Update: Cruise West Vessel Scrapes to a Halt

June 10, 2008

Update: Spirit of Alaska is making its way from Juneau to Seattle for repairs. The June 9 sailing has been cancelled, and passengers on the terminated cruise have either been accommodated on other ships or given refunds. As of now, the goal is to have the ship back in service for its next scheduled cruise, a nine-day Inside Passage sailing departing on June 17. Stay tuned.

Just two days into an Alaska cruisetour, 41 passengers were forced to hit the rarely used vacation reset button. On Wednesday morning, Cruise West's Spirit of Alaska scraped bottom in Tracy Arm Fjord, of glacier viewing fame, prompting a suspension of the sailing and a call to the Coast Guard.

No injuries were reported, and while the ship wasn't taking on water, and didn't appear to have structural damage, issues with the propulsion system resulted in a Coast Guard order that the ship be towed back to Juneau, where the sailing had commenced. Ultimately, according to Terence Gallagher, spokesperson for the line, the ship made it back to Juneau under its own power. Damage assessment is ongoing, and it's yet to be determined if future cruises -- the next scheduled for June 9 -- will be affected.

Passengers on the only half-filled Spirit of Alaska (capacity 78) will transfer to the Spirit of Endeavor, where they'll make another go at it.
This morning, passengers were served breakfast onboard the now anchored Spirit of Alaska, and later today, they'll boarding Spirit of Endeavour for a nine-day cruise of Alaska's Inside Passage.

For those without wiggle room in their travel plans, the line is dealing with passengers on a one-on-one basis.
The incident comes just a month after Spirit of Columbia was forced to head back to Juneau due to mechanical problems.

One of the largest players in the small-ship Alaska cruise niche, the American-flagged and American-crewed Cruise West fleet focuses on scenery, wildlife, natural history and culture of destination with a casual onboard ambience.

--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor