Tonight I began to receive text messages from passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas stating that a fire broke out in the engine room. Heavy black smoke billowed out of the stacks. There was initial panic by some passengers. The cruise ship made emergency announcement and altered its course so that the prevailing winds would not blow smoke into the ship.
There are no reports of injuries to passengers at this time. The Allure is continuing its cruise and there apparently remains propulsion, electricity, lights, and air conditioning. The ship is heading from St. Maarten back to Fort Lauderdale, and is somewhere east of Turks and Caicos.
We do not have a statement from the cruise line at this time.
It has not been a good year for the cruise industry, as everyone knows. Just last month there was a disabling fire in the engine room of Royal Caribbean's Quest cruise ship operated by its subsidiary Azamara. In February, there was a disabling fire aboard the Costa Allegra.
Cruise ship fires are not uncommon. There have been 79 fires on cruise ships since 1990. This one makes 80 in 22 years. Almost 4 a year. Read our article "Ten Years of Cruise ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"
If you are on the cruise and have info, photos or video, please leave a message.
Update April 20, 2012: Several readers pointed out that my reference to and photos on the webcam were dated April 19, 2012 (yesterday). The webcam is not active now. I deleted the image. Sorry for the misleading reference to normal events yesterday - but why is the webcam not showing what's going on tonight? I suspect the cruise line shuts the web cams down during emergencies.
Update April 21, 2012: Here is the official cruise line PR statement:
"At approximately 7:45 pm (ET) Royal Caribbean International's Allure of the Seas experienced a small and short lived engine fire. The ship's high fog system was immediately activated, which contained and extinguished the fire. There were no injuries to guest or crew. The ship is sailing towards Port Everglades, Florida, where it will arrive on Sunday, April 22 as scheduled."
Royal Caribbean wrote a masterful PR statement. "Small" fire which lasted "short" time and was "immediately" extinguished. But let's have some real information? What caused the fire? Why did a new ship touted as having new generation technology catch on fire in the first place? All fires start out "small." A small fire on a huge ship in the middle of the sea is not a good thing. The 2006 fire aboard the Star Princess started out with a single cigarette smoldering in a towel and then barely erupting, yet it led to 100 cabins being destroyed, one death and multiple injuries.
Did An Explosion Occur Before the Fire on the Allure of the Seas?
We have received some inquiries asking whether an explosion took place in the engine room before the fire broke out. Does anyone have any information about this claim? It was mentioned that: "This morning it was reported on the Swedish shipping forum Landgangen that Royal Caribbean's ALLURE OF THE SEAS experienced an engine explosion/failure last night. According to a Swede who is currently on board, first a loud bang was heard, followed a few minutes later by a tremendous shaking sensation throughout the ship." Can anyone aboard verify this?
The Vessel Tracker web site contains a comment that there was a "bang" that preceded the fire and that the vcruise ship drifted between one and two hours before continuing back to South Florida:
"Passengers of the 'Allure of the Seas' were alerted by a bang on 7.45 p.m. on Apr 20, 2012, followed by development of smoke. Soon afterwards fire instructions were given to the crew. Shortly thereafter the captain informed the passengers that there had been an incident in the engine and that all watertight bulkheads had been closed. The entire section 6, apparently the section that includes Viking Crown Lounge, was evacuated. Some passengers on board were shocked, however, no one was injured. The ship drifted between one and two hours before continuing with the only one functioning machine left after the small and short-lived engine fire was extinguished by using the ship's high fog system which had been immediately activated to contain the fire."
Did the cruise ship really drift for this long? This could have been very serious if the explosion and fire occurred during a storm.
Update April 22, 2012: Some passengers disembarking the Allure today (see comments below) state that there certainly was an explosion in the engine room, initial panic and less than optimal communications. One passenger commented that Royal Caribbean was down-playing what happened. I am sure that other passengers will leave comments as they are now off of the cruise ship and will be describing what they observed from their home computers.
A reader brought to my attention that there is an interesting thread of comments on the cruise critic message board by passengers who disembarked, including this one:
"Just got off the Allure and I have to disagree that there was NO panic. The crew were visibly scared as we're many of the passengers. Our cabin steward told us that our hallway had many families in tears and begging for life jackets. We were in the main dining room for our lobster dinner and when you feel a 225000 ton ship shake like that you know something big just happened. The crew were trying very hard to appear in control and they did a good job, but you could seem them passing notes to each other and the concern on their faces. We were finished our dinner, but skipped out on desert because I really couldn't eat much after hearing Bravo bravo bravo and water tight doors closing. We saw many in tears and I felt the need to get my kids away from that and the ridiculous people that laughingly and loudly started talking about the titanic and going down with the ship. We strolled the the Royal Promenade and tried to appear normal for the kids. Communication was good and they did a great job of handling things quickly, but there were lots feeling very unsettled. Very glad it ended quickly."
Another passenger said there were "nervous" people but no panic. The passenger also commented: " . . . no power from the engines as it appeared we were drifting - this occurred for at least an hour maybe two . . . "
It will be interesting to hear what other passengers observed . . . anyone have photos or videos of initial reaction of passengers and crew? . . . Please leave a comment below: