Cruise fire cuts couple’s trip short

Jun 19, 2013
Photo by: Kenneth Liscombe Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship's damage after it caught fire.

Kenneth and Elaine Liscombe of Waynesville were only two days into their vacation when their cruise ship caught on fire and cut their trip short.

The Liscombes have been on many cruises in the last several years but this one would set the record for most eventful. They left port on Saturday, May 25 from Baltimore, Maryland and cruised all day Sunday down to Florida.

They stopped at Cape Canaveral, Florida, for the day. Kenneth said they had a lovely day exploring and Elaine even had a chance to hold a python and an alligator during a swamp boat tour.

The Royal Caribbean ship then departed for the Bahamas around 9 p.m. Sunday night. The Liscombes were awoken by a bang at their door around 3 a.m. only to find out that the front of the ship had caught on fire.

“We never heard how the fire actually started, but it was pretty severe – oxygen tanks exploded and temperatures reached over 1,000 degrees,” Kenneth said.

According to a CNN report, the fire started on an aft mooring deck and spread to the fourth deck at the crew lounge area before it was extinguished around 5 a.m.

While ship crews were trying to extinguish the fire, the 2,000 plus guests were directed toward the lifeboat stations on the deck and had to put their life preserves on to prepare for an evacuation.

“We stood on deck for about three hours and they swayed the lifeboats down onto the deck,” Kenneth said. “My wife got sick and they attended to her and gave her a chair and blanket.”

From their location, he said they couldn’t even smell or see the fire at the front of the ship. Luckily, no one was injured, but the guests staying in the staterooms had to be evacuated and couldn’t go back to their rooms. Kenneth said Royal Caribbean put them up in hotels once they reached Freeport, Bahamas.

The rest of the guests were told to pack on Monday morning and the cruise line said they would fly everyone back to Baltimore that day.

“It went screwy from there,” he said. “We just sat and waited and waited — we couldn’t sleep.”

Finally, the cruise line announced that departures back to Baltimore wouldn’t be until 11 p.m. at night. However, the Liscombes didn’t leave out for Baltimore until nearly 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. After all that, their luggage wasn’t there to greet them at baggage claim.

“It got separated from us at Freeport but they said it would come in on the next plane,” Kenneth said.

They decided to check in to the Hilton room that Royal Caribbean booked for them and waited on their luggage to get there, which wasn’t until later in the day. Needless to say, it was a long car ride home back to Waynesville.

“It was a real experience,” Kenneth said.

But on the plus side, the cruise line refunded all of their expenses for the cruise and gave all passengers another free cruise that they have to use within the next year.

Elaine said it could have been worse — at least the ship didn’t lose power like the Carnival cruise ship did in March when a fire started in the engine room. Having no power left passengers on the ship with horrendous sanitary conditions, including sewage seepage, toxic fumes and food poison.

When asked if he would go on another cruise after the ordeal, he said, “Oh sure! We wouldn’t hesitate for a second to go. We’re probably going in January.”

Even though the seven-day cruise was cut short, he said Royal Caribbean did a great job of keeping everyone informed, fed and accommodated through the disaster.

“I can’t say enough about Royal Caribbean — the food and waiters were excellent – I was very pleased.”