CruiseMapper's cruise ship accidents project follows our CruiseMinus project for reports and news updates on major passenger vessel accidents, cruise line incidents and various types of incidents on passenger ships.
Our accidents and incidents reports provide statistical data on negative ("cruise minus") experiences during unfortunate events at sea and ashore. Here you will find detailed reports on cruise ship disasters (sinking, groundings, collisions, allisions, listing, fires), mechanical / technical incidents and accidents, sea pollution, Norovirus and other cruise illness outbreaks.
Our cruise ship incidents reports also include cases of crew and passenger deaths, injuries (overboards, missing people, drownings, suicides), crimes (murders, sexual, violence /assaults), cruise law news (individually filed lawsuits, class action cases, scandals, etc).
If you don't search for events on a particular vessel (via the search box above), the following link jumps down directly to our list of sea-going passenger ships with accident-incident reports.
As soon as something wrong happens on a particular passenger ship, we add a report regarding the accident / incident at the vessel's dedicated accident page. This way, CruiseMapper provides you with an unofficial cruise ship accident database of "bad cruise" (minus) events at sea and on shore (during port stays, private or group excursions and tours).
Cruise Ship Accidents
Despite everything you read here about dangers on cruise ships, remember to stay positive and don't be afraid of cruising. Unarguably, ship cruises are among travel industry's top 5 "best value for money" vacation options. And remember that even cheapest cruise deals are almost all-inclusive. Your ticket price includes accommodation, all meals (almost 24 hour available), room-service (on most companies), live entertainment, swimming pools and jacuzzies, not to forget exciting itineraries with plenty of ports.
Most statistical data regarding passenger ship accidents and cruise incidents is based on official reports published online by United States Coast Guard (USCG.mil). Other sources are online news media and local police reports. Statistics for cruise illness outbreaks are based on official reports published online by the US agency "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" (CDC.gov). Our cruise ship tracking service is sponsored by VesselFinder.com.
- USCG department is a branch of US Armed Forces. It provides maritime service to both military and commercial/civilian vessels in distress at sea. The department provides maritime law enforcement service, and has jurisdiction in both US and international waters.
- CDC is USA's national public health institute, and federal agency under the umbrella of US Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is headquartered in Georgia (DeKalb County, northeast of Atlanta GA).
- VesselFinder is a free AIS marine traffic tracker providing real-time ship tracking data and historic ship positions (vessel movement) worldwide.
US Coast Guard (USCG) medevacs
An average medevac (medical emergency evacuation) of cruise ship passenger / crew conducted by the USCG cost around USD 30,000. The cost depends on the distance between vessel and nearest Coast Guard Air Station. USCG medevacs are paid by the US taxpayers. No expenses are charged directly to cruise companies or passengers / crew.
During standard missions, the nearest USCG air station dispatches an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter (twin-engine, single-rotor search and rescue helicopter) to the cruise vessel. The helicopter usually lands on the ship's helipad (Heli Deck) or (on smaller ships) just hovers over its top deck. From there, the team airlifts / hoists the patient in a rescue basket. The patient could be accompanied by a relative (spouse), and in more serious cases - by a crew nurse. Then it transports them to the nearest land-based medical facility.
Usually, such maritime rescue operations also include a Lockheed HC-130 Hercules (military transport aircraft) that supports communications coverage. Statistical data show that an average "cruise ship overboard" search and rescue operation conducted by the USCG could cost easily USD 0,5 million, and even reach USD 1 million.
What is the difference between cruise incident and accident?
"Accident" implies a negative association. Accidents usually result in major damages, serious injuries or even loss of life. The word is synonymous to mishap, unforeseen/unplanned bad event or circumstance with a negative outcome. For the argument sake, some use "accident" in a positive manner, when describing something bad that happened which lead to good things after all. Accidental love comes to mind.
Since "incident" can refer to anything bad or wrong that can happen, it could be both positive and negative as experience. "Incident" is used to describe feature events, usually with some adjective before the word explaining the incident type. These two words are majorly different, but often confused and interchangeably used. However, not so many among the cruise incidents can be termed "accidents". In most cases, these are simply unfortunate events (without Jim Carrey, of course).
Types of incidents and accidents on cruise ships
Cruise ship accidents and incidents can be classified as:
- disasters (sinking, grounding, capsizing, collision, allision, terrorist and pirate attacks, pollution, crashes and killings on land tours/shore excursions)
- mechanical (fire, propulsion issues, power loss) - often result in cruise cancellations.
- sickness / illness outbreaks (Norovirus/GastroIntestinal, Influenza, Legionellosis/aka "Legion Fever") - often result in delayed embarkation or itinerary changes.
- deaths (overboard jumps/missing passengers and crew members, drowning in ship pools, critical traumas, murder, suicide, Myocardial infarction/heart attack)
- injuries (rape, assault, battery, fractures by accidental falling/slipping)
- crimes (bomb threats, robbery, drug smuggling/possession, arrests for past fugitive warrants, theft, belligerent behavior and indecent exposure by intoxicated passengers)
- weather-related (heavy fogs, squalls, storms, hurricanes) - usually result in itinerary changes and ports of call delays.
NOTE: By "Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act" (pdf), all passenger shipping companies are required by law to report to FBI any criminal activity against US citizens. Reports are mandatory, even on incidents at sea, during which the vessels were in international waters. The act became a law in 2010, when was signed by Barack Obama. The most common accidents on cruise ships are caused by:
- rogue waves (may reach height of up to 100 ft / 30 m)
- Hurricanes and squalls /heavy storms at sea (10 such events per season on average)
- ship fires (a total of 72 onboard fire incidents happened between 1990-2011)
- collisions (6 cruise vessels sunk hitting the sea bottom /rocks and reefs) or icebergs between 1990-2012, the most notorious accident being on the Costa ship Concordia.
- allisions - when the vessel strikes a fixed object (such as pier, rocks, buoy, etc), usually happen during docking/undocking maneuvers.
- Norovirus illness (an average of 15 virus outbreaks on cruise ships happen per year).
Statistical data about cruise ship overboard accidents show:
- The average overboard passenger age is 41 yo.
- Most overboards involve males.
- Most overboards happen on the voyage's last night.
- Most overboard passengers are either drunk, on drugs or engaged in tomfoolery (climbing between staterooms, playing on railings).
- The surviving rate is nearly 22% (1 in 5).
- The longest time an overboard cruise passenger managed to survive (found alive and recovered) was 18 hours.
When a passenger or crew disappears (officially is reported missing) while the vessel is at sea, the cruise company has the duty to conduct an onboard search immediately upon learning about it. If the person is not found on board, then the ship reports the incident to USCG and FBI and starts a search and rescue operation. The ship returns to the last location at sea when the victim was last seen. This location is often subject to adjusting for weather and sea conditions. The company's failure to perform a search and rescue operation can render it liable for the person's disappearance.
According to CLIA, 90% of all commercial vessels calling on US ports are foreign-flagged. Common cruise ship flag-states are Bahamas, Panama, Bermuda, Malta, Italy, Holland. When a person on the vessel's manifest disappears, an official report must be sent to the flag country.
Among the common factors contributing to cruise ship overboards are:
- Inadequate security staff and CCTV surveillance
- failures to monitor onboard CCTV camera footage
- overserving alcohol to passengers on the ship
- criminal activities (homicides, violent assaults)
- overboard jumps as suicides (due to loneliness, depression, terminal illness, marital problems, etc).
Shore excursion accidents and incidents
When cruise ship passengers suffer injuries while on land tours/excursions, the resulting litigations are some of the most complex maritime injury cases. They are unique and complicated as incidents which occur in foreign countries and involve foreign tour operators.
Cruise companies often argue that tour operators are wholly independent from them and, as such, they have no legal responsibility to disembarked passengers. However, it is often apparent that tour operators are either cruise line agents or joint ventures with the companies. Cruise ship companies earn large profits from tours and excursions, and often they control nearly every aspect of the contract-based relationship with the tour company.
When a shore excursion incident occurs to a passenger, the cruise line usually rejects blame and attempts to force him/her to seek recovery against the tour operator. However, experienced maritime lawyers can successfully battle such legal deceits, establish jurisdiction over the tour company, prove the cruise line's and tour company's negligence.
Cruise ship injury lawyers can uncover contacts between foreign tour companies and the USA in order to establish Court's jurisdiction over foreign tour providers. Cruise lawyers can pinpoint where the cruise ship line failed to provide safety and welfare of its customers.
Cruise passenger accident claims
The 4 biggest ever mistakes a passenger can possibly make are:
- Failing to read and understand the terms and conditions of the cruise ticket contract. Given to all passengers before they embark on a voyage, the cruise ticket contract contains all the limitations against the cruise line company and the specific terms for filing an injury claim.
- Failing to report the cruise incident (injury, crime) immediately after it occurred. In order to receive compensation, a victim on board the cruise vessel should act immediately to report the incident, collect witnesses' testimonies, and document about the claim.
- Settling for less. After being injured, a cruise passenger is likely to be shortchanged by the cruise line company, that will want to settle the claim by offering cheap gifts (like vouchers, for example).
- Not seeking proper medical care. Most passengers visit the ship's medical center after being injured, but fail to follow up with their doctors once they get home. For a positive outcome regarding the claim, it is important to document the injuries as much as possible.
Know, that maritime law is often confusing even to experts. Get in touch with an experienced attorney specialized in cruise ship accident claims to help you avoid these common mistakes and receive the compensation you're entitled to.
What victims of incidents/crimes on cruise ships should do?
On the boat, a variety of cruise line employees (butlers, stewards, cleaning staff, security) have access to passenger staterooms. Onboard crimes are not uncommon. Victims of cruise crimes/incidents should take the following steps:
- Immediately report the incident to the ship's security department (in writing).
- Document who you reported it to, when, who was with you.
- Obtain a copy of your report.
- Take photos of the crime scene - if possible, before it changes. Even if it has changed, take photos.
- Write down names, addresses and phone numbers of all persons who were witnesses to the incident.
- If you're injured, visit the onboard doctor/infirmary for treatment.
- If necessary, visit a land-based hospital at the next call port.
- Contact an experienced maritime lawyer as soon as possible.
Synonymous to "misfortune" and "catastrophe", "cruise disaster" implies an event causing major destruction (ship crash, sinking, wreckage, manslaughter) and widespread distress.
The worst among all disastrous events at sea are:
- RMS Titanic sinking (1500 drowned /year 1912)
- SS Eastland tipping over in Chicago (800 drowned /year 1915)
- MS Eastern Star (China-Yangtze River cruise ship) hit by cyclone, capsized and overturned (442 dead or missing /year 2015 June)
- MS Aleksandr Suvorov (Russia-Volga River cruise ship) crashed into a railway bridge girder, still in service (177 killed /year 1983)
- TSMS Lakonia caught fire and sank near Madeira island Portugal (128 drowned /year 1963)
- MS Bulgaria (Russia-Volga River cruise ship) sank in the Kuybyshev Reservoir in Tatarstan, Russia (122 drowned /year 2011)
- Concorde plane crash accident - a French aircraft with 100 Peter Deilmann cruise passengers (booked on MS Deutschland) crashed on takeoff from Paris France, leaving no survivors.
- The ocean liner SS Andrea Doria was rammed by MS Stockholm (now Astoria) on July 25, 1956. A total of 46 people were killed in the collision. The liner capsized and sank on July 26.
- Costa Concordia accident - hit a rock, capsized, sank near Giglio island Italy (32 drowned /year 2012)
- The terrorist attack on cruise passengers in Tunisia (22 killed /year 2015)
- MS Westerdam passengers were killed in an Alaskan plane crash accident (9 killed /year 2015).
- (statistics) In the period 1979-2013, a total of 55 cruise ships sank, of which 15 in the period 2010-2013.
- (statistics) In the period 1979-2013, a total of 106 cruise ship collisions were reported, of which 79 in the period 2005-2013.
- (statistics) In the period 1990-2013, a total of 139 cruise ship fires were reported, of which 101 in 2005-2013.
Ship grounding / aground accidents
Ship grounding is a marine accident in which the vessel impacts on the seabed. When the grounding is severe, it applies extreme loads upon the ship's whole structure. In less severe incidents, running aground results in stranding and minor hull damages. Serious ship groundings (like Costa Concordia) result in hull breaches (water ingress), oil spills, even total loss of the ship and human casualties.
- Worldwide statistics show ship groundings are ~1/3 of all commercial marine shipping accidents, and are second in frequency (after ship collisions).
- (statistics) In the period 1972-2013, a total of 131 passenger ships ran aground, of which 66 in the period 2005-2013.
Cruise ship pollution at sea
On April 22, 2016, "International Maritime Organization" (IMO) officially banned cruise ships and ferries from dumping their untreated wastewater into Baltic Sea. The ban will be enforced in 2019 (for new vessels, built after 2010) and in 2021 (for older ships). The ban will chiefly affect larger ships cruising in the Gulf of Finland during summer. The measure makes Baltic Sea the world's first open sea region banning the passenger ships' sewage-dumping practice. Statistics show that 300+ international cruise vessels call at Helsinki port every year.
In December 2016, Princess Cruises pleaded guilty to 7 felony charges for sea pollution. The Carnival Corporation-owned company agreed to pay USD 40 million criminal penalties. The payment was the largest-ever that involved deliberate pollution by a marine vessel at sea. Caribbean Princess - together with the fleetmates Coral, Grand, Golden, and Star) were dumping waste water on a regular basis, and covered up this practice.
- These cruise ships used a "magic pipe" to bypass their usual equipment and illegally discharged large quantities of oily waste into open sea and ocean waters. The practice was reported by a ship engineer on Caribbean Princess in August 2013. Then the ship's chief and senior first engineers tried to cover it up by removing the "magic pipe" and ordering their subordinates to lie to the UK authorities when they boarded the ship for inspection in Southampton. The following month, upon arrival in NYC, USCG investigators examined the Caribbean Princess ship and eventually determined that it had been discharging waste since 2005. Other illegal practices were also discovered, among which allowing salt water in to prevent the system's alarms when too much waste was being discharged, and also preventing the bilge alarm during bilge water discharge when the engine room's storage tanks were overflowed.
- As part of the plea agreement, vessels from 8 Carnival Corporation companies (a total of 78 vessels) will operate for 5 years under a supervised "environmental compliance plan" requiring regular independent audits.
- Of the USD 40 million criminal penalties paid, USD 10 million went toward projects benefiting the maritime environment.
Note: In the table below, all ship pollution-related incidents are marked as "sea pollution". Most of the official reports are for the region of Alaska issued by USCG and also by port authorities.
Cruise crime reports and statistics
A huge part of all listed below incidents reports and news are related to crimes done on cruise ships. Among those are murders, sexual assaults, criminal batteries, robberies. However, the most violent crimes on cruises are done ashore. A 2008 poll reports 10% of cruise passengers were affected by some sort of crime. In the period 2002-2007, FBI prosecuted only a quarter of all reported crimes, of which:
- 55% were sexual assaults
- 22% were physical assaults
- 7% were homicides
- 5% were about missing persons.
Fact is, that most of the cruise crime incidents remain unreported. The following statistics are related to cruise ship crime rates based on FBI-collected data:
- (on average per year) 50 cases of crime at sea are opened/investigated by FBI.
- In the period 2002-2007, 46% of all cruise crime cases involved members of the crew.
- In the period 2012-2014, a total of 74 rapes on cruise ships and a total of 29 assault crime cases involving serious body injuries were officially reported.
- Fact is that in only 1 year period (Oct 2007 through Oct 2008), the FBI received from Carnival Cruise Lines alone a total of 93 reports on sex-related crimes on cruise ships. In a significant proportion of those incidents, victims were minors.
Today, one of the world's top dangerous travel destinations is Nassau Bahamas (on New Providence Island). The country's capital city has one of the highest murder rates - over 30 per 100,000. For comparison, the US rate is ~4,5 per 100,000. The city's young men jobless rate is also record high (19,5% as of 2015). There are numerous crime reports about cruise passengers on shore excursions being robbed, raped, killed. In 2015, the Nassau's tourist murder rate reached a record high. The USA issued far more Bahamas travel warnings than about any other country. The Nassau's image today is synonymous with violent crime, ineffective law enforcement, non-functioning legal system.
- All NCL cruise ships in the Caribbean changed their 2010-2011-2012 itineraries, skipping St Lucia. The line's decision followed the 3 attacks on cruise passengers ((armed robberies) in 2009, that occurred ashore during excursions on the island.
- In August 2015, Canada's and UK's travel advisory offices issued Bahamas travel warnings about the rising number of sexual assaults and armed robberies and break-ins (targeting foreign tourists), often with fatal results. Both reports state the most violent crimes occur in Nassau and Freeport (Grand Bahama island).
Of similar color is the "aura" around the tourism image of Honduras. On Isla Roatan (Bay Islands), numerous passengers and crew members have suffered "bad cruise" experiences due to armed robberies and assaults. There are also too many cases of murders even near the ports of Mahogany Bay and Coxen Hole, where the cruise vessels dock.
- In March 2015, the US State Department issued its Honduras Travel Warning. While crime and violence are serious issues throughout Honduras, its Government lacks enough resources to effectively protect tourists, to investigate and prosecute. The local police lack enough vehicles and even fuel to properly respond and assist. Members of the police have been arrested, charged and convicted for criminal activities.
- The travel warning suggests while ashore, passengers to avoid wearing any jewelry (valuables in general), displaying cash or credit cards, walking at night, walking alone on beaches, car traveling with the windows up and the doors locked.
Another major "cruise crime" destination is Mexico. In April 2015, the US State Department issued its Mexico Travel Warning. Due to threats to passenger safety posed by organized crime, there are risks of traveling to certain Mexican destinations. Among those are Baja California (Ensenada), Colima (Manzanillo), Sinaloa (Mazatlan), Guerrero (Acapulco, Ixtapa), Jalisco (Puerto Vallarta), Quintana Roo (Cozumel, Cancun, Playa del Carmen) and Yucatan (Merida, Chichen Itza).
- Most of the reported incidents are related to rapes, robberies and kidnappings. The number of US citizens murdered in Mexico was 100 in 2014.
Another major crime issue is drug trafficking. There are unofficial statements that cruise ships are used on "regular basis" for smuggling cocaine and marijuana, in amounts between 3-30 kg. Most drug smuggling incidents are reported on Transatlantic repositioning cruise ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean between South America and Europe (Italy). Another "favorable" drug smuggle destination is Western Caribbean (roundtrips from Florida), with stops in Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, from where drugs are smuggled into the US.
The improved cruise crime report policy is a direct result of the efforts of the nonprofit organization ICV ("International Cruise Victims Association") working with US Congress.
- Since 2016, cruise lines are required by law to report all crimes to US Department of Transportation.
- Cruise Line Incident Reports are officially issued by the US Department of Transportation.
- As result, the number of reported sexual assaults in 2016 jumped nearly 5 times (485%, 63 reports) over 2015 (13 reports). Total reported cruise ship crimes jumped over 3 times (339%, 95 reports) over 2015 (28 reports).
- FBI started responding to shipboard sexual assaults more aggressively.
Below are listed almost all cruise ships, owned by major line companies. If the vessel's name is linked, it means it has a record in our database. So simply follow the corresponding links. Due to large number of ships per line, those of the largest cruise lines fleets are listed in separate tables. This also allows you to compare cruise line incidents by type and year of occurrence. The list below could also include officially announced names of new vessels under construction.
Accidents on cruise ferries
Worldwide Ferry Safety Association's statistics show between 800-1000 people die in ferry boat accidents annually. Among the main factors that usually contribute to a ferry accident are:
- Mechanical / machinery failure
- Overloaded vessel (miscalculation in boat's total weight could result in capsizing)
- Improper routine maintenance
- Adverse weather conditions (gales, storms, rogue waves)
- Operating under the influence of intoxicating substances (alcohol, drugs, narcotics).
The list of the world's deadliest accidents on cruise ferries (passenger / RoPax vessels only) includes:
- Al-Salam Boccaccio 98 (built 1968) - sank in February 2006, deaths 1020
- Estonia (built 1980 as Viking Sally) - capsized and sunk in September 1994, deaths 852
- Sewol (built 2014) - sank in April 2014, deaths 306
- Heraklion (built 1949) - sank in December 1966, deaths 200+
- Herald of Free Enterprise (built 1980) - capsized in March 1987, deaths 193
- Princess Victoria (built 1947) - sank in January 1953, deaths 133
- Express Samina (built 1966 as Corse) - hit rocks off Paros island in September 2000, deaths 82
- Jan Heweliusz (built 1977) - capsized and sank in January 1993, deaths 55
- TEV Wahine (built 1966) - sank in a cyclone in 1968, deaths 52
- Norman Atlantic (built 2009) - fire in December 20014, deaths 9 (plus 19 missing)
You can search CruiseMapper's accidents on ferries by typing "ferry" in the page's search box or by pressing "Ctrl + F" and type "ferry" in your browser's search box. By the second option, all ferries in the ship list below will be highlighted.
Most of the reported here accidents on ferries are fires, ship collisions (in port and at sea), dock allisions, running aground, power loss, overboard passengers.
Accidents on river cruise ships
Since the following list doesn't include riverboats (all vessels with MMSI-identification only / without IMO), next (in bullets) are listed CruiseMapper's river cruise ship accidents.
- (fires) Arosa Riva (2017), Queen of the West (2008), Regina Rheni (2012), Gerard Schmitter (2012)
- (bridge crashes) Arosa Mia (2014), River Duchess (2005), River Empress (2006), Viking Freya (2016), Swiss Crystal (2018)
- (canal / lock crashes) American Empress (2003 / as Empress of the North), MS Victory 1 (2015 / as Saint Laurent), Viking Forseti (2013)
- (ship collisions) - Viking Mani (2016), Travelmarvel Jewel (2009, 2011 / as Avalon Tranquility), Viking Bragi (2013)
- (aground) American Empress (2006 / as Empress of the North), Serenissima (2013)
- propulsion/power loss - Avalon Panorama (2011), Viking Danube (2011), Viking Magni (2013), Louisiane (2016)
Our unique cruise accidents project also allows YOU - the crew or the cruise ship tourist - to participate and add your very own incident report here. You are welcomed to share with our numerous users your personal "cruise minus" experience by submitting comments and/or updates via CruiseMapper's contact form.
You can mail us a detailed report, or simply share your thoughts on events at sea you know about or whatever cruising-related bothers you. The idea is much like that of a cruise forum, but with one HUGE difference - you will not find topic discussions here. CruiseMapper's incident reports are all about your personal cruise travel events and bad vacation experiences, and not about discussing them or arguing about them.
The reasons are simple. You have here the opportunity to read and post about cruise events at sea and ashore, and share facts that the big-money making cruise line companies don't like - and want to forget. However, all major cruise forum sites are either owned or influenced (some even manipulated financially) by the lucrative cruising industry. Mockering the complainants in most cases discourages people with negative ("cruise minus") experiences to share or even to comment there.
At CruiseMapper you are free to share and complain (even anonymously, if you like so) about a particular cruise vessel or onshore events. Unlike forum sites, at Cruise Mapper you will find no sympathy or compunction - but you will be heard. Once you submit your report / comment, it will be first checked for authenticity and moderated (cleaned, if needed) removing foul language, grammatical errors, etc.
If you are unfortunate to have your own negative cruise travel event, and it still bothers you - just let it out here, share it with the world and be done with it. Enjoy our cruise ship "yellow pages" - and remember to stay positive. Everything happens for a reason.