Cruise Ship Fire Ruins Vacationers’ Memorial Day Weekend

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Just three months after the Carnival Triumph made headlines for the deplorable shipboard conditions suffered following a fire in the vessel’s engine room, another cruise ship fire has caught the attention of maritime authorities and cruise ship lawyers around the country.

This time, the incident involved the Royal Caribbean vessel, Grandeur of the Seas. The U.S. Coast Guard reported that a fire broke out on the ship early Memorial Day Monday while the vessel was off the coast of Florida. The fire was contained to a small area and was put out quickly, and so far, no injuries have been reported

The Grandeur of the Seas was carrying 2,224 passengers and 796 crew members from its home port in Baltimore to Coco Cay, Bahamas when the fire broke out at 2:50 a.m. in an aft mooring area of the vessel where the lines that tie the ship to shore are stored.  The fire then spread to a crew lounge one deck above the mooring area.

Royal Caribbean officials radioed the Coast Guard for assistance with the Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship fire, and Lake Worth responders dispatched three cutters and two aircrafts to aid the crew in containing the situation.

According to the Coast Guard, responders used equipment onboard the ship to put out the fire, as opposed to from the cutters. The fire was contained to the third deck only – out of 11 – on the 916-foot cruise vessel. Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said the fire was extinguished at 4:58 a.m., but she did not disclose the cause of the fire.

Authorities have classified it as a “Class A” fire, meaning it broke out in solid combustible materials, including wood or plastic, and did not involve fuel or other flammable substances.

The Carnival Sensation, which was near the location of the Grandeur of the Seas, was put on standby to assist in case the vessel needed to be evacuated.

As per one cruise passenger’s recount of the incident, it seems as though the ship’s crew members did a good job of handling the situation and taking care to ensure passengers were not harmed.

“Crew members told us to get our life vest on,” explained passenger Bang  Warren. “We asked if we could throw on clothes real quick. They told us we didn’t have enough time for that.”

However, the fire still reflects poorly on Royal Caribbean, especially after the Grandeur of the Seas just recently underwent a $48 million refurbishment. Apparently, fire safety and control were not part of the upgrade.

Yet, it appears cruise officials did manage to take swift action to successfully contain the situation and lower the risk of injuries.

RCCL officials explained the ship was diverted to Freeport, Bahamas, where it was evaluated for damage and safety compliance. After assessing the damage, Royal Caribbean announced it was cancelling the remainder of the voyage and would be issuing full refunds to each passenger, as well as arranging flights for all cruise guests back to Baltimore on Tuesday. Guests whose rooms were affected by the fire were  also to be put up in hotels in Freeport until their flights could be arranged.

Additionally, RCCL will be providing each passenger with a certificate for a future cruise. Carnival Cruises should acted as quickly and responsibly when the Triumph incident took place instead of taking several days to come up with a strategy to compensate passengers who suffered from significantly worse conditions onboard the Triumph. Instead of towing the vessel to Progresso, Mexico the nearest Port and evacuating it there, Carnival  left over 4,000 people to suffer amidst raw sewage and waste overflowing from broken toilets, meager food provisions, and overall extremely unsanitary conditions while it towed the Triumph back to the U.S.

Royal also announced it was canceling the next cruise on the Grandeur of the Seas, which was scheduled to set sail from Baltimore on May 31. The company said it would provide an update regarding future sailings “as soon as the information is available.”

This is the first fire reported on a Royal Caribbean ship this year. The last cruise ship fire onboard an RCCL vessel broke out on April 20, 2012 in the engine room of the Allure of the Seas as it was sailing from St. Maarten to Fort Lauderdale.

Royal is the second-largest cruise liner, behind Carnival Corp., Let’s hope that Carnival learns from its competition and the next time it has trouble with one of its ships it puts its passengers best interest ahead of the Cruise Lines bottom line as its number one concern when deciding where to head into port and how to adequately compensate those on board for the hardship.

The cruise fire is being investigated by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.