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Coast Guard rescues stranded cruise ship

Tue., July 8, 2008, midnight

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Passengers aboard a cruise ship hoping to see whales and other marine mammals were left high and dry Monday after the vessel went aground near Glacier Bay National Park in southeast Alaska.

The 207-foot Spirit of Glacier Bay was stranded for about nine hours.

A Coast Guard response boat managed to tow the ship on a rising tide to the middle of the bay late Monday afternoon, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Eric Eggen.

A National Park Service vessel was transferring all the passengers and some of the crew to the nearby port of Gustavus before being transferred to Juneau. Meanwhile, an evaluation of the ship’s propulsion system was being performed to determine if it could get to marine facilities at Auke Bay under its own power or would need assistance, Eggen said.

The cruise ship with 24 passengers and 27 crew members was traveling just more than 1 mph when it ran aground at 7:12 a.m., said Jerrol Golden, spokeswoman for Cruise West Enterprises, a Seattle-based company that owns the ship home-ported in Juneau.

Golden said the ship was moving slowly when the mishap occurred on a three-night cruise of Glacier Bay. It occurred in Tarr Inlet northwest of the park.

“It was barely a bump, essentially,” she said.

The Coast Guard said the hull of the ship was not compromised, and no injuries were reported. There was no indication that the ship was leaking any fuel. A boom to contain any fuel that might spill was deployed around the vessel as a precaution.

The cause of the grounding was not immediately apparent, Golden said.

“It is one of those crazy things. It is under investigation,” she said.

Eggen said it is unclear whether the grounding was caused by human error or a mechanical or electronic malfunction.

Golden said Cruise West was trying to get passengers to the Juneau airport.

When the grounding occurred, the Coast Guard in Juneau responded by sending aircraft and ships to the scene. Skies were clear and seas were calm when the mishap occurred.

“There is no compromise of the hull at all. The ship is stable. It is expected to float on its own on the rising tide,” Golden said.

Golden said passengers would be compensated for the inconvenience.

Cruise West said it would refund half the price of the cruise in cash and half in credit for a future cruise.

Three-night cruises aboard the Spirit of Glacier Bay range in price from $1,799 to $2,499.


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