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.

Allure of the Seas - Cruise Ship FiresIt 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 Cruise Ship Fire - Explosion - Ship FireALLURE 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:    

  • James Bond

    Nothing serious happened. Not even the shows were cancelled. Food is being served as usual. So people, do NOT even think of suing anyone here. RCI is an excellent company and one of the highest tax payers.

  • Tupsis

    Apparently the Hi-Fog system is as good as they advertise. I have seen a real video of an engine fire onboard a cruise ship being extinguished in within seconds after the system was activated.

  • “James Bond”

    Our tracking information indicates that you are using a computer at Royal Caribbean.

    Obviously, no one should sue unless they were burned in the fire.

    The notion that your employer Royal Caribbean pays taxes is false. That’s why you are incorporated in Liberia and fly the flag of convenience in the Bahamas.

    Next time come back with your real name and disclose you work for Royal Caribbean.

    Jim Walker

  • Sarah small

    1. Just because he posted that on the ship doesn’t mean he worked for royal caribbean. All Passengers had access to the Internet with a simple swipe of their sea pass card.
    2. I was on the ship when the fire occured. I only felt the shaking of the ship for about 10 seconds. No explosion. After I had spoken to other people about the situation and no one heard or felt and explosion. Only the shaking (some people didn’t even feel the shaking).
    3. The captain and the crew all responded to the situation wonderfully. There was an announcement from the captain about 7 minutes after the shaking assuring everything was alright. Several other announcements and updates followed within minutes of each other.
    Everything was executed quickly and effectively.

  • Sarah:

    1. “James Bond” sent the comment from Royal Caribbean’s corporate offices, not the cruise ship.

    2. Thanks for your comments about what you felt and observed.

    3. Glad to hear that the Captain kept everyone informed.

    Jim Walker

  • Paul

    We were in the dinning room for our 2nd formal dinner evening on Deck 5. Let me tell you that when a 225,000 tonne ship shakes like that (some drinks on our table fell to the ground), it must have been a big explosion or massive engine failure to shake a ship of that size. The staff appeared to be very scared and were passing notes around like crazy. We obviously lost our appetite (right in the middle of de-shelling our lobster) but our waiters were instructed to ask for our sea pass cards to make sure that we pay for our drinks before the ship goes down……BRUTAL.

    Smoke could be smelt around the ship for roughly 2hrs after the shaking…..this was not minor in the least and is obvioulsy being downplayed for the interest of RCI.

    On our way into Port Everglades last night, thick blue smoke could be seen and smelt from our balcony….as if they were trying to get the ship to Port ASAP.

    Very mixed feelings at this point

  • fryar

    I was on the ship during this incident. I did not hear an explosion,but there was an incredible shaking that lasted for approximately 30 seconds. It felt like a significant earthquake with our entire table in the MDR shaking.

    I would not characterize the handling of the situation as “wonderful”. Captain Johnny sounded very rattled first referring to it as a fire then quickly correcting himself that it was “a very small fire”. There was essentially very little information provided – there was a fire, one engine was out, no fatalities or injuries. There was no information provided about what impact this was having on the ships ability to function, maintain normal cruising speeds, etc. I actually got more information from my own observations. I did observe that we were drifting for a while and looked like we were awfully close to an unimhabited island. There was no communication from the captain about being able to control the course or why were so close to this island. After they restored power / thrust only two propellers were working for an hour or so before the third came back online. Again no communication about these details.

  • crewmember

    One of the engines was BROKEN, we were afraid of rift in the cover.
    Fire was strong but extinguished fast. One engine needs for replacement. Its very interesting why new ship gets such problems, One year ago the same problem happened on Oasis

  • Denise

    We felt the ship rumbling under our feet standing on deck 3, then we heard mayday, mayday, engine room 2. A few minutes later we heard bravo, bravo, bravo, close water tight doors. No crew panicked, but several passengers started packing little bags. My sister was just worried she would have to get in a lifeboat in high heels.

  • Bob a

    I too was on that ship with my 2 kids (11 and 8). My wife was at the Boardwalk and my son and I were getting ready for our dinner at 8:30. My son and I are on Deck 6 and we felt the rumble..felt like the ship rubbed up against something. We too were nervous and hearing bravo bravo bravo did not help especially because I did not know what that ment. We heard the captains announcement a few times and he assured us we were fine. With all the technology and monitoring systems on this ship, I was impressed at what they handled it and how quickly the situation was resolved. I was happy that the ship has 2 engine rooms so they isolated it quickly. By 8:40 I was eating my lobster and steak…

  • William

    We were on the pinnacle room on the 17th floor, the room shook very hard twice and it filled with some we had to be evacuated out the the pool area, we were in that room for around 10 min while it filled up with smoke we opened the door but the smoke was too much.

  • Mack

    Wow, some of you need to grow a pair.

    No drinks fell from tables. I didn’t see anyone sobbing. There was no smoke (though an oily smell was slightly noticeable around the main elevators). The ship NEVER lost power. We were only using 3/6 generators at the time anyway.

    Were people worried? –YES. Wouldn’t you be? I’ve been on > 25 cruise vacations (NOT all on RCCL by any means) and this is the first time I’ve seen emergency lighting and procedures in action.

    RCCL captain, officers, crew, fire teams reacted masterfully to first handle the situation and second keep the passengers and crew calm and informed.

    Story goes that this was some sort of grease or other lubricant fire in GENERATOR 6’s area. The Chief Engineer was actually present and standing in the control room at the time of the incident. The ship’s halon system extinguished it within seconds though the fire team was ready to fight it if needed.

    The ship’s ‘bouncing’ while noticeable was an emergency shut-down of the engines in that room and the azipods. (Standard procedure for any emergency on a diesel-electric/gas-electric propulsion vessel). If there’s a fire or other mechanical emergency you don’t want to keep on going 18kts on your merry way to fan the fire.

    We did not DRIFT, but did COAST for probably close to an hour before reversing course to maximize the smoke evacuator functions by turning what was previously a tailwind into a headwind. (Check the AIS).

    Not even a nail was broken by the crew or passengers. Thank God for no injuries and no seriously troubling damage to this spectacular vessel.

    If you people can’t hold it together during a real emergency and deal with what happened on-board then maybe a cruise vacation isn’t for you. There are other options. Those of us who particularly enjoy cruises would be happier if you chose something else rather than contributing to the hysteria.

    Some real genius lady on board said her ‘girl scout instincts told her to sleep close to a lifeboat that night’. Maybe you all can get a group discount.

    No material for blood-sucking attorneys here although the interesting thread deserves kudos.

    Long live Captain Johnny, his entire staff and crew, and RCCL’s amazing cruise vacations.

  • David

    We were on deck 9, getting ready for dinner when the ship started to shake… 3 engineers with our group…. All said the same thing it was like the engine seized up….. The captain and crew were very informative…. No panic just concern…. They turned the ship around to keep the smoke out of the interior of the ship….. We heard the captain come on bravo…bravo…bravo…mayday…mayday…engine room 2…. We saw smoke coming out the starboard side lower level only for a few minutes….. When the ship came to a dead stop…. It was weird and erie…. For the dead silence standing out on our balcony….We were well kept informed….Captian Johnny and crew did a great job….. No one should have any concern about cruising…..

  • Jason

    My family and I were on the boardwalk by the aqua theatre when the incident occurred. I didn’t hear a bang. Just felt rumbling. It reminded me of the earthquake we had in VA last summer. Seconds later the engines were off and it was eerily quiet. Then we smelled the smoke and heard the bravo calls. We decided to go into the promenade after a minute or two and the alarms went off that signaled the doors closing. That was a little concerning. The captain did a great job communicating. He wasn’t giving much detail, but that was understandable. The next day he said the rumbling was the shutting down of the engines, like slamming on the brakes in your car would cause it to shake.

    All in all, I feel like their response was swift and appropriate and not trying to cover something up.

  • Jon

    Agree with Jason, David and especially Mack. I was playing mini-golf on the top deck, felt the shake which felt to me (a small boater) that the engines were suddenly put into reverse. Then we saw, smelled the smoke from where we were, and on came “bravo, bravo, bravo”. We new something was wrong and my 3 kids were a bit nervous. However, the captain did tell us basically what was up (when he could) and reassured both the passengers and crew. Though I had a twinge of nervousness, thats all it was. and I went to the Blue Planet show at 9pm. I believe there are 6 engines on the ship.

  • Kel

    I was on the ship this past week. I was showering at the time of the shake. I simply finished my shower as fast as I could and threw on warm clothes, thinking maybe we’d have to evacuate. Packed a small bag and stood in the hallway with my attendant waiting for further instructions. When I heard “bravo bravo bravo”, I didn’t know what to think. I had no clue what it meant. I panicked until the captain assured everyone that it was ok. I then continued on with my night, enjoyed the amazing lobster dinner along with some very good (but expensive) alcoholic beverages in my formal attire, followed by blue planet (which was excellent), then I was rocked to sleep by the ocean. All of the panic lasted no longer than 15 minutes and we were definitely stopped for only about a half hour. No bang either, just shaking for about 10 seconds. It was an amazing cruise and the fire didn’t really effect my experience.

  • Lynn

    Interesting how varied passenger experiences have been. In our area there was definite panick – the crew was panicking which while understanable did not help. Too little information from the captain – who sounded to my group extremely rattled on his first announcement. People were running around (crew included and yes some yelling). I think there is room for much improvement in the information that the ship provides during such a crisis. More info – such as the ship having 4-5 other engines would have been comforting at the time. I remain unimpressed with the way RC has handled this situation since as well. Will not be returning

  • SV

    It’s interesting, indeed, how things are differently perceived depending on where you are or what you hear.

    We were in our stateroom when the shaking happened. It was a bit like a small quake or tremmor. There were some calls for the crew, which makes sense since that’s who needs to find out first. Some people came out of their rooms to see what was up and so did we. We also heard silence as if the ship had slowed down.

    Everyone we encountered were calm, the stateroom attendant was folding away his towels like if nothing had happened, even. The information from the cabin later was short but it was adjusted as time went by. Watertight doors were closed, and a small fire was extinguished. I heard no explosion, only the shaking. The ship turned around to let the wind remove some of the smoke. We kept walking about (the promenade) right after it happened and nowhere did I find people worried or crying and only a few stopped to hear the announcements made.

    I think the information given was ok at first since they cannot disclose everything immediately if they don’t even know what is happening … giving false information would be as bad. The ship has 6 engines and we were told before (at shows or event) that we were only using 3 at a time so we figured we still had another 2 to replace that one.

    In general I believe panic helps to perceive things a bit worse than they are at times and, while having smoke come out can be scary, I don’t think they’d risk saying things are fine (many times) if things really were so bad that the ship was exploding or on the verge of sinking. I think the captain did well in keeping us posted and that helped relieve the tension, even if he had to adjust the version of what happened a few times as they figured out what was wrong.

  • Anthony Doyle

    My wife and I were on board on April 20th. We were celebrating our 10th Wedding Anniversary and had just left the dining room and were walking across the Royal Promonade when we felt the ship shake. I commented to my wife that it felt like we were dragging on the bottom of the sea floor. Captain Johnny made the announcement “Bravo Bravo Bravo.” This immediately frightened my wife, who was very tearful at the time.

    I didn’t not feel scare and felt that the captain kept us informed and updated. Other than my wife not wanting to ever cruise again, I feel that everything was handled as it should have been.

  • kathy

    This was blown way out of proportion. I was waiting in line for a show with my husband, sister, and brother-in-law. A very small and short lived shaking occurred. We did not smell or see any smoke and did not see anyone panic. This incident was handled in a very profession manner by the captain and crew. I am a faithful Royal Caribbean customer and will remain so.

  • tricia

    I didn’t want to be the 1st person to say anything, so I waited to see something on the news or TV. I was eating in the dining room 5th fl. AT 6:45 ships time I felt the ship shaking and everyone at our table was scared we are all older cruisers and never felt anything like that. Interesting that no one said anything about the! Bravo, bravo, bravo LUGGAGE AREA. Then came the captain about the fire, closing off water doors. The most scary thing was to not hear the doors behind us close( doors are about 12’x 50′? high). When I got up to leave, there were two other site of doors that were closed also. I have been cruising for 35 yrs at least 2 a yr.,I very scared! I stayed up an watch people in the main shopping area party. The ship really had a big party, the whole floor was covered with people. I went to my cabin and just stayed awake. I’m a boater and the engins where not running,I was looking at the stars. I also heard a man say that we got into docks early 5 AM. I have never seen luggage come up at the dock so fast!!!

  • mark

    I was on the ship when the incident occurred. The ship started to shake heavily , the lights dimmed and then the engines stopped. There was a panic call of bravo bravo bravo. Staff were confused,a call came over to shut the water tight doors that made me panic and the fire doors were also shut. Staff made us go to level 5 front of boat so there was panic and confusion for many people. People were worried and concerned and rightly so. We were on fire, heavy smell of smoke, in the middle of bermuda triangle and water tight doors were being closed. To say this was an over reaction at that moment was stupid. It is clear this could of turned ugly.

  • Kathy Withrow

    I have been on two of the cruise ships and watched as they deployed the rafts into the water and did tests drills at the ports of call.

    This in my opinion is the best cruise ship to sail with, and non other would even be considered by me.

    Live and learn!

  • bill burnidge

    In reading the comments by people on the Allure when the emergency happened makes me wonder about people. As a retired Firefighter and having cruised over 20 times in the last few years, every time we boarded a ship for a cruise, we had an emergency drill. Sure, they don’t tell you that there are code words for different emergencies. Bravo bravo bravo was for crew members to go to stations aboard the ship. Closing of the watertight doors is another precaution during an emergency, especially one of this nature. A fire on board. The new ships have Deisel Electric Generators that provide power to propel the ship. The propulsion as I understand it is likened to a Jet Engine under the keel of the ship and thrusters. There are no Propellers like on the older ships. This makes for a much smoother ship under way. You do not have the rumbling of the shafts that would turn the props. The Propulsion works on the same principle as a Jet Engine and when they need to slow the ship suddenly, it is likened to a Jet plane switching on reverse thrust to slow down on landing. Same feeling as with the ship engines.
    I have really enjoyed cruising with RCCL as well as with other lines.
    Thanks to all the Officers and Crews for great work and bing responsible for the safety of your guests.
    See you soon on another cruise !!!!!!!!

  • Josh Trapp

    I know this is late but i only just found this post, i too was aboard the allure at the time of the fire. My experience of the fire was that at the second seating of dinner just before pudding we felt a rough rumble, initially we believed that we had hit a rock as the ship shook as if it was scraping along a jagged rock. Our waiter (Rhody) did an excellant job at reassuring us that all was fine despite us having concerns. A minute or so later we heard the announcements of bravo bravo etc etc….we had ordered pudding but didn’t eat it as we were concerned. We went back to our room and the main doors seperating the corridors to the room were shut however people just opened them up and we went back to our room to get changed. The announcement from the captain came what felt hours (around 10-15 minutes) however we appreciate that the captain has to sort the issue so he cannot inform us immediately. We then proceeded to the show and we could clearly feel the tension in the air and when the announcement beep sounded the whole room went completely silent despite being packed full of people, captain Johnny explained to us the issue and that everything was ok and he said that we would turn the ship around to clear the smoke. He was excellent with the issue and he also held a session the next day where people could ask questions where he explained what happened in detail and why the ship shook so violently (engine shutdown) overall the allure has been by far the best cruise to date and after recently trying another cruise company (msc) i am assured that royal caribbean is by far the best for an all round experience and may i add that Captain Johnny’s show and the cruise directors show were both excellent and i cannot wait to try the QUANTUM OF THE SEAS in december 2014!
    Also apologies for the dreadfull spelling and punctuation…

  • Ben

    I do find this article a bit ridiculous in parts, and the linked article about the ship industry not learning anything from so many fires. In the engine room you have a massive amount of fuel, heat, oxygen, everything you need for a fire, and there are only so many precautions you can take before too much money has been spent and you end up doing more harm than good.

    You are never going to have a ship without a fire, they’re as commonplace as breakdowns in a car. They are often dealt with quickly and effectively and don’t even get published usually.

    I think this accident went very well, the crew, engineers, and automatic safety measures responded correctly and dealt with the situation properly. At least having small accidents like this show that ships have come a long way and you can feel safe at sea.

  • Brent Lister

    I just read through these, as I will be on the Allure next week for 12 days on a Transatlantic crossing. I wasn’t there, so I suppose I shouldn’t comment, and each person has their right to their own emotions and reaction, but it certainly doesn’t sound like anything more than a “fender bender” to me. I look forward to my trip.

  • Eva

    I was there on the fourteenth floor, We smelled smoke but nothing serious ended up happening…