by Phil Davies
Almost 700 Fred Olsen Cruise Lines passengers are to be flown home from Madeira today (Monday) by private charter flights following a fire on board the ship Black Watch.
Crew extinguished the fire in the auxiliary engine room on Friday morning and there were no injuries to passengers or crew.
But the fire damaged three of the ship’s seven auxiliary engines, which generate electrical power on board. Some electrical power was then restored to the ship.
Black Watch, which originally entered service in 1972, was on a 13-night ‘Portuguese Island & Cities’ cruise which left Dover on June 25 with 696 mainly British passengers and 365 crew on board.
The vessel had left Ponta Delgada in the Azores on Thursday with the line describing weather conditions as good with calm seas.
“There has been some cabling damage on board, which is affecting lighting and communications, but all other services are working as normal,” the line said.
“However, the cabling damage has prevented the other two main engines from running, and it is anticipated that the repairs will cause disruption to guests during the re-cabling.
“Therefore, we have made the decision – in the best interests of guests’ comfort and enjoyment – to fly them home from Funchal.”
Three charter flights will return passengers to Stansted and Gatwick. Affected passengers will be offered a full refund, 50% off a future cruise and the cost of out of pocket expenses.
Special arrangements have been made for passengers who are unable to fly for medical reasons, the company said.
Managing director Mike Rodwell flew out to join the ship in Funchal on Saturday with a support team of senior executives to address passengers and ask for any feedback.
He circulated a letter to cabins on board the ship yesterday afternoon and fully briefed passengers, advising them of the latest situation.
“Fred Olsen appreciates guests’ understanding and co-operation with these new arrangements. All guests will be compensated for loss of enjoyment and facilities.
Black Watch arrived at the Atlantic island capital of Funchal on Saturday afternoon.
“We hope that Black Watch will be able to undertake her next cruise – a nine-night ‘Norwegian Fjords’ cruise from Tilbury on 8th July 2016 – as scheduled,” the company said.
“The safety of all guests and crew on board Black Watch is Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ utmost priority.”