Princess Cruises Ship Performs Daring Midnight Rescue

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The Princess Cruises’ ship Grand Princess responded to a police call for assistance in the very early hours of Monday, March 20, 2023, off Wilsons Promontory in southernmost Victoria, Australia. As the closest vessel in the area, the cruise ship helped safely rescue two sailors who had become stranded and abandoned their boat.

A Grand Overnight Rescue

The sailors, a man and a woman, were just off Skull Rock, a small but distinctive rock formation 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) west-southwest of the southernmost point of Wilsons Promontory National Park.

Their boat began having difficulties, the nature of which have not been disclosed, and the couple abandoned the vessel for a dinghy. They deployed an emergency beacon to call for assistance.

Princess Cruises Ship
Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia / Shutterstock

Near midnight, local authorities located the dinghy and coordinated rescue efforts by contacting Grand Princess, which was the closest vessel capable of rendering suitable aid.

“A rescue craft was deployed from the cruise ship in Bass Strait and the pair were taken aboard,” said Belinda Batty, a media officer for the Victoria Police. “No one was injured during the incident.”

The tense video shows the approach of the cruise ship’s rescue craft in rough water and large swells. The stranded pair appear to have been wearing safety gear, but the turbulent water made the operation tricky and the rescue craft had to circle the dinghy to find the best angle to help the sailors aboard.

Everyone returned to the cruise ship safely, and while the ship was slightly delayed returning to Melbourne to conclude its sailing, the outcome is a happy one.

Grand Princess was finishing a 13-night, roundtrip voyage from Melbourne, having visited a diverse number of ports circumnavigating New Zealand. The next sailing has already gotten underway, a 7-night Southern Australia Explorer cruise visiting Philip Island, Port Lincoln, Adelaide, and Kangaroo Island.

The first vessel in the cruise line’s Grand class, Grand Princess debuted in 1998 as the largest and most expensive cruise ship ever constructed to that date. Weighing in at 107,517 gross tons, today she is one of the smallest vessels in Princess Cruises‘ fleet, but is still a favorite among cruise travelers.

In comparison, the upcoming Sun Princess, which was just recently floated out, will be the cruise line’s largest vessel ever when she debuts, weighing in at 175,500 gross tons.

Rescuing Stranded Sailors

Grand Princess‘s sailor rescue comes at almost the same time as another rescue of stranded sailors, also in difficult conditions, albeit in completely different waters on the other side of the world.

P&O Cruises’ Ventura rescued three yacht sailors from choppy waters in the Gulf of Mexico, also on Monday, March 20. In that incident, the yacht’s equipment failed causing steering difficulties, requiring a rescue.

All mariners are required by the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) agreements to assist any vessel in distress, no matter what the condition, size, or complement of the vessel requiring aid, so long as the rescuing craft can do so with reasonable safety.

Refugee Boat in the Distance - Photo Courtesy: Vici Sheffield
Photo Courtesy: Vici Sheffield

Many notable rescues involve refugee watercraft, such as unstable or makeshift rafts or small, overcrowded boats that are not seaworthy or safe, yet are carrying 6, 8, 10, or even more refugees at once.

Cruise ships can and do come to the assistance of other mariners, including pleasure sailors, fishermen, and others who may find themselves in suddenly dangerous waters or in an emergency situation due to poor weather or equipment failure.

For example, in April 2022, Carnival Magic responded to a distress call from a disabled sailboat near Florida, while in 2016, Carnival Spirit rescued two people from a stranded luxury yacht near Australia.

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