Pacific Explorer accidents and incidents

Pacific Explorer cruise ship

Former names
Dawn Princess

Length (LOA)
261 m / 856 ft

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CruiseMapper's Pacific Explorer cruise ship accidents, incidents and law news reports relate to a 2395-passenger vessel owned by P&O Australia (P&O Cruises). Our Pacific Explorer accidents page contains reports made by using official data from renown online news media sources, US Coast Guard and Wikipedia.

Here are also reported latest updates on cruise law news related to ashore and shipboard crimes still investigated by the police. Among those could be arrests, filed lawsuits against the shipowner / cruise line company, charges and fines, grievances, settled / withdrawn legal actions, lost cases, virus outbreaks, etc.

  • fire - 2013
  • propulsion/power loss - 2001, 2010, 2011 (2)
  • sea pollution - 2018 (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park), Australia)
  • deaths/overboard - 2022
  • injuries/crimes - 2008 (6 pax expelled), 2013, 2018 (brawl)
  • illness - 2009 (swine flu)
  • Norovirus (passengers/crew) - 2005 (76 / 9), 2008 (68 / 4), 2010-Australia (240+), 2012 (114 / 11), 2014 (158 / 14), 2015-Australia (?)
  • Coronavirus - 2022 (~100)
  • medevacs - 2017
  • boat rescue - 2023

In the period 1997-2017, the vessel was operated by Princess Cruises under the name "Dawn Princess".

24 September 2023Boat Rescue

On September 24, 2023, while en route from Auckland to Fiji's Denarau Island, Pacific Explorer responded to a mayday/distress call from a small sail yacht with a broken mast.

To assist the yacht, the ship (mastered by Captain Alan Nixon) changed course and rescued one survivor from the sea. He was provided with urgent medical attention on board.

Due to adverse weather conditions and the significant size difference between both vessels, it was deemed unsafe to proceed with the rescue of the yacht's remaining crew. Nevertheless, the ship maintained radio communication with the boat throughout the evening.

The Royal Fijian Navy released the cruise vessel from observation duties at ~4 pm NZ time (~3 am UTC), allowing it to resume the voyage and continue toward Port Denarau/Nadi.

On September 25th, RCCNZ (Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand) confirmed the death of one of the sailors.

Carnival Australia and P&O Australia expressed gratitude and admiration for the Pacific Explorer's crew and their Captain, acknowledging their courage and determination during this emergency.

13 December 2022Crew / Passenger Deaths

(overboard) On December 13, 2022, at around midnight, the ship, en route from Melbourne to Kangaroo Island, reported a missing female passenger presumed overboard.

The 23-year-old woman's body was eventually found. Reportedly, she went missing when the ship was navigating approx 45 mi / 70 km off Cape Jaffa (South Australia's southeastern coastline). Pacific Explorer immediately turned around and started a search and rescue operation assisted by three Coast Guard helicopters coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. The body was located at ~7 am (~8 pm UTC) on Dec 14th.

The incident occurred during the 4-day "Tribute To The King Cruise" (itinerary Dec 12-16, roundtrip from Melbourne) that visited only Penneshaw (Kangaroo Island). The visit to Penneshaw was canceled.

July 2022Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(Coronavirus) On the morning of July 18, 2022, the ship docked in homeport Sydney (NSW Australia) with ~100 COVID cases (out of ~3000 passengers plus crew) onboard.

During the voyage, all COVID-positive tourists were quarantined to their staterooms marked with red tags (on the cabin doors) to keep the service staff from coming inside. In Sydney Harbour, all disembarking passengers had to provide a negative rapid antigen test for SARS-CoV-2.

The outbreak occurred during a 9-day "Barrier Reef Discovery Cruise" (itinerary July 9-18, roundtrip from Sydney) with visiting ports in Queensland Australia (Airlie Beach, Cairns, Willis Island, Moreton Island).

01 April 2020Other Incidents

(Coronavirus issues) On April 1, 2020, the NSW Police ordered the cruise liner to leave its homeport Sydney Harbour.

Carnival Australia (that manages all the Australia-deployed vessels of the sister-brands Princess and P&O Australia) was officially banned from any Australian port until the country's Coronavirus-related travel alert is canceled. Since April 1, Australia's Government required all foreign-registered cruise vessels to leave the country's territorial waters promptly.

After leaving Australia, Pacific Explorer headed to Asia. The passenger-free ship was soon joined by 4 other (also Asia-bounded) Carnival Australia ships - Pacific Aria, Pacific Dawn, Sea Princess, Sun Princess. Carnival contacted the governments of The Philippines and Indonesia to allow docking and crew debarkation (repatriation of their citizens). For the remaining staff/crew, Carnival chartered flights to their home countries. Also affected were the Carnival Australia-managed ships Carnival Splendor and Carnival Spirit.

Pacific Explorer entered Port Sydney NSW on April 1, returning from a drydock refit in Singapore and carrying only crew onboard.

September 2019Crew / Passenger Injuries and Overboards

(CruiseMapper emailed incident report from Jim McGibbon)

We travelled on Pacific Explorer in September 2019 (Sydney to New Caledonia).

During that voyage, we had nine medical emergencies (I'm not sure of all the details but we did have this confirmed by Captain Roger Bilton) and one breakdown of the water supply.

During muster on the first night, one lady had a stroke. She luckily was stabilised.

Rough weather then hit the ship, causing one of the water pipes to burst. This meant the ship was without water (for toilets, showers, etc) until repaired overnight.

During this rough weather, a passenger fell down some stairs and suffered a broken arm.

Another serious condition caused the ship to be redirected from the stop at Isle of Pines and back to Noumea so that person could be transferred to a medical facility.

A further medical emergency cancelled the trip to Mare and the boat had to make for the mainland of Australia (Sunshine Coast) so that a helicopter evacuation could take place. Luckily the person's condition improved so the evacuation was no longer required.

26 August 2018Sea Pollution

On August 26, 2018, the cruise liner was reported for sea pollution, after spilling 28,000 liters (7400 US gallons) of greywater and waste into Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (the Coral Sea, off the coast of northeastern Australia). The dumping resulted in a 28 m3 spill near Innisfail (Queensland).

According to the accident report, the spill occurred after food waste was transferred to galley's (ship kitchen's) holding tank due to a shortage in capacity in ship's food waste tanks. Galley tank's food waste was then discharged in the sea. AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) was informed about the incident on September 4.

During summers 2016-2017, over half of the shallow cover corals were lost due to climate changes and coral bleaching.

11 February 2018Crew / Passenger Crimes

On February 11, 2018, the ship returned back to homeport Sydney NSW after an onboard brawl erupted among passengers. Allegedly, a girl hit a male passenger in the head with a wine bottle. Reportedly, the brawl started at ~1 am, lasted for ~30 min and involved at least 15 people.

Police arrived and boarded the liner at Bradley's Head. From the vessel were removed a female and 6 male passengers. The ship was on 3-night Comedy-themedCruise to Nowhere (itinerary Feb 9-12) roundtrip from Sydney.

21 August 2017Structural and Technical Issues

On August 21, 2017, during 7-day Queensland cruise (itinerary Aug 19-26) from homeport Sydney NSW, the ship encountered heavy storm with wind gusts up to 55 km/h (35 mph) and waves up to 10 m (25 ft). The incident resulted in reduced cruising speed (19 kph / 11 mph), 2 broken windows (one in Angelo’s Italian restaurant, one in the Waterfront Restaurant / main dining room) and itinerary change (call port Mooloolaba was skipped). No injuries were reported.

21 August 2017Coast Guard Medevacs

On August 21, 2017, at 12:45 pm, a 23-year-old female passenger was medevaced in stable condition by LifeFlight rescue aircrew and Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) flight paramedic team. The young woman was transported to Bundaberg Hospital (Bundaberg QLD). The ship was approx 74 km (46 ml) off Fraser Coast QLD, operating on 7-day Queensland cruise (itinerary Aug 19-26) roundtrip from homeport Sydney NSW to Mooloolaba, Gladstone, Moreton Island.

January 2015Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(MS Dawn Princess) On January 9, 2015, an Australian news media reported a huge number (unspecified) of passengers suffered in a Norovirus outbreak on the voyage between Melbourne and Auckland NZ.

Note: When the itinerary doesn’t include US cruise ports, the ship is not required to report to CDC, thus no official illness report would be issued.

November 2014Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(MS Dawn Princess) November 28, 2014, during Around New Zealand cruise, a total of 158 passengers and 14 crew (~10% of all) suffered from the Norovirus symptoms (headache, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea). All sick were quarantined in their cabins for 48 hours. Hygiene levels across the ship were heightened.

08 November 2013Fire Accident

(MS Dawn Princess) On November 8, 2013, at ~8:30 pm, a fire broke out in an electrical locker (in the substation on deck 6) and after ~1 1/2 hours was extinguished. All passengers summoned to their respective muster stations at ~9:30 pm, while the crew fought the fire. No injuries were reported.

The fire incident occurred on a New Zealand cruise, while the ship was en-route from Wellington to Napier. The Captain announced via the PA system that there was smoke forward-starboard on Deck 6, and commanded all passengers to return to their cabins. The second time he reported a fire on Deck 6, and that the crew was on the site.

After ~30 min, a third announcement was made for passengers to assemble at the muster points, wearing life jackets, warm clothes, their valuables, and medication. It all ended at ~10 p.m. when passengers were released.

According to unofficial information (anonymous crew), during the incident, the ship’s fire suppression system failed. This explains the muster station passenger gathering ~30 min after the fire was reported.

04 September 2013Crew / Passenger Injuries and Overboards

(MS Dawn Princess/law news) On September 4, 2013, in Sydney NSW, a male passenger filed a lawsuit against Carnival Australia, claiming USD 750,000 in compensation for sustained injuries.

The man (Graham Welsh) suffered a head injury after lights and ceiling panels fell on him when he was passing through a hallway on board. He was disembarked in Suva Fiji and taken by an ambulance to a hospital for a brain scan.

The man stated after the incident, he experienced vomiting and headaches and was left in Fiji without a passport and any money. He had to pay all medical expenses via his credit card.

September 2012Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(MS Dawn Princess) August-September 2012, CDC reported on itinerary Aug 21 to Sept 13, a Norovirus outbreak affected 114 passengers (out of 1778, or 6,4%) and 11 crew (out of 851, or 1,3%). The ship was on 23-day Alaskan repositioning cruise.

27 October 2011Propulsion / Power Loss

(MS Dawn Princess) On October 27, 2011, local news media reported the ship skipped the next scheduled call port Hawke’s Bay (Napier NZ) due to a mechanical problem. The vessel was on 14-day Australian to New Zealand cruise roundtrip from homeport Sydney NSW and en-route from Wellington NZ to Napier. Because it was ~3 hours late, the Captain decided to drop Napier and to continue directly towards Tauranga NZ.

11 June 2011Propulsion / Power Loss

(MS Dawn Princess) On June 11, 2011, while in Asia, passengers reported that the vessel operated on 3 (of all 4) engines. An engineering crew boarded in Singapore but failed to fix the problem. The ship was on World Cruise ending in Dover UK. The incident resulted in reduced cruising speed and itinerary changes.

15 June 2010Propulsion / Power Loss

(MS Dawn Princess) On June 15, 2010, during the 104-day World Cruise roundtrip from Southampton England (departure July 14), the vessel experienced technical problems causing itinerary changes. In the Gulf of Aden, while en-route from Dubai to Safaga Egypt, it lost propulsion and was drifting for ~2 hours. Call port Safaga was dropped. Later on the cruise, bad weather prevented docking in Dublin Ireland.

January 2010Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(MS Dawn Princess) On January 12, 2010, an Australian news media reported 240+ passengers suffered from Norovirus on 13-day Australia to New Zealand "New Year's Cruise" (itinerary Dec 29 - Jan 12) from Melbourne to Auckland.

July 2009Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(MS Dawn Princess) On July 16, 2009, news media reported on the 35-night South Pacific Islands voyage roundtrip from Sydney NSW Australia, 5 passengers experienced swine flu symptoms (H1N1) and were quarantined in their cabins. Disembarkation in homeport Sydney was delayed ~5 hours.

November 2008Crew / Passenger Crimes

(MS Dawn Princess) In November 2008, during a Transpacific relocation cruise from the USA to Australia (San Francisco to Sydney), three incidents lead to passengers being forcibly evicted from the vessel. First, 2 female passengers were removed for shoplifting in the boutique shop. Later, 2 male passengers were removed after assaulting a crew. Then another 2 male passengers were removed for altercation (fight) in the laundry room.

June 2008Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(MS Dawn Princess) On June 16, 2008, the ship reported 68 passengers (or 3,2% of all) and 4 crew (or 0,5% of all) suffered from Norovirus illness outbreak during the 10-day Alaskan cruise roundtrip from homeport San Francisco CA.

May 2005Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(MS Dawn Princess) In May 2005, CDC reported on itinerary April 29 to May 14, a Norovirus outbreak (gastrointestinal illness) infected 76 passengers (out of 1974, or 3,9%) and 9 crew (out of 864, or 1%). All sick suffered from Norovirus symptoms (headache, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) and were quarantined to their cabins. The ship was on 15-day Hawaiian cruise from homeport San Francisco CA.

01 April 2001Propulsion / Power Loss

(MS Dawn Princess) On April 1, 2001, engine problems caused ~5 hours late arrival in Bridgetown Barbados.

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