February 28, 2024

The Good Deeds of Cruise Lines

The captain on the bridge of a cruise ship scans the horizon with hi-powered binoculars.

Bad news sells, but the good deeds performed by cruise ships are just as newsworthy. Top of this list are rescues at sea.

It’s an age-old tradition to help fellow mariners in distress. Hence, whenever officers on the bridge of a cruise ship receive a distress call, they promptly respond. In one month alone three Holland America Line ships performed rescue operations.

The first was conducted by the ms Zuiderdam after departing from Fort Lauderdale on a round-trip Panama Canal cruise. In the middle of its first night at sea, the ship answered a distress call from a Bahamian inter-island vessel with eight crewmembers aboard. The vessel was sinking and ms Zuiderdam, about 15 miles away, promptly altered course. Less than an hour later the stranded mariners were safely aboard the cruise ship and disembarked a day later when the ship pulled into Oranjestad, Aruba.

Meanwhile, a sailing yacht ran aground in Antarctica and its stranded crewmembers, from the Arctowski Polish research station on King George Island, radioed for help. Holland America’s ms Zaandam came to their aid and took them to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The bridge of a modern cruise ship contains high-tech equipment, but the act of aiding fellow mariners is as ancient as seafaring itself.

The third rescue took place approximately 250 miles off the coast of Maui when the pilot of a single-engine Cirrus SR22 ditched his disabled aircraft into the ocean. He was at the midway point of a solo flight from California to Maui when he realized a malfunctioning fuel system was preventing the transfer of fuel into his aircraft’s main tanks. This meant he would lose engine power before reaching Kahului Airport on Maui and out of range of Coast Guard rescue helicopters. Fortunately ms Veendam was in the area. So, with 20 minutes of fuel left, the pilot headed toward the cruise ship’s position.

Dramatic video footage taken from a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 shows the small plane deploying its airframe parachute system upon reaching the cruise ship. The aircraft initially pitched nose-down toward the water before leveling off and landing on its belly. As ocean swells swamped the aircraft’s right wing, the uninjured pilot quickly scrambled out the other side into an inflatable life raft. He paddled away from the sinking aircraft as it flipped over in the waves. Within minutes he was picked up by a lifeboat launched from ms Veendam. The ship was on a round-trip Hawaiian Islands cruise from San Diego and it proceeded to Lahaina, where the grateful pilot disembarked.

In addition to rescues at sea, cruise ships perform other roles, such as collecting weather data. The weather reports of meteorologists, based on data from satellites and ground stations, are greatly enhanced by the first-hand weather observations provided by cruise ships as they travel the world’s oceans. These observations also contribute to climatological data collected by the World Weather Information Service.

There is much to keep guests entertained on a cruise ship, but the observant passenger will appreciate that the highly trained officers on the bridge are always keeping a close watch on the horizon.

Avatar photo About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.