The Sea Princess was on pirate watch which meant a 6-day state of alert.
It was a serious warning as the ship sailed from Sydney on a 104-day world cruise through Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal – common areas for pirates to still lurk.
Carolyn Jasinski, a passenger and a freelance writer aboard the Sea Princess when Captain Gennaro Arma said that there were to be “no deck parties, no movies under the stars, no late-night outdoor bar hopping and no pool dipping.”
According to Ms Jasinki who was a guest speaker onboard, said the captain assured passengers that the Sea Princess, in all her glory, could outsail any pirate ships. But just in case, officers were placed on 24/7 watch and hoses were poised at the ready.
Many passengers were at first sceptical but soon that disappeared after the pirate drill sounded with the crew instructed to move to their designated muster stations. Passengers were sent to their cabins so they could be counted. As stateroom attendants counted, they were told to sit on the floor and to hang on to hand rails in case the ship had to steer away from the pirate ships.
And in case of a real threat, passengers in balcony cabins were told to lock their doors and lock the entrance door to their cabins and sit in the corridor.
But some passengers did not take the dusk-till-dawn warning so seriously with three cabins who left their lights on.
It was said the captain shamed them over the radio and the rumour was that the passengers did not wish to abandon their game of bridge.
Things you need to know about cruise ship pirate attacks
While it’s not that common for pirates to be sailing the seven seas and not quite a scene from Captain Phillips, there are still pirates sailing in parts of Asia, the Somali Coast as well as the Amazon River.
But rest assured, your crew are well equipped and trained in rare occurrences like these. While it’s not often publicised, some security staff on lines have had serious military training. Often, these personnel are sourced from Nepal, Israel, South Africa as well as the Philippines.
Cruise lines don’t outline their plans if a ship is under a pirate attack but according to the International Maritime Organisation, there are several techniques and technologies that help captains and crew members of both cargo and cruise ships.
• According to the IMO, ships are equipped with tools for early detection including low-light binoculars, yacht radars that detect small crafts as well as night vision devices and barbed wire.
• Ships also have Long Range Acoustic Devices which looks like a giant satellite TV dish. This piece of technology sends out sonic waves to a target which will burst the eardrums of pirates sailing towards the ships.
• Ships have high pressured hoses which can deter attackers.
The last pirate attacks on cruise ships
There’s only been six reported incidents of attempted and successful pirate attacks in the last decade. Pirates will usually approach ships by skiff.
• In 2012, several small boats approached the Azamara Journey. The captain and staff used evasive moves to evade the pirates.
• In January 2011, the captain and crew of a Spirit of Adventure ship (no longer in operation) suspected that they were being chased by pirates in the Indian Ocean. The captain ordered the ship be brought up to full speed and eventually, the pirates gave up.
• In 2009, passengers aboard the MSC Melody spotted a skiff approaching the ship and notified the crew. The cruisers, who had just finished watching a late-night outdoor classical music concert, started to hurl deck chairs overboard to keep the pirates at bay from climbing on the side of the ship. The pirates opened fire and luckily, no-one was hurt. The captain and trained Israeli officers onboard, used evasive moves and soon, the pirates gave up.
• In April 2008, a Ponant ship which only had crew onboard, was hijacked. Crew members were rescued as well as the ship after a ransom was paid.
• Also in 2008, the captain and crew on Oceania’s ms Nautica thwarted an attack while sailing through the Gulf of Aden.
• In 2005, the Seabourn Spirit was 100 miles off the coast of Somalia when pirates began to fire AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Luckily, the pirates failed.
Vote in this year’s special Readers’ Choice Awards
No doubt 2020 will go down in cruise history as the year of the pandemic – a once in a generation event. And this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards will reflect it.