MIAMI HERALD

Ship fire cancels cruise of SeaEscape
BY HANNAH SAMPSON
hsampson@herald.com


A fire aboard a SeaEscape cruise ship forced crew members to evacuate and led officials to cancel a scheduled Monday night sailing.

No passengers were aboard the Island Adventure when the fire was reported just after 4 p.m. A crew member complained of smoke inhalation, but refused to be taken to a hospital.

The fire occurred in a storage area on a lower deck of the ship and consumed cardboard and rope, according to Broward County Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Todd LeDuc.

Damage to the vessel, which had recently returned from the Bahamas for some dry-dock work, was not expected to be significant.

''We're going to take the night off to clean it all up,'' said Kevin Boyd, spokesman for SeaEscape. He said late Monday that an 11:30 a.m. cruise was still scheduled for today.

SeaEscape sails 13 cruises a week, about twice a day, into international waters so that passengers can gamble. Prices range from $20 to $39 a person.

Passengers who planned to sail on Monday but were unable to because of the fire can ask for a refund or reschedule the trip, Boyd said.

Boyd said he wasn't sure how many people planned to take the ''cruise to nowhere'' on Monday night, but that an average Monday crowd would be about 300. The ship's capacity is 1,100, according to the company website.

The cause of the fire was not known Monday.

LeDuc said 45 firefighter-paramedics responded from several departments, including Broward County Fire Rescue, Fort Lauderdale, Dania Beach and Davie.

The fire was in a ''small, narrow, confined space'' in the bottom of the ship on the starboard side, LeDuc said.

''It's metal, so it retains heat,'' he said. ``It's like having a fire in a steel drum.''

Even after the blaze was under control, firefighters had to move the material around to make sure all smoldering material was extinguished.

SeaEscape has had its share of hard knocks lately.

A month ago, Broward County administrators agreed to allow a third company to operate gambling cruises out of Port Everglades, at least temporarily. The second company is Discovery Cruise Line.

Also last month, SeaEscape was stuck in port for a week because of business disputes.

While Island Adventure was out of commission for scheduled maintenance, the company chartered another ship, the Enchanted Capri. It took about a week to get the disagreements settled, allowing the Enchanted Capri to sail.