SANDAKAN: The captain and crew of the stricken cruise ship Azamara Quest became heroes to the 590 passengers as they drifted in the notorious Sulu Sea for nearly 48 hours before they reached here.
The Scandinavian captain Leif Karlsson and his mostly Asian crew were praised by most passengers for their professionalism in handling the situation when a fire in the ship’s engine room knocked out its engines and electric supply.
“The captain and crew were amazing and extraordinary. I must give it to them for their professionalism and fantastic personal approach in responding to our every need right from the fire until we came here,” said Australian lecturer Christine Alexander, who was travelling with her husband on the 17-day cruise that began in Hong Kong.
“The captain updated us honestly about the situation while the crew met our needs, including escorting passengers to toilets or picking up medicines from our cabins,” said Christine, who was with her husband in the dining area when the fire started on March 28.
Christine’s praise for the captain and crew was echoed by over a dozen holidaymakers .
British fire alarm consultant Neil Kirkpatrick and his fiance Caroline Lugg said they planned to get married in December this year on a cruise operated by Azamara Club Cruises.
“They were the very best crew, we sure want to get married on a cruise operated by them,” he said.
The passengers were from 25 countries – Americans (200), British (98), Australians (89), Canadians (45), Germans (39), Austrians (32), Belgians (16) and 14 each from New Zealand and Switzerland. The 411 crewmen comprised 119 Filipinos, 58 Indians and 50 Indonesians among others.
An injured Guatemalan crew member, Juan Carlos Rivera Escobar, who suffered smoke inhalation and exposure to heat during the fire, remains at the Duchess of Kent Hospital although his condition is said to be stable.
The stricken cruise ship docked at Sandakan port at 9pm on Sunday and its passengers were transported in 10 buses to their hotel by early yesterday morning.
Azamara Club Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, a Norwegian-American firm based in Miami, will refund the passengers for their cancelled voyage and also cover their expenses in Sandakan.
They are expected to leave Sandakan for Singapore on chartered flights by today before heading to their respective countries.
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