Cruise Ship Accidents

Carnival Triumph
Stranded Carnival Triumph

Vacationing aboard a cruise ship is supposed to be a time to relax in luxury, but accidents do happen. Cruise ship accidents range in severity, with catastrophic events being highly-publicized in the media. While sometimes these accidents result in significant injuries or loss of life, this is not always the case.

Recent Catastropic Accidents

Carnival Triumph

A February, 2013 engine room fire on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship caused no injuries, but resulted in the ship losing electricity and propulsion. The fire was contained to the aft engine room, and the fire extinguishing systems were activated and succeeded in dousing the flames. The emergency generator restored power to the ship, and Carnival sent another of their cruise ships, Carnival Elation, to the scene to transfer provisions to the stranded guests, according to the Huffington Post.

Carnival Triumph Facts

When: 7:30 PM EST, February 10, 2013
Where: 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula
Death toll: 0
Passengers aboard: 3,143
Crew aboard: 1,086

The ship was adrift for five days before being towed to port in Mobile, Alabama. reported that passengers recounted "miserable conditions on the ship that included a shortage of working toilets and sewage spilled onto cabin floors. Lights and air conditioning failed, and the ship lacked running water for a time. Long lines developed for meager food supplies."

Shortly after the ordeal, passengers filed a class action lawsuit against Carnival. According to a Reuters report, the suit charges physical, emotional anguish and also seeks punitive damages for the conditions, including the lack of sanitation and ventilation.

Costa Concordia

On January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia, also a Carnival ship, hit a reef near the shoreline, resulting in a 150-foot gash in the port hull followed by the ship capsizing. This disaster has been highly publicized in part due to the suspicious behavior of the captain, Francesco Schettino, and several conflicting statements he made concerning the accident as well as the loss of 32 lives.

Costa Concordia Facts

When: 3:00 PM EST, January 13, 2012
Where: Isola del Giglio, Italy
Death toll: 32
Passengers aboard: 3,206
Crew aboard: 1,023

After the accident, the ship began to tilt and some passengers jumped overboard, trying to swim to shore.

Francesco Raccomandato, the ship's cruise director, testified that he spoke directly to Captain Schettino and was told to inform the passengers that "there had been a blackout caused by a technical failure on board." According to the BBC, the night of the accident, Schettino told his mistress, a Moldovan dancer named Domnica Cemortan, to "save herself". Then he himself abandoned ship while passengers were still aboard the sinking ship.

As of December 2013, the ship is still in the water along the coast of the island of Giglio, though it was righted in September, according to CNN. The salvage is expected to take into 2014 to complete. Five crew members have been convicted, according to, and the BBC reports that Schettino could face up to twenty years behind bars for his actions on the night of the tragic accident.

Significant Cruise Ship Accidents 2010 to Present

  • Silver Explorer of Silverseas was damaged by rough seas on January 12, 2013. The 132-passenger ship had departed from Ushuaia, Argentina on an 18-night cruise to Antarctica, according to The cruise ship returned to Argentina after the accident, and the rest of the trip was cancelled. The vessel had full power and control and the stabilizers were not affected by the "heavy weather." No passengers were hurt in the accident, though four crew members received minor injuries.
  • Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas experienced a small engine room fire at around 7:45 PM on April 21, 2012 while sailing from St. Maarten to Fort Lauderdale. Shortly after the incident, Cynthia Martinez, spokeswoman for the cruise line, told the CBS affiliate in Miami that "the ship's high fog system was immediately activated, which contained and extinguished the fire". No one was injured and the ship was able to sail to port unassisted.
  • On March 30, 2012 at 8:19 PM, a small engine fire occurred aboard Azamara Quest. According to the Huffington Post, the fire was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported. The ship ran on generator until power was restored to the engine room. Power could not be restored to the air compressors and the company decided to cancel the remainder of the cruise, providing refunds and vouchers toward future travel.
  • According to NBC News, Silversas vessel Costa Allegra required assistance to be pulled to port through waters known to be a pirate zone on February 27, 2012, after a fire in the engine room damaged the ship's generators. Power was lost to the ship's engines, lighting and air conditioning. The ship remained adrift overnight until a French fishing vessel arrived to tow it to shore, a feat that took two days. No one was injured.

Significant 21st Century Accidents Pre-2010

  • In March 2006, the Star Princess of Princess Cruises caught fire while bound for Jamaica. According to CNN, the resulting blaze damaged 100 cabins on four decks. One passenger died of a heart attack while several others had minor injuries including bruises, abrasions, and smoke inhalation problems. The fire was reportedly caused by an untended cigarette in a passenger cabin.
  • In July 2005, a honeymooning groom from Greenwich, Connecticut disappeared during a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise. While some believed he may have fallen or jumped overboard, a invesgative report indicates that the man's death may have been the result of foul play.
  • In April 2005, Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Dawn was struck by a 70-foot rogue wave caused by bad weather. According to, windows were broken in several forward cabins and approximately 60 cabins were flooded. Several passengers sustained minor injuries during the event.

Be Mindful of the Risk

While cruise ship accidents are rare, and typically handled with professionalism and efficiency, individuals should be aware of potential dangers and how to handle emergency situations that may arise while out at sea. Plan and prepare for a relaxing and memorable vacation aboard a luxury cruise ship, but understand the risks involved.

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