Passengers aboard the stricken cruise ship Costa Concordia have compared their ordeal to the chaotic evacuation of the Titanic.

At least five people are dead after the ship struck a rock near the Italian island of Giglo on Saturday, tipping the massive vessel onto its side and sparking chaos among the more than 4,200 passengers and crew aboard. Fifteen people remain unaccounted for.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said consular assistance was being provided to the one New Zealander known to be aboard the cruise ship.

Australians Rob Elcombe and Tracey Gunn told the Herald Sun they were in their cabin after dinner when they heard a "loud shudder and everything got flung across the room".


"We looked at each other and I said 'we've just run aground'," Mr Elcombe said.

Ms Gunn said people were panicking and elderly people were screaming.

"The worst thing was there were young Italian men, the gutless bastards, jumping into the boats without their wives or girlfriends," Mr Elcombe said.

The pair headed for the lifeboats as the vessel started to violently list.

"Trace asked me how safe will it be and I told her 'don't worry it's not like the Titanic', but it was exactly like the Titanic," Mr Elcombe said.

Valaria Ananias, a 31-year-old American aboard the ship, also compared her ordeal to the sinking of the great ocean liner. She described to the Times Union how she had to crawl along nearly vertical hallways to reach rescue boats.

"Have you seen 'Titanic'? That's exactly what it was," she said.

Fights over lifejackets and the desperation of people leaping off the side of the ship into the sea has also been compared to the ill-fated 1912 maiden voyage of the Titanic.

Other passengers have compared the delay in deploying lifeboats on the Concordia, meaning the vessel was tilted too far to use them, to the lack of lifeboats aboard the Titanic. The Titanic had lifeboats for 1,178 passengers, despite 2,223 on board for her maiden voyage.

When it was launched in 1911, the Titanic was the largest passenger steam ship in the world, while the 951ft, 114,500 tonne Costa Concordia is the largest Italian-built cruise ship. It was built in 2006.