(FREEPORT, Bahamas) — Several passengers aboard Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas said they heard “big explosions” after a fire broke out early Monday morning, charring the stern of the ship and forcing passengers to end their vacation early.
Royal Caribbean International said that the cruise line is arranging flights for all 2,224 guests, who could start flying back home as early as Tuesday. Passengers will receive a full refund of their fare and a certificate for a future cruise.
Royal Caribbean said the fire was discovered at 2:50 a.m. ET Monday on the mooring area on deck three of its 11 decks.
Passenger Luke Sluscher, 20, was awakened by the commotion. When he stepped outside his room, he “heard crew yelling mayday, mayday, as they ran to put out the fire.”
The cruise line said the fire was extinguished and the affected area was cordoned off. Guests were allowed to return to their staterooms, the company said, at 7:15 a.m. ET. No injuries were reported.
After assessing the damage, which gutted the rear of the ship on at least one deck, RCI officials decided to end the cruise in Freeport to make repairs. It’s not clear when the ship will be able to serve passengers again, though all systems remain operable. The May 31 cruise out of Baltimore has been cancelled.
Dan McTigue was one of the many frightened passengers hustling to muster stations near lifeboats during the ordeal.
“I heard these big explosions and saw the fire jump out of the ship. We couldn’t get to the muster station because it was on fire,” McTigue said.
Photos show a substantial area of the stern burned on several decks and the fire destroyed a dining area and a bar. ABC News has obtained photos of the interior of the ship in the aftermath of the fire, showing yellow tape and fire hoses crisscrossing the corridor near smoke-damaged walls.
The Grandeur of the Seas, which left Baltimore on Friday, never lost power and was able to sail into port in Freeport, Bahamas, Monday afternoon. It had been planned to be a seven-night cruise. Royal Caribbean told ABC News that about 20 people “took ill.” Medical staff reported two guests were treated after fainting, with one report of high blood pressure and another of cramps.
The crew was able to control the fire but not passengers’ fear as they waited for more than four hours to be given the all clear.
“I started crying. I thought we were gonna die…,” said McTigue’s granddaughter, Sophia.
Hours after the ship reached the Bahamas, Royal Caribbean President and CEO Adam Goldstein arrived on the island to meet with guests and crew.
The incident follows a series of high-profile cruise ship mishaps on Carnival Corp. ships, the largest operator worldwide. An engine room fire crippled the Carnival Triumph on its way from Galveston, Texas, to Cozumel, Mexico in February. It took tug boats nearly five days to haul it back to Mobile, Ala., as conditions and sanitation aboard the 1,000-foot ship deteriorated. In April, it broke away from its mooring in Mobile, Ala. while 800 people were on board.
Last year Carnival’s Costa Concordia ran aground off the cost of Italy, killing 30 people. Salvage efforts are still underway for the ship, which held 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crew.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Seth Fiegerman, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN