Cruise ship catches fire in Glacier Bay

Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A fire aboard a cruise ship in Glacier Bay National Park burned for about 45 minutes Tuesday, causing extensive damage but no injuries, Coast Guard and cruise line officials said.

The Nieuw Amsterdam was in the northwestern end of the bay when the fire was reported at about 9:40 a.m., Coast Guard Petty Officer Darrell Wilson said.

The blaze was confined to the crew's quarters in the rear of the 704-foot vessel and extinguished after about 45 minutes, said Erik Elvejord, a spokesman for Seattle-based Holland America Line, which owns the ship.

Elvejord initially estimated that 30 cabins were damaged, but reduced that estimate later in the day.

''We've got 10 cabins that we need to repair, three which are significant, seven which are medium to light damage,'' Elvejord said.

None of the ship's 1,201 passengers and 566 crew members were injured, Elvejord said.

One man was evacuated with a possible heart attack, said Julie Chase, a spokeswoman for Holland America. The man fell as passengers left their cabins to go on deck while the fire was extinguished and the ship was ventilated, Chase said.

As many as 100 crewmembers will likely be displaced by damage to their cabins, but the ship departed Glacier Bay on Tuesday evening after Coast Guard investigators inspected the ship to determine whether it was seaworthy, Elvejord said.

Holland America agreed to sell the Nieuw Amsterdam to American Classic Voyages for $114.5 million last year, but the sale doesn't become final until this fall. The ship has plied Alaska waters seasonally since it went into service in 1983.

In August 1994, the ship ran aground at Gravina Point while approaching Ketchikan, gouging a 200-foot crease along its hull and piercing the ship's forward peak ballast tank and a fresh water tank. No passengers or crew were injured.

The booming cruise ship business brings more than 500,000 passengers to Alaska's waters annually.

There have been two other significant fires aboard the luxury ships in recent years.

In 1996, a fire aboard the Universe Explorer, owned by Florida-based New Commodore Cruise Lines Inc., killed five crew members. That fire broke out in the laundry room while the ship was sailing from Juneau to Glacier Bay.

The blaze spread because doors were roped open and the ship lacked an internal radio system and sprinklers, the National Transportation Safety Board found.

And last September, a fire stranded the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Tropicale and its 1,700 passengers and crew in the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm churned nearby.

No one on board was injured, and investigators were unable to determine what caused the fire in the ship's boiler room.

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