2 crew members die during ‘incident’ on Holland America cruise ship

MIAMI — Two crew members died on board a Holland America cruise ship, and a fire broke out on a Carnival ship while both of the ships were in the Bahamas this weekend, officials said.

The two crew on the Florida-based Nieuw Amsterdam died Friday during an “accidental steam release” while it was calling at the private resort island Half Moon Cay, Holland America said in a statement on Sunday.

“There was an accidental steam release in an engineering space on board Nieuw Amsterdam, which sadly resulted in the death of two crew members,” the cruise line said.

The Bahamas Maritime Authority and the Dutch Safety Board were investigating the exact cause of the release, Holland America said.

A representative of the Bahama’s Coroner’s Court did not immediately respond to a request for information, such as the crew members’ identities and the cause and manner of death.

The cruise line said the conclusions of any investigation would be taken seriously. “Safety is always our top priority, and we are working to understand what, if anything, can be learned from this tragic accident,” it said.

Passenger Laine Doss said she was on board when the captain announced the deaths on the vessel’s P.A. system.

“We were celebrating the last day of the cruise,” she said, when the mood changed “to something extremely somber.”

The captain’s voice broke, she said.

“He broke down crying,” Doss said. “There was a moment of silence that the captain requested. And that entire scenario did affect the entire cruise. Things were canceled, joyous events were canceled, and we really just thought about mortality — the people who perished on the ship.”

Crew members were being offered counseling, Holland America said.

Dutch government inspectors determined the vessel to be “fully operable,” and this was “confirmed” by the U.S. Coast Guard, the cruise line said.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson said she was looking into the statement and was unable to immediately confirm it.

The Nieuw Amsterdam returned Saturday to its home port of Fort Lauderdale, guests disembarked, and the vessel has embarked on a cruise with a stop in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, on Monday, Holland America said.

“All of us at Holland America Line are deeply saddened by this event,” the cruise line said. “We’ve been in contact with the families of both team members and are offering our support to them and to all of our crew at this difficult time.”  

The ship set sail out of Fort Lauderdale on March 16 for a seven-night trip.

Fire on the port-side exhaust funnel of another Florida-based cruise ship in the Bahamas, the Carnival Freedom, rocked some passengers Saturday and took the ship out of commission for repairs, the cruise line said.

No injuries were reported.

In a statement Sunday, Carnival Cruises acknowledged witness reports of a lightning strike or the sound of thunder before the fire erupted.

Passenger Heath Barnes said the ship was on a detoured path, destined for an unscheduled stop in Freeport, as a result of stormy weather and high winds when fire started.

“I was shocked,” he said. “I mean, I looked out there and you’re not supposed to see black smoke and fire shooting out of the tail end of the cruise.”

The blaze was preceded by “the loudest thunder-lightning clap that I’ve ever heard in my life,” Barnes said.

Ship personnel extinguished the fire, Carnival Cruises said.

The cruise line said a technical team determined the ship sustained enough damage that it will need repairs before it can be returned to scheduled cruises. The funnel was stabilized, passengers were expected to be returned to Port Canaveral, and the ship will set off to Freeport for repairs, it said.

“The damage is more than we first thought and will require an immediate repair to stabilize the funnel, resulting in the cancellation of the March 25 and March 29 cruises from Port Canaveral,” Carnival Cruises said.

Passengers scheduled for those late-March cruises are being offered full refunds and credit that can be used for a future cruise, it said.

It was the second funnel fire on the Carnival Freedom since 2022.

Marissa Parra

Marissa Parra is a national correspondent for NBC News based in Miami, Florida.

Dennis Romero

Dennis Romero is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital. 

Colin Sheeley

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Emilie Dorn

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The Associated Press

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