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Poop cruise! And 30 other outrageous travel stories of 2013

By Chuck Thompson, CNN
December 19, 2013 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
A 16.5-meter inflatable rubber duck created by a Dutch artist mysteriously deflated and bobbed lifelessly in Victoria Harbour. It's Asia tour continued to Taiwan, where it exploded after an attempt to inflate it too quickly ended in tragedy. A 16.5-meter inflatable rubber duck created by a Dutch artist mysteriously deflated and bobbed lifelessly in Victoria Harbour. It's Asia tour continued to Taiwan, where it exploded after an attempt to inflate it too quickly ended in tragedy.
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31. Giant rubber duck deflates, explodes
30. Passenger taped to seat
29. "Wearable luggage" debuts
28. 'I will always love you' marathon
27. Facebook addict walks off pier
26. Injuries, indignities in Pamplona
25. Paris vs. Chinese Tourists: 1-1
24. 'Flight attendant' Branson does drag
23. Blind man, guide dog booted off plane
22. Camera recovered after five years in Pacific
21. Boy hops plane to Vegas sans ticket
20. BBC takes harsh toke for Lonely Planet
19. Bar patron swallows human toe
18. Minions carry Bieber up Great Wall
17. Boeing 737 murders cow
16. Dead man makes seven flights
15. Alitalia employees arrested for baggage theft
14. Airborne monstrosity creeps out Canberra
13. Pilot reportedly announces "We're going down!"
12. Russian trespassers climb Pyramids
11. Chinese tourists told to behave
10. Couple fined for inflight sex
9. Hawaiian town sick of tourists
8. Slum-themed hotel opens
7. United sells free tickets on website
6. Thai Airways blacks out logos
5. "Fat tax" debate gets heavy
4. Racial slurs, theft trail Asiana tragedy
3. Edward Snowden, 2013's most infamous traveler
2. Dreamliner fleet grounded
1. Poop cruise
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Most outrageous year in the history of travel? It might have been 2013
  • Tourists behaving poorly was consistent theme across globe
  • Boeing, Carnival, United, Louvre, Pyramids suffered notorious mishaps

(CNN) -- How mega-outrageous was the year in travel?

Consider just some of the stories that weren't bizarre enough to crack our best-of-the-most-shocking list.

Turkish airline flew a couple to the wrong continent; they wound up in Africa, not Asia.

Thailand's Hitler chic trend riled tourists, Israeli ambassador.

A retired French wine maker who "hated Americans" impersonated a pilot, and made his way inside the cockpit of US Airways plane before being arrested.

Kempinski hotels said the opening of North Korea's "hotel of doom" was "not possible."

Groups broke out in the Harlem Shake (remember that?) on U.S. airplanes; social media overreaction ensued.

"Star Wars" Tatooine location is being swallowed by Saharan sands.

Given the wild rides below -- the year began with the global grounding of Boeing's entire new Dreamliner fleet and ended with Spain's $1.5 billion "ghost airport" being put up for auction with a starting bid of $150 million -- 2013 makes a strong case for being the most outrageous year in travel since the Wright brothers took to the skies.

MORE: Doh! 20 biggest travel mistakesd

31. Yellow card or egregious fowl?

It was a rough year for one of Asia's biggest (literally, figuratively) traveling sensations.

In May, a 16.5-meter inflatable rubber duck called "Rubber Duck" created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman mysteriously deflated and bobbed lifelessly in Victoria Harbour.

In Osaka, the giant bath toy got stuck under a bridge.

The ignoble end came in Taiwan, where an attempt to inflate the great flightless creature went wrong and Rubber Duck exploded.

Panned the South China Morning Post: "It looked like a flattened scrambled egg."

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"Standard protocol."

30. Exactly what can't be accomplished given enough vodka and duct tape?

Iceland Air wouldn't confirm the validity of the disturbing photo of a bound man after it made the rounds on social media, but the airline did admit there was "an incident with a passenger on the flight from Reykjavik to New York" in which a passenger was restrained.

The man, apparently inebriated, was "hitting, screaming and spitting at other passengers, while yelling profanities," according to an airline spokesman, who added that duct tape and plastic zip ties are considered standard protocol when restraining a passenger.

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"Is that laptop in your pocket or are you just ... oh, never mind."

29. The only thing it won't conceal is your complete lack of self-esteem

To the rescue of those sick of paying baggage fees came Jaktogo, a bag that unfolds into a jacket covered in various-sized pockets, allowing travelers to pack everything into their coats. Even laptops.

Adios, luggage fees.

And pride.

28. In this case, you're not obliged to say 'I love you, too'

In May, an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to New York made an unscheduled stop in Kansas City to offload a female passenger who wouldn't stop singing the Dolly/Whitney weeper, "I Will Always Love You."

The woman told federal air marshals her behavior was the result of diabetes.

MORE: Best places to see the Northern Lights

27. "Someone needs a digital detox." "IKR!"

Engrossed in Facebook while out for a nighttime stroll, a Taiwanese tourist in Melbourne, Australia, walked off the end of the St. Kilda pier and plunged into the icy waters of Port Phillip Bay.

Police rescued the woman in 20 meters of water -- oh, yeah, she couldn't swim.

According to Victoria Police, "There will be no need for a lost property report as the woman kept hold of her mobile phone throughout the entire ordeal."

26. Numerous bulls also sustained fatal injuries

Injuries to idiots/daredevils who ran with the bulls at the annual Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain, included an Australian gored in the chest, an American who underwent surgery to remove his spleen and another American who suffered a "perforated rectum" after his own unforgettable encounter with a raging bovine.

Not as innocent as they look.
Not as innocent as they look.

25. Paris vs. Chinese Tourists: 1-1

In April, the Louvre temporarily closed when staff walked off the job to protest a wave of pickpockets operating within the museum.

In August, Paris police announced that pickpocketing and other petty crimes against Chinese nationals had jumped 22% in the year, as local crooks targeted this presumably naïve group of tourists.

In September, French authorities announced they suspected not-so-green-after-all Chinese visitors were behind thousands of fake Louvre tickets in a scam worth hundreds of thousands of euros.

MORE: 40 beautiful things to see in China

24. Who says Asian airlines have the best-looking flight attendants?

After losing a bet with AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson donned red lipstick, flight attendant's skirt and high heels, then served drinks and made intercom announcements as a trolley dolly on an AirAsia X flight from Australia to Malaysia.

The NSFW photos still haunt all who have been exposed to them.

MORE: Do sexy flight attendants really sell more seats?

23. All things considered, we're with the pilot

All 35 passengers on a US Airways flight stormed off the plane in solidarity after Albert Rizzi, a blind man from Long Island, and his dog, Doxy, were escorted off the flight after a heated exchange between Rizzi and a flight attendant about where his dog should sit, according to Rizzi.

After Rizzi and Doxy were removed from the plane, passengers demanded that the flight attendant be removed and Rizzi let back on, said passenger Kurt Budke.

After realizing the passengers were serious, the pilot announced the flight was canceled.

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"Wait'll you hear about my crazy trip."

22. Somehow Facebook survived without the photos

U.S. tourist Lindsay Crumbley Scallan lost her camera while scuba diving in Hawaii in August 2007.

More than 5,000 miles away, it washed up in March on a beach in Taiwan, and was found by two China Airlines' staff.

Though covered in barnacles, the camera, batteries and memory card were working.

The pair studied the photos and traced a name on a Maui-registered catamaran, "Teralani 3."

The Taiwanese airline created a Facebook page -- "China Airlines is looking for you" -- found Scallan two days later and returned the camera.

21. Security much?

A nine-year-old traveling alone, apparently without a ticket, managed to get on a Delta Air Lines flight for Las Vegas.

The boy went through security at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the Transportation Security Administration said.

"All of this (security) since 9/11 has been to keep us safe. And it has, but still we have gaping holes, and this is a perfect example of it," a spokesperson from ThePlaneRules.com told CNN affiliate KARE.

MORE: Underwater hotel room opens on remote African island

20. Harsh toke

In March, BBC Worldwide sold guidebooks publisher Lonely Planet for $75 million to NC2 Media, whose primary shareholder is reclusive Kentucky billionaire Brad Kelley.

Kelley made a reported $1 billion fortune in the 1990s selling discount cigarette brands, such as Bull Durham and Malibu.

The sale price was well below what BBC originally paid for Lonely Planet, a total of $210 million spread over four years starting in 2007.

19. Apparently, the cocktail olives weren't filling enough

At a bar in Dawson City, Yukon, the Sourtoe Cocktail (warning: this link contains graphic and disturbing photo) includes a real, preserved amputated toe in the glass. Drinker's are supposed to let the toe graze their lips while drinking.

In August, however, a visiting American downed his drink, toe and all.

This isn't the first time the toe has been swallowed, but bartender Terry Lee told CBC News he thinks it's the first time the toe has been swallowed deliberately.

MORE: 25 great skyscrapers: Icons of construction

18. Icon meet I con

October brought evidence that the most beloved/disliked self-involved teenager on the planet had broken one of the most sacred unspoken rules of travel -- don't use your bodyguards to carry you up the Great Wall of China.

A widely distributed photo of the seemingly able-bodied Canadian pop star hoisted on the shoulders of minions at the iconic site invoked mockery worldwide.

17. Murder now officially meat

A Lion Air Boeing 737 collided with a cow when landing at Jalaluddin Airport in Indonesia.

The aircraft skidded off the runway and the cow was killed; none of the 110 passengers on board were injured.

"Inadequate fencing" was blamed for the incident.

Dead man flying.
Dead man flying.

16. Two more flights and he'll get Elite Status

The body of a Georgian national was found in Moscow in a plane operated by Moscow-based charter airline iFly.

Maintenance workers discovered the corpse after noticing bloodstains on the plane's landing gear.

Investigators concluded the body of the presumed stowaway had been in the wheel well for four days, during which time the plane made seven flights.

"Apparently the man died from exposure to cold," said investigators.

MORE: Rocky's horrible picture show? Sylvester Stallone exhibits his art in Russia

15. On the plus side, you got to spend your vacation in Italy

More than 80 baggage handlers working for major Italian airline Alitalia were arrested for alleged theft from passengers' luggage.

Police made 49 arrests at Rome's Fiumicino airport, with another 37 in major Italian airports including Bari, Bologna, Milan Linate, Naples, Palermo and Verona.

Nice try, Australia, but we still prefer koalas.
Nice try, Australia, but we still prefer koalas.

14. No rules, just wrong

The Skywhale, a curious-looking 34-meter-long, 23-meter-high hot air balloon created by Australian sculptor Patricia Piccinini, was commissioned by the city of Canberra as part of its 2013 centenary celebrations.

One tweet called it "a whale with a deformed scrotum."

"Nightmarish but strangely tender, with an overabundance of sexual references," tweeted another.

Centenary creative director Robyn Archer defended the monstrosity.

"(Piccinini's) highly imaginative work invites us every time to think about the human condition," explained Archer.

13. Worst ever update from the cockpit

While making a rapid descent, a Southwest Airlines pilot's intercom chatter shocked passengers.

"At first it sounded like someone was coming over the PA to talk," passenger Grace Stroud told CNN. "Seconds later, the panicked captain said, 'We're in trouble; we're going down.'"

Another passenger, Shelley Wills, told CNN affiliate WTVD that the pilot made the remarks as the plane went into a nosedive when it neared Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Soon after, the Boeing 737 leveled out and made an emergency landing at the Raleigh airport.

Asked about the WTVD report, a Southwest spokeswoman said it was inaccurate.

But in an email the airline sent Stroud, it acknowledged what Stroud suspected may have happened.

"As the captain was communicating his plan with the flight attendants, he inadvertently activated the PA system in the cabin," the email said. "We sincerely regret any confusion caused by the relay of the information."

Sorry for the illegal climb, not so sorry for the outrageous pics.
Sorry for the illegal climb, not so sorry for the outrageous pics.

12. At least they didn't carve their names on them

A group of Russian photographers ignored regulations, climbed the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt, and came away with spectacular photos. The pics incited worldwide indignation over the protection of the ancient wonders.

In an email to CNN, photographer Vadim Makhorov issued an apology to Egypt and the world.

"I would like to apologize for this ascension," wrote Makhorov. "We didn't want to insult anyone. We were just following the dream."

11. This is how you defile an Egyptian treasure

In May, a 15-year-old Chinese tourist carved his name ("Ding Jinhao was here") in Egypt's 3,500-year-old Luxor Temple.

In June, pictures surfaced showing a group of giddy Chinese tourists mistreating and posing merrily with a dying dolphin near the Chinese coastal city of Sanya.

Both incidents drew massive backlash among Chinese netizens and others around the world.

Though carried out by a few individuals -- and widely condemned throughout China -- the incidents highlighted the emergence of Chinese tourists on the world stage.

In October, China's first tourism laws and guidelines governing tourist behavior went into effect.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang called on citizens to improve their manners, stressing the importance of projecting a "good image of Chinese tourists."

10. The sons weren't available for comment

A former vintner and a salon technician were each fined $250 for allegedly engaging in oral sex in front of other passengers on an Allegiant Air flight from Medford, Oregon, to Las Vegas.

According to an FBI affidavit, passengers saw Christopher Martin exposing his genitals and twice joining Jessica Stroble in oral sex and other acts despite warnings from flight attendants.

"This is not the sex education I wanted to give my teenage sons," complained one passenger in the criminal complaint.

MORE: Naked, wet, free: 21 sexy skinny dips

Hang loose -- just not in Kailua.
Hang loose -- just not in Kailua.

9. Trade winds reverse

Apparently sick of tourists infesting its streets, the Neighborhood Board in popular Kailua, the Hawaiian beach town President Barack Obama and his family have made their yearly vacation destination, approved a motion asking Hawaii's Tourism Authority to respect its quality of life and "immediately stop promoting Kailua as a tourist destination and an alternative to Waikiki."

8. Really poor excuse for a hotel

At Emoya Luxury Hotel in Bloemfontein, South Africa, guests stay in facsimiles of shacks made of corrugated iron sheets.

"Millions of people are living in informal settlements across South Africa," chirps the Shanty Town homepage.

"Now you can experience staying in a Shanty within the safe environment of a private game reserve. ... This is the only Shanty Town in the world equipped with under-floor heating and wireless internet access!"

Worldwide condemnation included Steven Colbert coining the word "glumming" -- glamorous slumming -- in his on-air dressing down.

MORE: Chinese become top international tourism spenders

United had its own Black Friday sale, courtesy of a glitchy human.
United had its own Black Friday sale, courtesy of a glitchy human.

7. Finally, an airline that shows it cares about its customers

In September, fares on some domestic flights were displayed on United Airlines' website as $0, plus $5 tax, for about 15 minutes.

Savvy buyers swooped in and picked up tickets before the airline spotted the error.

United blamed human error and said it would honor the free fares.

MORE: World's 12 best shopping cities

6. Bad coverage follows bad coverage

In September, a Thai Airways Airbus A330 that skidded off the runway at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport had its logos painted over by workers after the accident.

No passengers were reported injured during the actual landing, although 13 received minor injuries during the evacuation.

Amid social media fury, the airline said it had merely implemented an industry standard "crisis communication rule" in obscuring the logos.

One tweet asked whether this was the "Most bizarre piece of corporate spin ever?"

5. "Fat tax" air fare debate gets heavy

In March, a Norwegian economist recommended air ticket costs be calculated according to a passenger's weight, saying his plan "may provide significant benefits to airlines, passengers and society at large."

In April, Samoa Air chief executive Chris Langton said his airlines' new pay-by-weight policy was the future for other airlines.

In June, Samoa Air installed couch-like seats on planes for extra-wide passengers.

In December, Langton declared the pay-per-weight system a success, telling ABC and reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, that it's resulted in cheaper fares for most passengers.

4. Racial slurs, stolen luggage, passenger misbehavior trail Asiana tragedy

In an apparent joke (later blamed on an intern), a Bay Area television station used incorrect and racially offensive names to identify the pilots of the Asiana Airlines flight that crashed at San Francisco International Airport in July, killing three passengers and injuring at least 180 others.

The bogus names that phonetically spelled out phrases such as "Something Wrong" and "We Too Low" were read during a KTVU broadcast. The station later corrected the story and apologized.

In the hubbub following the crash, a United Airlines employee and his fiancee allegedly stole luggage collected from the flight and exchanged some of its contents at a nearby Nordstrom for cash.

Later, reports circulated criticizing some passengers for ignoring safety protocol.

A photo of woman walking away from the smoking wreckage with a suitcase and smaller bag in her hands created yet another storm of controversy.

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"The Terminal: 2013," starring Edward Snowden.

3. Homeward? No. Bound? Yes.

Edward Snowden, the computer contractor who exposed details of U.S. surveillance programs, fled Hong Kong (where he'd been since May) for Russia on June 23, reportedly seeking asylum in Ecuador.

Instead, the rogue whistle-blower endured 2013's most infamous layover, spending more than a month trapped inside Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport, hounded by a pack of international journalists who relentlessly followed the fugitive's saga while increasingly trying not to pass out from stakeout boredom. (How do all those TV cops do it?)

On August 1, Snowden's Russian attorney told CNN that his client's application for political asylum in Russia had been approved, and he'd left the airport.

2. Air travel revolution postponed till further notice

After a series of problems involving Boeing 787 Dreamliners operated by Japan Airlines, ANA and United Airlines -- battery fire, leaking oil, brake problems, computer glitches, emergency landing -- aviation authorities around the world ordered airlines to stop flying the highly touted aircraft.

The groundings stemmed from a January 16 U.S. Federal Aviation Administration directive that the planes shouldn't fly until the problems were resolved.

Boeing performed repairs and retrofits to at least 50 aircraft already in service and the eight airlines around the world operating Dreamliners resumed commercial flights of the aircraft in May and June.

But the Dreamliner's problems weren't over.

In June, United Dreamliner flights in the United States made unscheduled landings due to problems with brakes and an oil filter, and an empty Dreamliner caught fire in London's Heathrow airport.

In July, a fire and "technical issue" aboard two other Dreamliners raised yet more concerns for the supposed industry-changing airliner.

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"Luxury" redefined.

1. Poop cruise

In February, after five days listing in the Gulf of Mexico, the disabled Carnival Triumph cruise ship, without electricity and working toilets, finally limped into port at Mobile, Alabama.

The ship had caught fire, leaving the more than 4,200 passengers and crew on board in limbo.

"The hallways were toxic," said passenger Norma Reyes. "Full of urine. It was horrible."

During the ordeal urine and feces streamed down halls and walls after toilet facilities failed, inspiring the two-word scatological epigram for which the trip will always be remembered.

What's your pick for the most outrageous travel story of the year? Share it in the comments.

This story compiled from reports filed by CNN producers, writers and contributors, and with a respectful nod to Esquire magazine's much-missed Dubious Achievement Awards.

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