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Saturday, May 13, 2006 - Page updated at 12:28 PM

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Errant cruise raises hackles

Seattle Times staff reporter

Some Celebrity Cruises passengers claim they are being held "captive" aboard a ship that didn't make a scheduled port stop in Seattle this week and are planning demonstrations, such as a casino "sit-in," to show their displeasure.

Passenger Patrick Regan of Vancouver, B.C., said several hundred of the vessel's approximately 2,000 passengers feel as if they are being held hostage on the ship that is traveling slowly because of mechanical problems.

Regan said the cruise line knew of the mechanical problem, which shut down one of the vessel's two propellers, before the vessel departed from California.

So far, two of the vessel's nine destinations — Seattle and Sitka, Alaska — have been canceled, according to a cruise-line spokesman.

But Regan said port stops are an important part of the cruise experience, often serving as a lure for the trip.

"There's a lot of pissed-off people here from Australia and Germany and other places who wanted to see Seattle," Regan said. "We're now traveling 12 to 14 knots and we're afraid that they'll cancel other port calls or that we'll get stuck in the fjords."

A spokesman for Celebrity Cruises, Michael Sheehan, said that while there are a handful of passengers on board the vessel Summit's 13-night Alaska cruise who are irate with the change in itinerary, the majority have been understanding. All have been given a $200 refund, he said.

According to one of the crew members, reached by a ship-to-shore line, many of the people on board were enjoying complimentary drinks Friday and did not seem concerned any longer about the missed port calls.

Sheehan said the boat suffered a mechanical failure on the starboard propeller once the vessel set sail from Los Angeles on May 7.

A decision was made to continue the cruise but to reduce the speed and the number of port stops, Sheehan said.

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"Greetings from the prison ship," wrote Dr. Ira Goodkofsky of Sherman Oaks, Calif., to his daughter, Shane Michelle Fox, in an e-mail. "We are literally being held captive on this ship. Two stops have been cancelled and we are spending extra days at sea. There is huge group of passengers trying to get Celebrity to refund our fare and we are protesting as a group. Tomorrow if there is no progress we may hold a sit-in the casino and keep people from gambling."

Regan, who has been on a half-dozen Alaskan cruises, said passengers are upset because they were not given the option to disembark when the ship was in California.

"They [the cruise line] waited until we were out in open sea before they told us," he said.

Sheehan said the mechanical problem was not confirmed until the ship left port and that the Summit is traveling at 17.5 knots instead of its usual 22.5 knots.

The ship is scheduled to dock in Ketchikan today where some passengers said they hope to be met by members of the media.

Sheehan said people are welcome to disembark the vessel at that point.

"We're not holding anyone hostage," he said.

Cruise lines have the right to change their itineraries as necessary, he said.

The ship is also scheduled for port calls in Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, B.C. It will be repaired at a dry dock in Vancouver, Sheehan said.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

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