Celebrity Cruises Alaska tour canceled after ship experiences mechanical problem

JUNEAU, Alaska - Celebrity Cruises announced Tuesday is was cancelling the remainder of a seven-night cruise to Alaska after mechanical issues forced a ship carrying more than 3,100 passengers and crew members to return to port in Ketchikan.

The cruise line said in a statement that passengers would receive refunds of their cruise fares and chartered air travel home. It also said it was offering future cruise certificates for 100 percent of the fare paid for this cruise.

Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which owns Celebrity Cruises, said by email that about 2,200 guests and nearly 960 crew members were onboard the Millennium. She said Celebrity "will do whatever is necessary to get our guests back home, at no additional cost to them."

Martinez said the 965-foot ship experienced a mechanical issue with one of its two propulsion motors. She said it could sail at a reduced speed with one motor, but "in an abundance of caution," the cruise line decided to cancel the sailing.

The ship had an issue with the same motor on a prior outing, she said.

Celebrity Cruises said the seven-night sailing began Friday, with the ship leaving Vancouver, British Columbia. Ketchikan, in southeast Alaska, was one of several ports of call scheduled before the cruise was to end in Seward.

Coast Guard spokesman Kip Wadlow said the latest problem prompted the ship to return to Ketchikan after it had left the port on Sunday. He said the Coast Guard on Monday ordered the vessel to stay put until the issue was fixed. He said the agency was working with Celebrity Cruises "to put the safety of the crew and the passengers first, ensure that they are protected and ensure that the vessel is capable of safely getting underway."

The cruise company said engineers, consultants from the motor's manufacturer and the cruise line's marine operations team had been working "around the clock" to resolve the issue.

The president and CEO of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, Patti Mackey, said some restaurants and bars in town got a boost Sunday night when the cruise ship returned. Cruise ships typically aren't in town that late, and "that was a pleasant up-shot for them, anyway," she said.

She said the tour company that manages transfers for the cruise line also was busy contacting local tour companies to ask about extra space they might have for the held-over passengers. Some passengers just walked around town and shopped, she said.

"It's not the ideal situation for those folks who really wanted to see all the stops on the itinerary, but we're trying to do our best to make them feel comfortable and welcome," Mackey said of the community.

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