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UPDATE: First passengers from Royal Caribbean cruise fire arrive home

Posted: May 28, 2013 12:00 p.m.
Updated: May 28, 2013 12:00 p.m.

The fire-damaged exterior of Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship is seen while docked in Freeport, Grand Bahama island on Monday.

 

BALTIMORE (AP) — The first passengers from a Royal Caribbean cruise that was cut short by a fire have arrived back in Baltimore on a charter flight.

Many are praising the crew's handling of the emergency and say they'd be eager to take another Royal Caribbean cruise.

Rebecca Killinger of Carlisle, Pa., says she had no idea how extensive the fire was until the ship got into dock. She says the captain and crew were calm and forthcoming throughout the ordeal, even cracking jokes to lighten the mood. The cruise was her first and she says she'd be happy to take to the seas again.

The 2,200 passengers are being flown into Baltimore on charter planes. The first, carrying more than 100 people, arrived shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

A fire that broke out aboard a Royal Caribbean ship Monday did enough damage that the rest of the cruise was canceled and the company said the more than 2,200 passengers will be flown from the Bahamas back to Baltimore where the trip began.

The fire that began at 2:50 a.m. Monday was extinguished about two hours later with no injuries reported. A cause wasn't immediately known. The Grandeur of the Seas, which left Baltimore on Friday, never lost power and was able to sail into port in Freeport, Bahamas, Monday afternoon. It had been planned to be a seven-night cruise.

Royal Caribbean said on its website and through social media that executives met with passengers in port and that the cruise line is arranging flights for all 2,224 guests on Tuesday. It said passengers will receive a full refund of their fare and a certificate for a future cruise.

Aboard ship early Monday, the captain announced that passengers needed to go to their muster stations, rousing Mark J. Ormesher from his stateroom. Ormesher said in an email to The Associated Press that immediately after the announcement, his room attendant knocked on the door and told him and his girlfriend to grab their flotation devices. The attendant said it wasn't a drill.

Ormesher, a native of England, who lives in Manassas, Va., said he and his girlfriend smelled acrid smoke as they went to their muster station, the ship's casino. The crew quickly provided instruction.

"This encouraged calm amongst the passengers," he said. Passengers were required to remain at their stations for four hours, he said, and the captain "provided us as much information as we needed to stay safe."

Ormesher, who is 25 and on his first cruise, said the air conditioner had been shut off, and as the hours passed and the ship got hot, bottled water was distributed. The crew and passengers remained calm, and helped those who needed it. Crying babies were given formula and held while their parents used the bathrooms.

In Freeport, Bahamas, passenger Andrea Sanders of Washington, D.C., said she slept on the deck with hundreds of other passengers as smoke billowed out of the stern of the ship. "I was terrified with it being my first cruise," Sanders told The Freeport News as she ate lunch in port.

Royal Caribbean said all guests and 796 crew were safe and accounted for. Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said in an email that the company was arranging 11 different charter flights for passengers. Photos show a substantial area of the stern burned on several decks of the ship the length of about three football fields.

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