The TV show cruise ship killers describes itself as ‘true crime’. Names, details, and locations have been changed but are these stories really based on real murders?
In this post, we look at the truth behind the episodes and the real-life cases that match the circumstance of the murders mentioned on the show.
Is Cruise Ship Killers Real?
The stories told in Cruise Ship Killers are based on real cruise ship murders. Names, details, and locations have been changed but it is possible to match each episode to a real murder that’s happened onboard a cruise ship.
The majority of cruise ship deaths are caused by natural causes or accidents but with 30 million people taking a cruise each year, murders do happen.
Where Can I Watch Cruise Ship Killers?
Cruise ship killers is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
If you don’t have Amazon Prime you can use this link to sign up for a 30-day free trial.
(It’s definitely possible to watch all episodes within 30 days if you want to).
Episode Guide – ASHLEY
|Real Victims Name||Karen Roston|
|Cruise Ship||Stardancer (MS Ocean Gala 1)|
|Death||Murder – Husband, Scott|
|Outcome||33 Years in Prison|
The episode about ‘Ashley’ is based on the murder of a woman called Karen Roston. She was killed on the Stardancer in 1988 by her husband on her honeymoon.
The Stardancer was later renamed the MS Ocean Gala 1 before being scrapped in 2018.
What Happened? – Murder of Karen Roston
Karen’s husband Scott strangled her to death before throwing her overboard in order to make it look like she had an accident. Scott informed the authorities of the cruise ship that Karen had ‘gone overboard’ at around 3 am.
It is said that Scott’s story was inconsistent, at first he said that she had been blown overboard when they were running on the running track of the ship. He then later changed his story and said that she had fallen overboard.
Karen was only 5’3 so it was almost impossible for her to fall over the high railing.
She was 26 years old and had only been married to Scott for 9 days before the accident took place.
Karens body was found and it was determined that she was unconscious, but not dead when she hit the water.
Episode Guide – SHELLY
|Real Victims Name||Yang Wenjuan|
|Cruise Ship||MV Macau Success|
|Death||Suspected Murder – Wang Weilie|
What Happened? – Murder of Yang Wenjuan
Yang Wenjuan was cruising with her husband Wang Weilie onboard the MV Macau Success in 2010. Wang admitted to throwing his wife overboard but said that he only did this after he thought she was already dead.
He claimed that she was trying to kill herself and knocked herself unconscious.
Wang then claims that he knew that she wanted to be buried at sea so he threw her body overboard. He was found in his cabin covered in blood.
Witnesses report seeing Yang’s body falling to the ocean and there are also reports of people seeing the couple arguing earlier in the day.
Episode Guide – ASHLEY
|Real Victims Name||Lynne Kauffman|
|Cruise Ship||SS Utrecht|
What Happened? – Murder of Lynne Kauffman
Lynn Kauffman was 23 at the time of her murder. She was sailing onboard the SS Utrecht and was murdered in the port of Boston, Massachusetts.
Lynn Kauffman was having an affair with a crew radio operator named VanRie. It is thought that VanRie had lied to Lynn Kauffman about the fact that he was already married.
VanRie was taken to trial for the death of Lynn Kauffman but was found not guilty. He initially claimed that the last time he saw her alive was on the morning of the day that she died before changing his statement to admit that he saw her in the evening.
It was determined that Lynn Kauffman had been beaten before she drowned in the harbor.
Episode Guide – JACOB
|Real Victims Name||Charles A. Fink|
|Cruise Ship||SS Hekla|
What Happened? – Murder of Charles A. Fink
Charles Fink was sailing from Norway to the US. It was reported that he was carrying a large amount of money as he was planning on starting a new business in the US.
He gave the money to the ship’s purser for safekeeping but it’s reported that after he was murdered, the murderer looked through his belongings. It’s suspected that they were looking for the cash that Charles had bought onboard.
Nobody was ever bought to trial for Charles’s murder. The cruise line maintained that Charles must have jumped overboard.
Episode Guide – BETSY
|Real Victims Name||Jessie Harper Mozee|
|Cruise Ship||SS Seeandbee|
What Happened? – Murder of Jessie Harper Mozee
Jessie Harper Mozee was a former teacher in her 50s. She was sailing with a large amount of money and expensive jewelry onboard the SS Seeandbee.
Her body was found overboard but nobody was ever convicted of her murder.
During the cruise, Jessie had a maid who looked after her, shortly after her murder the maid went missing, as did the money and jewelry. The maid is the primary suspect in this case, if not of murder, of at least theft.
It took the ship 15 days to report Jessie as a missing person.
Episode Guide – ANNA
|Real Victims Name||Adriana Morales de Florencio|
|Cruise Ship||Navigator of The Seas|
|Death||Murder – Raysley Sambo|
|Outcome||17 Years in Prison|
What Happened? – Murder of Adriana Morales de Florencio
Adriana was a Royal Caribbean employee who went missing after she disembarked in Bonaire.
Her body was found 9 days later in a shallow grave.
The man who was found guilty was found guilty of a crime of manslaughter and illegal firearm possession. He stabbed Adriana to death.
Episode Guide – AMY
|Real Victims Name||Amy Bradley|
|Cruise Ship||Rhapsody of The Seas|
What Happened? – Disappearance of Amy Bradley
In 1998 Amy Bradley was 23 and she went missing from the Rhapsody of The Seas. She was last seen around 5 am sleeping on her balcony.
The cruise line searched the cruise ship but was not able to find any signs of Amy. There was no evidence that she had fallen overboard or committed suicide and there were no sightings of her. None of her belongings had been taken.
There have been multiple reported sightings of Amy since she went missing, some in Curacao and more recently in Barbados. Amy remains to this day a missing person and there is hope that she is still alive somewhere.
Episode Guide – SARAH
|Real Victims Name||Camilla Peixoto Bandeira|
|Cruise Ship||MSC Musica|
What Happened? – Death of Camilla Peixoto Bandeira
Camilla was a 28-year-old bartender working onboard the MSC Musica. Her boyfriend also worked on board as a waiter.
Camilla’s boyfriend claimed that Camilla had committed suicide by hanging herself in the cabin. He repeatedly changed his story and the door entry technology showed that nobody had entered or left the room during this time.
During their time working on the ship, Camilla had been to the medical center for bruises and other injuries that are suspected to have been caused by her boyfriend.
Her death has been reported as a ‘suspicious hanging’. Nobody has been charged with Camilla’s murder.
Episode Guide – MERRIAN
|Real Victims Name||Merrian Carver|
|Cruise Ship||Celebrity Mercury|
What Happened? – Murder of Merrian Carver
In 2004 a 40-year-old lady named Merrian was taking a cruise to Alaska on board the Celebrity Mercury. She disappeared without a trace.
It took 26 days after Merrian’s disappearance for her to be reported as a missing person and for the search for her to start. Her family was not contacted and her items were removed from her cabin.
The cruise line confirmed that Merrian hadn’t been in her cabin since the first day of the cruise but said that this wasn’t abnormal. It was thought that she may have disembarked or have been staying with friends in another cabin. All of her belongings were left behind.
Episode Guide – SARAH
|Real Victims Name||Angelo Faliva|
|Cruise Ship||Coral Princess|
What Happened? – Murder of Angelo Faliva
Angelo Faliva was a chef employed onboard the Coral Princess. In 2009 he was cruising near Columbia when he went missing. He was meant to work until 10 pm but unexpectedly left his shift around 8 pm, he was never seen again.
It is unknown if Angelo committed suicide, was murdered, or if something else happened to him. This case remains unsolved.
Episode Guide – BILL
|Real Victims Name||Andy Wallis|
|Cruise Ship||Grand Princess|
What Happened? – Death of Andy Wallis
In 1999 Andy Wallis took a cruise onboard Princess’s Grand Princess with his wife and a few of their friends.
Andy was up late gambling in the casino when he won a large amount of money. He came back to his cabin excited to tell his wife which he did. Shortly after he went missing and wasn’t seen again.
Andys body later washed up onshore. It is still unknown what happened to Andy.
Episode Guide – George
|Real Victims Name||George Smith IV|
|Cruise Ship||Brilliance of The Seas|
What Happened? – Death of George Smith IV
George took a honeymoon cruise with his wife Jennifer, they had only been married for a few days at the time of his death.
He was 26 at the time and went overboard in suspicious circumstances. George’s family believes that George was murdered however there hasn’t been sufficient evidence to bring the case to trial and the FBI closed the investigation in 2015.
10 years after George went missing.
Photographs of blood on the canopy below George’s cabin were found as well as video footage of a group of men joking about the death of George.
Episode Guide – SALLY
|Real Victims Name||Ruby Roegge|
|Cruise Ship||SS Mongolia|
What Happened? – Ruby Roegge
In 1929 37-year-old woman called Ruby was sailing onboard the SS Mongolia. She died on board and it was later found out that she had been poisoned.
Nobody was ever convicted of her death although is it assumed to have been the result of foul play.
Cruise Ship Murder Mystery Books
If the show has piqued your interest in cruise ship killers, Steve Higgs has created a series of cruise ship mystery books which while not as gruesome as the murders mentioned above, are gripping and exciting.
It’s tricky to put the books down once you’ve started reading or listening, despite the often series subjects the books are still funny and easy to read.
The books follow the adventures of Patricia Fisher as she solves crimes on cruise ships. The books can be found here (affiliate link): Cruise Ship Murder Mysteries.
How Many People Die on Cruise Ships Each Year?
To learn more about cruise ship deaths, including how many people die each year and what the most common causes of death are, check out this post:
Taking a Cruise: Recommendations and Resources
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