In what appears to be the result of a computer snafu, 382 passengers on last week's 11-night Galaxy cruise from Baltimore to the Caribbean were ... stranded. In Charleston, South Carolina, that is -- a genteel port city where it is fair to say the concept of being stranded is an oxymoron.
The ship was slated to dock in Charleston and duly -- as is required by
post-September 11 law -- filed its passenger manifest to the U.S. Coast Guard via
email somewhat in advance of its deadline. Alas, due to a boondoggle that,
at this point is still not quite unwound, the ship's dispatch wasn't
received in time.
The ship arrived, as scheduled, in the relatively early morning hours of
April 7 ... and began to disembark passengers for the day's excursions in
Charleston. Alas, sometime around mid-day, the Coast Guard figured out
that it hadn't received the manifest within the required time frame and
so, at about 2 p.m., ordered the ship to head for international waters.
Which Galaxy did indeed do -- sailing 12 miles out while some 382 passengers
were still meandering around Charleston, completely unaware that the ship
had, well, left. Galaxy staffers did remain at the port to alert
unsuspecting travelers (and let's be honest, who wouldn't want the luxury
of a few extra free hours in Charleston?).
Ultimately, Celebrity Galaxy was permitted to return once the 24-hour mark
had passed (about 7 p.m.) and it quickly picked up remaining passengers and
headed out for two days at sea before its next port call at St. Maarten.
The Coast Guard and Celebrity Cruises are still disputing the issue
(Celebrity maintains, and according to a
source has the records to prove, that it sent its list a full day and a half in advance of its
arrival at Charleston). "We were able to show that our computers were
speaking to the Coast Guard computers," says Michael Sheehan, a Celebrity
spokesman, "and for reasons no one yet knows the transmission didn't
arrive for 21 hours."
This is the second instance in 2004 when the Coast Guard has played "tough
guy" to ships not adhering to the 24-hour regulation (whether it was the
fault of a computer connection, or manifests simply were ignored). Earlier
this year, P&O's Oceana neglected to file its manifest -- at all -- and
yet still assumed its scheduled anchor position in St. Thomas. Passengers
were being readied for tender transport onto the island before Coast Guard
officials ordered the ship to depart.
Coast Guard Forces Celebrity's Galaxy To Depart Charleston
April 12, 2004