|RCI Cruise Ship Catches Fire at Sea|
|By SUSANNA KIM (@skimm) and SARAH NETTER||May 27, 2013, 8:59 AM|
Passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas were awakened and sent to their muster stations after a fire on one of the cruise ship's decks early Monday morning. No injuries were reported.
Royal Caribbean International said the fire was discovered at 2:50 a.m. ET on the mooring area on deck three of its 11 decks. The company said the fire was extinguished and the affected area was cordoned off. Guests were allowed to return to their staterooms, the company said, at 7:15 a.m. ET.
The extent of the fire was not immediately clear, but RCI said all systems were still operating on the ship. A picture tweeted by RCI public relations showed the rear of the ship at port with significant fire and smoke damage. The company tweeted that guests "will receive a full refund of the cruise fare as well as a future cruise certificate."
Medical staff reported two guests were treated after fainting, with one report of high blood pressure and another of cramps.
"In an abundance of caution, the captain deemed it necessary to muster all guests at their assembly stations. All 2,224 guests and 796 crew have been accounted for, and there have been no injuries of guests or crew reported. The safety of our guests and crew is our top priority, and we will continue to focus on their needs and concerns," according to a statement from the company.
The incident follows a series of high-profile cruise ship mishaps. The Carnival Triumph was idle for nearly a week at sea in the Gulf of Mexico following an engine room fire on its way from Galveston, Texas, to Cozumel, Mexico in February. In April, it broke away from its mooring in Mobile, Ala. while 800 people were on board.
In Photos: Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship Stranded
Danielle Miller, 23, a passenger, said she was sound asleep and did not know what was going on when she started hearing noise over the ship's intercom asking passengers to gather at muster stations and to put life jackets on.
"I opened the door and just see people running around with life jackets on and we were being yelled at to get our life jackets on and run up to a deck that was two floors above us," she told ABC News. "But we didn't know what was going on because when we were going to bed it was really stormy, so we honestly thought the boat might have been sinking. And we were just panicking and running upstairs. And we didn't know for about a half hour that there was a fire two decks below where we were at."
She said her heart was racing and hands were shaking as passengers stood shoulder to shoulder.
"A couple people fainted. People were throwing up, crying. Just anxiety attacks everywhere. I was just telling my roommate stay calm," she said.
Miller said crew members supervised people going to the restrooms because they wanted to account for passengers at all times.
Nathan Pletscher wasn't concerned after talking to his parents, who are in their 50s and were aboard the ship, until he saw the photo tweeted by Royal Caribbean's public relations team.
"We originally saw a news article and were a little nervous. When we made contact with my parents, they said there was a small fire. When I saw the photo on Twitter, I said, 'That was a little more than a small fire.' It's really fortunate the crew was able to get fire under control and things of that nature," said Pletscher, of Reading, Pa.
Pletscher's parents, also from Reading, and his wife's aunt and uncle are staying on the ship tonight while it is in Freeport. Once the cruise ship landed, they decided to make the most of the interruption to do some shopping on land.
Pletscher said his parents, with whom he traveled to Bermuda last summer, had a "sense of panic" and were "obviously nervous," but the ship's crew managed the situation. The passengers followed what they learned during the drill and put on lifejackets. The lifeboats were lowered just in case.
"When the alarm first went off, there as an 'uh-oh' moment," Pletscher said. "But they couldn't say enough about how organized and professional both the captain and crew were. They kept everyone calm and were extremely transparent on with the whole situation."
Grandeur had just begun to sail earlier this month out of the Port of Baltimore after $48 million in upgrades. Its new amenities include a 220-square foot poolside movie screen. It is Royal Caribbean's second-smallest class of ship at 74,000 tons.
Grandeur of the Seas was en route to CocoCay, Bahamas, as part of a seven-night trip that left Baltimore on May 24. It arrived in Freeport, Bahamas, "for further evaluation" at 10:15 a.m. ET today, the company tweeted, and will dock overnight there.
"Some guests are staying onboard, while others have chosen to spend the day on shore," the company said.
The itinerary included port calls to Port Canaveral, Fla.; CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas.
Just last week, the Cruise Lines International Association introduced a cruise passenger bill of rights, stating when cruise lines will issue full or partial refunds for canceled or interrupted voyages, which many companies already offer.
Read more: Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights Introduced
In April, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. reported first quarter profit of $76.2 million, up from $47 million in the same quarter last year. Revenue increased 4.2 percent to $1.91 billion. The line has 21 ships and brands including Celebrity, Azamara, Pullmantur and CDF Croisières de France.
Catherine Banks of Legacy Travel said initial reports seem to indicate the ship is functioning normally.
"If this had happened by itself and not in the shadow of everything that's happened, it wouldn't be on anybody's radar," Banks said referring to recent cruise industry troubles.
Entering peak travel season, the cruise industry is especially sensitive to negative publicity, though RCI has not reported any major problems.
Carnival, the largest cruise operator, which has also had the most ship malfunctions, had recently lowered its earnings outlook based on cancellations. And with much of a cruise company's revenue collected from on-board expenses, fewer people on board will crunch their bottom line.
"Carnival will do whatever they have to do. They will not sail with empty cabins," Banks said.