Whether you are about to embark on a cruise ship or have watched movies like the Titanic, a question that might pop into your head is how many cruise ships have sunk and how often this happens.
There have been many deadly cruise ship incidents in maritime history that shocked the world. From the Titanic to Costa Concordia, many cruise ships have sunk in the past.
If this is your first sailing or exploring maritime history, you will have many questions.
In this article, I will share the list of cruise ships that have sunk in the past and how often this happens. Finally, if something unfortunate happens, you will also see if modern-day cruise ships have enough safety measures.
How Many Cruise Ships Have Sunk?
Since 1900, only 16 cruise ships have sunk. This includes ocean liners and river cruises as well. The Costa Concordia is the biggest cruise ship to sink in the last 100 years. But no sinking was as severe and deadly as the Titanic’s.
If cruise ships, ocean liners, and river cruises are considered, the number will be well over 16.
Not all cruise ships were sunk when they were sailing. Many cruise ships, ocean liners, and river cruises were sunk while being towed or berthed.
For example, the latest cruise ship sinking of Orient Queen was when the ship was berthed in Beirut. Since the ship had no passengers onboard, only two crew members were killed in the event.
Ship sinking is very rare, and when it happens, not many lives are lost, as all leading modern-day cruise ships are equipped with safety measures like lifeboats and other facilities to save every passenger and crew onboard.
Only three times in the last 50 to 60 years have passengers lost their lives.
In short, cruise ships are designed and built, so they don’t sink that easily, and if something unfortunate happens, there are enough safety measures to save the maximum number of lives.
How Often Do Cruise Ships Sink?
As 16 cruise ships have sunk in the last century, we can assume a ship sinks every 6 years. But since most of the sinkings do not involve passengers onboard, major casualties are rarely reported.
The numbers differ slightly depending on the type of vessel you are referring to, like cruise ships, river cruises, and oceanliners.
The maritime industry has learned a lot from previous ship wreckages and sinking, resulting in building modern-day cruise ships with a rare chance to sink.
One thing to note is that most cruise ships were sunk when there were no passengers onboard, avoiding many casualties.
In short, a ship is sunk only once in 6 to 8 years, and major casualties are reported only once in 20 years.
List Of Sunken Cruise Ships Till 2023
The table below summarizes the list of all cruise ships that sunk in the last century.
|Ship Name||Vessel Type||Death Reported||Year Sunk|
|RMS Titanic||Ocean Liner||1500+||1912|
|RMS Empress of Ireland||Ocean Liner||1014||1914|
|HMHS Britannic||Ocean Liner||30||1916|
|Principessa Mafalda||Ocean Liner||314||1927|
|MS Georges Philippar||Ocean Liner||54||1932|
|SS Andrea Doria||Ocean Liner||46||1956|
|MTS Oceanos||Cruise Ship||0||1991|
|MS Estonia||Cruise ferry||852||1994|
|Sun Vista||Cruise Ship||0||1999|
|SS SeaBreeze||Cruise Ship||0||2000|
|Belofin-1 (SS Monterey)||Cruise Ship||0||2000|
|MS Sea Diamond||Cruise Ship||2||2007|
|MV Explorer||Cruise Ship||0||2007|
|Costa Concordia||Cruise Ship||34||2012|
|Dongfang Zhi Xing||River Cruise||442||2015|
|Orient Queen||Cruise Ship||2||2020|
Note: The table above includes cruise ships, ocean liners, river cruises, and cruise ferries.
When Was The Last time A Cruise Ship Sank?
The last cruise ship to sink was Orient Queen on August 4, 2020. The ship sank due to the ammonium nitrate explosion while it was at its berth. Since the cruise ship was moored at its berth, no passengers were onboard. But the event killed two crew members and several people injured.
2,775 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the Port of Beirut exploded, damaging many vessels docked at the port, including the Orient Queen. 218 people were killed, and thousands were injured during the event.
On top of all that, $15 billion worth of property was damaged.
Major Cruise Ships That Sank
Let’s now take a look at all the cruise ships that ever sank and the cause of the sinking.
The Titanic is an oceanliner.
Titanic needs no introduction. Everyone knows about the Titanic sinking on its maiden voyage in 1912.
The Titanic started its journey from Southampton, England, and on its way, it collided with an iceberg and sank completely. The vessel cracked in half before sinking and hitting the ocean floor.
The RMS Titanic was an ocean liner operated by White Star Line.
This tragic incident killed 1,500+ passengers and crew on board. Since the water temperature was too low, people could not survive on the water for longer. Furthermore, it’s said that the Titanic didn’t have enough lifeboats for all passengers.
The famous movie Titanic is based on the true story of the Titanic sinking.
RMS Empress of Ireland
The RMS Empress of Ireland, aka Empress of Ireland, sank on May 29, 1914, after colliding with a Norwegian collier ship Storstad.
At the time of its sinking, the RMS Empress of Ireland was carrying about 1,500 passengers onboard.
The vessel collided with the other one due to foggy weather conditions affecting visibility.
This maritime disaster took the lives of 1,012 passengers and crew members onboard.
The sister ship of the Titanic and Olympic, HMHS Britannic, or His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Britannic, sank in 1916 after striking a mine.
On November 21, 1916, an explosion happened inside the ship, causing water to let into the watertight compartments.
As time passed, water entered the open portholes on the starboard side. Soon after the water entered the ship, the engine stopped. In about 55th minute, the HMHS Britannic sank. This incident only killed 30 people.
MS Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994 after hitting a storm. The vessel was sailing from Estonia to Sweden.
The sinking of MS Estonia killed 852 people. The cruise ferry was carrying about 989 people, including passengers and crew.
Out of the 989 people, only 137 people survived.
Costa Concordia was the major modern-day cruise ship to sink while on its journey with thousands of passengers and crew onboard.
Costa Concordia hit a reef off the coast of Italy on January 13, 2012. The ship sailed too close to an island, causing the ship to hit an underwater rock, causing the watertight compartments to flood.
At the time of sinking, Costa Concordia was carrying about 4,229 passengers and crew members. This event killed 32 people. This includes 5 crew, 2 salvage team members and 27 passengers.
Later, the captain was found guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment.
Principessa Mafalda was sunk in 1927, killing 314 people, which includes both passengers and crew members.
The vessel’s propeller shaft broke, damaging the hull, and causing the ship to sink mid sea. The incident took place on the coast of Brazil.
Principessa Mafalda is an Italian cruise ship based in Argentina.
Georges Philippar is yet another vessel that sank on its maiden voyage. The French ocean liner was returning after the voyage to Yokohama.
The sinking of Georges Philippar took the lives of 54 people.
A fire broke out in one of the cabins in the Georges Philippar, after a faulty light switch ignited.
In 1956, the sinking of Andrea Doria resulted in the death of 46 passengers and crew members.
While returning, Andrea Doria was hit by a cruise twice the size, causing the ship to sink. The ship sank gradually, allowing more than 1100+ people to escape.
It is said that the people who lost their lives in this event were because of the direct collision with the other ship. The ship only sank completely a day after the collision.
The collision made a good number of lifeboats inaccessible.
The boiler of the SeaBreeze broke off, causing the ship to sink in 2000. The cruise was owned by Costa Cruises and was transferred to Premier Cruises in 1983.
During the incident, only 34 crew members were on board, and luckily no one was injured as everyone was evacuated easily.
Come controversy exists claiming the sinking of SeaBreeze was intentional to claim insurance. The cruise was already out of business and would fetch $6 million as scrap value. But it was insured for $20 million.
An engine room fire made the Sun Vista sink on May 2, 1999. Even though the entire ship sank, no major casualties nor deaths were reported.
The fire in the engine room cut all the power supply, making the ship sink.
Sun Vista also known as SS Galileo Galilei. The cruise was later bought by Sun Cruises and renamed Sun Vista.
MV Jupiter sank on October 21, 1988, just 40 minutes after leaving the Greek port of Piraeus. The event killed 4 out of the 381 schoolchildren and 84 adults.
Soon after leaving the Greek port of Piraeus, MV Jupiter got struck by a freight ship, the Adige. The collision resulted in a massive hole in the port side of MV Jupiter, letting water in.
Soon after the incident, the ship sank vertically and stern in 82 meters.
The Britanis cruise ship was out of business and was being headed to a scrap yard in India. On the way, the ship developed a heavy leak in the aft section.
The repair for fixing the leak was too costly, and she was allowed to sink.
Since no one was inside the cruise ship and it was tugboat, no casualties were reported.
Orient Queen is the latest cruise ship to sink completely. The ship was berthed at the Port of Beirut. The ship sank after a huge ammonium nitrate explosion at the port. Along with Orient Queen, some other ships docked at the port also suffered major damages.
Abou Merhi Grou owned Orient Queen.
Eastern Star is a river cruise officially known as Dongfang zhi Xing that sank in 2015. On its way back to Chongqing, the river cruise caught in a storm and completely sank in a few hours.
The tragic incident took the lives of 442 people out of the 456 people on board the ship. Only 12 people survived.
The crew wasn’t aware of the severe weather condition, causing the deadly tragedy taking the lives of 442 people.
Later after a thorough investigation, more than 40+ people were punished for flaws in the company management.
MTS Oceanos sank on August 3, 1991, after a severe leakage in a ventilation pipe flooded the cruise.
The repairs to the waste disposal system of the MTS Oceanos were not completed before its voyage. This caused the ventilation pipe to burst open and start letting water inside the compartment.
Soon the engine room of the vessel was flooded, and she eventually sank.
All 581 passengers and crew members survived the sinking of MTS Oceanos.
How Many Cruise Ships Sink a Year?
As 16 cruise ships have sunk in the last 100 years, we can say a ship sinks in every 6 to 8 years.
But cruise ships sinking is a rare event as modern day cruise ships are well built and designed not to sink or top over even in extreme conditions.
If you look at the years in which cruise ships sank, you will see a gradual decrease in the frequency and number towards the modern age.
A cruise ship takes all the measures to make the ship not sink, and even if something unfortunate comes along the way, there are enough lifeboats, jackets, etc, to rescue people.
How Do Cruise Ships sink?
In most cases, cruise ship does not sink at all. The vessels are designed in such a way as to handle extreme tides and waves. She will keep floating even in rough weather conditions.
But if the cruise ship collides with external obstacles like rocks, icebergs, etc., they may sink. When a vessel hits an iceberg or rock, the watertight compartments will get flooded, eventually letting water in and sinking the ship completely.
So, unless the ship hits an iceberg or rock, it won’t sink at all.
Modern-day navigation systems in cruise ships are well equipped to avoid any possible obstacles including icebergs, rocks, coral reefs, other vessels, and more.
How Many Carnival Cruise Ships Have Sunk?
Only one carnival cruise ship has sunk in history, the Costa Concordia. The Costa Concordia is a cruise ship from Costa, an Italian cruise company owned and operated by Carnival Corporation.
Even though the Costa Concordia cruise ship does not come directly under Carnival cruises, it is still part of the Carnival Corporation.
In short, no Carnival brand cruise ships have sunk or capsized.
Even though no Carnival cruise ships have sunk, there have been a couple of instances where the vessel’s engine shut down after a fire broke out, and the ship got stranded for many hours.
A fire on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship’s generator made her stranded for hours before being fixed. After the event, the cruise line renamed it Carnival Sunshine.
How Many Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships Have Sunk?
No Royal Caribbean cruise ships have sunk or capsized.
How Many Disney Cruise Ships Have Sunk?
No Disney cruise ships have ever sunk in the past. The history is clear for the Disney cruise line.