise guests are always encouraged to explore ports of call via shore excursions, which cruise lines select based on safety records and reliability. Tour operators through cruise line excursions stay in contact with each ship, and can advise the ship if there are delays or other difficulties with an excursion, ensuring that guests do not miss the ship if their tour is late.

#8 – Cruise Couple Receives Damaged Cabin on Royal Caribbean Ship

Every cruise guest knows what to expect when they first reach their stateroom on embarkation day – a neatly made bed, fresh towels, perhaps even a welcome letter or goodies depending on the stateroom type and passenger gifts for loyalty or repeat cruising.

Allure of the Seas Cabin
Allure of the Seas Cabin

One couple on Allure of the Seas got a most unpleasant surprise for their cruise in mid-November, however, when their stateroom was torn up and showed obvious water damage, with mattresses upended, carpeting missing, a foul odor, and industrial fans blowing.

After several hours of frustration, the couple learned their assigned stateroom had been damaged on the previous cruise. While they had been assigned to a different cabin at the last minute, a miscommunication with check-in staff meant that fact was not reflected on their boarding passes. The couple was offered $300 of onboard credit for their inconvenience.

#7 – Carnival Confirms Documentation Requirements After Rumors

Carnival Cruise Line has dealt with many rumors through 2023, including if all guests would be required to have passports beginning in 2024, even when sailing from US homeports on closed-loop cruises, where passports have never been required. This rumor caused a social media furor in late April and early May, until the cruise line’s brand ambassador, John Heald, put the rumor to rest.

Carnival Mardi Gras Cruise Ship
Carnival Mardi Gras Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Camera walk / Shutterstock)

“There are no requirements from us that a passport will be needed next year except on specific cruises to places in Europe and other specific locations,” Heald said.

Because guests without proper documentation are not permitted to embark their cruise ship, rumors of this type can be very worrying until cruise line authorities are able to debunk them. Of course, these rumors do keep resurfacing as documentation requirements can always be changed, giving fresh life to the rumor.

#6 – Cruise Passenger Criticized After Casually Arriving Late to Ship

Pier runners – those guests who are arriving back to the ship just moments before (or after!) the return time and may be left behind on the dock as the ship pulls away – can be a controversial subject for travelers. None has been more controversial than a guest returning 45 minutes late to Carnival Vista in July, however.

Late Carnival Cruise Passenger
Late Carnival Cruise Passenger (Credit: @designsbyd1)

While being late does happen, it is the casual, nonchalant way this particular passenger strolled back to the ship in that raised the ire of many guests. The incident happened in Cozumel, Mexico, a destination well-known for pier runners. Most tardy guests at least seem to be rushing, but this woman appeared completely at ease with making everyone else wait.

Carnival Vista can welcome 3,934 passengers aboard at once, and it certainly did not sit well with guests on this particular cruise that the late woman seemed to show no remorse for her tardiness. It is not known why the ship was able to wait for her, or indeed if the ship remaining in port until she returned was simply coincidental to the ship’s schedule.

#5 – Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Experiences Unusual Water Incident

The pools, hot tubs, thermal spas, splash pads, and other water features onboard cruise ships are always popular with guests, but no one onboard Harmony of the Seas in January expected a 6-deck waterfall to suddenly appear from Deck 15 down to Central Park on Deck 8 (the ship does not have a Deck 13).

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas Water
Video Footage: @eloy4k

Dramatically captured on video, the waterfall was a result of an overflowing pool after the ship had an emergency course correction to avoid a small refugee craft in the Straits of Florida. The abrupt turn caused the overflow, and the water had nowhere to go but down.

The resulting flood was quickly cleaned up by diligent crew members, with no injuries reported and no lasting damage to the vessel, though some Central Park plants may have been damaged by the deluge. These types of maneuvers can be startling, but are completely safe and designed to protect smaller craft as well as the larger cruise ship.

#4 – Passenger Captured Fishing From Carnival Cruise Ship Balcony

Fishing is a popular option for many shore excursions in the Caribbean, but two guests aboard a Carnival cruise ship docked in Nassau tried fishing from their stateroom balcony in a blatant disregard for local laws and cruise line policies. A video of the stunt went viral when it was posted in April, and the guests were identified and later banned from Carnival Cruise Line for life.

Cruise Ship Passenger Fishing off Balcony

The ship the guests were on was never confirmed, but a blue Carnival Sail-and-Sign card is clearly visible in the video, indicating that the incident definitely took place aboard a Carnival ship. The color of the card indicates the sailing is the first for that guest – and with the ban, also the last sailing they will ever take with the cruise line.

Carnival Cruise Line does permit guests to bring fishing rods aboard, but only for use off the ship in an appropriate port of call with appropriate permits. No pole was used in this incident, just a spool of line and hook.

#3 – Carnival Cruise Cancels All Ports, Now Cruising to Nowhere

Cruise travelers are accustomed to the occasional itinerary change or port alteration, particularly when bad weather plays a role. What is unusual, however, is when a cruise must cancel all ports of call, even an alternate that was arranged for the original cancellation, because poor weather is so widespread that there simply isn’t any place left to go.

Bad Weather on Carnival Cruise
Bad Weather on Carnival Cruise (Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive)

This is exactly what happened to Carnival Freedom in mid-December, when the ship had to sail a cruise to nowhere instead of the planned Bahamas itinerary. A massive storm system impacted multiple ships at that time for several days, but Carnival Freedom‘s completely cancelled itinerary – though the ship still set sail – was extreme.

Guests were generously compensated for the changes, however, with $200 of onboard credit per stateroom as well as a 50% future cruise credit based on the cruise fare, so they could visit ports of call on another Carnival cruise vacation in the future.

#2 – Another City Is Getting Fed Up With Cruise Ships

Continuing the trend of different destinations having growing concerns about cruise ship visits, residents of Istanbul, Turkey expressed further discontent with ship disruptions in early September. While many locals don’t mind the numbers of visitors in general, it is the overall size of the ships that block harbor views and horn blasts that shatter peaceful quiet that is a greater irritant.

Cruise Ships Docked in Turkey
Cruise Ships Docked in Turkey (Photo Credit: Bulent Demir / Shutterstock)

Most interesting is that the Galataport cruise terminal is underground, and therefore the terminal’s own impact on the harbor is more minimal than typical. Of course, cruise ships cannot be concealed and still present unavoidable disruptions.

As Istanbul is a popular port of call and cruise homeport in the eastern Mediterranean, it will be curious to see whether this ongoing discontent grows in 2024 and beyond, and whether or not restrictions on ship noise or size may be implemented.

#1 – Carnival Cruise Ship to Depart Port Early, Guests Urged to Return

When bad weather threatens a cruise port, it is common for ships to change itineraries to avoid the port. In mid-August, however, Carnival Pride found itself already docked in Cork, Ireland, when severe weather struck, forcing the ship to recall guests in order to depart earlier than planned.

Carnival Pride Cruise Ship
Carnival Pride Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: SeregaSibTravel / Shutterstock)

The ship’s visit to the port was cut short by two hours, with multiple methods used to contact guests off the ship – including text messages, social media, the Carnival Hub App, and contacting tour operators.

At the time the decision was made to leave, wind speeds were expected to rise as high as 28 miles per hour (45 kilometers per hour), with gusts potentially as high as 45-50 mph (72-80 kph), very dangerous conditions for a docked cruise ship when mooring ropes might break or gangways could shift or collapse. Localized flooding was also expected in the region.

Which cruise news story caught your attention the most this year? Stay tuned throughout 2024 as Cruise Hive brings you all the breaking news, headlines, updates, announcements, and more covering the cruise industry!

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