MILTON, Ga. – Jan and Chuck Fowler thought the best way to spend their 32nd anniversary together would be on a cruise to the Bahamas, just not on a ship that caught fire.
The Fowlers were aboard the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas ship that caught fire May 27 while en route to Coco Cay three days into the ship’s seven-day cruise.
“The fire occurred in the mooring section of deck three, which houses the ropes for mooring the ship to the dock,” Jan Fowler said. “That area was full of highly combustible material.”
The damage was contained to only one area of the ship but was significant enough to cause the rest of the cruise to be canceled.
“It took the fire team just over two hours to extinguish the fire and none of the 2,200 passengers or 800 crew members were injured,” she said.
News reports said passengers were vomiting and passing out, but Fowler said it was only a select few and there was no widespread panic aboard the ship.
Fowler said their cabin was mid-ship and they never smelled or saw the fire.
“Around 2:50 a.m., we were awakened by an emergency announcement and pounding on the doors telling us there was a fire on board and to quickly get our life jackets and report to our muster stations,” she said. “We were at our muster stations for about five hours before being released back to our cabins.”
Fowler said the ship’s crew updated them about every 20 minutes and immediately attended to people in need.
“Royal Caribbean tried to make things as comfortable for all of us,” she said. “We were also extremely lucky that, unlike Triumph, we never lost navigation or critical systems. The Royal Caribbean executives flew to Freeport with additional support personnel and were visible to us.”
She said they worked hard to keep the cruise running as close to normal as possible by providing hot meals and entertainment.
“Internet and phone calls were free so everyone could contact family and make travel arrangements, and all beverages, mini bar snacks, photos and such were free, too.”
Once Royal Caribbean determined the damage too extensive to continue the cruise, passengers were given a total refund and free cruise vouchers.
“They chartered several large planes to get us all back to Baltimore so we could fly home,” she said.
She said at about 10:30 a.m., passengers were allowed to go ashore in Freeport, Bahamas, where the ship was docked, and many did.
“This was nothing like what the Carnival Triumph people suffered through,” she said.
Fowler said the most chaotic part of the whole event was dealing with flights.
“I’m sure Royal Caribbean did their best to keep things moving, but it still took us 11 hours to get from our cabin to the hotel in Baltimore,” she said.
Fowler said the trip home took longer than expected, but they arrived safely.
“We are blessed and thankful things turned out as well as they did with everyone safe and sound considering what might have happened,” she said.