(9:38 a.m. EDT) -- Forty-nine passengers from Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas were involved in a vehicular accident yesterday on St. Thomas during a ship-sponsored shore excursion. Some 29 of those guests were transported to a local hospital; nine sustained non-life-threatening injuries -- mostly bumps, bruises and lacerations, according to cruise line spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez.
Eight of the nine injured passengers returned to the ship yesterday, which stayed in port an extra hour to wait for them. The remaining passenger, who sustained an ankle injury, stayed behind with her husband (not one of the injured, but one of the 29 who was transported to the hospital), and will return to the States today via airplane, Martinez tells us.
The accident occurred when the "Duckaneer," a combination bus/boat, veered off the road "at a low rate of speed" at 2:20 p.m. local time, according to a cruise line statement. The shore excursion, entitled "Pirate Duck Adventure," is a tour of St. Thomas onboard the amphibious vehicle lasting one hour and 45 minutes.
Martinez tells us that sales of this particular excursion have been suspended while the accident is being investigated.
"Our thoughts are with our guests that were involved in this unfortunate accident," Adam Goldstein, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean International, is quoted as saying in a statement. "The safety and well-being of our guests is our highest priority, and we will continue to do our very best to assist them." Two Royal Caribbean staff members, including a doctor, attended to patients at the hospital yesterday, according to the statement.
Cruise Critic member Host Anne, who just returned from a weeklong vacation on St. John, flew out of neighboring St. Thomas the day of the accident. "Just after we passed Freedom in the harbor, sirens began blaring all around and police and ambulances were coming from everywhere," she tells us via e-mail. "The excursion vehicle was sideways on a hillside, looking like it [slid] off the road and down the hill. So glad to hear that no one was seriously injured."
Freedom of the Seas is currently on a seven-night Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral.
We'll keep you posted.
--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor