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Crippled Cruise Ship Arrives in Philippines

March 1, 1996

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines (AP) _ Passengers of a crippled cruise ship walked ashore Friday after four nights of sleeping on deck, barbecuing on deck, reading on deck _ and waiting to get ashore.

``Nobody complained. Nobody said this is terrible,″ said passenger Keith McLennan, 67, of Sydney, Australia. ``I had one complaint. I had a gin and tonic without ice.″

``In the evening we all had barbecue on the deck which was very pleasant. We had barbecue after barbecue but there was plenty of it. I must say that the food got a little bit boring,″ added his wife, Sheila, 57.

The MV Sagafjord, carrying more than 800 people, was towed into port early Friday, nearly four days after an engine room fire knocked out its power and left it stranded in the South China Sea, about midway through a world cruise.

No one was injured, according to shipowner Cunard Lines Ltd. of London. The crew extinguished the fire within three hours.

An engine room fire ``is the worst that could happen on a ship,″ said captain Tore Lura of Norway. ``I’m really proud about our people. They did quite a good job with risks to their own lives.″

The ship was also carrying a 350-person crew, most of whom are British.

Three tugboats slowly towed the ship about 250 miles across open seas to Subic, a former U.S. naval base west of Manila.

In the meantime, the loss of power forced passengers to leave their hot, dark cabins and sleep on deck, in chairs or on the floor, said Subic shipboard inspector Norberto Montibon.

The outage also cut the water supply, but the crew was able to alternately run toilets and drinking water using an auxiliary generator, Lura said. It also prevented most indoor activities and shut down the ship’s galley.

``They lowered the lifeboats and told us about precautionary measures. I felt assured that the lifeboats were down. I never at any time felt any emergency or any panic,″ said Perry Gates, 46, from Columbia, S.C.

Nevertheless, the passengers, including 330 Americans, 66 Britons, 82 Germans and eight Australians, were ``clapping and cheering when they saw land,″ Montibon said.

Half of the passengers have decided to continue the cruise, taking either Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth II or Royal Viking Sun. The other half have chosen to fly home, Cunard said.

The 25,000-ton Sagafjord, which left Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 4, has been in passenger service since 1965. It was to be withdrawn from regular service later this year, Cunard said.

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