The Spirit of Nantucket struck something in the Intercoastal Waterway at approximately 5:30 this morning; according to a Cruise West statement, there was no immediate danger to guests as they ate breakfast while the Coast Guard prepared to evacuate them.
We'll keep you posted on the status of the ship; damage is currently being assessed. According to CNN, crews aboard pumped water from its lower level as an oily sheen spread across the water.
(November 8, 11:42 a.m.) -- A U.S. Coast Guard rescue is underway for 66 cruise passengers aboard Cruise West's Spirit of Nantucket, which struck something and began taking on water in the Intracoastal Waterway near Virginia Beach, according to CNN.
No injuries to passengers or crew have been reported.
Two vessels have already responded to the incident to assist in evacuating those onboard; the Coast Guard, as well as police and fire units, began tranferring the 66 people on board by midmorning, taking them on Coast Guard boats for a short ride to a ferry dock. All passengers are equipped with personal flotation devices.
According to an official release from the Coast Guard, the captain of the vessel purposely ran the ship aground to prevent it from sinking after it began taking on water. An MH-60 Jayhawk Rescue Helicopter is en-route from the Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, with dewatering pumps.
Though it's not clear yet what obstacle the 1,471-ton, 102-passenger ship encountered, Cruise Critic member surfklutz posts on the message boards, "I understand the Intracoastal Waterway is a pain for captains to navigate through at best."
According to a Cruise West statement, plans are underway to transfer guests to motorcoaches, which will take them to a local hotel.
The Spirit of Nantucket was on a 10-day cruise from Alexandria, Virginia, to Charleston, South Carolina.
We'll keep you posted.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor