Cruise Ship Murder: Is the Lifetime Movie Based on a True Story?

Cruise Ship Murder is a Lifetime thriller that narrates the mystery of Olivia’s aunt being murdered on a cruise ship. Olivia embarks on what she believes will be a relaxing and luxurious vacation with her beloved aunt and uncle aboard a grand cruise ship. However, the serene voyage takes a horrifying turn when her aunt is found dead, having mysteriously fallen overboard in the middle of the night. The shocking incident sends ripples of fear and suspicion through the ship’s passengers and crew.

As Olivia grapples with her aunt’s untimely death, she becomes determined to uncover the truth, convinced that there is more to the tragedy than a simple accident. Her uncle’s peculiar behavior and evasiveness only deepen her suspicions. Driven by grief and a growing sense of unease, Olivia starts her own investigation, delving into her uncle’s past, which is shrouded in secrets. The specific setting and mysterious nature of the murder give rise to questions about the possible real-world inspirations behind the film.

Cruise Ship Murder is Similar to an Unsolved Cruise Ship Death

There are a surprising number of fatalities and murders which have taken place onboard cruise ships. While several of them involve someone falling from the balcony of a high deck, similar to what happens with Olivia’s aunt, no particular event is exactly like the story of ‘Cruise Ship Murder.’ This is because the movie is a work of fiction penned by Adam Rockoff, Jeffrey Schenck, and Peter Sullivan, who combine the intriguing setting of a cruise ship with a murder mystery setup reminiscent of a real-life event.

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While the majority of deaths on cruise ships in real life are of natural causes, there are a substantial number of reports pertaining to murder, suicide, and drug overdoses. Almost all murders on cruise ships have been committed by someone the victim knew. The closest story to Lifetime’s ‘Cruise Ship Murder’ is the mysterious death of 52-year-old Almarosa Tenorio on the Royal Princess cruise ship.

Almarosa and Leo Tenorio went on a cruise to spend some quality bonding time together. However, before they left, Almarosa’s children recalled their mother not wanting to go, feeling as though something bad may have happened. “The night before they left, my mom hugged me for like a good five minutes and I was kind of curious why it was so long and then I asked her,” said Almarosa’s son, Timothy. “And she like said, ‘Well, it might be the last hug you get from me.'” As the ship set sail, passengers spotted Almarosa being choked on one of the upper decks right before she fell, plunging 14 stories to her death. Treating the incident as a possible murder, the FBI began an investigation.

Leo Tenorio was questioned as a witness and insisted that his wife’s death wasn’t a murder, wanting her memory to be treated with respect. “He (Leo) specifically said they were going on this cruise because they wanted one week in order to work on their relationship, just like them two alone,” said Timothy in the aforementioned interview. He also described Leo as someone who always wanted the best for his mother and was a supportive husband. Leo Tenorio said that he was thankful for the FBI’s investigation into finding the truth and expressed that the event would haunt him forever.

To this day, the case remains unsolved, something that may have piqued the curiosity of Lifetime’s writers. The incident’s open-ended nature possibly prompted them to fictionalize the event and make their own story around it by adding an investigative niece and dramatic backstory of shadowy figures. The resemblance between the movie’s narrative and the event lies mainly in the matching age of the aunt and the victim, as well as the mysterious nature of the incident. Both the narrative and the real-life event make one’s imagination run wild with speculation, which becomes the perfect core for the story of ‘ Cruise Ship Murder.’

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