Vacationers aboard the Carnival Cruise ship Splendor got a nasty start to their voyage Nov. 8. CBS News reports no one was injured when a fire engulfed the engine room and brought the huge ship to a halt.
The 4,000 passengers and crew had to wait for other ships to bring the Splendor into harbor from its position just off the California coast. Until boats made it to the massive cruise ship, it was adrift and without power. Although there were no injuries, passengers still had to deal with the inconvenience of waiting to be rescued.
Cruise ships are supposed to be denizens of luxury. Eager vacationers book cruises months, if not years, in advance. Travelers want to enjoy the ocean and wistfully leave real life back on shore for one to two weeks. It comes at a price, of course. However, even with the sizable investment, cruise ship passengers are sometimes left holding the bag when not all goes according to plan.
My wife and I have taken two cruises together since the beginning of our marriage, and one moment in particular sticks out as a reminder of the unforeseen dangers possible on the open ocean.
Boat Meets World
My wife and I departed from San Diego on our first wedding anniversary to sail around the western coast of Mexico. We were headed south for the winter to be active, soak up some sun and just enjoy each other.
We were walking along the deck in broad daylight when we decided to stop and just take in the wide open space of water before us. The weather was perfect–sunny, breezy and warm.
Then we saw the tail fins. They were coming out of the water within 20 feet off the port side of the boat. My wife and I didn’t fear for the ship’s safety at this point, as the cruise liner is much more massive than even the biggest whale.
Still, we were afraid some of these endangered animals might be hit. We never saw a whale get close enough to the boat to be struck, but we did feel a bit squeamish that such a huge vehicle could hurt or kill such a beautiful creature.
Whales and Ships
Whale strikes and cruise ships happen more often than I thought. I had asked one of the crew about the kinds of whales those were. The crew member replied he saw whales all the time on the ocean, especially when they migrate to warmer waters in the south for the winter. Those were probably Pacific gray whales, he said.
I found news reports from July 2010 of a dead whale being pinned to the bow of a cruise ship in Alaska from USA Today. Another hit was reported in 2006 by CruiseBruise.com. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studied whale strike reports from 1975 until 2002, and found 17 such occurrences of a whale and cruise ship striking each other. No human deaths from such encounters have been reported.
The unease my wife and I felt on that day was palpable even if we knew in our minds the human passengers on board would be safe. It was our last time on a cruise ship, partially due to whales and mainly due to raising children.
As with anything modern, there is a certain acceptance about what can cause danger or even death. Every time we put our foot on the accelerator or even walk outside our front door, there is a risk we take. We could trip on our garden hose or fall down a flight of stairs. The possibility of being injured is everywhere, including during a romantic cruise on the open sea.
Freeman, David W., “Carnival Splendor Fire: What Passengers Must Know About Cruise Ship Safety”, CBSNews.com.
American Cetacean Society, “Gray Whale–Cetacean Fact Sheet”, ACSOnline.org.
Sloan, Gene, “Humpback whale found pinned to front of Princess Cruises ship in Alaska”, USA Today.
Cruise Bruise, “Cruise Ship Hits Endangered Whale”, CruiseBruise.com.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Large Whale Ship Strike Database”, NOAA.gov.