Cruise Ship Safety - Lists and Waves

Things you need to know about cruise ship safety before you leave port.

How to prepare for your cruise before you leave port:

• thoroughly research your cruise ship and port destinations before you leave;

• have a family/personal safety plan;

• read the information on the back of your stateroom door;

• keep Life Vests in an area with easy access like your stateroom wardrobe;

 • ALWAYS take the vest with you when called to your muster station - no exceptions;

 • ask lots of questions if need be;


US Coast Guard Regulations Regarding U.S. and Foreign Flagged Ships

Source: USCG

Ocean-going cruise ships of U.S. registry must meet a comprehensive set of Coast Guard safety regulations and be inspected annually by the Coast Guard to check for compliance. The safety regulations cover such things as hull structure, watertight integrity, structural requirements to minimize fire hazards, equipment requirements for lifesaving, firefighting, and vessel control, and requirements pertaining to the safe navigation of the ship. If the ship passes its annual inspection, it is issued a Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection valid for one year. The certificate must be displayed where passengers can see it.

Today, nearly all the ocean cruise lines employ passenger ships registered under flags of various foreign countries. (Note: The law requires that cruise-ship advertising in the U.S. disclose the country of registry.) Each ship is subject to the vessel inspection laws of the country in which it is registered. However, as a condition of permitting the vessels to take on passengers at U.S. ports, the U.S. Coast Guard requires the ships to meet the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (referred to as SOLAS.) SOLAS
and other international regulations also require compliance with stringent regulations
regarding structural fire protection, firefighting and lifesaving equipment, watercraft
integrity and stability, vessel control, navigation safety, crewing and crew competency,
safety management and environmental protection.

More about USCG Regulations: USCG Cruise Ship Fact Sheet PDF

 advice > safety > Lists

Sudden Lists & Rogue Waves

What do you mean by "List"?

List means "lean to one side". All ships including cruise ships can list due to weather conditions, computer glitch and/or human error.  Sudden lists are usually attributed to a computer glitch and/or human error.  See Costa Concordia incident below.

What is a Rogue wave?

Rogue waves are a freak of nature; unpredictable and beyond our control. Considered to be a myth until an actual monster wave was caught on camera.

The following examples of sudden lists and rogue waves are chronicled here to give cruisers an idea of what can happen during a cruise vacation.

Rogue Wave Causes Damage to Crystal Serenity

posted April 28, 2014

According to a post on its Facebook page, the Crystal Serenity was struck by a rogue wave in the early hours of April 26. Three windows in the main dining room were shattered and water did come in. Read more...

Carnival Fascination (Carnival)

February 12, 2014

One of our Shipdetective readers reached out to us about their experience on the Carnival Fascination during a five-night cruise February 8. The reader reported that on February 12, the ship experienced high winds causing the Fascination to list significantly to the side, crashing stage sets, shattering bottles, and more. The same incident was reported in a review on another website, stating the ship made a sharp turn during a storm system.

Marco Polo (Cruise & Maritime Voyages)

February 14, 2014

A freak wave hit the cruise ship m/s Marco Polo during adverse sea conditions. An elderly passenger died and a second unrelated passenger was airlifted for further shore-side medical assistance. 14 passengers sustained minor injuries and were treated in the ship’s medical center.

Marco Polo sustained some damage in the Waldorf Restaurant. 

The vessel sailed from Tilbury on 5th January and was carrying 735 mainly British passengers and 349 crew.

Costa Concordia (Costa Crociere)

January 13, 2012

Just days after making an emergency stop in the port of Marseille for minor repairs as reported in Direct Marseille Plus, the Costa Concordia ran aground on a reef at around 9 pm local time (UTC+1) off , having left Civitavecchia earlier that evening at the start of a seven-day cruise to Savona, Marseilles, Barcelona, Palma, Tunis, and Palermo.

Location of Costa Concordia cruise-ship disaster
42°21′53″N 10°55′16″E / 42.36486°N 10.92124°E / 42.36486; 10.92124

At about 8 pm, passengers were in the dining hall when there was a sudden, loud bang, which a crew member (speaking over the intercom) ascribed to an "electrical failure". Passengers were later advised to put on their life-jackets. The ship tilted some 20 degrees. Amid panic, many passengers took to lifeboats, while some jumped into the water to swim to shore. Three passengers reportedly drowned after jumping overboard, and another seven were critically injured. According to the local coastguard, 3,206 passengers and 1,023 crew members were on board at the time.

The crew remained aboard and the shipping line initially insisted there was no danger of sinking. The first daylight pictures showed the ship lying on its right side and half submerged, not far outside Giglio Harbor. Other reports indicated the ship had developed a major electrical fault. According to the local coast guard, the ship has a 30-metre (100 ft.) gash on its port side. The Daily Mail showed images of a large gash.

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Carnival Ecstasy

April 2010

Source: Wiki

On the afternoon of April 21, 2010, the ship was forced to perform a maneuver to avoid an object in the water which resulted in the ship briefly listing to the port side. The object was a large buoy which was adrift and mostly submerged thereby preventing it from being detected by the ship's radar. Carnival Ecstasy was on the final leg of a five-day cruise that departed Galveston on Saturday, April 17 with stops in Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico.

According to a passenger, "The ship was shuddering. Just shake shake shake and that's when all the dishes were coming out.. We really thought the whole ship was going to be tipped over ... They had to close down stores, all the glass went flying and it broke the glass on the outside of the liquor store.. Subsequent reports from Carnival Cruise Lines indicate 60 passengers were treated for minor injuries after the ship listed 12 degrees. From passenger reports of half the water being dumped from the pool, and the amount of damage to fixtures aboard ship, the approximate list is estimated to be between 25 and 30 degrees. The list of a ship is measured by a device called an inclinometer. The maximum list which a standard inclinometer can measure is designed to be 28 degrees from vertical, either port or starboard.

Louis Majesty (Louis Cruises)

March 4, 2010 

1,350 passengers and 580 crew members were onboard The Louis Majesty (formerly Norwegian Majesty) when the ship was hit with massive waves while sailing off the coast of France. Two passenger were killed and fourteen were injured.  According to a spokesperson for Louis Cruise Lines, "The windows in a public area on deck 5 on the forward part of the vessel smashed resulting (in) the fatal injury of two passengers of German and Italian nationality while 14 more passengers suffered light injuries."

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Pacific Sun (P&O)

July 2008

The 1,486-passenger ship was hit by 23-foot swells and 50-knot winds as it was heading to Auckland, New Zealand following an eight-night cruise of the South Pacific. Passengers quoted by the UK Telegraph report when the vessel tried to turn its bow into the storm, huge waves caught the ship's side as it maneuvered, causing a violent roll. Anything not tied down like tables, chairs, cups, glasses, plates were thrown around the ship like missiles. 80 people were injured.

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Celebrity Infinity (Celebrity Cruises)

February 1, 2008

From a passenger who posted on Cruise Critic:  "We were on the second floor of the dining room at about 6:30PM when we were broadsided by what must have been two enormous waves. Two folks at our table of eight, were knocked to the floor with water, wine, dishes etc. spilled on them. At the table next to us, a woman was injured and taken out on a stretcher. The waiter and head waiter said they had never experienced any thing like this before and were of no help as to what we should do. The waiter said that there were broken arms and legs suffered by galley workers. Passengers throughout the ship later had stories of "where they were and what happened" when the waves hit. Every bottle of booze and all glassware all over the ship hit the floor. The books in the library were all on the ground. The Grand piano in the theater broke legs and pedals. It was a mess and the most astonishing thing is that neither the Captain, nor any of his officers got on the PA system until 36 hours later to talk about it. All he said then was "he did good since three other ships in the same waters had to delay their cruises because they suffered even more severe damage and injuries".

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Norwegian Spirit (NCL)

January 19, 2007

Both WABC and WCBS reported that passengers returning from a southern Caribbean cruise complained about heavy seas and a series of high waves -- some as high as 50 feet -- during the leg from Tortola to New York.  Several windows were smashed and 11 cabins were flooded.  Passengers had to be relocated and those in cabins most effected were offered a free cruise in the future, if they want it.  

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Celebrity Century (Celebrity Cruises)

November 3, 2006

According to a story from the Associated Press and posted by WVEC.COM, three passengers were med-evac by the USS Wasp from the ship following injuries sustained when the ship rolled in high seas. 

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Norwegian Spirit (NCL)

October 28, 2006

From a passenger posting on social website, "At approximately 7pm, as i left my room on deck 4 and hit the elevator button, approximately 6 crew members exited elevator with woman on stretcher with neck brace on. Word later from crew was that due to high seas (15-25 ft.) tables and approximately 10 people fell on deck 12 Italian restaurant causing multiple injuries.  We experienced rough seas and gale force winds on Oct 28 -- "what an experience".  This was on the last leg of the 10 day cruise, sailing from Tortola (26 Oct) to New York (29 Oct)."

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Crown Princess (Princess Cruises)

July 2006

The month-old ship severely rolled (15 degrees) to one side shortly after leaving Port Canaveral (at 3:25 PM) on its return to New York City from a nine day cruise of the Western Caribbean.  Approximately 240 passengers were treated on board for various injuries, such as abrasions, bruises and fractures; 94 were transferred to local hospitals ashore for evaluation and treatment, of which three passengers and two crew members remained hospitalized the next day but were expected to make a full recovery.  Some described the roll as feeling like the ship was going to fall over.  The cruise returned to Port Canaveral and the cruise was terminated; passengers received a full refund. Speculation is that the roll was caused by a malfunction of the auto-pilot.  A similar severe list occurred on February 4 on the Grand Princess.

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Seabourn Pride (Yachts of Seabourn)

April 2006

A passenger has posted the following at Cruise Critic -- the ship is on a 14 day cruise from London to Copenhagen, ending June 17th, "It has been a very good cruise in general, but we have seen no sun since our magnificent departure through Tower Bridge in London.  Right now we are going through very heavy seas on our way to Bergen. Last night there was a considerable amount of water damage on board. The forward suites had broken windows and flooding. We are in a French balcony suite on deck 6 and had water cascading down the inside of our sealed French doors from the deck above. That water damaged the wiring that controls the automatic locking of the French doors by the captain. Earlier this morning the captain announced there was substantial damage but did not mention whether anyone has been hurt."

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Norwegian Dawn (NCL)

April 2006

The ship was struck by a 70 foot wave enroute from the Bahamas to New York.  The wave knocked out windows in two passenger cabins and on the navigation bridge and damaged the ships hull -- the frame beneath the spare anchor was bent by the force of the anchor hitting the flat deck during the heavy seas.  Four passengers were hurt, mainly by cuts from broken glass, and treated at the ship's infirmary.  Two cabins were flooded and 60 others were damaged by water seeping from those where the windows broke out.  The ship was diverted to Charleston, SC for repairs and continued to New York, arriving one day later than scheduled.  Some 300 passengers chose to be flown home from Charleston rather than continuing on the ship.  Those remaining onboard were given free drinks for the remainder of the cruise; all passengers received a 50% refund and a 50% discount on any future cruise.  The following 7 day cruise was revised to 6 days.

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Celebrity Millennium (Celebrity Cruises)

March 2006

During the night of March 15, the ship sailed into a storm with 40 foot waves that makes it almost impossible to remain on your feet. At midnight, the Captain tried to escape the storm by diverting the ship into a Chilean fjord, but on approaching concluded that entering it was too dangerous. The ship headed back out to sea and faced the storm. During the evening and night, there was lots of damage: in the main dining room, during late seating, glasses, plates, etc. are thrown of the tables onto the floor; the huge flower vase at the bottom of the grand staircase falls and breaks. In bars, glasses and whine bottles fall and break. In the specialty restaurant, the harp falls and is damaged; wine bottles fall out of the cabinet and roll over the restaurant floor. The water of the indoor Thallasotherapy pool floods into the aft hallway and elevator banks; the elevators are put out of service. The glass sliding door between the outdoor and indoor pool shatters. The damage to the shopping mall is the worst; displays and products are spread out over the floor.

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Rhapsody of the Seas (RCL)

April 2006

A passenger reports that about 8:45 PM the ship listed 10 degrees.  According to the Captain it was due to a malfunction with the stabilizing mechanism.  The sudden list caused the water to dump out of the pool on the top decks, dishes to crash to the ground in the dining room, the quarters to spill out of the machines in the Casino, liquor in the shops to come crashing and spilling as it streamed all over the deck floor, and items in the stateroom were thrown about.  We rocked back and forth 4 times until the captain stabilized the boat.  You could tell by the dining staff's faces that this was an unusual event.  (Note that a similar event occurred =see below).

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Grand Princess (Princess Cruises)

 February 2006

Two hours after leaving Galveston, a passenger suffered a heart attack and required urgent onshore medical attention.  The ship made a sharp turn while traveling at 21 knots, causing 18.5 degree list (at 24 degrees the ship would be in trouble) which resulted in glassware, dishes, ornaments, and numerous objects sliding off tables in the dining room and shelves in shops.  Twenty-seven passengers and ten crew suffered injuries, mainly cuts and bruises (including some who were injured when TVs in their rooms slid off shelves -- reportedly, 82 television sets were destroyed by the list).  According to Princess, the vessel experienced a roll greater than normal” during the execution of the turn.  The ship was met by the Coast Guard eight miles offshore to transfer the sick (reportedly dead) passenger from the ship.  An injured crew member was also taken off the ship by stretcher.  Unconfirmed reports were that 300+ passengers left the ship at its first stop, in Costa Maya.

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Rhapsody of the Seas (RCL)

Dec 2005

On her way back to Galveston from Cozumel, was buffeted by 70 mph winds and large waves and listed, held in position for 3 minutes. In the dining they were getting ready for main dining and lost wine bottles, dishes. and glasses. The shows were cancelled.  Four cabins on Deck 4 were flooded with water -- the occupants had to be transferred to other staterooms and all their wet clothing laundered. They tore up the rugs and hallway and laid brand new carpet all done by the next sailing on 12/18.

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