None of the passengers or 650 crew members were injured in the fire, which was safely extinguished, but the ship reversed course and returned to Bermuda, arriving Saturday night. The cause? According to Royal Caribbean, “a ruptured fuel line between the third and fourth main propulsion engines is the suspected cause of the fire, which was quickly extinguished by the ship’s fire sprinkler system.”
Officers contacted the U.S. Coast Guard to coordinate safety efforts; the USCG, as a precaution, sent out tugboats in case assistance was needed to get Nordic Empress back to port, but she sailed on her own power, via its starboard main propulsion engine.
Passengers, who were permitted to return to their cabins and spend Saturday’s return to Bermuda as an almost normal sea day (lighting, air conditioning and water systems were fully functional), were flown back to New York via charter and regular jet service at Royal Caribbean’s expense. The cruise line also gave each guest a free seven-night cruise certificate to make up for inconvenience (the ship was on its fifth day of a week-long trip).
And, for obvious reasons, passengers slated to sail on the June 17 voyage -- which was due to leave New York Sunday -- have been notified that their cruise has been canceled and also received free-seven day cruises, plus a full refund.
Meanwhile, Nordic Empress is undergoing repairs at King’s Wharf and Royal Caribbean has said it expects repairs to be completed in time for the ship to carry-on with the June 24 sailing.
Much to its credit, Royal Caribbean’s on-board efforts -- quickly detecting the fire and then putting it out in minimal time and with minimal damage -- proved that the ship’s crew was well trained and that its fire system devices were in good working order. Royal Caribbean also made terrific use of their web site, providing news and alerts every 12 hours or so.
It’s been an odd, and strangely mechanical-accident prone month for Royal Caribbean’s parent company, which owns both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, which already this month has had to pull two ships out of service, temporarily, for emergency repairs.