Live from….Regal Princess: Stranded (Briefly) in Santorini

May 29, 2014 | By | 8 Comments

People running down steps in Santorini, Greece
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.
Donkeys in Santorini
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.
A throng of donkeys in Santorini
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!
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    8 Responses to “Live from….Regal Princess: Stranded (Briefly) in Santorini”

    1. Joyce lasker
      May 29th, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

      Sorry for the weather problem glad you are safely back on board.

      Tell me the configuration of the HORIZON COURT

      HAVE BEEN ON ruby,coral, sun and island princess and was not happy with the buffet.

    2. Ivonne Vilarino
      May 30th, 2014 @ 7:49 am

      What do you mean by “the ship listed once”? Was the ship moving/rocking a lot? How do you find Regal’s stabilizer system?

      We will be sailing Regal in July 25…so negatively impressed by this situation!! ;-O

    3. Laureen Sweetser
      May 30th, 2014 @ 8:58 pm

      That port provided us with the scariest tender ride ever! I sat by the door in case we sank and the woman next to me was squeezing my knee. I kept looking at my husband thinking he’s a strong swimmer and would get us out safely. Then I would look at the poor guy driving and his white knuckles! Princess cannot control the weather and it would be better to be stuck on shore than to make an ill fated attempt to keep running the tenders under bad conditions. I think I would have stayed at the top of the hill to wait for the cable car to resume service. We caught the end of a hurricane on a cruise ship and that was the worst I have experienced. I travel with antivert just in case!

    4. Susan Heatherington
      June 1st, 2014 @ 7:04 am

      We were already back on board when the storm in Santorini hit. The Regal Princess is the most stable ship we have ever been on, including other Cruise companies. Yes the Ship listed but the winds were 80 knots! Even though that happened, we were still very safe. I commend Captain Perrin for his quick thinking to get the ship to a safer location. Sue and John, Chatham, Ontario, Canada

    5. debi b
      June 3rd, 2014 @ 8:44 am

      I have called Princess and did see already on your live chat about pre booking the cabanas and was told it’s not possible. Please can you find out how they can be pre booked. We sail out of Barcelona on 18th Aug.

    6. Phil
      June 11th, 2014 @ 10:24 pm

      We experienced the storm that day as well. We were in a restaurant at the to of the hill and the front window blew in, shattering the glass and upturning table and chairs. Made a big mess. Power lines were also brought down.

      Re the cabanas, they must be booked on board, at the facility itself. We tried, but were too late. Go to the Sanctuary or Retreat as soon as you board.

    7. CP_ATL
      July 2nd, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

      We were on the Princess Regal on that itinerary too. Overall the captain and the crew handled the situation very professionally. It was a captain’s decision to move the ship out to the open waters, just to be on the safe side. I don’t see anything wrong with that, considering the other passengers and the crew still onboard. The other two ships (Celebrity and MSC) remained in the crater. Except for that one weather related incident, it was one of the best trips we had.

    8. KD ~ Chinadoll
      May 20th, 2015 @ 9:11 pm

      We were also on the Regal during this highly unusual and unexpected storm. We were still on our tour when the storm began having lunch. We watched the sand kick up from our open air restaurant, and very quickly the waiters started rolling down the plastic to shield us from the growing winds. We left there, continued our tour up to the highest peak in Santorini. Our bus driver and another driver had to move debris from the roadway in order to continue down the mountain. We were about to get off the bus to walk to the cable cars when the tour company received word that they were not running. The bus decided to bring us back to the original tender port. When we arrived back at the dock, Princess crew members were there to greet us and to direct us to places to sit and stay dry and warm. They offered free coffee, tea, hot chocolate to all passengers while we waited for The Regal to return to port. The crew {even crew members who were off the ship on their own time} kept a check on us, kept us informed, and were very organized when the tenders resumed. They made several checks to be sure no one was left behind {I was one of the last to return to the ship}. The crew are to be commended on how calmly, professionally, and on how first class they handled this emergency situation. When we returned onboard, the other passengers that we spoke with were equally impressed with the onboard crew, especially our captain. As one other guest mentioned, an announcement was made explaining what went on on the ship that predicated our captain’s decision to sail out to safer waters. While it was unfortunate that passengers were left on land, it was the right decision for everyone involved and by far the safest one. We felt safe, comfortable {albeit wet}, and very informed. Princess continues to be our very favorite cruise line {and we have been on just about every other one}!

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