You have your work cut out for you. The communication systems on a ship are designed precisely so this sort of thing doesn’t happen.
Long story short, the only way this would happen in the real world is fire or wave damage to the bridge of a relatively small vessel (<300’ LOA/5,000 tons). Incidents like these have happened, but you would need to craft your story to these unusual events. A fire taking out the bridge would mean the ship would be virtually disabled. Ditto bridge windows being smashed by a large wave, wrecking the electronics. Not plausible, but theoretically possible. However, that vessel would need to be more than 10 miles from land or so, or the passengers/crew will use their cells, and the officers will use handheld VHF radios to reach out 20 miles for help.
A longer explanation:
Once you mention ‘passengers’ you made your job more difficult. Personal electronics run the gamut from cell phones to satellite phones. There is no plausible way to disable them all without modern voodoo (EMPs).
Vessels carrying a small number of passengers are found close to land and cell towers. Whatever you do to the ship’s electronics, the passengers can still phone home. Get away from cell towers, head out to the deep ocean, and you avoid the cell problem, But the passenger vessels you are likely to encounter far to sea (cruise ships) carry a greater number of passengers, many with personal satellite comms. Can’t plausibly take them all out at once.
Also, cruise ships will have satellite comm equipment in places other than just the bridge, making it difficult to take these all out at once.
Something often ignored by fiction writers are the ship’s EPIRB(s). If the $hit hits the fan the captain always has the option of activating an EPIRB, knowing the world will come running to his rescue.
The simplest cause to explain your premise is simple sabotage. A confederate of your baddie, a ship’s officer or technician, could in a short period of time surreptitiously disable the GMDSS console, handheld VHFs, and back-up handheld sat comm devices that most vessels carry nowadays. But this would only work if the ship was far away from cell towers. And the saboteur would still need to disable the EPIRB (the author taking care to mention the EPIRBs in the survival crafts).