Star Princess (2001)
Star Princess is a Grand-class cruise ship operated by Princess Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation & plc, and is the second ship in the cruise line's history to operate under this name. She is the third Grand-class ship to have been built and introduced into the Princess fleet, following Grand Princess and Golden Princess, after her debut in 2002. Star Princess is scheduled to be transferred to P&O Cruises Australia, debuting for the company as Pacific Encounter in November 2021.
Star Princess in Victoria, British Columbia, 2017
|Owner:||Carnival Corporation & plc|
|Port of registry:||
|Builder:||Fincantieri (Monfalcone, Italy)|
|Launched:||10 May 2001|
|Sponsored by:||Gunilla Antonini|
|Christened:||25 January 2002|
|Completed:||25 January 2002|
|Class and type:||Grand-class cruise ship|
|Length:||289.62 m (950.2 ft)|
|Beam:||36 m (118 ft)|
|Draught:||8.45 metres (27.7 ft)|
|Deck clearance:||8.45 m (27.7 ft)|
In January 1998, the then-unnamed ship was ordered as part of a two-ship order made by Princess with Fincantieri, with each ship costing $425 million. The two 109,000 GT Grand-class ships were scheduled to be delivered in the spring and fall of 2001, respectively, and slotted to sail in the Caribbean from Port Everglades year-round. Later, in October 2000, Princess announced Star Princess would instead be deployed to Los Angeles for Mexican Riviera cruises following her delivery, with Alaska itineraries during the summers. Star Princess would become the first then-dubbed "mega-ship" ever to be homeported in Los Angeles and also cruise from the West Coast on a full-time basis.
Star Princess was launched on 10 May 2001 at Fincantieri's shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy. On 29 June 2001, a fire started in a galley onboard when sparks from a welding torch ignited it. The fire spread into a dining room but damage was not extensive and construction continued until completion on 25 January 2002.
On 22 August 2018, Princess' sister brand, P&O Cruises Australia, announced that Star Princess would be transferred to the P&O Australia fleet in late-2021, joining her sister ship, Golden Princess, which transfers to P&O Australia in October 2020. On 25 November 2019, P&O Australia announced that the vessel will be named Pacific Encounter upon joining the fleet. Further details were released, announcing that Pacific Encounter would homeport in Brisbane from November 2021 and cruise to different destinations in Oceania.
Accidents and incidents
On 23 March 2006, at approximately 3:00AM, while en route from Grand Cayman to Montego Bay, Jamaica, a fire broke out in the passenger compartments, amidship, on the port side of the ship. Shortly after, the captain sounded the general emergency signal—seven short blasts followed by one long blast on the ship's whistle over the public address system, horn, and various alarms. Passengers evacuated their cabins into public areas through smokey hallways, grabbing their life jackets on the way. They assembled at their muster stations and were combined into groups for about seven hours.
The evacuation was reportedly orderly, in contrast to deadlier fires such as those on Morro Castle and Yarmouth Castle. Lifeboats were lowered but proved to be unnecessary, as the fire was contained and doused, and the ship headed into Montego Bay under her own power.
The fire was allegedly caused by a cigarette left burning on a balcony, which had become hot enough to melt the balcony divides made from plastic polycarbonate, a material that had been approved by international cruise line safety rules. The fire caused scorching damage in up to 150 cabins, and smoke damage in at least 100 more on passenger decks 9 to 12 (Dolphin, Caribe, Baja and Aloha decks, respectively). A passenger, Richard Liffidge, 72, of Georgia, died from "asphyxia secondary to inhalation of smoke and irrespirable gases" and thirteen other passengers suffered significant smoke inhalation.
While a smouldering discarded cigarette probably did cause the flames, the following items were also at fault for allowing the fire to spread as quickly as it did:
- The balconies' polycarbonate partitions, polyurethane deck tiles, and the plastic furniture were highly combustible and produced large quantities of very thick black smoke when burned.
- The glass in the doors between the staterooms and balconies was neither fire retardant, to meet with the requirements of an ‘A’ class division, nor self-closing.
- The balconies crossed main zone fire boundaries, both horizontally and vertically, and were without structural or thermal barriers at the zone or deck boundaries.
- No fire detection or fire suppression systems were fitted on the balconies.
The cruise was terminated in Montego Bay and passengers were evacuated to hotels in Jamaica and subsequently flew home. All passengers received a full refund and were reimbursed any out-of-pocket travel expenses they incurred. The ship had been on a Caribbean itinerary that departed from Port Everglades on 19 March 2006. With 79 cabins destroyed and a further 204 damaged, the ship was moved to the Bahamas where she was prepared for a transatlantic crossing to the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany for repairs. Her remaining Caribbean cruises and a transatlantic cruise were cancelled, with the anticipation that she would begin her summer season in the Baltic on 15 May.
The ship set sail again on 13 May 2006, and resumed its regular service on 15 May from Copenhagen. Princess implemented new measures that aim to prevent a disaster of similar proportion, which include enhanced procedures for handling fires and clear communication during emergencies. Passengers reported that the only noticeable differences were a strong smell of new carpeting, the addition of sprinklers to all balconies and the replacement of plastic furniture with non-combustible alternatives. No interior decor was significantly modified in order to maintain consistency of the ship's interior design.
2012 reported ignored distress call
On 10 March 2012, en route in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America, three passengers from Star Princess spotted a small boat drifting with waving seamen, apparently in distress, and notified the crew. However, Star Princess did not change course to investigate. On 19 March, the Ecuadorean coast guard rescued the Panamanian fishing boat Fifty Cent with one survivor on board. Subsequent communication between the survivor, a reporter, and the passengers who spotted the survivors led to allegations that the small boat sighted nine days prior was, in fact, the Fifty Cent, and that Star Princess had failed to stop and render aid.
Princess Cruises first indicated that there had been a breakdown in communication and the captain had not been notified of the sighting. A later report stated that a crew member did, in fact, convey the passengers' concerns to the bridge, and that the ship's log for that time on 10 March contained an entry recording that the ship had deviated to the west to avoid the fishing nets, and that the fishermen had "signaled their thanks" for avoiding their nets.
By June 2012, two lawsuits had been filed against Princess Cruises on behalf of the fishermen of the Fifty Cent. In August 2012, Princess Cruises responded with the claim that Star Princess and Fifty Cent were never within sight of one another and thus, the accusations were the result of mistaken identity. As supporting evidence, the cruise line made public the results of a drift analysis and a photographic investigation they had commissioned.
In April 2013, the Royal Gazette reported that the Bermuda Department of Maritime Administration had closed their official inquiry into the incident. The Bermuda Police Service carried out the investigation. The Department of Public Prosecutors disclosed that the passengers who were material witnesses to the case made a statement that the boat they had seen from the cruise ship was ultimately not the same boat as the one recovered by the Ecuadorean coast guard.
At the time of her delivery, Star Princess was too large to make a Panama Canal transit, so to arrive in Los Angeles, she embarked on an eastward voyage from Italy, taking her through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean, and a 26-day inaugural voyage across the Pacific Ocean.
Star Princess' first homeport was Los Angeles and her maiden season featured itineraries to the Mexican Riviera, with her first cruise from Los Angeles, a 3-day cruise, held on 10 March 2002. She sailed to Alaska from Vancouver beginning summer 2003. In fall 2003, she became the first vessel of more than 100,000 GT to sail in Australian waters after she arrived in Sydney on 26 November 2003. She moved to Southeast Asia in the spring of 2004 before cruising the Mediterranean in the summer of 2004, the Caribbean that fall and winter, and the Baltic the following summer. She made her first trip to South America and Antarctica in January 2008.
For winter 2019-2020, she is homeported in Los Angeles, with itineraries including the Mexican Riviera and the Sea of Cortez. She will move to San Francisco for summer 2020 to sail Alaska itineraries before returning to Los Angeles for winter 2020-2021 with itineraries to the Mexican Riviera, Hawaii, French Polynesia, and the California coast.
In popular culture
In 2002, Hong Kong TV drama, Ups and Downs in the Sea of Love, was filmed onboard Star Princess, among other locations.
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