Marella Cruises’ Marella Discovery had a brief fire in one of its five engines in the early morning hours of Friday, July 7, 2023, forcing the ship to return to its previous port of call, Amber Cove, in the Dominican Republic.
After the initial assessment, the cruise line made the decision to cancel the remainder of the current cruise, as well as to cancel the next sailing, scheduled to begin on Sunday, July 9.
The fire was quickly extinguished and no injuries to either passengers or crew members were reported.
Engine Fire on Marella Discovery
At approximately 1:30 a.m. on Friday, July 7, 2023, an engine fire occurred on Marella Discovery as the ship was underway after leaving Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic at 6 p.m. the previous evening. Fire teams responded immediately and the fire was quickly extinguished, with no injuries.
The ship returned to Amber Cove for damage assessment and to complete third-party inspections of the firefighting system to clear the ship to sail. Because those inspectors have to fly into the Dominican Republic, the ship is delayed and will not be returning to Port Canaveral as scheduled on Sunday, July 9.
“With that in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel this cruise and fly you all home,” Marella Cruises said in a letter to guests onboard. “It’s not a decision we’ve come to lightly but it is clear we simply cannot offer you a suitable itinerary.”
Marella Cruises is a division of TUI that currently operates five vessels. The 69,130-gross ton Marella Discovery was the first ship to join the fleet, and can welcome 1,830 guests per sailing.
Getting Passengers Home
The cruise line is currently working to arrange flights to return guests to the UK (Marella Cruises being a UK-based line that creates complete vacations from the UK).
The size of the airport, availability of aircraft, flight schedules, luggage handling, and more are all factors in how quickly all passengers will be able to return home.
“This is a big logistical operation and we appreciate your patience as we make all the necessary arrangements,” the letter read. “We understand that waiting for information about flights may feel unsettling. Re-planning the flying is [a] big job and we still have a lot [to] organize, we’ll continue to update you as we finalize the details.”
There are several international airports in the Dominican Republic, though they are small and flight schedules and aircraft sizes can be limited. The closest international airport to Amber Cove is Puerto Plata International Airport (POP), but it could take several days to accommodate more than 1,800 travelers.
Next Cruise Cancelled
Because Marella Discovery is still waiting for appropriate inspections and remains in the Dominican Republic, the next sailing has also been cancelled.
That was to have been a 7-night “American Dream” itinerary departing Port Canaveral on Sunday, July 9 and visiting Freeport, The Bahamas; New York City, New York; and Charleston, South Carolina, before returning to Port Canaveral on July 16.
Many guests onboard book back-to-back sailings for a longer getaway, and Marella Cruises tends to create alternating itineraries to make those plans easier for interested guests. The June 25 sailing, for example, is the same as the July 9 itinerary.
Compensation for the Disruption
Marella Cruises is providing generous compensation for the travel disruption, especially considering five of the seven days of the cruise went ahead as planned with no disruption or diversion.
Guests who embarked Marella Discovery on July 2, 2023 will be receiving a full refund, as will guests who had planned to remain aboard for the following sailing to create a 14-night getaway.
Guests who embarked on June 25 and enjoyed the first half of their 14-night cruise vacation uninterrupted will receive a 7-night pro-rata refund. Refunds will be processed automatically back to guests’ original form of payment within 28 days.
Similarly, full refunds will be processed for any shore excursions for upcoming ports that will not now be visited, including Grand Turk, which the ship was to have visited on Friday, July 7, had it not turned back to Amber Cove after the fire.
How tours will be refunded will vary based on how they were booked, whether while onboard the ship, via the cruise line’s website, or through an agent.
It is unknown at this time whether or not additional sailings will need to be cancelled for Marella Discovery. While the fire was small and quickly extinguished, any damage must be carefully and thoroughly repaired before the ship can set sail again. Inspections will also include determining the cause of the fire to ensure future risks are mitigated.
Likewise, the ship’s fire safety systems must be evaluated to ensure proper resetting and operation before the ship will be cleared to sail.
Guests booked on upcoming sailings of Marella Discovery should stay in close contact with the cruise line about possible delays, cancellations, or changes to their vacation plans until the ship reenters regular service.