Some people cried. Others were visibly shaken. Updates from the crew came every half-hour, but nobody knew how bad things were. When the lifeboats began to descend, the tension rose.

Dodson, a Lutherville resident, and her husband, began to think about abandoning ship.

"I don't think that there was any fear that [the ship was] going down, but there was a fear that we would have to de-board to the lifeboats," Cody Dodson said.

"And then watch the ship burn," Jennifer Dodson added.

Beser said crew members began telling people that nausea pills would be handed out. Some passengers saw stretchers carried past.

"I thought I was going to lose it," Beser said, "but I kept calm."

This has been a tough year for the cruise industry, with a half-dozen mishaps making headlines. Cruise experts say company officials have learned from their mistakes.

Andrew Coggins, a Pace University professor specializing in the travel and hospitality industries, said cruise lines need to do everything in their power to woo the public. Giving inconvenienced Grandeur passengers full refunds and certificates for a future cruise is a smart move, he said.

"If the industry were to lose the confidence of the public on the issue of safety, it would be extremely difficult for the industry to recapture that confidence," he said. "So it's in their best interest to correct problems quickly and transparently."

With a half-dozen ships in its fleet of the same class, Coggins said, he expects Royal Caribbean officials will inspect the others. Any problems found with the ships or crew training will be addressed immediately.

Last week, Cruise Lines International Association announced the adoption of a 10-point passenger bill of rights covering more than two dozen member cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Carnival. The policy includes the right to emergency medical attention, timely information about itinerary changes and mechanical problems, and full or partial refunds for canceled or shortened trips due to mechanical failures. The bill also requires cruise lines to ensure passenger transportation and lodging for shortened voyages.

Royal Caribbean went "above and beyond what was required under the bill," Coggins said.

The set of industry standards is being published on each cruise line's website along with a toll-free number for passengers to call about shipboard operations. The association is lobbying the International Maritime Organization to adopt it.

Carolyn Spencer-Brown, editor of, said Royal Caribbean was on top of its problem, using Facebook and Twitter to announce the fire, establish a toll-free number and post photos of the damage.

"I have to commend Royal Caribbean because they were putting out answers to questions I hadn't even had yet," she said. "They went all out and it made me feel confident."

The proof, she said, will be if the cruise line retains its customer base.

Several Grandeur customers at BWI said they would use their certificates. And a Leesburg, Va., poster on the CruiseCritic forum lauded the cruise line, concluding: "All in all, as someone who is scheduled to sail on the Grandeur in September for my first cruise ever, I feel safer now knowing how well this captain and crew reacted in an emergency situation."

Recent cruise disasters

January 2012: Thirty-two people die in the partial sinking of the 3,229-passenger Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy.

February 2013: Carnival Triumph strands 2,758 passengers in the Gulf of Mexico for five days after a fire knocked out power. The 14-year-old ship has to be towed to safety.

March: A norovirus sickens more than 100 people aboard Royal Caribbean's 1,991-passenger Vision of the Seas.

March: Carnival Dream is knocked out of commission by a generator failure while docked in St. Maarten. The 3,646 passengers are sent home by jet.

March: Carnival Legend, with 2,124 passengers, has engine problems and limps back to its Tampa home port, missing a stop at Grand Cayman.

April: Carnival Ecstasy briefly loses power on the final day of a five-day voyage but manages to return safely to Cape Canaveral, Fla., with its 2,056 passengers.