A day after fire broke out in an engine room, Carnival Cruise Line said it was bringing the damaged Carnival Liberty back to its home port early.
The ship, which left San Juan on Sunday with nearly 4,500 passengers and crew on board, was awaiting permission early Tuesday evening from authorities including the U.S. Coast Guard and its flag state of Panama to leave St. Thomas.
Miami-based Carnival said it would move forward with plans to fly guests home from St. Thomas if the ship did not have permission to sail by late Tuesday.
Spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said that while the ship did sustain some damage and repairs are needed, the vessel has power and is able to sail — with some restrictions.
“For now the ship has a maximum speed limitation, which would impact the scheduled itinerary,” de la Cruz wrote in an email. “Going to San Juan will make it easier to get guests home given the more substantial airlift from San Juan.”
She said she did not have information yet on the cause of the fire, how long it burned or what an assessment of the damage revealed.
If the 10-year-old ship were able to return to San Juan with guests on board, Carnival said those passengers would be allowed to stay on the ship the rest of the week and explore the Puerto Rican capital or head home upon arrival. Regardless of what the 3,346 passengers do, they will receive a full refund and 50 percent discount on a future cruise. Guests also received shipboard credit of $150.
The ship, which carries 2,974 passengers at double occupancy, spent Tuesday in St. Thomas while investigators examined the engine room where the fire started on Monday.
No one was hurt in the blaze, which broke out while the ship was docked in St. Thomas. Automated suppression systems put the fire out, and hotel services including air conditioning, kitchens, elevators and toilets were all working.
“We apologize to our guests for this unexpected disruption to their vacation and the inconvenience they are experiencing,” the cruise operator said in a statement.
No future cruises have been canceled, de la Cruz said.