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Disabled cruise ship docks in Seychelles

Three days after a fire disabled the Costa Allegra, the cruise ship docked in the Seychelles on Thursday, March. 1, 2012.

March 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Three days after a fire disabled the Costa Allegra, the cruise ship docked in the Seychelles on Thursday.

A fire broke out on Monday in the ship's generator room, leaving passengers without working toilets, running water or air conditioning. Cabin temperatures reached up to 110 degrees, which forced passengers to sleep on deck chairs.

Eleanor and Gorden Bradwell, a couple from Athens, Ga., said they were eating lunch when the alarm sounded. They said the emergency was not handled well.

The Bradwells said it was a far cry from what the couple had expected when they embarked on the $8,000 multi-week cruise.

The incident comes just six weeks after the Costa Concordia hit a reef and capsized off Italy, killing 32 people. Both ships are operated by Costa Crociere SpA, which is owned by Florida-based Carnival Corp. When the alarm sounded at around 1 p.m. Monday, passengers couldn't see the fire but they did see the smoke. Crew members extinguished the fire within an hour, but the alarmed continued to wail for two more hours.

The ship's captain told a news conference Thursday the emergency response went relatively smoothly.

The average age of the 627 passengers on board was 55, said Guillaume Albert, head of Creole Travel Service. Many of the older passengers in particular had trouble with the sweltering heat.

After the initial chaos waned, life settled down on the Allegra. But more bad news was to come. An emergency generator not involved in the fire failed, leaving the ship with only six hours of battery power. This meant no more hot meals, only cold sandwiches. The water used to extinguish the fire flooded the galley between the first and second decks. The toilets couldn't be flushed, blanketing the bathrooms in stench.

Costa officials said the company had made the passengers a compensation offer: A refund of the costs of the cruise, any related flights and any spending on board, plus an additional payment equal to the cost of the cruise and associated travel expenses.

Passengers were also given the chance to remain in the Seychelles for a free one- or two-week vacation, which the company said about 70 percent of guests had chosen to do. All passengers were to be flown home at company expense.

Guests not staying in the Seychelles were to be flown to Paris, Rome, Milan, Vienna and Zurich, arriving Friday morning. Those passengers will also receive a voucher equivalent to the value of the Allegra trip, to be used on any Costa ship in the next 24 months.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.