Cruise Ship Disasters - MSC Poesia Following the spectacle of the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise industry is starting its campaign to convince the public that cruising is safe notwithstanding the terrifying and grotesque images of the stricken ship.

Pro-cruise trade organizations line the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") will claim that incidents like this are "rare" and will characterize the Costa Concordia as a "freak" accident.  But in truth this incident is just the latest cruise disaster in a long line of disasters.

One week ago, Italian cruise liner the MSC Poesia ran aground into a reef in the Bahamas while sailing to Port Lucaya near Freeport, Bahamas.  You can read about that incident here – MSC Poesia Destroys Reef in the Bahamas – Cruise Ship with 26′ Draft Sailed Into 15′ Waters

The 93,000-ton cruise ship needs twenty-five feet of draft but sailed into only fifteen (15) feet of water. Fortunately for the cruise ship (and unfortunately for the priceless and irreplaceable reef), the vessel ground the fragile reef into bits.  MSC was not able to get off the reef until high tide. But the incident did not stop the cruise ship from tendering cruise passengers to Port Lucaya to enjoy themselves at the beach.  Once high tide freed the ship, the Poesia sailed off as if nothing Cruise Ship Disaster  - Costs Europahappened.  Few people in the media reported on this near disaster. 

It takes deaths and destruction  to focus the media on problems in the cruise industry. 

There have been two serious collisions of Costa cruise ships in the last two years.

In February 2010, the Costa Europa cruise ship collided with a pier in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  The allision ripped a hole in the hull of the ship and flooded a crew cabin, resulting in the death of three crew members and injury to four passengers.  Photographs of the Costa Europa show the vessel listing heavily on its port side, in order to keep water pouring into the large opening on the starboard side.  You can read about that incident here  – Costa Europa Collides With Pier in Egypt – Three Crew Dead, Passengers Injured

In October 2010, the Costa Classica cruise ship collided with a cargo vessel, the Belgian registered bulk carrier Lowlands Longevity, at the mouth of the Yangtze River.  The ship suffered a long gash over 60 feet long in its side and several passengers were injured.  You can read about that Costa cruise ship crash here: New Photographs Reveal Extent of Damage to Costa Classica

In addition to these collisions, an engine room fire broke out onboard the Costa Romantica near Uruguay in February 2009.  A year earlier, in may 2008, there was a dangerous near-collision between the Costa Atlantica and a cargo ship, the Grand Neptune, where the captain of the Costa cruise ship was heavily criticized.  You can read the UK Marine accident report here. (There is speculation that Captain Schettino was at the vessel’s captain at the time.)

Cruise Ship Disaster - Costs ClassicaThe parent company of Costa is Carnival cruise line which has had more than its fair share of disasters.

The U.S. Coast Guard blasted Carnival for its negligence following the November 2010 fire aboard the Carnival Splendor cruise ship when the cruise line’s fire suppression system malfunctioned.  The Splendor was a relatively new cruise ship manufactured in Italy.  The fire caused the failure of all of the generators on the cruise ship which stranded over 3,500 passengers on the high seas off the coast of Mexico.  "Coast Guard Blasts Carnival Splendor for Fire Negligence"

The U.S. Navy sent an aircraft carrier to the scene and the U.S. Coast Guard had to tow the stricken cruise ship back to the U.S., at the U.S. tax payer’s expense.

Plus consider the following serious events:

Fires Breaks Out On Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship – December 2011.

Star Princess Cruise Ship Fire - 2006Over 1200 Passengers Rescued from Burning Ferry in the Red Sea, One Dead & Many Injured – November 2011

Fire & Rough Weather Mar Queen Mary 2 Cruise – October 2011

Cruise Ship Fire in Norway Kills Two – September 2011

Explosion Rocks Port in Gibraltar – Independence of the Seas Avoids Damage – May 2011 

First Mexican Cruise Ship Catches on Fire – April 2011

Engine Room Fire Aboard MSC Cruises’ Musica Cruise Ship – December 2010

Over 200 Passengers Rescued From Burning Ferry in Baltic Sea – October 2010

Power Outage on Queen Mary 2 Due to Catastrophic Explosion – September 2010

Fire Breaks Out On Cruise Ship In Norway – May 2010

Sun Vista Cruise Ship FireAll of this occurred in the last two years!  In May of 2010, I chronicled the series of serious cruise disasters back over the last decade – Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires – Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?  If you are going to read one story on this blog, it is this one – the dangerous history of cruise ship fires dating from the Princess Cruises Star Princess fire in 2006 to the fire and sinking of the Sun Vista earlier in the1990’s.

So as you digest the disturbing story of the renegade captain working for a cruise line with numerous recent casualties and the photos of the luxury liner on its side, don’t let the cruise industry fool you into believing that this is an isolated accident.   


Don’t miss watching: Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos (to be updated)

On a lighter note:  Tina Fey’s Honeymoon Ruined By Cruise Ship Fire?


Photo credits:

MSC Poesia – shipwrecklog

Costa Europa cruise ship – AP (Hussien Talal) via Mail Online

Costa Classica – EPA via Mail Online  

  • Gabs

    Scary. I think Radiance OTS had a small fender bender with another cruise ship in early 2010.

  • Scott Lara


    With all due respect, millions of people around the world have enjoyed the cruise experience. Many people (like myself and my wife) have cruised time and time again without incident.

    While the incidents you present are troubling, would it be best for people to stay in the warm and comfort of their own homes only to be poisoned by Radon and Chinese Made poisonous building materials?

    I am thankful to the cruise industry for providing many wonderful memories and the opportunity to travel.

    Scott Lara @scottlara1961 on Twitter

  • Mandy


    I agree with you in that people shouldn’t shut themselves off from experiences and the cruise industry does offer wonderful vacation opportunities. However, I believe the public should have access all information and make an educated decision about the company they choose to travel with, it’s history and the emphasis it places on safety.

    I think if the public were aware of how incredibly vulnerable they are at sea, a greater number of guests would take things like boat drills more seriously and be more aware of their actions, eg. smoking onboard.

    Being an ex-crew member, I would like to point out that just because you are unaware of any incidents, doesn’t mean that they don’t occur.

    For many reasons announcements are not broadcast to guests telling them when there is an issue onboard. I can tell you that throughout my last contract, there was at least one incident every week, usually medical, less often fire.

    In it’s first year of operation, one of the largest cruise ships in the world had issues with repeated fires onboard. This vessel is brand new, had it’s maiden voyage within the last 4 years. Scary, unacceptable but sadly true. Due to the quick acting and well educated crew, all were contained without incident. Thankfully.

    I’m not saying this to deter anyone from cruising. Even after working at sea I still love cruising but I am very selective about the companies I am willing to travel with. Safety first :o)

  • I was already resigned to the fact that I was never going on a cruise because of my fear of open seas and boats but now I am NEVER going on one! It’s like the titanic all over again, how terrifying.

  • Dayschris

    I think it is funny how everytime something happens on a cruise ship everyone brings up the past. Accidents happen, this this one absolutely avoidable, but they do happen.
    I have worked on ships for the last 6 years and never had I felt unsafe. There are systems in place to cover all types of emergencies, however never do you think that you will be evacuating a ship while it’s on it’s side, well I guess until now.

    I believe that the crew did everything they could for the PAX on the Concordia, you must remember we are all human and when you feel your life is at risk sometimes even for a split second you think about yourself.

    I commend the Officers and Crew of the Concordia, they did everything they could for those PAX and now everyone is saying how useless they were. Wait for all the information to come in before you judge and think about how many PAX were saved, they didn’t get ashore with buckets and shovels, they were SAVED!

  • Gabs

    Dayschris, some of the things you’ve said seem worded exactly like the letter the Concordia GSM wrote 2 days ago.
    In any case I agree, having been a crew member for a different major cruiseline, I can understand how most of the crew could’ve done the best they could given the situation. That’s what they trained us for (although many don’t take it seriously -crew and guests-) I think the incompetence came from the officers on the bridge (Captain, 1st and 2nd officers, etc). There doesn’t seem to have been any structured line of command during evacuation. Even before, instead of calling everyone to their muster stations JUST IN CASE, people were told it was an electrical problem and they shouldn’t worry. Those were 45-60 minutes wasted in which the ship wasn’t listing yet.

  • Dayschris

    Like the Titanic??? 1,517 died when the Titanic went down, the death count is at 11 for the Concordia.

    This tragedy could have been avoided yes, but don’t compare it to the Titanic, it is very very different!

  • Sue Thompson

    Cruise Radio 18 minute talk featuring Ian Donoff, A passenger aboard Costa Concordia.

    In second half of broadcast he shares the timeline of events and about the evacuation process.

  • SirWired

    “There is speculation that Captain Schettino was at the vessel’s captain at the time.”

    What unmitigated mealy-mouthed, (incorrect), B.S. If you had done about two minutes of research, you would have seen that the linked report has the biography of the officers of the Europa, and that that biography does not match up with Schettino’s bio.