Have you ever noticed something strange missing from the decks of cruise ships? You’ve made your way up from deck 1 to deck 12, but then suddenly, the numbers jump to 14. What happened to deck 13? No need to adjust your glasses, there really is no deck 13 on most cruise ships.
Cruise lines are superstitious and omit the 13th floor from their ships. They believe it will bring bad luck and make passengers uneasy. It may seem silly in this modern age, but the long-held superstition around the unlucky number 13 is alive and well in the cruise industry. And get this – hotels are the same way! They don’t use the 13th floor, either.
The History of 13 Being Unlucky
For centuries, the number thirteen has been viewed as inauspicious. This superstition dates back to Norse mythology, where 12 gods were having a dinner party when the 13th uninvited guest showed up—the mischievous god Loki. According to the story, Loki’s presence led to the death of Baldur, the god of light.
Christian belief also contributed to 13 being a dreaded number. According to biblical accounts, Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and present at the Last Supper as the 13th guest, later divulged information to the authorities that led to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Some theologians also believe the crucifixion of Jesus occurred on the 13th of Nisan.
With this spooky backstory, it’s no wonder 13 is omitted from cruise ship decks! Sailors are a superstitious bunch, and they avoid tempting fate. Many high-rise buildings also skip labeling the 13th floor.
How The Superstition Spread
This belief in the unluckiness of 13 started with Christianity. At the Last Supper, there were 13 dinner guests, Jesus and his 12 apostles. Since then, the number has been seen as a bad omen by some.
The superstition really took off in the 19th century. Many tall buildings were constructed without a 13th floor, going straight from 12 to 14. This practice continues today in many hotels and office buildings.
For cruise ships, omitting the 13th floor was also meant to make passengers feel more at ease. The ship designers wanted guests to feel safe and carefree, not anxious or distressed.
Leaving out the 13th floor is really just a psychological trick to soothe uneasy travelers. Of course, some seafarers and builders remain genuinely superstitious about that fateful number. But for most, it’s more about providing an extra sense of comfort for those already nervous about setting sail or ascending great heights.
Either way, if you find yourself aboard a cruise liner with seemingly no deck 13, now you’ll know the strange reason why. Just between us, though, there’s really nothing unlucky about the 13th floor at all. It’s just another seafaring tradition meant to keep passengers happy and enjoying a smooth voyage.
No Cabin 13
If you’ve ever booked a cruise, you probably noticed cabins go straight from 12 to 14. Leaving number 13 off the list is an old maritime tradition meant to ward off bad luck. Even modern cruise ships stick to the tradition. I wonder if any passengers have ever complained about getting “unlucky” cabin 14 instead of lower numbered 12!
No Table 13 In The Dining Room
Dining rooms on cruise ships also omit table 13. If the dining room has multiple levels, some lines will skip level 13 altogether. The staff and crew certainly don’t want to tempt fate and risk any perceived bad luck for their passengers. But it’s not like every single cruise line does this. Some will have a table 13 with no issues.
Friday The 13th
Some cruise lines actually avoid scheduling sailings that depart or have a port call on Friday the 13th. For the lines that do sail, extra precautions are taken to ensure everything goes smoothly and avoid any perceived bad luck on that notoriously unlucky date.
As you can see, cruise lines go to great lengths to avoid the number 13 and any association with bad luck. Their superstitious nature and desire to please passengers mean triskaidekaphobia—the fear of 13—is alive and well at sea.
Interestingly enough, even many airlines omit the 13th row from their passenger seating configurations. The next time you book a flight or get on a plane, take a look and see if there’s a row 13. Most airlines just skip it.
Next time you board a cruise ship for a fun-filled vacation at sea, don’t be surprised when you get in the elevator, and the button for the 13th floor is missing. The superstitious beliefs of the maritime industry that date back centuries live on in this quirky omission.
And while it may seem silly in our modern world, for many seafarers, omitting the number 13 is a long-held tradition that gives them peace of mind during their voyages. When you’re surrounded by nothing but an open ocean, any little ritual that makes you feel more at ease is worth holding onto.