The stricken Azamara Quest cruise ship limped its way into Sandakan, Malaysia late Sunday after a fire left it adrift in Philippine waters for 24 hours.
The 1,000-passenger luxury liner became stranded after a fire knocked out three of its four engines on Friday, injuring five crew members and cutting the ship's air conditioning system. Crew restored propulsion the next night and the cruise reached the coast of Malaysian Borneo in the state of Sabah by Sunday evening around 9 p.m. local time. Malaysian police and consular officials from countries including Britain, Canada, and the U.S. were present to assist the passengers.
Azamara Quest, part of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., is an 11-deck vessel that features a casino, spa, and shopping boutiques. It was on a 17-day Southeast Asia cruise that had embarked from Hong Kong for Singapore but ran into trouble after departing Manila. It was scheduled to make several stops in Indonesia before arriving in Singapore on April 12.
Many expressed initial concerns in the wake of the Costa Concordia catastrophe earlier in 2012. Thirty-two people died as the ship ran aground and capsized off the western coast of Italy. Another Costa ship, the Allegra, was left adrift in the pirate-infested Indian Ocean after a similar fire. However, passengers on the Azamara Quest praised the crew for keeping spirits high.
It was unfortunate, but the crew was totally, utterly amazing, taking care of us, making sure we were safe, pulling double duty, Diane Becker Krasnick of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, told the AP. I would still highly recommend the Azamara.
As the ship cruised into Malaysia, passengers ate barbecue on deck and enjoyed free drinks. Though the air conditioning remained off, workers restored electricity, running water, and pluming within a few hours of the fire and most of the passengers remarked that the incident caused little discomfort.
The passengers hailed from 25 countries and included 201 Americans, 98 Britons, 89 Australians, and 45 Canadians. The crew included 119 Filipinos, 58 Indians, and 50 Indonesians.
In press interviews, one Toronto woman remarked, The captain was phenomenal, while a woman from Melbourne, Australia said there was no panic, no chaos. Everything was under control.
The crew was well-trained, Reginald MacDonalad of Chatham, Ont. told CBC News. They did everything they were supposed to. People remained calm. I'm surprised there was no panic situation. In fact, this was probably the best example of the cruise training being used to good advantage.
I don't think anybody is ever going to complain about what they are receiving back from Azamara, he added, because it's very generous.
The president of Miami-based Azamara Club Cruises, Larry Pimental, was expected to meet with the passengers and crew in Sandakan on Monday. Though the rest of the cruise was canceled, the company is refunding passengers and providing each guest with a future cruise certificate.