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Princess Cruise passes stranded fishing boat, denting cruisliners' image again

A luxury liner sailed past a stranded fishing boat from Panama, even though passengers aboard spotted three men adrift. Two of the fishermen died.

By Staff writer / April 20, 2012



Mexico City

One hundred years after the sinking of the Titanic, it's been another abominable year for the cruiseliner industry – from fires, to capsizing, to the most recent news that a luxury liner sailed past a stranded fishing boat from Panama, even though passengers aboard spotted three men adrift. Two of them ended up dying.

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The lone survivor of the ordeal told the Associated Press that he and two other fishermen were returning home to Panama after a successful expedition when the motor failed in their vessel. They could see land, but drifted farther and farther away. For 16 days they survived off the fish they caught, weakening by the day, when they spotted a giant ship in the distance. They waved a red sweater and orange life-vest furiously.

"Tio, look what's coming over there," Adrain Vasquez told the AP he recalled saying. “We felt happy, because we thought they were coming to rescue us.” 

But the ship continued on its course, and two weeks later Mr. Vasquez was found in his boat off Ecuador's Galapagos Islands. His two friends did not survive.

And now the cruiseliner is facing a barrage of criticism. Passengers on the boat say they believe they saw the three men through highpower binoculars used for birdwatching, and say they alerted the crew, but no effort was made to help the boat. They even have a photo

Princess Cruises of California said that their initial investigations show the captain and other officers were not told of the plight of the men, according to the AP, otherwise they would have changed routes and rescued them.

This story comes some four months after the grounding of the Costa Concordia ship off the coast of Italy, which killed 32 people. The captain of the ship, Capt. Francesco Schettino, is currently under house arrest, after being accused of steering the vessel too close to the islands in an alleged publicity bid and then abandoning the ship. A media frenzy erupted after an audio recording was released that appeared to show the Italian Coast Guard demanding that the captain return to the ship to help finish evacuating all the passengers.

Since then, the company Royal Caribbean stated that first-quarter earnings are down by 40 percent from the same period last year. 

And this spring, another luxury liner was stranded for over 24 hours off the coast of the Philippines after a fire broke out and destroyed one of its engines. No one died in the Azamara Quest accident, however.

On April 15, the world marked 100 years since the Titanic hit an iceberg, sinking and ultimately claiming more than 1,500 lives. Canada's CTV has a story comparing the changes in the shipping industry since then, touching on how despite the century of innovation, events this year show that "many of the risks remain very much the same."

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