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Video: Norwegian Sun Curtails Cruise After Hitting Ice in Alaska 

cruise ship hits ice in Alaska
Stock photo shows the Norwegian Sun in typical pack ice but the encounter was with a single growler while she was cruising (NCL stock photo)

Published Jun 28, 2022 6:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

Norwegian Cruise Line is curtailing one of its cruises after its cruise ship Norwegian Sun had a rare encounter hitting a smaller piece of ice over the weekend while traveling in Alaska. The 78,000 gross ton cruise ship suffered unspecified damages that have forced the ship to skip ports on its current cruise and cancel the next cruise to undergo repairs.

With visions of the ill-fated Titanic being invoked, passengers are reporting Saturday morning they awoke to feel a shudder in the ship. The Norwegian Sun was cruising north of Skagway in the Gulf of Alaska toward a scenic visit to Hubbard Glacier and was encountering fog, which is typical of the region. A spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line reports that the cruise ship “made contact with a growler,” typically a smaller chunk of ice defined to be no more than about six feet in length. They typically have broken away from a larger formation and are low to the surface of the ocean making them especially 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 is unclear what speed the cruise ship was traveling, but a video posted to social media by passengers shows 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 and the ice can be seen floating past the cruise ship.

 

 

 Passengers reported that the cruise ship was moving slowly after the encounter with the ice. Later the Norwegian Sun changed course, canceling the planned call at Hubbard Glacier and a port visit scheduled for Skagway, Alaska on Sunday. The cruise ship traveled south arriving in Juneau, Alaska later on Sunday, where an inspection was carried out to determine the extent of the damage. 

“The ship was given clearance by the United States Coast Guard and other local maritime authorities to return to Seattle at reduced speed,” said the spokesperson. Passengers reported they departed Juneau late Monday and the current AIS signal shows the ship traveling at approximately 16 knots saying its destination is Victoria, Canada. This, however, could be a technical call to meet the requirement to visit a foreign port as Norwegian is reporting that all guests currently onboard will disembark in Seattle as originally planned.

The Norwegian Sun had departed from Seattle on June 21 on a nine-night cruise. They had visited Sitka, Alaska and Icy Strait Point, before heading toward Hubbard Glacier. Port calls at Skagway and Ketchikan in Alaska were canceled when the cruise was curtailed and the vessel began its return voyage. The next cruise of the Norwegian Sun scheduled to depart on June 30 from Seattle has also been canceled so that the necessary repairs can be made to the ship.

Encounters with smaller pieces of ice are common in Alaska when the cruise ships are sailing at slow speeds mostly near the glaciers. The ice occasionally bumps against the hull typically not causing any damage. The location of this encounter, the size of the growler, and the speed of the ship however appeared to have conspired to a unique set of circumstances, and the first reported incidence where a modern cruise ship was damaged and forced to cancel cruises due to hitting an iceberg.