A lifeboat from the Sapphire Princess cruise ship loads passengers and crew from the Wilderness Discoverer after an engine fire on the vessel Monday morning. No significant injuries were reported and U.S. Coast Guard officials said the disabled vessel will be towed to Ketchikan. (Photo by Dan Reilly)

A lifeboat from the Sapphire Princess cruise ship loads passengers and crew from the Wilderness Discoverer after an engine fire on the vessel Monday morning. No significant injuries were reported and U.S. Coast Guard officials said the disabled vessel will be towed to Ketchikan. (Photo by Dan Reilly)

Nearly 70 people rescued after engine fire aboard small cruise ship in Glacier Bay

No significant injuries reported as large cruise ship, Coast Guard respond to disabled vessel Monday

An engine fire on a small cruise ship occurred Monday morning in Glacier Bay, resulting in nearly 70 passengers and crew being transferred to a much larger cruise ship nearby by a lifeboat, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and the disabled boat’s owner.

No significant injuries or environmental impact were reported.

The engine fire occurred at 7:23 a.m. on the 178-foot Wilderness Discoverer, according to a press release by UnCruise Adventures, which owns and operates the vessel. The boat has capacity for 76 guests and additional crew.

“We are relieved to confirm that there have been no injuries resulting from the fire,” said Capt. Dan Blanchard, UnCruise Adventures’ owner and CEO. “Our highly trained crew promptly extinguished the fire using established emergency protocols, and CO2 was successfully deployed for everyone’s safety.”

The initial call by crew aboard Wilderness Discoverer was made to Coast Guard officials in Juneau at about 7:30 a.m., according to a Coast Guard press release. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, according to UnCruise Adventures.

The Sapphire Princess cruise ship passed the Wilderness Discoverer near Gilbert Peninsula at about that time and while “they were already adrift,” the tour boat didn’t seem to be in distress, Dan Reilly, a passenger aboard the Sapphire Princess cruise ship, told the Empire Monday morning.

However, Reilly said, shortly after passing the Wilderness Discoverer the captain of the Sapphire Princess said the ship was turning around to help the smaller vessel.

“The Sapphire Princess dispatched one of the large enclosed lifeboats — it’s a fairly large lifeboat and it’s jet powered — and that boat went over and took on board (passengers and crew),” Reilly said.

According to the Coast Guard, 51 passengers and 16 crew were transferred to the Sapphire Princess, which has a capacity of 3,670 passengers and crew.

“Eleven crew members remain aboard the Wilderness Discoverer and are scheduled to rendezvous with the tugboat Taku Wind, who will tow the vessel to Ketchikan,” the Coast Guard press release states.

Reilly said an oil boom was deployed along the smaller vessel,possibly due to a fuel or oil leak, but he said it did not appear the boat sustained serious structural damage.

“I’m looking at the ship now and it’s just sitting there,” he said at about 11:30 a.m. “It doesn’t look like it’s down in the water.”

Two Coast Guard ships along with a helicopter were deployed to the area to assist with the rescue.

“Our primary concern is ensuring the safety of the passengers and the crew,” said L.t. j.g. Maximilian Carfagno, command duty officer at the Sector Juneau command center. “The quick launch of our assets and the teamwork among the Sapphire Princess helped in the timeliness of this rescue.”

A passenger from the Sapphire Princess cruise ship is lifted into a rescue helicopter Monday in Glacier Bay at the same time the ship is involved with helping rescue passengers from a smaller cruise ship that caught fire during the morning. U.S. Coast Guard officials said the two incidents were not related. (Photo by Dan Reilly)

A passenger from the Sapphire Princess cruise ship is lifted into a rescue helicopter Monday in Glacier Bay at the same time the ship is involved with helping rescue passengers from a smaller cruise ship that caught fire during the morning. U.S. Coast Guard officials said the two incidents were not related. (Photo by Dan Reilly)

In addition to the rescue of passengers from the disabled ship disrupting the Sapphire Princess’ itinerary Monday, one passenger from the larger ship was medevaced by helicopter in an unrelated incident, according to Coast Guard officials.

Reilly said the Sapphire Princess was released from the scene at about 3:15 p.m., but the length of time spent there meant the ship skipped the scheduled scenic trip through Glacier Bay as it continued its seven-day cruise to Anchorage.

UnCruise Adventures, in its press release, stated the company is trying to minimize inconvenience to passengers resulting from the incident.

“The cruise line will be providing full refunds to all passengers affected by the incident, and providing hotels and flights home for those affected,” the release notes.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 6

Here’s what to expect this week.

Residents of Strasbaugh Apartments on Gastineau Avenue and others in the neighborhood wait outside a sealed-off area Sunday morning after a landslide triggered by heavy rain hit the building. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Landslide triggered by heavy rain damages apartment building on Gastineau Avenue

Officials close street as multiple mudslides reported; up to 4” more rain forecast by Monday night.

Shelley McNurney (right) and Tami Hesseltine examine a muticolor storage shelf in the gym of the former Floyd Dryden Middle School on Saturday, where surplus items from the school were being sold to residents and given away to nonprofit entities. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
No more pencils, no more bookshelves: Floyd Dryden works to clear out surplus items large and small

Furniture, microscopes, pianos among gymful of items being given away or sold by shut-down school.

Former President Donald Trump is surrounded by Secret Service agents at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa, on Saturday. Trump was rushed off stage at rally after sounds like shots; the former president was escorted into his motorcade at his rally in Butler, Pa., a rural town about an hour north of Pittsburgh. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Trump rally shooting investigated as assassination attempt; gunman identified

One rally attendee and the shooter dead, two other spectators critically injured.

Looking like a gray turtle, an automated mower cuts grass in front of Thunder Mountain Middle School with boxes stacked in a classroom window beyond. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Random adventures of robo-mowers…now performing again this summer at Juneau’s schools

Four pillow-sized bots resembling turtles with tiny razor-sharp blades provide class for the grass.

Disney Williams (right) orders coffee from Lorelai Bingham from the Flying Squirrel coffee stand at Juneau International Airport on Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
New coffee stand at airport stirs up heated dispute about having proper authorization to operate

Fans of Flying Squirrel Espresso praise location, hours; officials say FAA violations could be costly.

Nano Brooks and Emily Mesch file for candidacy on Friday at the City and Borough of Juneau Municipal Clerk’s office in City Hall. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
City and Borough of Juneau regular municipal election candidate filing period opens

So far, most vie for Assembly District 2 seat — mayor, Board of Education, and District 1 also open.

Killah Priest performs at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center in December 2019. (Photo courtesy of Lance Mitchell)
Killah Priest sets new record with Alaskan artists on ‘Killah Borealis’

Wu-Tang Clan rapper seeks to lift Alaskan voices and culture in his return performance to Juneau

Most Read