(1:45 p.m.) -- In what is a cruise line's biggest nightmare, Princess Cruises' Star Princess caught fire today while at sea, making its way from Grand Cayman to Montego Bay. The fire, which broke out in a midship stateroom at approximately 3 a.m., quickly spread further -- and seared three decks of cabins. Click here for a photo appearing on MSNBC that shows the damage (ironically, our photo was taken just this past Sunday as the ship was departing Port Everglades and, obviously, before it caught fire). What is particularly terrifying is the sight of the melted balconies.
CNN at this point estimates 100 cabins were engulfed in the flames. One passenger has died, two are suffering from "significant smoke inhalation injuries" and nine others experienced "minor complications resulting from smoke inhalation," according to a Princess press release. All injured passengers are now in stable condition in the ship's medical center. While the ship is now docked in Montego Bay as of 11:30 a.m., and the fire has been extinguished, the middle-of-the-night timing while the ship was at sea meant that passengers were forced to go to muster stations.
Reports Cruise Critic member Carolyn (screenname Cjskids), "A major fire broke out at 3 a.m. last night. Our balcony was completely engulfed in flames, it was a wall of fire. Steve and I have lost everything but the clothes on our back. 120 cabins are completely destroyed. We sat in our muster stations for 7 hours with no air and no food. It took them 4 hours to finish roll call. I don't think I've ever been so terrified. We're in Jamaica and have no idea what is going to happen. Thankfully all were accounted for though there were injuries and some heart attacks."
At this point the fire is out though there is still, according to Princess' latest statement, some residual smoke. Princess is working with the U.S. Coast Guard to determine the cause of the blaze.
The ship was carrying 2,690 passengers and 1,123 crew members at the time and had departed from Ft. Lauderdale's Port Everglades on Sunday for a week-long Western Caribbean cruise. Princess is working with the Jamaican Tourist Board to secure hotel rooms as the ship is uninhabitable.
We'll keep you posted throughout the rest of the week, if not beyond. Folks who are slated to travel on Star Princess in coming weeks should contact their travel agents and prepare for alternatives. Family members of passengers currently onboard can call the following number for more information: 1-800-693-7222.
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Star Princess Suffers Major Fire
March 23, 2006