It’s been a bad week for cruise ship passengers. First, on Wednesday, March 22, a bus went off a mountain road in Chile, killing 12 passengers who had stopped in the port aboard the Celebrity cruise ship Millennium. Most of the dead were members of a 64-member B’nai B’rith group spending their retirement together.
The very next day, Thursday, a Star Princess ship caught fire in Jamaica, killing one man, injuring 11 others and damaging 150 cabins. A total of 2600 passengers had to be flown home with full refunds.
Another day passed, another cruise ship accident. On Friday, the Empress of the North, a sternwheeler carrying 180 passengers up the Oregon River, ran aground. Passengers offloaded to a sister ship. It was not the first time the ship had run aground.
Three cruise ship accidents in three days? What’s going on?
Business as usual. Cruise ship accidents happen.
My family and I have taken about a dozen cruises. On one trip to Cabo San Lucas, we toured the Arches, a unique natural formation which lays where the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortes meet. We climbed aboard a boat that seemed particularly old and rickety. The old toothless captain added to the ambiance but not to our feeling of safety. One of the girls looked at me and we immediately searched our area and located the lifevests. I don’t think anyone else did.
As we rounded the southern point of the Arches, where the currents of the Pacific crossed the currents of the Sea of Cortez, the boat rocked jerkily. The voiceover tour told us that if we drifted south and got caught in the southern current, the next land would be Antarctica.
I recall thinking with some amusement at how nervous I felt on a routine shore excursion. Boats went out several times an hour. We were about 100 feet from shore. The other passengers ranged in age from infants to the elderly.
A couple of months later, one of the boats on that same shore excursion capsized, killing several passengers.
I noticed that news because of my experience so recently before the accident. I did not notice when 15 died on the gangway of the Queen Mary 2 in 2003, two days after Holland America’s Veendam bumped into a Norwegian Cruise Line ship. Two weeks later, the Empress of the North ran aground. Yes, the same Empress of the North that ran aground this week.
Cruising is as safe — or as dangerous — as it ever was. The only difference this week was the media attention.