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A Real-Life Travel Nightmare Worthy of a Hollywood Script

By Liza Weisstuch
January 12, 2022
Cruise_Myths
Yakov Stavchansky / Dreamstime.com
A cruise ship left Australia for a round-the-world holiday. It encountered a threat on the high-seas that passengers will never forget.

When it comes to things that can ruin a vacation, lost luggage, stolen cell phones, missed flights, and broken bones aren’t even in the same league as what happened to 1,900 passengers on board the Sea Princess, which left Sydney on a round-the-world 104-day cruise. According to a report on news.com.au, during the first leg of the trip that was bound for Dubai, the passengers were banned from roaming the decks and even taking in the sea air under the stars on their own balconies from dusk until down for 10 days. Speculation flew—terrorism? Bats? Vampires? 

When the captain finally spoke to the worried passengers, the real threat came out: Pirates roamed these seas and the passengers needed to be prepared for a possible attack. They were sailing the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Suez Canal, a route that passes Somalia, one of the poorest countries on earth. On the waters off Somalia's 1,880-mile coastline, the longest in Africa, pirates loom equipped with weapons and ladders in small, speedy boats. They’ve been known to hijack boats and hold crew and cargo for ransom for months. Pirate drills ensued. Passengers were instructed to close cabin doors, lock balcony doors, take shelter in the corridor. Fire hoses to ward off intruders were locked and loaded on one of the decks, an easy entrance point to the ship. (Airplane turbulence must have seemed like a wished-for fantasy compared with this.)

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The great news is that the passengers made it through their journey unscathed, aside from a weariness with wisecracks about Captain Phillips and Peter Pan or talking parrots, we can only imagine. According to Carolyne Jasinski, a passenger on the cruise who wrote the article for news.com.au, anxiety overtook everyone, but “there was a weird kind of excitement. Once aware of and alerted to the prospect of pirates, we watched vessels more carefully,” she writes.

As far as statistics go, pirate attacks on cruise ships is very rare, but the frightening episode is a sobering reminder that the threat is real. This past April, the New York Times reported that after several years of quiet on the Indian Ocean, Somali pirates ambushed four ships in the month of March. The article attributed the sudden rise of incidents to famine, drought, and the influence of the Islamic State, among other factors.

The Constanzi Report on Piracy and Maritime Security, a website that provides live reports on attacks against ships as well as articles on all things related to piracy and maritime security, offers a detailed look at the state of things. It features an incredibly comprehensive chronicle of attacks by month. A map details where incidents occur and to what kinds of vessels. While it’s certainly distressing to note the number of attacks over the past years, vacationers can rest assured that most assaults are made on cargo ships. So, cruise-goers, chances are incredibly high that on your next jaunt you'll be able to swim and drink outside under the stars at night. Still, don't make any Tom-Hanks-to-the-rescue or Captain Hook or talking parrot jokes. 

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