All 656 guests aboard the Oceania Insignia returned to the United States by charter flights Friday following an engine-room fire Thursday morning in which three workers died, a company spokesman said. Guests were taken to South Florida hotels while the Miami-based cruise line arranged their transportation home.
The ship was visiting St. Lucia midway through a 10-day cruise from San Juan to Miami when the fire broke out.
A four-member team from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Safety Board will join officials from the ship’s registered state, Marshall Islands, to investigate the incident, according to a release Friday by the Coast Guard.
Eddie and Patty Barrocas of Miami, on their third Oceania cruise, were heading off to a shore excursion when the fire broke out. When they returned to the ship three hours later, they were transferred to a warehouse terminal with fellow passengers. Carnival, an unrelated cruise line, donated food and supplies for guests, they said.
The couple arrived in Miami at about 2 a.m. Friday on a chartered flight.
“I think Oceania did a very adequate job in what they did,” Patty Barrocas said in a phone interview.
“The biggest issue was, everybody left without passports,” she said. Crew members retrieved medications, she said, but passengers were not allowed to return to the ship to retrieve belongings. “Given the situation, it could have been so much worse.”
Company spokes Jason Lasecki said via email Friday, “We are working diligently to ensure that belongings are returned to guests as quickly as possible. If they are unable to be returned to guests prior to departure from Miami, we will ensure the luggage is shipped directly to the guests’ home.”
As compensation, Oceania gave each guest a full refund, a 50 percent discount on a future cruise, transportation home and a per diem stipend of $100 per day while in transit — an amount that Barrocas called “more than gracious.”
A crew member and two contract workers died in the incident Thursday. A second crew member hospitalized with injuries was released Friday, according to the company. All passengers were evacuated safely.
Built in 1998, the Insignia underwent a $50 million refurbishment earlier this year. Miami-based Norweigan Cruise Line Holdings acquired former Oceania parent Prestige Cruises International earlier this fall for $3.025 billion.