Passengers back in US after cruise ship is holed in Grand Bahama


Tribune Freeport



THE 960 passengers onboard the Bahamas Celebration are back safely in Florida after a terrifying ordeal when the cruise ship ran aground and was holed shortly after leaving Grand Bahama on Friday evening, forcing it to return to port.

One passenger described it as a “real life Halloween horror cruise.”

Yesterday the Bahamas Celebration was docked at Freeport Harbour, where a salvage crew has spent the weekend assessing the damage. A small hole in the port side amidships has been repaired. The ship is listing at 10 per cent and it is not known how long it will be out of service.

Around 9pm on Friday, 200 yards outside the harbour, the Bahamas Celebration hit something in the water, lost power briefly and went into a sudden blackout, passengers reported.

The ship, which had started to take on water, returned to port. Although emergency procedures were initiated and passengers told to put on life jackets, the cruise line said passengers were never in any danger. Passengers were evacuated and put up at various resorts.

On Saturday afternoon, the Bimini SuperFast ferry picked up the passengers and non-essential crew members, including casino staff, bartenders and waitresses, and took them back to Florida via Bimini and Miami, from where they were taken to Palm Beach.

The passengers told of their frightening experience on arrival at the port in Florida. “Everyone was freaking out,” said one woman. “It was a nightmare,” another passenger said.

One man said it felt like the boat was tipping over. “The boat hit something and it came to a halt and the lights went out – everyone started to panic,” he recalled. Another woman said: “It was a disaster – it makes you never want to go on a cruise again.”

James Verillo, owner of the Bahamas Celebration cruise line, said on Saturday afternoon that a small hole on the side of the vessel had been repaired. “The ship is listing at about 10 per cent and there is a whole host of professionals on board dealing with the issue. There was a small hole on the side of the ship that has already been patched,” he said.

Mr Verillo said they did not know the cost of the damage at this stage or how long the ship will be out of service.

No oil or contaminants leaked from the ship.

Resorts World Bimini spokeswoman Heather Krasnow said the Bimini SuperFast has arrived early at the Resorts World port on Saturday and after disembarking its passengers, immediately sailed to Freeport to board the stranded Bahamas Celebration passengers and crew and returned to Bimini. “All guests, including the Bimini SuperFast’s day-cruise passengers, were safely taken back to Port Miami on Saturday evening.”

The Celebration, a mid-sized cruise ship plying between the Port of Palm Beach and Grand Bahama, brings thousands of passengers to the island every week and suspension of the service would be bad for tourism and the local economy.

The cruise line cancelled scheduled cruises for Saturday and today and all booked passengers will be notified and a refund or other arrangements will be made.

The Celebration was built in Kiel, Germany, and launched originally in 1981 but has been extensively modified since. In 2008 she was bought by the US-based Celebration Cruise Holdings and renamed. She is 673 feet in length and has the capacity to carry 1,900 passengers and 700 cars.


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