Our estate litigation practice by its nature concerns end of life issues. And while no one expects the “end of life” to happen on a vacation, we’ve been involved in many estate files where that’s been the case. We’d like to think that vacation time is sacred, but the grim reaper begs to differ.

While an unexpected death on land is hard enough for family members to deal with – especially if the body has to be repatriated from a foreign country – a sudden death at sea feels all the more daunting. Where can they store the body? How long can they keep it? Where and how can you take the body off the ship in port? The answers are “in an on-ship morgue,” “about seven days,” and “taking the body off the ship depends on several factors, like the laws of the next port and the country of registration of the ship.”

Floating morgue

Yes, cruise ships have body bags and a morgue. They don’t have much choice – about three people die of natural causes each week on cruise ships. In terms of the body repatriation process for family members on board, it can vary depending on the ship and where it’s sailing. In some situations, the body can be taken off the ship at the next port. In others, it will be taken off when the ship returns to its home port. For extended cruises that take months to complete, arrangements will be more complex.

The silver lining in all of this is that because sudden deaths at sea are a weekly event, cruise line staff have procedures and training to support surviving family members and help them make arrangements.

This article from Cruise Critic provides a good overview of what happens when a death occurs on ship.

Cruise for your retirement?

On a more positive note, this CNBC article explores the emerging trend of retiring on a cruise ship, rather than living in an adult community or a retirement residence on land. It can actually be an affordable alternative to more conventional retirement choices.

Thanks for reading … Have a wonderful day,
Suzana Popovic-Montag