The World’s Largest Cruise Ship Caught Fire at Sea 

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Last updated: Jul 12, 2024

The Icon of the Seas reached out to fire and rescue authorities in Mexico on Tuesday afternoon after a large fire broke out on the ship. Royal Caribbean spokespersons told the news that the flames were quickly extinguished before serious damage occurred.

According to Cruise Radio, the “power failed throughout the ship, impacting elevators, air conditioning, service stations, and cabins” after the fire. Thankfully, no injuries were reported on board.

Fire Personnel Quickly Responded to the Incident

After the help call was sent out to Mexican emergency services, fire crews boarded the boat.

A large whip cruise ship on water

Source: Zoshua Colah/Unsplash

Footage taken from guests shows firefighters walking downstairs while ship announcements can be heard overhead. Sources say that the ship issues its standard procedure for an emergency, and everyone was lucky that smart-acting crews were so fast to call for help.

How Big is the Icon of the Seas?

The Icon of the Seas by Royal Caribbean is 1,197 feet long, has 20 decks, and can sleep a whopping 7,600 passengers, including guests and crew members.

A large boat illuminated at dusk sailing into a purple sky

Source: @SheaTravels/X

It’s the newest vessel in the Royal Caribbean’s fleet and takes the title away from the Wonder of the Seas as the world’s largest cruise ship. It hosts 40 restaurants, bars, and lounges and has its own on-board splash pad and water park on the top deck. The boat cost roughly $2 billion to build.

How Expensive Are Tickets?

The average ticket package ranges from $1,946 to $2,318 per person, depending on how many days the cruise is and what time of year.

Two large white cruise ships are docked on a large cement road with many people walking up and down the dock

Source: @rmeyer6213/X

Due to the sheer size of the boat and the excellent amenities, cruising on this behemoth will certainly come at a premium. However, most of the packages come with healthy all-inclusive deals for activities, drinks, and food.

Where Is the Ship Right Now?

Currently, the Icon of the Seas is on a seven-day round-trip that departed from Miami on June 22. It stopped in Honduras two days later and then made its way to the east coast of Mexico.

An upward view of several colorful banners hung from an old building

Source: Filip Gielda/Unsplash

On Tuesday, it arrived in Costa Maya for a scheduled dock. However, due to the fire, the planned excursion to Cozumel, Mexico, on Wednesday may need to be delayed.

Royal Caribbean Issued a Statement on the Fire

The statement came in from the Royal Caribbean corporate team, who said that, “The ship experienced a small fire (isolated to the crew area) and experienced a brief loss of power while docked at Costa Maya, Mexico; back-up power kicked in immediately and teams restored the main systems; all necessary safety procedures were taken and the team were able to quickly extinguish the fire; safety of our passengers and crew are always our top priority; thankfully there were no injuries.”

An aerial view of the top deck of a large cruise ship with a pool and a basketball court

Source: @WFLA/X

Large cruises such as this one usually train staff extensively on emergency procedures. Due to the tight quarters that everyone lives in, avoiding a stampede of nervous guests is their number one priority.


Another Ship Catches Fire

The Icon of the Seas isn’t the only cruise ship to catch fire recently. CNN Travel reports that a Bahamas-bound Carnival Freedom cruise ship caught fire in late March 2024. As the ship traveled through a storm, the ship caught fire on the port side of the ship’s exhaust funnel.

Carnival Freedom on fire

Source: BearSR999/Wikimedia Commons

According to a news release from Carnival Cruise Line, the ship’s fire response team worked to extinguish the blaze and the cruise’s captain turned the ship toward heavy rain to help put out the flames.


They Extinguished the Fire

After two hours after it ignited, the first was extinguished. But the ship did suffer some damage: the port side portion of the exhaust funnel fell onto deck 10 of the ship as a result of the fire.

Two firefighters use a large hose to put out a fire

Source: Matt C New/Unsplash

Guests reported no injuries, but doctors treated two firefighting crew members for minor smoke inhalation.


The Damage Was Worst Than Reported

Carnival later reported that it had completed an assessment during the ship’s visit to Freeport, and discovered the damage was worse than the cruise line had initially reported.

A firefighter's helmet marked "Firefighter 2" from the Los Angeles County Fire Department

Source: Los Angeles County Fire Department/Facebook

According to the updated release, they have stabilized the funnel for the ship’s return to Port Canaveral overnight to disembark guests, and then it will go to the Freeport shipyard on Monday afternoon to begin the required repairs.


Canceling the Cruises 

The cruise line canceled the Carnival Freedom cruise trips scheduled to depart from Port Canaveral, Florida, from March 25 to March 29 to allow for “immediate repair to stabilize the funnel” because the damage was so bad, the cruise line said in a news release.

An image of a woman holding a coffee as she uses her smartphone

Source: Freepik

The company announced that it would give full refunds and future cruise credits to those who were booked for the cruise.


Fires Are Not Common, but Not Uncommon

While cruises are generally safe and fires are, as the Royal Caribbean tells CNN, “not common, but also not uncommon,” there are a few safety tips that passengers can adhere to stay safe on their next cruise vacation.

White Red and Orange Cruiser Ship on Body of Water during Daytime

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

Here are the rules that operate under international rules known as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), and these regulations cover fire safety, navigation rules, maritime security, and the requirement to help another vessel.


How Safe Are Cruise Ships?

In general, cruise ships and sea travel are the safest ways to travel. In the past 100 years, only one cruise ship has sunk every five years.

A large cruise ship docked at a port with large machinery and a building in the foreground

Source: Danny De Groot/Unsplash

However, that includes all disasters in the early 20th century, such as the Titanic and other early trans-Atlantic ocean liners.


A Ship Can Only Sink Once

In all seriousness, the boats that usually sink are old, out of date, and operating in less-than-safe places.

A large white cruise ship in the water taken from the water line

Source: Jonathan Leonardo/Unsplash

For instance, the rocky shores of Greece have more ships that go down than the safe, calm waters of the Pacific. As well, modern cruise liners have a superior safety rating than smaller ferry style cruise ships that operate in Europe.


Why Modern Cruise Ships Are Unlikely to Go Down

Many modern cruise ships have features that make them resistant to sinking. While there are enough lifeboats to take everyone (including the crew) to safety if the ship were to sink and a radio to contact others for help, the likelihood of a ship sinking is very low.

Two cruise ships in the ocean near a port

Source: Samson Bush/Pexels

The last cruise ship to sink was Orient Queen in 2020, which was void of passengers as it sank due to severe damage.


What Are Some Other Risks of Cruises?

Cruises aren’t impervious to accidents, but for the most part, illness and injury are limited to individual guests. All cruise ships are stocked with doctors, nurses, and an emergency department that guests can visit in case they take a bad fall on the pool deck or cut themselves on broken glass.

A view of the side of a cruise ship with rows of individual balconies, windows and orange life rafts

Source: Nico Smit/Unsplash

For the most part, you’re more likely to catch an illness than anything else on a boat. Due to the close proximity to other guests and recycled air inside of cabins, airborne illnesses and even flu-like symptoms can be passed around easily.


Can You Fall off a Cruise Ship?

You can fall or be pushed off a cruise ship. However, it’s incredibly uncommon.

The Excel Presidential Suite on a Carnival Cruise ship at sunset

Source: @CLLCruiseFUN/Facebook

There are plenty of safety mechanisms in place to stop people from going overboard, such as high railings on patios and a curved outer edge which means if you fell from the top deck, you would land on the deck below. If you do happen to see someone fall into the water off a cruise ship, seek help immediately.


Do Cruise Ships Have Enough Lifeboats?

Although a complete Titanic-like disaster will more than likely never happen again, every cruise ship has more than enough seats for everyone on lifeboats. As well, life-vests are located on all corners of a boat.

The bows of two large white cruise ships face a cement dock with multiple people walking in front of them

Source: Stephanie Klepacki/Unsplash

Before each sailing commences, ships are required to hold muster drills for all passengers so that they can familiarise themselves in the event of an emergency.


The Bottom Line

Like everything in life, getting on a cruise ship and sailing the open seas certainly comes with some risk factors.

A large cruise ship on blue water with large mountains in the background

Source: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

However, modern ships are safer than ever and can easily go around heavy storms thanks to savvy tech systems on board. The crew on the Icon of the Seas acted quickly to put out the fire, and thankfully, no one was injured.


Drink Responsibly 

One way to increase the risk of accidents (or poor decision-making) is to overindulge in alcohol. The best way to keep your alcohol consumption in check it to avoid the temptation of the beverage packages.

Colorful soda drinks in glasses

Source:, Freepik

While they seem like a good value, having unlimited drinks could lead to an increase in dehydration or accidentally going overboard.


Securing Your Cabin

Your room should be a haven on your cruise vacation, but there are tons of people in the many rooms. To make sure your cabin is secure, use the deadbolts to add a layer of security.

Silhouettes of Tourists Looking Through Porthole

Source: Kürşat KURT/Pexels

You can also purchase accessories that can help provide that layer of protection you want for yourself, your loved ones, and your belongings.


Pay Attention During Muster Drill

On the first day, you will watch and take in information included in the muster drill. These drills used to take place in person, but they are now commonly done through in-room TVs. While this is a nice luxury, you have to pay attention.

Two Man Riding on Ship

Source: Shawnna Donop/Pexels

It is critical to know and understand the various signals you may hear during the cruise as it can help you during the rare emergency.


Buddy Systems

Many cruise lines are making a big push to attract solo cruise travelers. If you are one of those people, then make an effort to meet fellow solo travelers early in the cruise to have someone to pair up with for certain activities.

Four women stand together holding glasses of beer while talking and smiling

Source: Elevate/Unsplash

Most lines host a solo traveler meet-up on the first full day to help those travelers meet their potential buddies for the trip and help keep everyone counted for after-port exploration days.


Be Smart Ashore

From shore excursions to casual strolls near the port, stepping off the boat can be exciting. But remember that the safety of the ship may not exist wherever you are. Groups can target cruise passengers in busy ports, so only take the essentials ashore.

Photograph of the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

Source: Freepik

Make sure your cellphone is charged and take the emergency number for the ship with you if you are exploring by yourself.