Fire Aboard Cruise Ship, Passengers Evacuate Cabins

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At approximately 3:30 a.m. local time on the morning of Sunday, May 28, 2023, a fire broke out aboard P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Adventure and orders were given for passengers to evacuate their staterooms and assemble at their muster stations.

At the time, the ship was underway off the coast of Sydney, Australia, having just departed on a 3-night “Comedy Cruise” sailing with no scheduled ports of call.

Fire on Pacific Adventure Balcony

The fire engulfed one of Pacific Adventure‘s balconies and appeared to have been spreading before it was contained and eventually safely extinguished. No injuries have been reported from the incident.

“This fire activated our emergency response procedures including a full muster of guests and crew and we thank everyone on board for their cooperation,” a spokesperson for P&O Cruises said in a statement.

Passengers onboard were called to their muster stations with their lifejackets, and waited in appropriate gathering places for updates until the all-clear was given.

Some passengers reported smelling smoke in the hallways, and dramatic video from local news stations shows the balcony stateroom aglow with the blaze.

The fire was safely extinguished by the ship’s fire response team, with no injuries reported. At about 5 a.m., the emergency was declared over and guests were permitted to return to their staterooms.

In total, four cabins onboard the ship were damaged, but the overall extent of the damage is not yet determined, nor is the initial cause of the blaze.

“The extent of the damage and the cause of the fire are yet to be fully determined and remain under investigation,” the cruise line’s statement continued.

Itinerary Unaffected

Pacific Adventure had left Sydney just 12 hours earlier to begin a 3-night “Comedy Cruise” with no scheduled ports of call. The itinerary is continuing without impact, and the ship is scheduled to return to Sydney on Tuesday, May 30.

It is not known if the next cruise, a 10-night roundtrip “Discover Vanuatu” sailing, will be impacted. That cruise is scheduled to call at ports in New Caledonia as well as Vanuatu.

P&O Cruises Australia Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: HDC Creative / Shutterstock

The 109,000-gross-ton Pacific Adventure is a Grand-class ship that formerly sailed as Golden Princess for Princess Cruises, but joined P&O Cruises Australia in 2021 to become Pacific Adventure.

The ship can welcome 2,600 guests at double occupancy, but is reported to have been sailing with just over 3,100 passengers on the current sailing, with extra berths filled for the short holiday. More than 1,000 crew members were also aboard at the time of the fire.

Fires Onboard Cruise Ships

Fire is the gravest threat aboard any cruise ship, and while thousands of cruises set sail every year without such hazards, these dangerous situations do happen on rare occasions.

In February 2023, a fire broke out aboard Viking Cruises’ Viking Orion while the ship was docked in Sydney, Australia, with three cabins damaged. Preliminary reports indicate that fire may have been caused by a “corded device” and there were no injuries, thanks to the crew’s quick response to contain and extinguish the fire.

In November 2022, a small fire aboard Disney Wonder was caused by an electrical short from a speaker system, and two decks were partially evacuated while the fire was extinguished and safety inspections were performed.

The most spectacular cruise ship fire in recent years was aboard Carnival Freedom, when the ship’s iconic “whale tale” funnel caught fire in May 2022 while the ship was docked in Grand Turk. No injuries were reported, and while the ship was repaired, it has not yet received its new whale tale.

Cruise ship fires with guests aboard are rare, but construction fires are far more common as shipyard incidents can happen when heavy equipment is used around combustible materials. The upcoming and highly-anticipated Icon of the Seas even had a small fire in February 2023, which caused minor damage to a stairway.

Cruise ship fire brigades are highly trained, expert firefighters that excel with at-sea emergencies, with continual training and drills to ensure the safest possible conditions for everyone aboard in case of any fire emergency.

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