1,900 passengers aboard a 104 day cruise around the world got an unsettling surprise after they departed from Sydney, Australia toward Dubai.
For ten days, the passengers had to endure a mandatory dusk-to-dawn blackout for fear of pirate attacks. “No deck parties, no movies under the stars, no late-night outdoor bar hopping or pool dipping” were just some of the bans included in the blackout ordered by Captain Gennaro Arma, recalls Carolyn Jasinski, a passenger on the ship. The ship essentially become a ghost – all curtains were drawn, all lights were dimmed or turned off.
Piracy is still a problem on the high seas, particularly in the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal. Captain Gennaro Arma wanted to remind his crew and his passengers that the threat of pirates “was real and the ship must be prepared for a pirate attack.”
Jasinski says that in addition to the blackout, there were obligatory pirate drills to prepare the crew and passengers in case an actual attack happened.
“[The passengers] were advised to sit on the floor and to hang on to hand rails in case the ship had to maneuver away from pirate ships. In the case of a real threat, those passengers in outside cabins were told to close and lock their balcony doors, then lock their entrance door to their cabin and take shelter in the corridors,” she says in her essay detailing the experience.
The ship was fully equipped with pirate-alluding tools – fire hoses at the ready, officers on watch 24/7, and a sonic boom that could knock pirates off their ladders. In addition, Jasinski says the captain was confident that the ship would be able to outrun the pirates.
For those ten days, tensions were rightfully high, but according to Jasinksi, “there was a weird kind of excitement. Once aware of and alerted to the prospect of pirates, we watched vessels more carefully.”
Luckily, the ship and its crew never faced any real danger. A spokesperson for the operator of the cruise spoke to The Telegraph about the precautionary actions taken:
“Any measures aboard Sea Princess were simply taken out of an abundance caution and not in response to a specific threat and are common to international shipping sailing in the region.”