Julie Benson, Princess' vice president, public relations, explains to Cruise Critic that the "overboard" didn't "involve any Princess passenger or crewmember. It appears a passenger reported possibly seeing something or someone in the water, notified the bridge and the ship initiated a search while at the same time notifying the Greek Coast Guard. The ship continued searching during the remaining daylight. The itinerary is not affected."
As to what was spotted in the water, Cruise Critic's Contributing Editor Sue Bryant, who's been blogging live from the ship for the past week as it sails from Rome to Venice, tells us the captain announced that a passenger reported seeing a blue sun lounger in the water. Benson confirmed that detail, but added that the witness wasn't sure if the lounger had been coupled with a person -- which is why the ship turned back to search. According to Benson, based on where the object was spotted -- at a distance of some 200 meters away -- the captain determined that it couldn't possibly have come from Ruby Princess. As darkness fell, there was little more Ruby Princess could do, so it steamed onward.
Bryant offered a series of quick reports from the scene, sent via her Blackberry.
7:59 p.m. Greek local time (DST). "Full emergency action taking place! We're one hour out of Mykonos. We've slowed down and crew threw in a flare to mark spot. The captain said a blue sun lounger had been seen in the water 200 meters from ship on starboard side."
8:11 p.m. DST. "We have slowed right down, but the flare in the water is fading. Outside decks sealed. But nobody has been spotted in water yet."
9 p.m. DST. "Captain said emergency rescue boat had been readied, but they couldn't see anything in the water. Person who sounded alarm has not identified themselves. Captain sounded very pissed off. Search called off."
9:13 p.m. DST: "Full steam ahead for Piraeus now. Very interesting how everybody reacted."
Sue will offer more from the passenger perspective tomorrow in Cruise Critic new U.K. blog.
We'd like to know: Have you ever been on a cruise during a search for man or object? Share your stories here.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor, with reporting from Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor