August 23, 2013 in City

Mechanical issues cancel Celebrity’s cruise plans

Rachel D’Oro Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A small crowd gathers to watch the Celebrity Cruises Millennium return to Ketchikan, Alaska.
(Full-size photo)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Like so many visitors to Alaska, Phyllis McNamara was eager for a seven-day cruise along a majestic stretch of coast that is teeming with whales, bears and glaciers.

But the Indianapolis woman and her friends were among hundreds of tourists who had their vacation plans scuttled when a mechanical problem aboard the 965-foot Millennium forced the cruise operator to cancel six Alaska sailings.

“This is becoming just a nightmare,” said McNamara, 68, who went ahead with a planned land excursion in place of the cruise.

Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which owns Celebrity Cruises, said passengers will get a full refund of the cruise fare paid. They also will receive certificates for future cruises.

“We appreciate how very disappointing this unexpected turn of events has been for our guests, and we deeply regret the inconvenience,” Martinez said.

Tourism – particularly cruise ship traffic – is important to a number of Alaska communities, which are accessible only by air or water and where once-strong industries like timber are no longer thriving. More than 900,000 cruise ship passengers visited Alaska last summer, according to a study commissioned by the state. Places like Juneau, Alaska’s capital city, can see several large ships arrive in a single day during the summer, its denizens disembarking to take in local sites or shop.

In the case of the Millennium, some passengers are trying to make the best of the situation.

Kelly Fazzone, of San Antonio, was on the cruise that was canceled this week in the southeast Alaska town of Ketchikan. The ship returned to Ketchikan about an hour after it left. Fazzone and her family were on the cruise to celebrate her mother’s coming 80th birthday.

Fazzone said everyone in her party has been exploring the town. They watched a lumberjack show, toured a totem pole park and bought some board games to entertain themselves.

“We’ve been having a lot of fun,” Fazzone said. “It could have been absolutely worse.”

The Millennium was set to leave Ketchikan on Thursday, heading to a shipyard in the Bahamas using its other propulsion motor.

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