In the early a.m. hours Sunday — Alexandria, Egypt time — 2,060 Royal Caribbean passengers awoke to the shatter of glasses falling off shelves and the sensation that their beds had turned into soapbox derby cars racing back and forth across the cabin. The spirits of ancient Egypt had summoned a Mediterranean squall producing 70-knot winds and 30-foot waves, and with Brilliance of the Seas’ stabilizers disengaged as it approached the port of Alexandria, the ship lost control and listed violently several times.
“The closet door in our balcony cabin ripped from its hinges and flew across the room,” posted Lifelong Cruiser on our sister site Cruise Critic. “My wife narrowly missed being hit by the airborne closet door, which weighs 50+ pounds.”
There were only 30 injuries, the most serious of which were two fractures, according to a statement from Royal Caribbean. Damage to the ship included broken furniture, a gym left in shambles (the “ellipticals looked like monkey bars,” said a Cruise Critic reader) and a smashed piano. The ship’s seaworthiness was unaffected, and the cruise surges on — albeit with a slightly shaken passenger base.
In exchange for experiencing what can only be described as a moment of existential terror, Royal Caribbean initially offered $200 in onboard credit to each passenger ($400 for those in suites). Some passengers argued that $200 wasn’t nearly enough, and a Cruise Critic reader reported seeing at least one complaint letter circulating on the ship. Then, just as the compensation debate was heating up, Royal Caribbean upped the ante from $200 to a full refund for the 12-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise. A similar cruise in late October 2011 costs more than $1,600 per person for the cheapest cabin.
Why the sudden sea change?
“Once the team was in the office, and able to assess the situation, we decided that a full refund was warranted,” said Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez.
Some onboard offered a slightly different perspective. “The captain admitted in his first address within 30 minutes of the incident that a ‘mistake’ had been made by slowing down in harbor traffic, causing the stabilizers to disengage,” posted Lifelong Cruiser on Cruise Critic. “[He] described the incident as a ‘mistake’ more than once.”
I put the question to Martinez: Did the line switch gears and offer the full refund because the captain admitted that a mistake had been made?
“Not at all!” she said.
A mistake indeed. But does a free cruise really make up for minutes of sheer terror at sea? Tell us what you think!
– written by Dan Askin