March 23, 2006

One dead in cruise ship fire in Caribbean

By Jim Loney

MIAMI (Reuters) - One passenger died and 11 were hurt when
fire broke out on the passenger decks of a Princess Cruises
ship on Thursday as the vessel carried more than 3,800
passengers and crew from the Cayman Islands to Jamaica.

The blaze aboard the 950-foot (290-meter) Star Princess
forced passengers to grab life jackets and scramble to muster
stations on deck in early-morning darkness. About 100 cabins
were affected by flames and smoke.

"After the muster station, we did cabin-to-cabin searches,"
said Julie Benson, a spokeswoman for Santa Clarita,
California-based Princess, which is owned by Carnival Corp. "We
did a full passenger and crew check to make sure everyone was
accounted for."

A male passenger died "following a cardiac arrest," the
company said in a statement, while two suffered significant
smoke inhalation and nine had minor complications from
breathing smoke.

The fire broke out at 3:10 a.m. as the 4-year-old luxury
liner, carrying 2,690 passengers and 1,123 crew, sailed from
Grand Cayman Island to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

"We do not know how the fire started," Benson said. "It
broke out in the passenger accommodation. We don't know exactly
where it started."

The ship docked at Montego Bay later in the morning and the
company was considering airlifting the two most seriously
injured passengers to hospitals.

Benson said the company was not sure how badly the ship was
damaged or whether the cruise could continue.

In 1998, Carnival lost millions of dollars in revenue after
fire erupted on its ship Ecstasy as it sailed out of Miami's
main shipping channel. The blaze injured 60 passengers and
knocked the vessel out of service for nearly two months.

Carnival's Celebration was adrift for several hours in
January 2000 when fire broke out in an auxiliary generator as
the ship sailed northwest of Jamaica.

The 109,000-ton Star Princess cost more than $430 million
to build. It is registered in Bermuda and sailed its maiden
voyage in 2002.

The ship sailed from Fort Lauderdale on March 19 on a
weeklong Caribbean cruise.

Carnival Corp. on Thursday reported a 19 percent drop in
first-quarter earnings. Its stock had fallen about 5 percent in
midday trading.