The 23,149-ton Aquamarine docked safely carrying more than 1,200 people -- 872 passengers and 407 crewmembers -- and will now undergo hurried repairs after further inspection is completed. Passengers are expected to remain onboard while the hull is fixed.
A Ministry of Merchant Marines official told The Associated Press that the damage occurred when Aquamarine scraped against a pier while departing from Iraklion, Crete this morning. When crewmembers investigated a short time later, they discovered that the collision had left a gash in the hull about eight feet above the water line.
The ship immediately abandoned its next scheduled port call in Santorini and proceeded to nearby Milos.
A spokesman for Louis Cruise Lines blamed the ship's contact with the pier on high winds and the pier's lack of protective rubber fenders, and said that the damage never posed any danger to passengers. Aquamarine had been on the final day of a four-day cruise of Greece and Turkey.
The incident calls to mind the 2007 sinking of another Louis vessel, the Sea Diamond, after it struck a reef near Santorini. More than 1,500 passengers and crew were evacuated, but two French passengers were never accounted for and are presumed dead.
--by Michael Potter, Assistant Editor