A sundeck, a pool, and a spiritual journey: What really happens on a Scientology cruise.


Right now, docked in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao, is a cruise ship carrying 318 scientologists (and no, Tom Cruise is not one of them).

Their ‘religious retreat’ has been interrupted. The ship – and everyone on board – has been quarantined since Saturday, after a crew member was diagnosed with measles.

Health officials in St Lucia were notified on April 30 that a female crew member had been diagnosed with the highly infectious disease, according to The Guardian. She had travelled to Europe, arrived on Curaçao on April 17, and visited a doctor for cold symptoms five days later.

Former Scientologist Leah Remini on Tom Cruise and Scientologist. Post continues below.

Video by ABC News

A blood sample confirmed she had measles on April 29, a day after the ship departed for St Lucia, the Associated Press reported. St Lucia health officials put the ship under quarantine on April 30.

Now, back in its home port of Curaçao, passengers and crew await test results from 277 blood samples taken by medical professionals.


The Church of Scientology has never endorsed the anti-vax movement, which has led to the number of people contracting diseases such as measles rising around the world, but it’s never disavowed it either.

So… what do more than 300 scientologists have to do while stuck on a 440ft cruise ship?

Well, as it turns out there’s a lot to keep them occupied.

A series on Scientology TV gives a behind the scenes look at the ship named Freewinds, which was acquired by the Church of Scientology in 1986.

freewinds scientology cruise ship
"Just doing some quick religious study before I go lax by the pool."

It has nine decks as well as a sundeck, a pool, business centre, cabaret and movie theatre. When its passengers get hungry, they can pop along to one of the ship's two restaurants, its cafe or poolside cantina.

Basically, the ship has everything you'd expect of another luxury cruise in the Caribbean.

But time spent by the pool may be limited, because the Church of Scientology doesn't consider a cruise on the Freewinds just a tropical holiday.

The Church describes the Freewinds as a religious retreat that hosts international conventions, Scientology services and an annual summit. It's also the exclusive training centre for those wanting to rank OT VIII, the highest level of Scientology described by the church as "the pinnacle of a deeply spiritual journey".

Much of the Freewinds website focuses on its crew and passengers volunteer hours for "Church-supported humanitarian missions that are implemented by the Freewinds wherever it sails".

''Drug education, human rights, literacy, learning and ethics are part of the broader social mission through which the Freewinds has spawned partnerships," it says.

freewinds scientology cruise ship

A Caribbean cruise, poolside cantina, and humanitarian work... it sounds great, honestly.

But like the Church itself, the Freewinds has been embroiled in a lot of controversy that can't be known from looking at its website or watching its television shows.

The current measles quarantine isn't the first time the Freewinds has been shut down. In 2008, it was forced to stop operating when Dutch government health inspectors detected blue asbestos in the ventilation system. The Church denied the findings, but former member Lawrence Woodcraft claimed in 2001 he had discovered the asbestos during the original renovation of the ship in 1987.


The ship was also scrutinised in 2011 when former Scientologist, Valeska Paris, an Australian resident, said she was held onboard against her will for 12 years in an effort to prevent her from leaving the religion. She had expected to be onboard for a two week holiday, but claimed she was held for 12 years and forced to do manual labour.

"I did not want to be there, I made it clear I did not want to be there and that was considered bad ethics, meaning it was considered not right," she told the ABC.

"They take your passport when you go on the ship and you're in the middle of an island. So it's a bit hard [to escape] and by that time I was 18, I'd been in Scientology my whole life, it's not like I knew how to escape," she said.

Actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist who regularly criticises the religion, told Newsweek the ship's current quarantine could be a "blessing in disguise".

"This outbreak could be a blessing in disguise because maybe some people can get off this ship of horrors" she explained. "Circumstances like this give an opportunity for some agencies or authorities to gain access to this ship beyond what would normally be offered."

Results of the blood samples taken on board are expected this week.