BALTIMORE – A surprise holiday fireworks display aboard a luxury cruise ship came to an abrupt end late Monday night when confused passengers mistook the smoke and fire from a pyrotechnics show for an actual emergency.
The ship, which left Baltimore on Saturday for a week-long voyage, was originally bound for Inagua Island, Bahamas. A spokesman for the ship’s owner, Dry Destinations, said the vessel was never in any “real” danger and was able to sail, with the aid of about seventy-five impressed Portugese oarsmen, into port in Nassau, Bahamas, Tuesday afternoon. The ship, which was launched in 1941, recently underwent a forty-three thousand dollar refitting.
The mix-up occurred on Dry Destinations’ Pyre of the Seas. Activities Director Sunny Novak said it was all, “Just one big misunderstanding.”
“We wanted to give our passengers something special to remember for Memorial Day, so we staged a surprise ‘emergency’ once we entered the Bermuda Triangle – the very waters where so many vessels have mysteriously disappeared. We thought, ‘What better way to commemorate the holiday than to make-believe that 2,500 unsuspecting Japanese, German and American tourists and a crew of 800 Russian ballet students were about to be lost at sea?’”
Novak, whose sister Stormy organizes murder mystery weekends in the Washington, D.C. area, said, “People love excitement and drama, and with so many stories in the news these days about Somali pirates and those floating firetraps other cruise lines are sailing, it seemed setting a few rockets off in steerage would add an element of excitement not often encountered when a ship of this type is still at sea. We also knew that a number of our guests aboard with the Fans of Vaughn Monroe Convention had served in the Pacific during the war. We thought it might be fun to honor those veterans with a surprise which was sure to bring back a lot of memories.”
Günter Stritzel, a thermal imaging engineer from Stuttgard, Germany, was with his wife Ingrid in the Grand Theater enjoying a screening of the film Das Boot when the alarm bells sounded.
“I knew at once that the choking cloud of smoke which was quickly filling the halls of the ship was from a pyrotechnic display. It was pale grey and had the distinct smell of cordite and ammonia, not the pungent odor of nitroglycerine nor the soapy/detergent scent of surplus napalm. Even-so, once some well-meaning scheißer pulled the fire alarm, I knew we were in for a long night.”
Most passengers praised Dry Destinations for the way it handled the emergency, with more than one thanking the stewards for getting them away from the gaming tables. The ship’s string quartet also helped to calm shaky nerves by joining the mustered passengers on deck and playing traditional favorites such as, ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’
Several travelers tweeted that the captain repeatedly assured everyone via the ship’s loudspeaker, “Semplicemente rilassarsi. Non abbiamo alcuna intenzione di affondare questa sera.”
Both passengers and crew remained calm throughout the entire ordeal. Restless babies were given formula, while their parents helped themselves to the purser’s private cache of Pyrat Rum.
Merrimack, New Hampshire resident Clara Souhegan said she and several of her sewing circle friends had financed this once in a lifetime trip with money they had made from selling needlepoint doilies and other items at church bake sales. “Some of the older ladies were concerned when the room attendant awoke them from their midnight naps and told them to grab their flotation devices and any rosaries they might have on hand.”
Besides cutting short the film presentation, the ship’s alarm also interrupted the late night dinner in the first class dining salon. Hungry guests were forced to walk away from an elegant menu which included table-side Fried Greek Cheese, Prince of Wales Spinach Salad, Lobster Fra Diavolo and Steak Dianne. Warm Brandy and Blue Blazers with Cuban cigars and Bananas Foster were featured for dessert.
One Department of Transportation official said they had no time for, “Such shenanigans” and said the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board planned a full scale investigation. This is not the first time this particular crew has been investigated for misconduct. A previous inquiry abruptly ended when the former captain said he, “…had them with the strawberries”.
Once in port, Senior Engineering Officer Jervis Bay, assessed the damage and concluded that, “There’s nye a thin’ wrong with her tha’ a good scrubbin’ en a wee bit a’ lead paint kinnah fix.” Pictures of the charred hull, however, kept appearing throughout the day on social media with the caption: “Dresden of the Seas.”
Dry Destinations said on its website and via its MySpace page that executives met with anxious passengers in Nassau and that the company was arranging flights for all of its guests back to Baltimore aboard Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
The company also said that a three hour tour scheduled for June 7 aboard the Pyre of the Seas has been postponed until the ship can once again be refitted and renamed.
(The Los Angeles Post-Examiner wishes its readers a very happy April Fools Day.)
Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A former reporter at The Washington Herald and an occasional contributor to the Voice of Baltimore, Tony’s poetry, humor and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore; Magic Octopus Magazine; Destination Maryland, and Tales of Blood and Roses.