Cruise passengers ordered to turn off lights, music for 10 days to avoid pirate attack

The Sea Princess departs for a cruise.
The Sea Princess departs for a cruise. Photo by Noel Jones

It was supposed to be a magical 104-day world cruise aboard the Sea Princess for the 1,900 passengers who shelled out tens of thousands of dollars.

But for 10 days, those passengers were ordered to undergo ten nighttime blackouts while the ship cruised through the Indian Ocean due to fear of an attack from Somali pirates, according to the Telegraph.

Carolyne Jasinski, a passenger on the cruise’s first leg, wrote that the captain of the ship informed those on the cruise that there was a “real” threat of a pirate attack.

“No deck parties, no movies under the stars, no late-night outdoor bar hopping or pool dipping,” Jasinski wrote, listing everything that was shut off because of the threat. “No lights, no party atmosphere, no lapping up tropical breezes on their balconies. All around the ship, as the sun set, all curtains were drawn and all shutters closed. Bright lights, which normally signal the presence of the Sea Princess on the ocean, were dimmed or turned off altogether.”

“She was a ghost ship.”

The blackout happened while the vessel crossed through the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal.

Jasinski also wrote that the captain announced there would be a “compulsory pirate drill.”

At first, passengers made light of the news, joking that they had seen Captain Phillips, a movie with Tom Hanks that follows a group of Somali pirates hijacking a ship. The movie was based on the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.

But when sirens alerted the 1,900 passengers of the drill — prompting them to head to the ship’s 1,008 cabins for a headcount — it became more serious.

“It was made very clear on the Sea Princess, very quickly, that this pirate threat was not something to be joked about,” Jasinski wrote in the essay. “Any remaining smirks soon disappeared as the pirate drill alarm sounded and the crew was instructed to move to their designated muster stations.”

During the drill, passengers were told “to sit on the floor and to hang onto hand rails in case the ship had to maneuver away from pirate ships,” she wrote.

The ship could outrun pirates if necessary, the captain told crew members, but there were other options to keep the pirates at bay — officers were on duty 24/7, fire hoses were ready to be used and, as a last resort, a sonic boom could knock pirates off their ladders.

Princess Cruises told the New York Daily News that any measures taken on the ship were simply done “out of an abundance of caution.”

“In addition to our normal ongoing security training, additional piracy specific training is conducted prior to any of our vessels entering areas of concern,” the company said. “Any measures aboard Sea Princess were simply taken out of an abundance caution and not in response to a specific threat and are common to international shipping sailing in the region."

Nothing ended up happening, Jasinski wrote, besides passengers becoming increasingly worried about any ship — large or small — that came up on the horizon.

“It was all smooth sailing, so to speak, on the Sea Princess,” she wrote, “but it definitely changed the mood on the ship.”