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Pheonix Rises from the Ashes.

MV Pacific Princess - April 1975 - Launch Press Photograph

Cruise ships go through many changes throughout their lifetime, including ownership, refurbishments, and name changes. As a result, it can be challenging to keep up with them all. For Salty Seadogs like myself, original names are reused when a new ship is born, leading to some confusion. I had the pleasure of working on the original Island Princess and Pacific Princess at the start of P&O Princess in 1974.

MS Island Princess - Launched 2002

Princess was eventually acquired by Carnival, and the old mv Island Princess and mv Pacific Princess are now long gone. However, the name resurfaced again when ms Island Princess was launched in 2002, which continues to sail today under the Princess banner with a capacity of over 2200 passengers.

Meanwhile, Pacific Princess Number 2 was more similar in size and style to the original Pacific Princess. It was sold by Princess in 2021 and has now been reborn as the delightful Azamara Onward, which I had the pleasure of sailing on in January of this year.

Pacific Princess - Now Azamara Onward

Another ship with a chequered history is the Star Princess, which started life in 1988 for Sitmar Cruises. During her fitting-out, Sitmar was taken over by P&O Cruises, and she started her working life as Star Princess. She sailed for a number of companies under different names until she was scrapped in 2021.

Although Star Princess left the Princess fleet in 1997, the name lived on when a new ship was built in 2002, continuing until 2021 when she was handed over to P&O Australia and renamed Pacific Encounter

Star Princess 1988-2021 >

Left Princess in 1997

Star Princess 2002 - Now Pacific Encounter

However, Star Princess is perhaps most notorious for a major incident that occurred in 2006. On 23rd March, en route from Grand Cayman to Montego Bay, a fire broke out in the passenger cabins on the port side of the ship. Passengers evacuated their cabins into public areas through smoky hallways and spent the next seven hours there. Sadly, one passenger died from inhalation of smoke and gases, and thirteen others suffered significant smoke inhalation. The fire was allegedly caused by a cigarette left burning on a balcony, which had become hot enough to melt the balcony dividers made from plastic polycarbonate.

Star Princess following the fire in 2006

The cruise was terminated in Montego Bay, and passengers were evacuated to hotels in Jamaica before flying home. All passengers received a full refund and were reimbursed for any out-of-pocket travel expenses they incurred. The ship had been on a Caribbean itinerary that departed from Port Everglades on 19 March 2006. With 79 cabins destroyed and a further 204 damaged, the ship was moved to the Bahamas where it was prepared for a transatlantic crossing to Bremerhaven, Germany, for repairs.

The ship resumed service later that year, but Princess Cruises implemented new measures to prevent a similar disaster from happening again. These measures included enhanced procedures for handling fires and clear communication during emergencies, the addition of sprinklers to all balconies, and the replacement of plastic furniture with non-combustible alternatives.

Twenty-six years earlier in 1979 a fire started onboard Sun Princess in Vancouver Harbour. The fire started before “The Sun” had set sail on her Alaskan Cruise. The “Old Man” on Sun Princess at the time of the fire was Captain (Sammy) Bradford. Some days after the fire The Colonel interviewed Capt. Bradford for the ships TV channel Ch4.

Thankfully the fire on Sun Princess was soon extinguished with little damage, however, two crew members were injured, but returned to service a few days later.

It's worth noting that muster procedures were changed across the industry in 2013 following the Costa Concordia disaster. in 2012, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) implemented new safety regulations for the cruise industry. One of the changes involved the muster drill, which is the mandatory safety briefing that all passengers must attend at the beginning of the cruise.

Costa Concordia - Sank off the Isola del Giglio in 2012

Previously, the muster drill was conducted within 24 hours of departure, and passengers were not required to wear life jackets during the drill. Now the drill must be conducted in a more interactive and informative manner, with crew members demonstrating the proper use of life jackets and explaining emergency procedures in greater detail.

These changes were made to improve passenger safety and ensure that everyone on board knows what to do in case of an emergency. The cruise industry has taken these regulations seriously and has implemented them on all cruise ships.

Interesting that passengers are no longer required to wear lifejackets at the Muster Drill.


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