Bang Warren dismissed the pounding on her cabin door early Monday morning as "children playing a prank." Then a horn blared and she heard people running through the halls of the Grandeur of the Seas
A fire had broken out in the early morning hours aboard the Royal Caribbean International cruise ship that sailed from Baltimore for the Bahamas on Friday.
"Crew members told us to get our life vest on," recalled Warren, a White Marsh resident. "We asked if we could throw on clothes real quick. They told us we didn't have enough time for that."
The ship was 35 nautical miles northwest of West End, Bahamas, according to the Coast Guard, which dispatched three cutters and two aircraft to aid the ship. All 2,224 passengers and 796 crew have been accounted for, and no injuries have been reported, the company said in a statement.
The fire started at 2:50 a.m. in an aft mooring area — where the lines that tie the ship to shore are stowed — and was extinguished at 4:58 a.m., said Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Martinez did not disclose the cause of the fire.
The Coast Guard said the fire spread to a crew lounge a deck above the mooring area. The fire will be investigated by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.
The ship, bound for CoCoCay, Bahamas, was diverted to Freeport, Bahamas, for evaluation.
After assessing the damage, Royal Caribbean announced late Monday afternoon that it cancelled the remainder of the voyage. The company said it would issue full refunds to each passenger and arrange flights for all of them back to Baltimore on Tuesday. Each passenger also would receive a certificate for a future cruise.
The company also announced it was canceling the next cruise on the ship, which was set to sail from Baltimore on May 31. It said it would provide an update regarding future sailings "as soon as the information is available."
After being roused from her cabin, a shoeless Warren ran to the assembly area where she was told lifeboats were being readied in case the ship needed to be evacuated.
"It was very surreal," said Warren, who estimated she waited on deck with other guests for more than four hours before being allowed to return to her cabin. "The frightening part was when they started lowering the life boats. A lot of people were passing out with fear. The crew was running up and down the deck with oxygen. I know some children were vomiting. A lot of very young children were crying."
The passengers and crew were called to assembly stations as a precaution before the fire was extinguished, Royal Caribbean said on its website.
"The guests were asked to go to their muster or assembly stations, which is the area where they assemble in the event of an emergency," Martinez wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun. "They did not board lifeboats."
The Grandeur, escorted by two Coast Guard cutters and the cruise ship Carnival Sensation, which was on standby to assist if necessary, arrived in Freeport under its own power before noon on Monday.
Some guests remained onboard, while others spent the day on shore, the company announced via Twitter. Guests whose rooms were affected will be put up in hotels in Freeport, the company also tweeted.
Warren said that her cabin was not affected by the fire and she planned to stay on the ship overnight.
"Fortunately my cabin wasn't damaged," she said from her mobile phone Monday afternoon. "Some were ruined."
Warren, a retired bar owner, said Monday's fire would not sour her from cruise ships or Royal Caribbean.
"The crew was excellent," she said. "They were calm and knew what to do. They lined us up, and checked us in."
The ship departed Friday from Baltimore en route to the Bahamas. The seven-night cruise includes stops at Port Canaveral, Fla., and Nassau, Bahamas, in addition to CoCoCay.
The Grandeur of the Seas returned this month to Baltimore after undergoing a $48 million renovation. The 917-foot cruise ship had sailed from Baltimore between 2004 and 2009 before being replaced by Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas.
During the renovation, all of the ship's staterooms were refurbished with new carpet, furniture and upholstery and flat-screen TVs. New onboard amenities include six new restaurants and a 220-square-foot poolside movie screen.
Last year, more than 240,800 travelers sailed on 100 cruises from the port of Baltimore, according to Royal Caribbean. Baltimore has 96 scheduled cruises for 2013.
Warren said she wanted to complete her cruise, but wasn't surprised by the decision to cancel.
"I kind of expected it," she said. "I cannot imagine this crippled ship continuing the remainder of the cruise. We'd rather be safe at home."