Carnival Ship Fire in St. Thomas

You may have heard that over the Labor Day weekend, the Carnival Liberty cruise ship suffered an engine fire while docked in St. Thomas. Thankfully, the fire occurred while the ship was in port, and no passengers or crew were injured. Unfortunately, the fire occurred on day two of a seven-day Caribbean cruise, cutting the cruise – and, perhaps, vacations – short.

Carnival was quick to issue passengers a $150 per person shipboard credit when the ship was stranded in St. Thomas. When it became apparent that the vessel would have to return to its home port of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carnival followed up with a full refund for passengers, plus a 50-percent discount on a future cruise. They announced that passengers would be flown home from there, but anyone who wished to finish out their vacation could stay aboard the ship while enjoying Puerto Rico.

The episode got me thinking. Knowing that everyone is alright, and most ship’s functions (kitchens, bathrooms, pools, etc.) were running normally, this presented an interesting option: Do you head home or take Carnival’s hospitable offer to be your hotel in San Juan? (As it turned out, the ship was not cleared to sail soon enough, so Carnival flew their guests home from St. Thomas.)

If this happened while on vacation, I would be reluctant to head back home. There’s nothing there but a lawn to mow and a house to clean. I would want our hard-earned vacation, so staying in Puerto Rico seems like a great idea. The family could spend a day wondering the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, and we could chalk up another World Heritage Site at the San Juan National Historic Park. Comprised of the Castillo San Cristobal, Fort San Juan de la Cruz, and several other buildings, it’s the prized position from which Spain ruled the Caribbean from the 1500s to the Spanish-American War.

Many people think the Caribbean’s best kept secrets are the beaches of Puerto Rico. Being “stranded” on the island seems like the perfect opportunity to find out how true that is. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day than sailing across those blue waters to the legendary shores of Vieques, known as one of the Puerto Rican Virgin Islands. Heading in the opposite direction offers a beach with a challenge: take a surf class and test your skills against the waves at Rincon, known as one of the best surf breaks in the Caribbean.

Before leaving the Caribbean paradise, there is one stop I would have to make. Recently, an old friend relocated to Puerto Rico and has been raving about Casa Cortes in San Juan. “The best chocolate, ever” she says. (Adding an extra “everrrrr” for emphasis.) What’s not to love about a chocolate bar with a gallery of contemporary Puerto Rican art? To top it all off, I hear they make a chocolate grilled cheese sandwich. I cannot imagine what that would be like, but I am intrigued.

The point of this musing is this: One traveling trick we’ve learned is to be flexible enough to make the best of any situation. This includes flexibility in your state of mind. When disaster strikes, do what you need to be safe and secure, but don’t let the change in plans ruin your trip. When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, our scheduled Florida vacation took a last-minute detour. We ended up taking our first trip to Hilton Head Island instead, which turned into one of our favorite family destinations. While having a vacation cruise cancelled is no fun, spending a few days in Puerto Rico sounds like a great time!

What would you do in this situation? Everyone is safe and sound, and you have a choice of being flown back home or spending a few days on a substitute vacation. Which would you choose?

Featured image: Carnival Liberty cruise ship by Andy Newman, Carnival Cruise Lines.

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