Alaska Cruise Ship Hits Rock; Passengers Evacuated

A cruise ship that ran ground off the Alaska coast was moving under Coast Guard escort after its passengers were evacuated.

Chief Petty Officer Barry Lane said all passengers had been evacuated from the Empress of the North and the vessel was moving again with 29 crew members on board by 7 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time.

"The story is shaping up for the good," Lane said.

There were no reports of injuries.

The Empress of the North, carrying 281 passengers and crew, sent out an emergency radio message at 12:35 a.m. and the Coast Guard responded with an aircraft and helicopter.

The vessel took on water and was listing 6 degrees at the southern end of Icy Strait, about 15 miles southwest of Juneau, said Petty Officer Christopher D. McLaughlin at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak.

Over the following hours, passengers were transferred from the Empress of the North to fishing vessels and other cruise ships that were in the area.

"Many Good Samaritan boats on scene are taking off passengers," McLaughlin said.

It wasn't immediately clear why the cruise ship ran around, he said. Seas were calm.

The Empress of the North is operated by Majestic America Line of Seattle. The ship has 112 staterooms, a three-story paddlewheel and galleries featuring Native American masks and Russian artwork, including Faberge eggs, according to its Web site.

About 130 passengers were transferred to the Coast Guard cutter Liberty. Those passengers plus the ones taken off the cruise ship by fishing boats were to be transferred to the Alaska state ferry Columbia and taken to Juneau.

Dan Miller, a spokesman for Majestic America, said the grounding occurred on the Day 2 of a seven-day trip, he said.

The American-built ship is billed by the company as the only overnight paddlewheel vessel in use on Alaska cruises. It also is used on cruises on the Columbia River between Washington state and Oregon.