Luckily disasters at sea are few and far between and with cruising becoming so popular that safety regulations on all passenger ships have been tightened up.
On every cruise passengers have to go to their muster stations with their life jackets to receive full safety instructions on the day of sailing even if they have cruised many times before.
All ships also now have enough lifeboats to carry every passenger and every cabin has easily accessible life-jackets.
And if a fire does break out on board an ocean liner it can be contained by fitted fire doors.
But things haven’t always been so safe, with some shipping disasters leading to the loss of thousands of lives.
Here we look at the ten worst shipping disasters of all time.
10 RMS Titanic
This is the most famous maritime disaster of all time with several movies having been made about the sinking of the Titanic.
The Titanic was known as the “Ship of Dreams” and when she left Southampton, UK, on her maiden voyage in 1912 she carried 2,224 excited passengers.
Because the designer had not wanted to spoil the line of the ship there were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers but no-one was worried as she was supposed to be unsinkable.
On Sunday, April 14 that year six ice warnings were radioed to Titanic but these were ignored and she was traveling at maximum speed when the crew spotted an iceberg ahead in the west Atlantic.
Due to her speed she was not able to turn away on time and at 23.40 it hit and buckled the starboard side of the liner.
Five of her sixteen compartments opened to the sea. Two and a half hours later the Titanic sank with over 1,000 passengers and crew still on board.
Others who jumped into the freezing water died of hypothermia. There were just 705 survivors.
9 SS Mont Blanc
On December 6, 1917, the French munitions ship SS Mont Blanc was approaching Halifax Harbor in Nova Scotia, Canada, loaded with ammunition.
But at about 8.45am in the Halifax Narrows the ship collided with another vessel, the SS Imo, which had just left the harbor.
The collision set the Mont Blanc’s cargo on fire and at 9.05am there was a massive explosion.
More than 1,800 people were killed and another 9,000 were injured, with 1,600 nearby homes destroyed as well as the harbor.
The explosion was so big that windows were shattered 50 miles away and the sound could be heard for hundreds of miles.
It has gone down in history as the worst man-made explosion in pre-atomic history.
The crew had tried to warn the city of the dangers of the burning ship but only 20 minutes elapsed between the fire starting and the explosion.
8 MV Le Joola
Le Joola was a Senegalese government-owned roll-on, roll-off ferry that operated between Senegalese ports in the Atlantic Ocean.
The maximum capacity allowed on board was around 550 people but when the ferry set sail on September 26, 2002, it was massively overloaded carrying nearly 2,000 passengers.
Some 22 miles off the Gambian coast it ran into a heavy storm and overturned in the rough weather.
There were only 64 survivors and in September 2012, ten years after the disaster, the families of those who died were still seeking answers and asking for justice.
A resulting inquest put the cause down to a combination of overcrowding and gross neglect of the ferry operator.
7 USS Indianapolis (CA-35)
On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis delivered the critical parts needed for America’s first atomic bomb to the US Air Base at Tinian.
But shortly afterwards the Imperial Japanese Submarine I-58 fired a torpedo at the American ship and she sank twelve minutes after being hit.
There were 1,196 crew on board and approximately 300 of them went down with the ship. The 900 survivors clung to the few lifeboats they had or whatever wreckage they could find, but they had virtually no food or water.
It took four days before PV-1 Ventura on a routine patrol spotted the survivors but by then only 317 sailors were still alive. The others had died from exposure, dehydration or shark attacks.
6 MV Goya
The MV Goya was a German refugee ship commandeered by the German Kriegsmarine to evacuate civilians and wounded soldiers during World War II.
On April 16, 1945, she was sailing in convoy from the Hel Peninsula in the Baltic Sea loaded with women, children and wounded soldiers.
As Goya sailed out of Danziger Bay she was tracked by a Russian L-3 submarine which fired a torpedo at her at 11.52pm.
Within seven minutes of being hit the Goya sunk in the freezing waters and nearly 7,000 people died either inside the ship, by drowning or from hypothermia in the icy waters of the Baltic Sea.
Only two children were among the 183 survivors. For several weeks afterwards hundreds of bodies were washed up on the shorelines nearby.
5 RMS Empress of Ireland
May 29, 2014, was the centenary of the sinking of Canada’s “Titanic” the Empress of Ireland.
Although it happened in 1914 it had nothing to do with the First World War, but was instead the result of a collision in dense fog.
The Empress of Ireland was on her 696th transatlantic crossing when she was hit on her starboard side by a Norwegian collier SS Storstad in low visibility on the St Lawrence river.
The accident happened in the early hours of the morning and although the ship was fully equipped with steel lifeboats it listed to the side so quickly there was no time to launch them.
Many people traveling in the lower part of the ship drowned instantly and of the 1,477 people on board 1,012 died.
The ship sank in fourteen minutes and it is the greatest maritime disaster in Canadian history.
4 RMS Lancastria
The UK Government commandeered this British liner during World War II.
The 16,243 ton, 578ft vessel served as a transatlantic liner as well as a cruise ship in the Mediterranean and in Northern Europe until she was requisitioned in April 1940 as a troop ship.
She helped to evacuate troops in Norway then sailed to St Nazaire in France to rescue soldiers following the Nazi invasion.
In the afternoon of June 17, 1940, the Lancastria was attacked by the Luftwaffe and after being hit three times by a Junkers 88 bomber she sank in twenty minutes.
Over 4,000 lives were lost and it is the worst single disaster in British Maritime History.
It was also the largest single loss of life for the British Forces during World War II.
3 RMS Lusitania
The sinking of the Lusitania is almost as famous as the sinking of the Titanic, the difference being that the Lusitania sank during World War I while the Titanic sank in peacetime.
The passenger liner sailed the regular route from Liverpool in the UK to New York City in the USA calling en-route at Queenstown (now called Cobh) in Ireland.
On May 1, 1915, the ship left port in New York for Liverpool to complete her 202nd crossing of the Atlantic.
About fourteen miles off the coast of Ireland at Old Head of Kinsale the German U-boat U20 fired a torpedo which hit the Lusitania on the starboard side.
Although there were enough lifeboats for all the passengers the ship listed so much most of them could not be launched and she sank within eighteen minutes of being hit.
Of the 1,959 people on board 1,198 died including 128 Americans. This was one of the triggers that hastened America’s involvement in World War One.
2 MV Dona Paz
The Dona Paz sank after colliding with oil tanker the MV Vector on December 20, 1987 while traveling from Leyte Island to the Philippine capital of Manila.
Most people on board the Philippines-registered passenger ferry were asleep when the two ships collided, with the Vector’s 8,800 barrels of gasoline and other petroleum products catching fire before exploding.
The fire spread to the Dona Paz, and gasoline poured into the sea making the surface of the water catch fire as well.
For some reason the life jackets on the Dona Paz were kept in a locked cupboard and the passengers were forced to jump into the flaming water to try and escape.
A total of 4,735 people tragically died in the disaster.
1 MV Wilhelm Gustloff
In January 1945 this former Nazi pleasure-cruiser was hit by three torpedoes on its starboard side while trying to escape from a Soviet Red Army attack.
It was evacuating civilians, military personnel and Nazi officials from Gotenhafen and was en route to Kiel on mainland Germany with more than 10,000 German refugees on board including 4,000 infants, children and youths, wounded soldiers and naval personnel.
The ship sank in less than forty-five minutes after the third torpedo struck its target and 9,400 people died.
All the rescue boats could see was a mass of floating bodies; the largest loss of life involving a single ship in history.