Cruise Ship Mishaps

Cruising has its highs and lows. Be prepared.

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Cruise calamities date back as far as 1912, with the infamous sinking of the Titanic when it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Fast-forward to the present and the mishaps have changed gears a little. The chances of a cruise ship sinking at sea are pretty low these days, but what about being adrift at sea, or being attacked by pirates? Believe it or not, it’s happening.


Despite the risks, we’re all still eager to get our sea legs. Cruises are a wonderful way to escape from the everyday and to experience destinations that you may never have the chance to visit again – traveling up the west coast of Italy, island-hopping in the Caribbean, whale-watching in Alaska. It’s an all-inclusive vacation complete with food, entertainment and an ocean view.

Like all types of travel, cruising has its highs and its lows and you should be prepared for anything. To help keep you on your toes, we’ve put together this list of some of the biggest cruising mishaps in recent history.

Man Overboard

In the past several years, there have been reports of people going missing from cruise ships, and when their body is never found, the assumption is usually that they fell overboard. Such was the case in 2009 when a passenger aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line was seen jumping off the ship in the Bahamas. After a thorough search, the Coast Guard called off the operation. Since 2005, 152 cruise and ferry passengers and crew have been reported as going overboard, according to

Missing the Boat

There is always the fear that you’ll miss a departure because of oversleeping, but what about a day trip that is delayed on its return trip due to traffic? Generally, excursions provided by the cruise line know the appropriate time to start heading back to port (about 2 hours before you’re scheduled to depart). Many travelers go off on their own or plan another excursion not provided by the cruise line. It can be done, just don’t lose track of time.

On-Board Outbreaks

In 2010 and early 2011, the Coast Guard responded to several distress calls from cruise ships with sick passengers. According to Cruise Law News, the US Coast Guard spends millions each year rescuing sick passengers from cruise ships. Unfortunately, the rescues don't always go as planned--one sick grandmother was dropped into the Arctic when paramedics attempted to move her to a boat that could take her to the hospital. Avoid a rescue by following the same rules for keeping your body healthy that you would at home. Wash your hands often, and don’t touch door handles if you can help it. Remember, you're on a cruise ship and there aren’t many places for those germs to go, aside from jumping overboard.

Pirate Attacks

Since 2005, cruise ships have tried to avoid contact with pirates off the east coast of Africa. 2010 was the worst year for pirate attacks on cruise lines and commercial vessels, according to CNN. On January 13, 2011, the Spirit of Adventure, a British cruise ship traveling from Mauritius to Mombasa, Kenya, avoided a potential pirate attack after the captain alerted the naval authorities once he spotted a small boat speeding toward the cruise ship. Most pirate attacks occur on the Indian Ocean. Seychelles, a popular island destination, sits right in the middle of this large ocean.

Rough Seas

There is nothing like being knocked out of your bed, thinking you’re having a nightmare, only to realize it’s a 30-foot wave caused by 60-mph winds. That was the situation on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas as it was traveling through the Mediterranean off the coast of Egypt. The ship sustained minor damage, broken windows and misplaced furniture, but more than 100 passengers were injured. Repairs have been made to the Brilliance of the Seas and it’s back to operating on a normal schedule.

Stranded at Sea

One of the most memorable stories of 2010 was of the Carnival Splendor’s engine fire, which occurred in early-November 2010 off the coast of Baja, CA. The fire left 4,500 passengers and crew members adrift at sea for several days without hot water but plenty of Spam sandwiches. In early 2011, the Carnival Splendor will be moved to another dock in San Francisco to receive further repairs.

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