Damage from ice is 'extraordinarily rare': What happens after a cruise ship hits an iceberg

A Norwegian Cruise Line ship that hit a small iceberg last month will return to service this week, the cruise line said Monday.

The vessel "made contact with ice" while on its way to Hubbard Glacier in Alaska on June 25, resulting in multiple trip cancellations, though there were no injuries, a spokesperson for the cruise line told USA TODAY by email Monday. The ship will sail again Thursday.

The incident may raise questions about what exactly occurs after a ship hits an iceberg. But Ross Klein, a cruise industry expert and a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, told USA TODAY that it "really depends on where the iceberg hits the ship and what kind of damage it may have done."

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What happens after a cruise ship hits an iceberg?

Norwegian made several itinerary changes for the Sun after it hit the iceberg.

"The ship sailed to Juneau, Alaska for further assessment, where it was decided that the current voyage would be shortened, and the cruise scheduled to embark on June 30, 2022, would be canceled, so that the necessary repairs can be made," the Norwegian spokesperson said. The cruise line also canceled a voyage that was set to embark July 5.

"We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and are communicating with all impacted guests directly," the spokesperson added.

Klein said those kinds of itinerary changes are to be expected when there is damage to a ship. He said that if the ice damages the ship's propulsion system, that "creates a larger problem than a dent in the side."

Klein added that the speed a ship is going plays a role in what kind of damage it sustains. When a ship has been damaged, he said, the U.S. Coast Guard must also inspect and clear it.

Where are cruise ships repaired?

After a ship hits an iceberg, Klein said, where the cruise line takes it for repairs depends in part on where it is sailing.

Victoria, British Columbia, for instance, has a shipyard dry dock frequently used by cruise lines, he said: "They're located (in) different places, and part of it depends on whether there's space available, but then the other part is related to its proximity to where the ship is."

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How often do cruise ships hit icebergs?

While ships might regularly make contact with ice, it's unusual for it to be an issue. Stewart Chiron, a cruise industry expert known as The Cruise Guy, told USA TODAY last month that the incident was "extraordinarily rare," as cruise ships are extremely careful to avoid icebergs.

Chiron said it's common for ice to fall from glaciers and float in the water, but that it is unusual for a cruise line to change its itinerary after making contact with those pieces.

"Sometimes, they bump them, and you know, no big deal," Chiron said.

Klein echoed that.

"I think it's not uncommon for ships to interact with ice," he said. "What's unusual is for the ship to actually be physically damaged by the ice."

But, he said, given the infrequency of these events, passengers looking to take a cruise should not worry.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What happens after a cruise ship hits an iceberg