A passenger went overboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas, the largest operating cruise ship in the world at 18 decks tall and 230,000 tons

  • A passenger went overboard the massive Wonder of the Seas cruise ship on Tuesday near Cuba.

  • The Royal Caribbean ship is the largest passenger cruise ship currently in service.

  • A Coast Guard official told Insider that Cuban authorities are leading the search efforts.

A passenger went overboard the largest cruise ship in the world on Tuesday, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson confirmed to Insider.

The Wonder of the Seas was off the coast of Cuba when the person went overboard, officials told Fox 35. Passengers posting about the incident on Facebook said the call happened around 7:30 or 8 p.m. on Tuesday night.

"On August 29, a guest sailing on Wonder of the Seas went overboard," a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told Insider. "The ship's crew immediately launched a search and rescue operation and is working closely with local authorities. "

The Royal Caribbean representative said the cruise line had been working with the US Coast Guard.

But a spokesperson with the South Florida branch of the US Coast Guard told Insider that the Cuban Border Guard is responsible for coordinating the search and rescue mission because the overboard incident happened in Cuban territorial seas. The Coast Guard official said the US agency is not currently involved in the case.

The 230,000-ton cruise ship was two days into its seven-day itinerary after it left Port Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday. The ship is currently south of Cuba, according to cruise tracking data.

The Wonder of the Seas had already diverted from its original itinerary to account for Hurricane Idalia, which is pummeling Florida with record-breaking storm surge this week, passengers said.

Cruise industry blog Cruise Hive reported members of the ship's crew spent approximately three hours searching for the passenger before the ship moved on.

The Wonder of the Seas is the largest cruise ship currently sailing passenger voyages. The massive cruise ship measures 1,188 feet in length across 18 decks. The ship can accommodate nearly 7,000 passengers, as well as 2,300 crew members. Another Royal Caribbean ship, the Icon of the Seas, is set to break the Wonder's record when it starts service in 2024.

Overboard incidents

This is at least the sixth person to go overboard a cruise ship in the past three months.

The previous incidents occurred on the cruise ships Carnival Magic, Carnival Elation, Spectrum of the Seas, Emerald Princess, and Mariner of the Seas. Only one of the passengers was successfully rescued.

While man-overboard incidents are rare, they are a leading cause of death for passengers on cruise ships, according to research conducted by Travis Heggie, a professor at Bowling Green State University who specializes in health and safety risks in the tourism industry.

On average, 19 people go overboard on cruise ships every year — of those, about four people are successfully rescued, a 2020 study commissioned by the industry trade group Cruise Lines International Association found.

The low success rate of man-overboard rescue attempts has prompted debate on whether or not cruise ships should be required to install man-overboard detection systems that automatically alert crew members when a person goes overboard.

In a statement previously shared with Insider, CLIA emphasized that safety and security are a top priority for the industry. "All cruise lines use a variety of measures to maintain a safe environment on board cruise ships, including physical barriers around the periphery of external decks and balconies, video surveillance systems in public areas, and trained crew members who can respond quickly to an unsafe situation or emergency," the spokesperson said.

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