Tragic List: Discover How Many Cruise Ships Have Sunk Throughout History

How Many Cruise Ships Have Sunk: Millions of people choose cruise ships for their vacations every year because they provide opulent amenities, thrilling activities, and the chance to see several places in one journey. But sometimes people doubt these enormous floating hotels’ safety, especially when you consider that they might sink.

There have been very few cruise ships that have sunk in the past century. Because of the safety procedures followed by the cruise liner industry, most or all of the passengers and crew survive when a cruise ship sinks.

How Many Cruise Ships Have Sunk

Only twenty-four cruise ships—both river and ocean liners—have sunk since 1912. It’s important to remember that some cruise ship capsizings happen while the ship was being towed or berthed.

Because cruise ships are built sturdy and have current safety mechanisms, we can explain why there aren’t many cruise ship sinkings.

Today’s cruise ships are extremely resistant to sinking because of their emphasis on safety throughout construction. Modern cruise ships are outfitted with a plethora of safety precautions to preserve as many lives as possible in the event of an unfortunate disaster.

Consequently, the death toll from these kinds of incidents is usually rather low.

Sadly, several people lost their lives in some of the first sinkings.

Since 1912, a cruise ship has sunk an average of once every 4.5 years, underscoring how uncommon these incidents are. However, as safety and technology advance and we continue to learn from past tragedies, the number of cruise ship disasters is declining.

While cruise ship sinkings are uncommon, there have been a few famous cases, like the Titanic and the Costa Concordia catastrophe. However, despite these high-profile incidents, the cruise industry does have a remarkable overall safety record.

What percentage of cruise ships sink?

Temperature of the Water when Titanic Sank, how cold was the water when titanic sank, water temperature when titanic sank
(Credit: Historic UK)

It’s critical to realize that cruise ship sinkings are quite uncommon. There have only been 22 cruise ship sinkings in the last 100 years.

Still, a number of shipwrecks happened while docked or being towed. Given the quantity of cruise ships that are in operation all year round, cruise ship sinkings are quite unusual.

Many safety precautions included into contemporary cruise ships reduce the possibility of a sinking. Strict rules and inspections also contribute to the high standard of safety that is maintained on these boats. Cruise ship sinkings are uncommon, which is partly due to these efforts and technological developments.

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In contrast to this total, cruise ships in particular have an even lower frequency of sinking. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of cruise ship sinkings in the recent past, it is widely accepted that these incidents are uncommon and do not pose a serious threat to passengers.

In conclusion, the rarity of cruise ship sinkings can be attributed to stringent safety rules and contemporary technology. Travelers may relax knowing that their cruise ship experiences will be stable and safe.

Do Cruise Ships Sink Frequently?

Because of stringent restrictions and advanced safety systems, cruise ships seldom sink. In the last century, there have only been 20 cruise ship sinkings.

It is noteworthy that not all of these sinkings contained passengers or caused a sizable number of casualties.

The frequency of cruise ship sinkings has decreased due to advances in navigation technology.

Are Cruise Ships Capable of Sinking?

Cruise ships do occasionally sink, but this is extremely uncommon.

Contemporary cruise ships come with cutting-edge safety technologies that reduce the chance of capsizing. In addition, watertight compartments and improved hull construction keep a ship from absorbing too much water. Cruise ship crew members are also regularly trained in safety exercises and emergency procedures.

Despite these safety precautions, 24 cruise ships and ocean liners have sunk since the RMS Titanic disaster in 1912.

In spite of the disconcerting prospect of a cruise ship sinking, safety remains the cruise industry’s top priority. Compared to other means of transportation, passengers may travel with peace of mind on one of the safest modes.

When Did a Cruise Ship Most Recently Sink?

The last time a cruise ship capsized while carrying people on board was the Costa Concordia, which grounded in Italy in 2012. Thirty-four people perished when the Italian cruise liner struck rocks and subsequently capsized. The accusations made against the ship’s crew, especially Captain Francesco Schettino, who is currently serving a 16-year manslaughter term, made the incident noteworthy as well.

To provide the highest level of security for its patrons, the cruise industry has enacted a number of safety rules and procedures in recent years. These modifications have greatly decreased the quantity of mishaps and sinkings, which has helped to explain why we don’t hear about them as frequently.

Why Do Ships Stay Afloat?

Silversea Cruises
(Credit: Travel + Leisure)

Even while cruise ships, in particular, might be extraordinarily large buildings, their purpose is to float on water with ease. It is because of the buoyancy principle that cruise ships may float. Any object submerged in a fluid (such as water) experiences an upward force equal to the weight of the fluid the object has displaced. This is known as Archimedes’ principle, or the physical law of buoyancy.

The hull form of a ship is a major component that affects its buoyancy. Because of their wide, flat bottoms, ships are able to move a lot of water. This displacement produces an upward force that balances the ship’s weight.

If the density of the cruise ship is lower than that of the water, it will still float.

Steel and aluminum are two examples of strong, lightweight materials used in ships that offer structural support while maintaining a low overall density. In addition, the hull is separated into waterproof sections so that, in the event of damage, water does not flood the entire ship. This design keeps cruise ships from toppling over and aids in maintaining the ship’s buoyancy.

Preventing a ship from capsizing also depends on its stability. A low center of gravity is a feature of ship design. Heavy parts of the ship, including engines and fuel tanks, are located in the lowermost part of the structure to provide a low center of gravity. Even in choppy waters, the ship will stay upright and steady thanks to the design philosophy.

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Overview of How Many Cruise Ships Have Sunk Throughout History

Ship Name Year Sunk Vessel Type Reason for Sinking Casualties
RMS Titanic 1912 Ocean Liner Collision with iceberg 1,517
RMS Empress of Ireland 1914 Ocean Liner Collision with the Norwegian SS Storstad during thick fog 1,012
RMS Lusitania 1915 Ocean Liner Hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat 1,198
HMHS Britannic 1916 Ocean Liner (converted to a hospital ship during WWI) Struck a German naval mine during service as a hospital ship during WWI 30
SS Principessa Mafalda 1927 Ocean Liner A broken propeller shaft fractured the vessel’s hull. 314
MS Georges Philippar 1932 Ocean Liner A malfunctioning light switch started a fire in one of the luxury cabins. 54
SS Morro Castle 1934 Ocean Liner A fire that is believed to be caused by faulty electric circuitry. 137
Empress of Britain 1940 Ocean Liner Hit by two 250kg bombs during WWII 45
SS Andrea Doria 1956 Ocean Liner Collision with another ocean liner, Stockholm. 46
Bianca C 1944 &1961 Ocean Liner First sunk during WWII before being refitted into an ocean liner. The ship sunk once again in 1961 after an engine room explosion. 1
Angelina Lauro 1979 Cruise Ship Caught fire while berthed in Saint Thomas. 0
MS Mikhail Lermentov 1986 Ocean Liner Collision with rocks. 1
SS Admiral Nakhimov 1945 &1986 Ocean Liner Struck a mine during WWII. After WWII, the Soviet Union attempted to raise the vessel, only for it to sink again after an explosion from mines planted by the Germans in the vessels’ hull. In 1986, the ship sank for a third time after a collision with the bulk carrier Pyotr Vasev. 123
MV Jupiter 1988 Cruise Ship Collision with an Italian freight ship. 4
Achille Lauro 1994 Cruise Ship A fire caused by a discarded cigarette. 2
MTS Oceanos 1991 Cruise Ship Broken ventilation pipe causing excess flooding. 0
Sun Vista 1999 Cruise Ship Engine room fire. 0
SS SeaBreeze 2000 Cruise Ship Sank due to damages received from the boiler breaking off 0
Britanis 2000 Cruise Ship The vessel took on water and capsized while under two towards the shipbreak yard. 0
MS Sea Diamond 2007 Cruise Ship Ran aground near the Greek island of Santorini. 2
MV Explorer 2007 Cruise Ship Collision with an iceberg. 0
Costa Concordia 2012 Cruise Ship Capsized off the coast of Italy after running aground. 34
Ocean Dream 2016 Struck a mine during WWII. After WWII, the Soviet Union attempted to raise the vessel, only for it to sink again after an explosion from mines planted by the Germans in the vessel’s hull. In 1986, the ship sank for a third time after a collision with the bulk carrier Pyotr Vasev. The ship capsized and sank after being abandoned for around one year. 0
Orient Queen 2020 Cruise Ship While docked without passengers, the ship sank due to damage sustained from a nearby ammonium nitrate explosion. 2

1912’s RMS Titanic

Titanic tickets cost
(Credit: Britannica)

On April 15, 1912, the British passenger ship RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. When the ship struck an iceberg on its first trip from Southampton, UK, to New York City, it sank. Out of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew, 1,517 are thought to have perished in the accident.

The Titanic was regarded as an engineering wonder when it was built and was the largest ship ever to sail. With more than 2,200 passengers and crew members on board, she sailed for her maiden transatlantic voyage. Despite multiple alerts of icebergs up ahead on April 14, the Titanic proceeded to travel at a speed of 22 knots.

Lookouts noticed an iceberg on the ship’s course just before midnight. The Titanic suffered damage below the waterline when she met the iceberg on her starboard side due to her inability to turn quickly enough.

It was obvious the ship would sink when water began to fill it. There was a significant death toll from the Titanic accident because there were not enough lifeboats and the water was quite cold. Laws about maritime safety have significantly improved as a result of the disaster.

Empress of Ireland in 1914

Early on May 29, 1914, in the thick fog, the ocean liner RMS Empress of Ireland collided with another ship and sank in Canada’s St. Lawrence River.

There were 1,477 passengers and staff members on board the Empress as it traveled from Quebec City to Liverpool. The Norwegian collier Storstad struck the Empress, causing significant damage and rapid submersion. Despite hasty attempts to evacuate passengers, the ship sank in about fourteen minutes. The accident claimed 1,012 lives from those on board, making it the deadliest marine accident to occur in Canadian history during a peacetime.

1915’s RMS Lusitania

On May 7, 1915, during World War I, a German U-boat torpedo sank the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania, killing 1,198 people—passengers and crew. The Cunard Line-owned Lusitania was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland when it was making her 202 transatlantic voyage from New York to Liverpool.

A second explosion burst from the ship’s hull shortly after the torpedo hit. Due to the significant damage and degree of listing, only six lifeboats were able to descend from the starboard side of the ship.

The ship sank around eighteen minutes after the torpedo hit. Seventy-six out of the 1,962 passengers and crew on board the Lusitania made it out alive.

The RMS Lusitania was allegedly carrying 173 tons of weapons and ammunition, according to the German authorities. Apart from the small arms ammunition listed on the ship’s military cargo, the British government disputes that the ocean liner carried any war weaponry.

1916’s HMHS Britannic

HMHS Britannic was the third and largest Olympic-class ocean liner that White Star Line operated. Constructed as a transatlantic passenger liner, the ship was launched shortly before the outbreak of World War I.

Before Britannic could be used for passenger travel following the start of the war, the British Admiralty seized her and renamed her Britannic as a hospital ship. The Britannic ran into a naval mine that a German U-boat had planted while it was in the Aegean Sea in November 1916.

In approximately 55 minutes, the explosion destroyed much of the ship and caused serious damage. Despite the sinking’s rapid pace, the prompt evacuation saved 1,030 lives. 30 persons sadly lost their lives in the sinking.

1927’s Principessa Mafalda

Off the coast of Brazil in 1927, the Italian transatlantic liner SS Principessa Mafalda sank. The ship departed on her 14-day voyage after a technical delay.

The ship made multiple stops in the ocean during the voyage, indicating that it was not in good shape. The breakage of the starboard propeller shaft on October 25 resulted in numerous hull gashes.

The ship started to absorb water, and the watertight doors could not be closed all the way. It took the ship more than four hours to sink completely. However, miscommunication resulted in 314 fatalities.

1932-Georges Philippar

In 1932, the French passenger liner Georges Philippar caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Aden, killing fifty-four people. On May 16, during her inaugural journey off the coast of Italian Somaliland, Mme Valentin’s opulent cabin’s wood paneling caught fire due to a malfunctioning light switch.

The fire was allowed to spread quickly since there was a delay in reporting it. Captain Vicq tried to put out the fire and beach the ship, but things worsened.

The engine rooms were evacuated, leaving the Georges Philippar adrift. The captain issued a distress call and told the crew and passengers to get off the ship. The French ship Andre Lebon, the two British cargo ships Mahsud and Contractor, and the Soviet tanker Sovietskaïa Neft were the three neighboring vessels that came to the rescue.

Rescuers were able to save 698 people. 54 people died, nevertheless, some of them from desperate jumps overboard.

1934’s SS Morro Castle

On September 7, 1934, at around three in the morning, a fire broke out on board the opulent ocean liner SS Morro Castle, which was traveling from Havana to New York City. Strong winds contributed to the fire’s rapid out-of-control spread.

Chaos broke out as terrified passengers had to decide whether to leap into the sea or stay on the blazing ship, even as efforts were made to put out the fire and launch lifeboats. The ruined Morro Castle ran aground close to Asbury Park, New Jersey, after only six hours.

Only 312 of the 549 occupants, including the crew, made it out alive.

Following investigations, it became clear that a lack of training and preparation for fire safety contributed to the shockingly high death toll. The burned-out wreck, which served as a somber reminder of the horror everyone on board had to endure, remained on the beach until 1935.

The fatal incident made it clear that ocean liners need to strengthen their fireproofing, safety exercises, and crew training.

Empress of Britain – 1940

Empress of Britain

The Canadian Pacific Steamship Company, which the Canadian Pacific Railway and the RMS Empress of Britain owned, transported people and soldiers across the Atlantic during World War II.

The German submarine U-32 fired two torpedoes at the Empress of Britain early on October 26, 1940, as it was cruising roughly 450 miles west of Ireland. The damage was too great, leading the ship to list badly in spite of efforts to prevent flooding.

Lifeboats were hastily lowered into the darkness after the order to evacuate the ship, with some capsizing in the confusion as flares lit up the sky. British navy ships saved 1,259 people from the sinking liner, but 45 unfortunate people perished in the early explosions or drowned.

The graceful British Empress had disappeared under the seas by sunrise, exposing civilian ships to Germany’s merciless submarine warfare techniques.

Andrea Doria – 1956

In July 1956, the Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria carried more than 1,700 passengers and crew members on a normal trip from Italy to New York. In extremely foggy conditions, the Andrea Doria and the Swedish ship Stockholm collided on July 25, off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Below the waterline, the Stockholm’s bow caused catastrophic damage by severing passenger compartments and stabbing into Andrea Doria’s side. Ten hours later, in excess of 200 feet of water, the mortally damaged Andrea Doria sank in spite of attempts to contain flooding.

Thankfully, 1,660 individuals made it out of the lifeboats. Nevertheless, 46 people died as a result of impact injuries and drowned during the intense crash.

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1961’s Bianca C

The ship Bianca C is special since it sank twice. The first sinking occurred during World War II when a German-operated passenger ferry was sunk.

Before it sank in 1961, the ship’s hull was lifted and converted into a cruise liner.

With more than 600 passengers and crew, the Italian cruise liner Bianca C sailed from Grenada to Italy overnight on September 22, 1961. An explosion in the engine room at midnight caused a fire that swiftly spread throughout the ship.

The captain gave the order for the staff and passengers to leave the burning ship as smoke filled the halls. As other ships raced to help, liferafts and lifeboats were lowered into the murky tropical waters. While the majority of passengers safely evacuated the Bianca C, one staff member unfortunately perished in the explosion. However, the crew and all other passengers made it out safely.

1979 Angelina Lauro

In March 1979, Costa Lines acquired the aging Italian ocean liner Angelina Lauro. When the new cruise line was chartering the ship, it caught fire while berthed in Saint Thomas.

After burning for a few days, the ship was declared completely destroyed. The fire did not claim any lives.

1986’s MS Mikhail Lermentov

Around 1,000 guests and crew perished when the Soviet cruise ship Mikhail Lermentov struck rocks and sank off the coast of New Zealand on February 16, 1986. During the frantic evacuation, the chief electrical engineer sadly drowned, although no passengers were lost.

In a matter of hours, rescue ships and aircraft safely evacuated everyone else on board the sinking ship before it submerged beneath the water. A subsequent investigation found that inadequate navigation had caused the enormous ship to veer dangerously near the rocky reef in low light, rupturing a huge hole in the hull and quickly flooding the liner.

1986’s SS Admiral Nakhimov

On our list, SS Admiral Nakhimov has the most intriguing tale. The ship has sunk three times in total.

It served as a hospital ship for Germany during World War II before being lost.

The ship was turned up to the Soviet Union as payment for reparations. The Germans had hidden mines in the ship’s hull, which detonated and caused the ship to sink a second time, despite Soviet attempts to retrieve its hull.

On August 31, 1986, the SS Admiral Nakhimov sank for the third and last time. In the Black Sea, close to the Strait of Kerch, the Soviet passenger liner and the bulk freighter Pyotr Vasev collided. Admiral Nakhimov’s hull sustained a huge hole from the accident, which quickly caused the ship to flood.

When the electricity went out, the evacuation process became disorganized due to a lack of lifeboats and inadequate leadership. The Admiral Nakhimov sank after capizing in thirty minutes. Sadly, more than 423 people perished.

1988’s MV Jupiter

The British roll-on/roll-off ferry MV Jupiter and the tanker Phoenix II collided on June 21, 1975, as the two were traveling from Dover to Zeebrugge across the English Channel. The accident caused catastrophic flooding by rupturing open the car deck of the MV Jupiter.

The majority of the 585 passengers and crew were evacuated as the Jupiter began to list alarmingly. Tragically, two passengers—a teacher and a student—as well as two crew members perished.

1988 Achille Lauro

As the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro sailed off Somalia on November 30, 1994, a destructive engine room fire broke out and swiftly got out of control. Tragically, during a nocturnal emergency evacuation, two passengers perished.

Rescue ships and aircraft were able to successfully evacuate all remaining passengers and crew from the burning liner. The ship sank following two days of fierce firefighting.

An engine room explosion was found to be the cause of the safety systems’ deactivation.

MTS Oceanos – 1991

The Greek cruise liner Oceanos sank off the coast of South Africa on August 3, 1991, as a result of severe waves that broke a ventilation pipe. It’s thought that a poor repair made the pipe susceptible to impacts.

A broken ventilation pipe was to blame for the severe flooding. The captain and a few other crew members left the ship as soon as they realized it was sinking.

Amazingly, the entertainment crew stepped up and assisted guests in getting off the sinking ship. Over the following two days, nearby vessels saved all 571 people.

Sun Vista (1999)

The Sun Vista, a cruise liner from Malaysia, capsized in the Malacca Strait on August 8, 1999, due to extreme listing caused by an engine room fire that took off power. The well-trained crew quickly boarded lifeboats with all of the passengers and crew after making a call for assistance from nearby ships.

SeaBreeze (2000)

A catastrophic mechanical failure caused the cruise ship Seabreeze I to swiftly sink on December 17, 2000, when it was sailing about 225 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia. The 21,000 GT, 9-deck passenger ship had just been purchased by Cruise Ventures III, who was traveling from Halifax to Charleston when the catastrophe occurred.

According to reports, the boiler broke away, seriously injuring the engine room of the ship and resulting in significant flooding. The captain yelled “abandon ship” as the 40-year-old Seabreeze quickly began to take on water, requesting that the 34 crew members be rescued right away.

There was a lot of suspicion surrounding the sinking since some people thought it was intentional. The old Seabreeze had a $20 million insurance policy even though its scrap value was probably about $5–6 million.

The vessel capsized in international seas. Maritime authorities questioned Panama’s thoroughness and were dismayed when the ship, which was flying the flag of another country, sank in international waters. This placed Panamanian jurisdiction over the probe.

The captain’s decision to abandon the ship rather than try to salvage it also raised suspicion.

Rescuers from the US Coast Guard thought it was extremely unusual that the ship could sink that quickly. The captain insisted on a full evacuation instead of asking for salvage tugs, which shocked the Coast Guard.

Britannis (2000)

The Britanis experienced a leak in the ship’s rear while en route to an Indian scrapyard. The boat’s owners let it sink after determining that fixing the leak would be too expensive.

The boat was being pulled by tug boats with no one on board. Additionally, no one was hurt in the incident.

2007’s MS Sea Diamond

MS Sea Diamond
(Credit: History wiki)

Sea Diamond sank on April 5, 2007, after going off course and hitting coral near Santorini. When the ship lost power and listed, the crew quickly rescued nearly all 1,195 passengers.

Tragically, two passengers perished in the sinking. The damaged Sea Diamond had submerged in 500 feet of water by the afternoon.

The captain was first accused of veering dangerously near to shore during the investigation; however, it was later found that the area’s maritime charts were erroneous. The boat came aground 131 meters from shore, while the reef was shown on the map as 57 meters.

2007’s MV Explorer

The cruise ship MV Explorer struck an iceberg early on November 23, 2007, causing it to sink off the coast of Antarctica. The iceberg tore open the ship’s hull, resulting in catastrophic flooding.

The well-trained crew quickly evacuated all 154 passengers and crew members onto lifeboats as the crippled ship lost power and leaned precariously close to King George Island. A great emergency reaction saved every life in the dramatic sinking in icy Antarctic waters.

After a five-hour drift on the lift rafts, MS Nordnorge recovered all 154 survivors.

2012’s Costa Concordia

Costa Concordia sinking
(Credit: National post)

On January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship was wrecked off Giglio Island, Italy. Leaving Civitavecchia in Lazio, the ship, carrying 4,252 people from all over the world, struck a reef during an unofficial salute to local islanders.
The Costa Concordia crashed off the Italian island of Giglio on January 13, 2012, killing around 4,252 passengers and crew. A 951-foot cruise liner veered off course and approached too closely.

The impact that ripped a 160-foot gash in the hull led to significant listing and partial sinking.

Despite the ship’s lifeboats, helicopters, and ships, 34 people died in the chaotic aftermath.

Captain Francesco Schettino caused the incident by carelessly deviating from the course. Authorities convicted him of manslaughter and he is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence.

2016’s Ocean Dream

After the owner of the cruise ship went bankrupt in 2015, the Ocean Dream was abandoned without a crew or maintenance personnel at Laem Chabang, Sri Racha, Thailand. In February 2016, the abandoned ship overturned and sank in shallow waters off the coast.

There were unsuccessful attempts to raise the sunken ship. The authorities decided to disassemble and demolish the Ocean Dream on location instead of refloating it. By the end of 2019, the disaster’s visible remnants had been disassembled and salvaged, leaving only the bottom hull of the wreck on the seafloor.

2020’s Orient Queen

The cruise ship Orient Queen suffered terrible damage 1,000 feet away from the big 2020 explosion that tore through Beirut’s dock. The strong blast wave severely damaged the Orient Queen’s hull, which also caused fires to spread, killing two crew members and injuring seven others.

The abandoned cruise ship capsized where it was parked, terminating its 40-year cruise career over the following 48 hours. It was not possible to salvage it.

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