A Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Norwegian Sun, struck an iceberg off the coast of Alaska this weekend, sinking the dream vacation for thousands of people on board the large ship. According to a spokesperson for the cruise line, “while transiting to Hubbard Glacier in Alaska, Norwegian Sun was engulfed by dense fog, limiting visibility, and resulting in the ship making contact with a growler.”
A growler is a small iceberg. Typically, a growler is less than 6.6 feet across that floats with less than 3.3 feet showing above water. The next larger iceberg size is known as a “bergy bit”; bergy bits are usually less than 15 feet in size and are generally spawned from disintegrating icebergs.
However, passengers on the cruise ship have come to social media to dispute the cruise line’s description of the impact. Grom Griff wrote on YouTube, “I am on the ship. We were on the front deck at the time. There was no fog, it was a clear, sunny, beautiful day.” Jerry Pearce made similar remarks on YouTube: “My wife and I are on the ship now. Contrary to what Norwegian is saying there was no fog in the bay when it happened. We were standing on the front deck and could see us approaching and hitting the iceberg.”
Video allegedly shot by a passenger on-board shows the cruise ship hitting a large piece of ice greater than the size of a school bus, which would make it more of a bergy bit than a growler. Weatherboy has been unable to confirm the authenticity of the video.
Passengers said they felt the impact which was followed by a “severe” judder or shudder. Some also said the ship listed slightly after impact.
The ship skipped its scheduled stop in Skagway, Alaska on Sunday and instead limped along to Juneau, arriving there a day before it was scheduled to arrive. Once in Juneau, divers jumped in and explored the outside of the ship underwater to determine if there was any damage.
Due to damage observed, Norwegian Cruise Line decided to cancel the rest of the cruise on Monday. Instead of continuing its expected itinerary, the ship will slowly return to Seattle, Washington for repairs, cancelling scheduled port calls of Ketchikan, Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia in the process.
Guests onboard the ship expressed their disappointment with the change in travel plans on social media. Some passengers said this was a dream trip rebooked several times due to the ongoing pandemic, expressing anger and sadness that their dream vacation plans sunk.
Due to the cruise cancellation, Norwegian Cruise Line is providing guests with a full 100% refund, excluding BookSafe travel protection expenses. Guests will also receive a future cruise credit valued at 100% of their original cruise fare to compensate for this mishap.
While travel plans have been altered, no one was hurt in the iceberg impact. While there is clearly enough damage to the ship to warrant the sailing to be canceled, the cruise line reports there were no injuries to crew or passengers on-board and all services on-board remain fully operational.
The Norwegian Sun is a large ship measuring more than 848 feet long and 123 feet wide. Up to 1,976 passengers and 906 crew fill 13 decks of the ship. It entered into service in 2001.
The Alaskan cruise season runs from May through September with July and August being the highest season attracting the most travelers. Cruise lines bring guests to remote coastal areas to observe Alaska’s incredible combination of vibrant wildlife, rich culture, and breathtaking glaciers; most areas are only accessible by boat.
Hubbard Glacier is a glacier located in Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve in eastern Alaska and Kluane National Park and Reserve in Yukon, Canada; one of the most famous glaciers to be visited by cruise ship, it was named after Gardiner Hubbard. The ice at the foot of the glacier is roughly 400 years old, with chunks as large as multi-story buildings breaking off of it as the globe evolves away from the last ice age to the next one.