Norwegian Sun curtails cruise after hitting ice in Alaska

Norwegian Cruise Line has decided to curtail one of its cruises after the Norwegian Sun (IMO 9218131) hit ice over the weekend of June 25th/26th while travelling in Alaska. The vessel suffered unspecified damages that have forced the ship to skip ports on its current cruise and to cancel its next cruise, so that it can undergo repairs.

Passengers reported on Saturday morning that they awoke to feel a shudder in the ship. The Norwegian Sun at the time was cruising north of Skagway in the Gulf of Alaska, heading towards a scenic visit to Hubbard Glacier. There was fog, but this was not unusual. Norwegian Cruise Line said that the ship “made contact with a growler”. This is typically a smaller chunk of ice defined to be no more than two metres in length. They typically have broken away from a larger formation and are low to the surface of the ocean. This makes them difficult to see from the bridge. The majority of their mass is below the water and often the water can be washing over the top of the chunk of ice.

It was not clear at what speed the cruise ship was travelling. A video posted to social media by passengers showed a large black formation of ice floating in the water larger than the typical growler. The contact was along the forward starboard side of the vessel. The black ice can be seen floating past the cruise ship.

Passengers also reported that the cruise ship was moving slowly after the encounter with the ice.

The Norwegian Sun then changed course, cancelling the scheduled call at Hubbard Glacier and a port visit to Skagway, Alaska, the following day.

Instead it travelled south to Juneau, Alaska, where it arrived later on Sunday. An inspection was carried out to determine the extent of the damage.

A spokesperson for the cruise line said that “the ship was given clearance by the United States Coast Guard and other local maritime authorities to return to Seattle at reduced speed”.

Norwegian is reporting that all guests currently onboard will disembark in Seattle as originally planned.

The Norwegian Sun had left Seattle on June 21st on a nine-night cruise and had already visited Sitka, Alaska and Icy Strait Point before heading toward Hubbard Glacier. The next cruise of the Norwegian Sun, which had been scheduled to depart Seattle on June 30th, has also been cancelled.

The location of this encounter with an unusually large “growler” at a relatively high speed has seen what is the first reported incidence where a modern cruise ship has been damaged and forced to cancel cruises due to hitting an iceberg.

2001-built, Bahamas-flagged, 78,309 gt Norwegian Sun is owned by Norwegian Sun Ltd care of NCL (Bahamas) Ltd of Miami, Florida, USA. It is entered with Steamship Mutual (Americas Syndicate) on behalf of NCL (Bahamas) Ltd. As of June 28th the vessel was heading for Victoria, Canada (ETA June 29th), presumably a technical stop at a “foreign port” so that NCL does not fall foul of US regulations regarding employment on vessels travelling only between US ports.