This week, Twitter -- the social media site based on 140-character status updates -- has proven its importance in bringing up-to-the-minute news to the world. As the Iranian government shut down media communications in the wake of its contested elections and protests by the opposition, tweets from Tehran told the rest of the planet just what was going on inside Iran. And now, as concerned cruise fans wait breathlessly for news about Princess Cruises' Royal Princess, whose engine caught fire yesterday, once again Twitter is coming to the rescue with inside information.
Today's hero is Greg Surratt (a.k.a. @gregsurratt on Twitter), a pastor at Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina, who happens to (still) be onboard Royal Princess' 12-night Holy Land cruise and is tweeting about his experience. While Princess Cruises has updated its Web site with only the most basic updates about the ship's situation -- no injuries, fire extinguished, ship heading back to Port Said -- Surratt has filled in the details, simply by posting quick updates and photos.
Some of the glimmers of insight Surratt's providing all who are willing to follow him on Twitter include:
In response to Princess' bald "passengers remain at their emergency stations as a precautionary measure" statement during the time when they were mustered yesterday, Surratt tells us "we've been on floor in dark for 4 hrs w 700 close friends. Romantic"
His "your friendly Egyptian tow truck" photo tells us what Princess has not – that Royal Princess could not return to Port Said under its own power. And after tweeting a photo of people sleeping out on deck Surratt applauds the crew with "Princess cruise crew have been incredible. No sleep. No air in quarters. Very gracious. Praying for them."
The most recent post provides a much needed update on the conditions of the ship: "We have elec, air, sanitation in cabins. We can get off ship."
Surratt shared a tweet from his brother on the unexpected change in itinerary (the ship had been on its way from Egypt to Israel when the fire broke out): "So you were almost to the promised land but now must spend more time in the desert? Sounds very Biblical."
We hope more Royal Princess passengers will tweet (or, naturally, post on the Cruise Critic Message Boards or send us emails directly at email@example.com) to keep the information coming as we're sure not hearing much from Princess.
In the meantime, we will continue to check all sources -- both the official Princess statements and messages from passengers onboard -- to bring you a complete picture of what is happening to Royal Princess in Egypt.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
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Update: Engine Room Fire on Princess Cruise Ship
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Cruise Ship Fire Details Revealed on Twitter
June 19, 2009