See the Harrowing Footage of a Massive Wave Slamming into a Cruise Ship

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Written by Kirstin Harrington

Updated: November 9, 2023

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A swell about to break during a late winter Nor'Easter. Salisbury, Massachusetts.
© R Mazza

There seems to be an endless amount of choices when it comes to where you could take a holiday. People from all over the world decide to spend their vacations aboard cruise ships. With amenities like built-in pools, casinos, themed parties, and plenty of cocktails, it’s clear why many individuals opt for a cruise. 

If there’s one thing that’s true, it’s that the sea has a mind of its own. Both passengers and crew got a taste of how powerful the ocean is during a trip on a ship that is now called the Sea Princess. 

What was called the Adonia, this ship was first launched into the water in September of 2000. It was nearly 600 feet long, weighed over 30,000 tons, and could hold just under 800 souls, including the crew. 

A camera aboard the ship on the bridge often gives incredible views of the vast, endless water. Beautiful sunsets can also be seen in this CCTV footage. On this particular day, raging waters had other plans. 

tsunami wave

3D illustration of a tsunami wave.


Hold On Tight

One person can be seen looking out of the massive windows on the bridge as waves crash into the ship. They are watching as a storm is taking over and someone can be heard saying, “Here we go,” as the ship dips down. 

Seconds later, the camera shakes as an enormous wave slams into the cruise ship, appearing to make the individual in view topple to the floor before everything goes black. A comment on the footage reads as follows:

“That was a terrifying jumpscare that I didn’t see coming.”

With another person stating why it seemingly came out of nowhere. They say, “Sometimes you pass over a pretty big wave gracefully. Then you realize that now you’re under a bigger wave.”

Biggest Wave to Hit a Cruise Ship

Storm surge

Rogue waves have probably contributed to the loss of smaller ships over the years, but it can be difficult to determine with certainty in many situations.

©Maximillian cabinet/

While the footage we’ve included below might make you seasick, it isn’t the largest wave to hit a cruise ship. The cruise ships MS Bremen and MS Caledonian Star, both with Bahamian registrations, were both struck by a rogue wave in the South Atlantic Ocean in 2001.

A rogue wave that was around 100 feet tall struck both ocean liners. The two vessels sustained damage, including broken bridge glass and lost communications and navigational hardware. Rogue waves have probably contributed to the loss of smaller ships over the years, but it can be difficult to determine with certainty in many situations.

It’s probable that some of the reports of ships disappearing in the past without leaving behind evidence were caused by rogue waves. There haven’t been any documented instances of rogue waves sinking a cruise liner, though.

Is It Normal for a Cruise Ship to be Hit by a Massive Wave?

As we discussed earlier, rogue waves (also called monster waves or freak waves), do occur in oceans and can threaten any vessel. However, documented encounters with them are rare. Rogue waves are created when different wave systems converge, resulting in a dramatically high wave. 

Ships can receive damage from rogue waves like broken windows, damage to the outer decks, and can cause injuries to crew members or passengers. In worse cases, structural damage or flooding can occur. However, modern ships are designed to deal with these worst-case scenarios, so it’s very uncommon for a ship to be sunk by a rogue wave.

How Large is the Average Cruise Ship?

The average passenger cruise ship ranges in size from about 70,000 to 130,000 gross tons. Carnival’s “Dream-class” ships, such as the Carnival Dream, Carnival Magic, and Carnival Breeze, each average around 130,000 gross tons and are able to carry from 3,600 to 3,700 passengers.

The featured ship in the video, the Adonia, was operated by P&O Cruises out of Bermuda. It averaged 600 feet long and weighed over 30,000 tons. Crew and passengers combined, it holds about 800 people. Compared to the size of the average cruise ship, the Adonia was at least half the size.

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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