November 8, 2005

Tourists recall pirate raid on luxury cruise

By Celestine Achieng

MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Western tourists whose luxury
U.S.-owned cruise liner was attacked by pirates off the coast
of Somalia arrived safely in Kenya on Tuesday, full of praise
for the bravery of the ship's captain and crew.

Pirates in two small boats fired rocket-propelled grenades
and machine guns at the Miami-based Seabourn Spirit about 160
km (100 miles) off the Somali coast on Saturday, but the huge
ship changed direction and sped away, sustaining only minor

The Spirit, with 151 passengers and more than 160 crew on
board, arrived in the Seychelles late on Sunday, and on Tuesday
98 of the tourists took a charter flight to the Kenyan coast.

Only one crew member was slightly injured.

"I was not scared. That was a rare experience and with a
great captain like the one we had, it was the most interesting
adventure of my life," one of the holidaymakers, Juan Garay
from Mexico, told Reuters after arriving in Mombasa.

"I have never been caught up in anything like that. I have
only heard or read about it," he added.

Other passengers were more shaken by the ordeal.

Florida resident Marian Timms described how staff gathered
them in a dining room away from windows as the captain tried to
foil the attackers' attempts to board the ship.

"It was a rare moment when you cannot do anything except
pray," Timms said, as armed Kenyan police watched the tourists
disembark from their flight at Mombasa's international airport.

"I was scared at that point. We did not know what was going
on and even when we knew, we could not do much," she said. "We
were in the hands of the captain who was brave throughout."

The Bahamas-flagged ship, which was also carrying tourists
from Canada, Australia, Britain and other European countries,
had been on a 16-day cruise from Alexandria in Egypt to

But after rounding the Horn of Africa last week it neared
Somalia, and entered some of the world's most dangerous waters.

It was diverted to the Seychelles following the attack.

The tourists who landed in Kenya on Tuesday are heading for
the capital Nairobi to begin a week-long big game safari.

Timms said their experience was frightening, but would not
put her off returning to Kenya for holidays in future.

"It definitely cannot stop me from coming to a country I
love so much," she said.

"That was an isolated incident which will not stop us from
continuing with our safaris or coming back again," she added.

Another group of 100 holidaymakers who were supposed to
join the Spirit in Mombasa for a cruise are now expected to fly
to the Seychelles on Wednesday and join the vessel there.