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First passengers back in US after cruise ship fire

By Ben Nuckols

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, May 28 2013 3:38 p.m. MDT

After passengers were allowed to leave their stations, Ormesher said he saw water on the outside deck 5 and in the hallways. The mooring lines were destroyed he said; crew members brought new lines from storage.

The damage at the rear of the ship looked bad, Ormesher said; burned out equipment was visible.

Royal Caribbean said all guests and 796 crew were safe and accounted for. Martinez said in an email that the company was arranging 11 charter flights.

The company in a statement on its website said it is "deeply sorry for this unexpected development in our guests' vacation. We understand that this may have been a very stressful time for them. We appreciate their patience and cooperation in dealing with this unfortunate situation."

Carnival Corp. also had trouble with fire aboard ship earlier this year.

The Triumph was disabled during a February cruise by an engine room fire in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving thousands of passengers to endure cold food, unsanitary conditions and power outages while the ship was towed to Mobile, Ala. It remained there for repairs until early May when it headed back to sea under its own power.

Fran Golden, a blogger for the cruise magazine Porthole, said the two incidents are different.

"I think it's easier to make people happy when they're not stuck on a ship for four days without toilets," she said.

Still, she applauded Royal Caribbean's public relations efforts after the fire. She said sending CEO Goldstein to meet with passengers was a "brilliant move." The company also Tweeted a picture of one meeting.

"It shows that you're a responsible company. It shows that you care. It's not just, 'oh well, this incident happened,'" she said. She noted that the head of Royal Caribbean's Azamara Club Cruises line, Larry Pimentel, also met with passengers in early 2012 after a fire aboard the Azamara Quest disabled one of its engines during a cruise in Asia.

Mike Driscoll, editor of the Illinois-based publication Cruise Week, said Royal Caribbean had the benefit of hindsight and could use lessons from the recent Triumph fire in its response. He said company took charge of the response on social media, sending out photos and updates. He likened it to the company saying, "Hey, we're not hiding anything."

Associated Press writers Kasey Jones in Baltimore and Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report. Jeff Todd reported from Nassau, Bahamas.

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