Cruise Critic Managing Editor Colleen McDaniel is onboard Regal Princess this week, on the ship’s inaugural voyage in the eastern Mediterranean. Today, high winds of 80 knots outside Santorini, Greece, forced the ship to temporarily abandon its tender port to move to safer waters – leaving almost 2,000 people ashore. Here are some of Colleen’s photos and description of what happened:
Santorini is a port that requires a tender; we had taken a small boat in the morning from Regal Princess to the shore, a ride of about 10 minutes. With winds whipping in the afternoon, whitecaps appeared on the sea, forcing the ship to move. We watched Regal Princess leave the port from the town of Fira, high above.
Most of us in Fira had planned to take the six-person cable cars back down to the port. With the cable car service discontinued because of the storm, we had to change our plans and walk down a steep staircase full of switchbacks.
Winds were brutal, sending sand and debris into our eyes. This path, which is typically used by donkeys that take passengers up and down the staircase, was slippery, with uneven steps and the, ahem, residue of the animals that travel there daily. The winds were so powerful, passengers held onto one another for safety.
The treacherous path down to the harbor got even worse when the rains started. Passengers making their way down the stairs were forced to walk single-file through a throng of donkeys, which seemed unperturbed by the presence of people.
Many of the passengers taking the walk were elderly, and we saw many people fall on the stairs. Once we got the bottom, Princess reps informed us where we should wait, and eventually, the weather passed. The reps also kindly passed out warm towels for those who were soaking wet and cold from the weather.
All in all, it was about 3.5 hours before our tenders were able to come and get us onboard. That process went smoothly, though the staff who were helping us were wearing life jackets (I’ve never noticed that before, though it might be common). They gripped arms firmly to make sure passengers were safe getting on and off.
Overall, Princess handled this frightening experience with aplomb. Princess posted reps at the harbor to track down passengers and make sure they knew what was going on. They also scanned the public places to ensure no one was left behind. Passengers in port hung out in shops and bars, having drinks and laughing (mostly) about the strangeness of the situation.
Onboard, we’re told the captain was excellent, keeping passengers informed about the situation the whole time. He elected to move the ship because the water was too rough, and the ship listed once. He maintained a safe distance, communicating with captains from other ships in port (Celebrity Reflection and MSC Armonia), until the weather passed and it was safe to return. The storm came out of nowhere; it hadn’t showed up on anyone’s radar. All is fine and the ship left Santorini with everyone aboard. The weather forecast for tonight is bad, but the ship is speeding up to get to our next port, Katakalon. We expect a 60 minute delay tomorrow. Passengers generally seemed happy with the way everything was handled. The cruise director addressed it after the production show tonight, and mentioning the captain’s name got a round of applause.
Colleen’s unexpected delay means that our Cruise Critic Live! chat about Regal Princess has been moved until tomorrow afternoon. Join us then, at 3 p.m. EDT, or leave a question for her today!