ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Like so many visitors to Alaska, Phyllis McNamara was eager for a seven-day cruise along a majestic stretch of coast that is teeming with whales, bears and glaciers.
But the Indianapolis woman and her friends were among hundreds of tourists who had their vacation plans scuttled when a mechanical problem aboard the 965-foot Millennium forced the cruise operator to cancel six Alaska sailings.
"This is becoming just a nightmare," said McNamara, 68, who went ahead with a planned land excursion in place of the cruise.
Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean cruises Ltd., which owns Celebrity Cruises, said passengers will get a full refund of the cruise fare paid. They also will receive certificates for future cruises.
"We appreciate how very disappointing this unexpected turn of events has been for our guests, and we deeply regret the inconvenience," Martinez said.
It's not the first problem for cruise industry this year. The Carnival Triumph was disabled during a February cruise by an engine room fire in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving thousands of passengers to endure cold food, unsanitary conditions and power outages while the ship was towed to Mobile, Ala. It remained there for repairs until early May when it headed back to sea under its own power. In May, a fire onboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas cut short a cruise from Baltimore to the Bahamas.
Tourism — particularly cruise ship traffic — is important to a number of Alaska communities, which are accessible only by air or water and where once-strong industries like timber are no longer thriving. More than 900,000 cruise ship passengers visited Alaska last summer, according to a study commissioned by the state. Places like Juneau, Alaska's capital city, can see several large ships arrive in a single day during the summer, its denizens disembarking to take in local sites or shop.
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