Update: First Passengers Being Flown Back Following Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Fire

May 28, 2013

Update, May 28, 2:28 p.m.: The first of 11 charter flights returning Grandeur of the Seas passengers from Freeport to Baltimore has landed. Passengers will continue to be flown in throughout the day.

(10:30 a.m. EDT) -- The first passengers onboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas are enroute to Baltimore and are due to arrive between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m. today (May 28).

A Tweet posted by Royal Caribbean said: “The first flight carrying guests from #GrandeuroftheSeas back to the U.S. is in the air. Flights will continue throughout the day.”

There will be 11 charter flights in total. Twenty five passengers who do not want to fly will take a ferry to Fort Lauderdale, and then the train or bus to Baltimore.

Cruise Critic member, Dharma517, was onboard Grandeur with her husband, and posted that their flight would depart Freeport at 4 p.m. today.

Dharma517 also mentioned that premium coffee has been free of charge, and drink packages have been refunded in full.

A separate Tweet from Marlena Baldacci of CNN says the fire-damaged ship will be towed to a dry dock in Freeport, The Bahamas, today.

The ship has been in Freeport since yesterday, following an early morning fire which started in the mooring area of Deck 3. No one was hurt and the ship reached port safely. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

The line has been forced to cancel the remainder of the cruise, and also its May 31 sailing.

As compensation, all passengers will be fully refunded the amount of their cruise fare, along with a "future cruise certificate for 100 percent of the cruise fare paid for their May 24, 2013, Grandeur of the Seas sailing," according to the statement.

Passengers booked on Friday's sailing will receive full refunds of their cruise fares as well as 50 percent off certificates for future cruises.

According to Royal Caribbean's public relations department, the company will announce updates on other future sailings by the end of the week.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which has an Office of Marine Safety, announced via Twitter it will join the U.S. Coast Guard in investigating the fire.
A statement from the Coast Guard read:

"At approximately 3 a.m., Coast Guard Sector Miami received a report of a fire aboard a Bahamian-flagged cruise ship carrying 2,224 passengers and 796 crew en route to CoCoCay, Bahamas.

The fire reportedly began on the third deck of the aft mooring area of the ship and spread to the fourth deck crew lounge area. Around 5 a.m., the fire was reported to have been extinguished by the ship's fire response crew.

Coast Guard Sector Miami issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast (UMIB) and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Cormorant, the Coast Guard Cutter Sitkinak, and the Coast Guard Cutter Robert Yered to respond to the emergency. The Coast Guard also launched an Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft and an Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk to respond.

The cruise ship Carnival Sensation and a motor vessel from the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER), the Hagen, also diverted to stand by and assist if needed.

The Cutter Cormorant and the Cutter Yered safely escorted the Grandeur of the Seas to Freeport, Bahamas where it is currently moored for further evaluation.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are joining the flag state to begin conducting a joint investigation of the vessel to determine the cause of the fire."

Grandeur of the Seas was on a seven-night sailing that departed Baltimore, Maryland, on May 24, and includes port calls to Port Canaveral, CocoCay and Nassau.

We will update you on further news as and when we receive it.
--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor

Photo courtesy of member smoosh21 who received it from a "crew member friend".