2013-06-06 / Front Page

Family Shares Firsthand Tale Of Cruise Ship Fire

Scamardella family were aboard Grandeur of the Seas
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

“It was exciting, not just in the way we had hoped,” McConnellsburg resident Sheila Scamardella said of her family’s recent adventure aboard the Grandeur of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International cruise ship that caught fire en route to CocoCay, The Bahamas last Monday.

Sheila along with her husband, Dave, and son Jason were sleeping in their stateroom on the seventh deck on May 27 when the tones began to sound just before 2:50 a.m. The announcement that accompanied the tones alerted the Scamardella family as well as the other 2,221 guests aboard that the fire in progress on the mooring deck was not a drill.

All guests were instructed to proceed to their appointed muster station where they anticipated only a 5-minute wait, Sheila told the “News.” Seven-year-old Jason admits he was “a little scared” when they were awakened from their sleep, and mom Sheila said she too began to get “a little worried” when after 30 minutes cruise ship employees began lowering the lifeboats.

Sheila stated Royal Caribbean handled the situation well from “start to finish” and even provided routine updates on the situation on the third deck. Referring to the updates as “just enough information” to keep the guests safe, Sheila said they learned after two hours the fire had been extinguished. Unfortunately, to the dismay of Jason and other kids on board, among the water used to put out the blaze was that in the ship’s two large swimming pools.

As the family was on the complete opposite end of the ship from the fire, they didn’t hear the “big explosions” some fellow passengers reported to media outlets. They were, however, “shocked” at the damage they observed when the ship eventually sailed into port at Freeport, Bahamas, under its own power last Monday afternoon.

“The whole backside of the ship was blackened,” Sheila said. “When you’re on the ship you don’t have any concept of the damage.”

Aiding the Grandeur of the Seas during the fire and side trip to Freeport were several tugboats and United States Coast Guard ships. Another cruise ship was also in sight during the fire in the event the ship’s occupants, which also consisted of 796 crew members, had to be evacuated.

Dave noted due to the fire being on the mooring deck where the docking ropes or mooring lines were housed and lost in the flames, the tugboats that served as escort vehicles had to constantly push the ship to get it into dock.

Royal Caribbean International executives were reportedly on scene Monday to assess the situation and would in turn fully refund each guest’s money and issue a certificate for a free trip. The announcement brought tears to Sheila’s eyes.

“It was a best case scenario,” she said. “... I can’t be upset. They did an awesome job start to finish. They were very generous.”

Once in Freeport, guests, who were without air conditioning and other necessities in their staterooms due to the fire damage, were sent ashore to hotels. The Scamardellas were able to stay on board until Royal Caribbean International officials arranged for charter flights home. They arrived in Baltimore, Md., early last Wednesday morning, never having completed their seven-night cruise.

In spite of the fire and maybe even a little seasickness, the Scamardellas are looking forward to yet another trip down the road. Young Jason said he swam, soaked in the ship’s hot tubs, “ate lots of yummy food” and made countless trips daily for ice cream, memories the fire will never overshadow.

“We’re an advertisement for this company ... . They did everything right,” said Sheila, who emphasized the importance of attending and paying attention during a cruise’s initial safety drill program.

The fire is being investigated by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

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