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The Egyptian Poseidon Adventure

Chapter Three



Sometime around 3 am, Marla and I were awakened by a huge crash outside the ship. Marla and I both bolted upright. What the heck was that?  We later learned the noise was caused by a life boat suspended just above our cabin. A monster wave had hit it and banged it hard against the ship.  By the way, that lifeboat was 30 above sea level.

As we sat there in the darkness, we felt our bed suddenly begin to move. What the heck was this?  Slowly our bed slid to the middle of our room. Both of us stayed put. We turned to look out the window. That is when we realized we couldn't see out the window because it was under the high waves.

The tilting of the ship had temporarily brought our Deck 4 cabin practically down to sea level I assumed that window was strong enough to hold under these conditions, but I wasn't at all happy with the situation.   Good grief!

About fifteen seconds after the first slide, our bed suddenly slid back to wear it came from. For a second,
I breathed a sigh of relief.  At least we weren't under water.  However, my joy was short-lived as the ship went past the 90 degree point and began to tilt in the other direction.

Marla and I just lay there clinging to the bed.  We didn't have long to wait.  Ten seconds later we were hit with "The Big One".   Things were much different this time.  The bed didn't just gently slide back out into the middle of the room.  Instead it rocketed across the room only to be stopped by the couch.   I had never been on a jet-propelled bed before!

Not only was the tilt was far worse than the first time, the ship had shifted positions with amazing speed!

Suddenly everything in the room came crashing to the floor - glasses, ice bucket, laptop computer, clothes, books and anything else that wasn't tied down.  All this debris slid up against the cabin door. I am sure our bed would have gone much farther, but it was too big.  It got stuck in the middle of the room.

Thank goodness the room stopped moving!

At this point Marla decided it wasn't safe to be in the bed anymore.  She got out of bed and stood up. Not me. I was glued to the bed.  It turned out I made the better decision.  Suddenly the energy reversed itself again. Marla was violently thrown forwardFortunately she had nowhere to go but back onto the bed, but her re-entry was far from graceful.  Marla gasped as she hurdled Supergirl-style back into bed.  Too bad I was too worried to laugh. 

Again we felt the thud as the bed came smashing to a stop back against the window.

Fifteen seconds later, the bed slid out to the middle of the room for the third and final time. This time the rate of the slide was slow again. 

That is when the rocking ended.  Neither of us were hurt.  Although our cabin was a total wreck, nothing was broken.
Although many people later said they were terrified, for some reason I was never truly alarmed.  Concerned yes, afraid no.  Throughout the event, I had a pretty good idea what was going on.

Call me stupid, but I had been through something similar to this on a ship known as the Jubilee back in 2003 (on a much smaller scale, of course).  In addition, just weeks before this trip, I had watched the video of the Pacific Sun as everything slid back and forth.  Surely this had to be the same phenomenon! 

Based on those two experiences, I had a hunch that the ship would eventually regain its equilibrium. Thank goodness I was right. Although the ship continued to rock, the severe listing incident had ended.

In fact, now that the five successive changes in direction had were over, the ship felt safe again.  On the other hand, I was worried that something had happened that I didn't know about.  For example, I was initially worried that the window had broken.  I noticed the floor was soaking wet.  My first conclusion was that water had leaked in when our window was covered up.  Then I changed my mind. I decided the wetness was caused by the falling ice bucket instead.  That was relief! 

At this point, I decided to get my camera and take a walk.  I needed to see if there was something we should be worried about. I was immediately curious about the massive 25 foot tall Christmas tree. Sure enough, I found it flattened in the lobby.  

In addition I found computers on the floor as well as beautiful poinsettias with their pots shattered.  Dirt from the broken pots covered the floor.  I found a second Santa on the floor as well. First I took his picture, and then I stood him up. I figured Santa deserved some dignity.

The lobby was a total disaster.  In addition to the fallen Christmas tree, all the decorations had fallen.  There were computers on the floor.  The piano had slid off of its platform.  The chairs were in disarray.  Dirt from the shattered potted plants was all over the dance floor. 

Next I discovered all sorts of chairs and debris scattered up against the Front Desk counter. There was only one person at the Front Desk and she looked pretty dazed.  Out of respect, I decided against taking her picture. 

I noticed that at the bar, all sorts of whiskey and vodka bottles lay strewn on the floor.  Too bad the area was locked or I might have been tempted to pour myself a drink.  I could have used one!  Now that I think of it, the girl behind the desk needed one too!

Sadly, I discovered another Santa trapped under the Christmas tree. I decided he was beyond the point of rescue.  Poor Santa!

The ship's Lobby was only about 30 feet from the door to my cabin.  I was the first passenger to visit the Lobby after the Listing Incident.  Soon, however, other people joined me.  It seemed like every one of them had brought their cell phones with them. 

Suddenly the silence was shattered with a scream of pain.  A man who had come to the Purser's desk barefooted with a life vest around his neck had just stepped in some broken glass. He was hollering in pain as he hopped around on one foot.  He grabbed some of the paper debris off the floor and wrapped his bleeding foot (see picture).

Thanks to this guy's misfortune, I suddenly realized I was barefoot too.  There was a nearby window, so I took a quick peek at myself.  I realized just how totally ridiculous I looked.  I was wearing nothing but a tee shirt and shorts.  My hair was sticking out straight.  I looked like something from the Walking Dead show.  I suddenly became self-conscious and began look around.  God forbid if someone was taking my picture!  I can't believe the silly things that crossed my mind.  We had barely missed a major tragedy and all I could think about was my own vanity. 

However, that man's bleeding foot was another story.  From that point on, I kept my eyes glued to the floor for glass wherever I walked.  It turned out to not be much of a problem.  I only saw broken glass in one spot where a valuable glass sculpture had shattered.  

As I walked, I didn't feel any fear.  Whatever had gone wrong was over now. The ship felt steady enough again.  I didn't hear any strange noises or feel any strange vibrations, so I doubted the ship had sustained any damage to its structure.  Best of all, I hadn't heard any signals sending us to lifeboats.  So I began to relax and let my curiosity have its way.

Now I began to climb the stairs. The elevators had not been available for some time now. They had been taken out of service so they wouldn't bang against the walls in the rough seas.  Given the circumstances, I wouldn't have gotten on an elevator even if you paid me.

Somewhere about now, the Captain came on the Intercom to announce that the ship was safe.  He tried to explain what had happened, but to be honest I don't remember much.  He mostly said the problem had occurred when the ship slowed to avoid other ships in the harbor and turned around to head back out to sea.  Then he asked us all to go back to our cabins.

No way, Jose.  Since I did not sense any danger, why not check it all out?  I wasn't in anyone's way.  It was time to explore. 
Every floor told the same story - there were chairs slammed up against a wall, broken pots, decorative statues fallen from their pedestals, and debris everywhere. Very sad.

Not all passengers were as lucky as me. For example, many of the ship's crew slept in bunk beds. Many of the people who slept in the top bunk found themselves thrown to the floor.

Furthermore, the tilting effect was far worse on the higher decks.  People were thrown from their beds and slammed into walls. Several people reported being hit on the head by flying objects in their room or hitting their head when they fell.  In my room, the objects fell away from us.  However, on the other side of the ship, I assume the people lying in bed had objects flying directly at them including TVs. 

As a way to introduce other people's experiences, at this point I will begin to share various anecdotes that I found at a Cruise Critic chat room.

Horrid rollovers at sea approaching Alexandria an hour ago at 4 am. Thrown from bed and nearly pinned between the bed that was wildly rolling to the walls and balcony slider -- with upended furniture + broken glass everywhere. Feet cut as we tried to get out of room, and badly bruised, but glad to be alive. Very sore. Very scary.... Worse as we're up on deck 10. Couldn't quite make it to Alexandria, but don't know where we're going--and it's still very bumpy and terrifying.

(Cruise Critic)


My daughter is a beauty therapist in the spa. She rang at 3.30am in a panic saying the ship was rolling from side to side and that her cabin was trashed.
Since then she has let us know that she is okay, just in complete shock...

''You can't even begin to imagine the damage on the ship, its awful. ... Windows, showers, mirrors, the hairdressing basins have all smashed... The whole ship is wrecked... Grand piano smashed through a window.....There were passengers running around with life jackets on, people screaming, all the spa girls were panicking...... its really horrible! At sea now and still rocking and rolling... Hopefully dock in Malta in two days!''

If the ship has to go into dry dock maybe we will have our daughter home for Christmas!!   (Cruise Critic)

CNN reported that 30 people were injured with two people suffering broken bones.  Later I heard that number was changed to 100. I guess I will have to take their word for it.  I never saw a single person who looked hurt.  The worst injury I saw was the man with the cut feet. I heard about some woman fainting a few days later, but that was strictly rumor.

On the other hand, this incident could have easily been a MAJOR TRAGEDY.  The good news is that this all happened at 3 am in the morning. If everyone had been out and about during the daytime, there would have been far more serious consequences.

I am not sure anyone associated with this cruise line feels "lucky" about this event, but trust me, had this happened in daylight, there would have been a lot of people hurt.  And I mean SERIOUSLY hurt.  The real danger as it turned out was not that the ship might capsize, but rather that all those flying objects would turn into projectiles.

And what about that giant Christmas Tree that fell?  If the Lobby had been crowded, people might not have been able to get out of the way fast enough.  They could have easily been trapped.  If that had been the case, we would have been looking for humans in addition to dragging poor Santa out from under that tree.  

And why is this girl smiling?  She finally found her glasses after looking everywhere! 
Incidentally, Marla is not trying to strike a glamour pose - she hurt her neck when she was hurtled forward.


All of those chairs on the right were originally sitting in the empty area above.  The tilting of the ship slid every one of them to one side of the ship.

The Library was a complete mess.


Notice the two people on their cell phones

If you look closely, you will see where the piano slid off its platform



I knew Marla would want to know about her brother and his wife, so I went to check on Neil and Ellen up on Deck 9.  They said they were okay, so that made me happy. I continued to roam around the ship.

The Captain himself later said the ship listed at a 15 degree angle. I wouldn't be surprised if the angle was worse than that. After all, many objects came flying across the floor with enough power to break hardened glass built to withstand tremendous pressure.

Heavy objects came flying fast enough to smash deep holes into the wall in several places. Personally, I don't think "15 degrees" was enough to cause damage as severe as I witnessed.  Those doors pictured on the right go to the outside.  Something must hit that glass really hard to cause that much damage. 

Unfortunately, I was unable to take pictures of the worst hit areas to help prove my point.  As you can see in the next picture, the doors to the dining were locked.

Rumor has it that thousands of glasses and plates were shattered in the dining room. My waiter hinted that the kitchen resembled a war zone.

One crew member told me he had once seen a California earthquake cause similar damage.  In an earthquake, anything that is loose falls to the floor.  Same thing here. Everything that was loose ended up on the floor.  

In fact, I was surprised at the amount of valuable stuff that was not bolted down.  I was told the medical area was wrecked and the expensive x-ray machine fell over. 

In the kitchen all sorts of things fell over including refrigerators.  

I later learned that the most spectacular damage was out of sight.

For example, I was told that in the highest part of the ship, a very expensive chandelier fell to the floor in ruins. Several grand pianos were badly damaged. All the treadmills in the gym were knocked down; from that point on only half of them worked.   All the video games toppled over.  In addition, almost every room that had a balcony lost its furniture overboard.

On a slightly more humorous note, the massive elephants that decorate the Solarium found themselves unceremoniously dumped into the swimming pool below.  You would have assumed those massive sculptures were bolted down.  Boy, I wish I had gotten a picture of that!  But then again, what if it happened during the day and people had been in that pool?

Truly, if this event had happened in daylight, you would have had terrible scenes that resembled the Poseidon Adventure instead these silly pictures of chairs that fell over.

As I went from deck to deck, I noticed many passengers walking around with their orange life vests tied around their neck. They weren't taking any chances. The Captain implored everyone to go back to their cabins, but many people were too frightened to move. They just sat there waiting to see if something else would happen.

Estimates of the damage to the ship have ranged anywhere from a hundred thousand dollars to a million dollars.  Since I was prevented from seeing the worst-hit places, I can't really say.

I heard all kinds of rumors. For example, I was told that the weights in the gym had shattered all the mirrors. One day when no one was looking I snuck a peek into the gym; I didn't see a single broken mirror. Another rumor said the ship was going into dry dock for repairs in Barcelona and that next week's cruise was canceled. I didn't believe that rumor since the only damage I saw was cosmetic, not structural. I later learned from news reports that the operating systems and engines were unharmed. Sure enough, the next trip was not canceled.

In other words, there were a lot of rumors out there that were complete nonsense.

It took the crew only twenty minutes to begin the necessary clean-up. I felt pretty sorry for the crew. They didn't get another moment of rest that night. They spent the next four hours cleaning up, and then had to report for their regular duties at the crack of dawn. They were totally exhausted by the end of their shift.  To my knowledge, the crew was never compensated for their extra effort either with money or extra free time.

At some point around 4 am Sunday morning, people began to calm down and return to their cabins.  When we woke up a few hours later, things were pretty much back to normal. The crew had been up all night cleaning up.  I was amazed at how much progress they made.  Things looked much better.  Santa Claus was standing up again, but the tree still lay on its side in the lobby as a giant reminder this had not been a dream.

At this point, with the massive storm raging in Egypt, by the end of the day, the Captain announced he had given up on any thought of returning to Egypt for a second try. Here is a brief description of the recovery day:

We are skipping Egypt altogether. Now 2 days in Malta instead.

Gym is in shambles - Ellipticals looked like monkey bars; spin bikes everywhere.

Long lines for buffet breakfast in dining room at breakfast and lunch. Windjammer is at least open for dinner.

Provisions are running low, too, I heard, as much food was lost.

And no, it hasn't put me off of cruising!! I'll be back!!

I had the time wrong - it happened at 2:45, not 3:45. Going on no sleep. Too much rocking and it's not stopping. Roomie still seasick.

Only wine, beer, and soda available at the Centrum bar and Schooner bar. Casino closed, shops closed. No one allowed out on upper decks. Just as well - the wind is so strong it would blow you into the sea. (Cruise Critic)

During the daylight hours of Sunday everyone on the ship wandered around like zombies. I was no different. I wasn't in shock like some people, but I was definitely numb.  Mostly I was deeply disappointed at missing Egypt.  Wasn't that was the whole point of the trip?

Marla and I had just wasted two weeks of my time and close to five thousand dollars to get to this location.  It is seven thousand miles from Houston to Egypt and I had come close enough to see the lights in the port only to miss out.  Who knows when I would get another chance?  

This was the chance of a lifetime… And now it was gone. That is what hurt.  I didn't blame the ship or the Captain. I blamed the weather.

The Captain had obviously risked everything to get us to the port and paid dearly in the process. Sometimes in life things go wrong. This was a freak storm. It was just my tough luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that is part of life, yes?

Look on the bright side. I was safe. I was warm. I was well-fed and extremely comfortable. I had my wonderful wife at my side. Yes, I was in a lot of mental pain over losing this golden opportunity, but the disappointment would surely pass if I just gave it a little time. As tragedies go, to quote my namesake Rick in Casablanca, my problems didn't amount to a hill of beans.

I stayed in my cabin most of the day. I knew if I could just read a book and get a good night's sleep, I would be good to go the next day.  As they say, my heart will go on.



Many passengers refused to go back to their rooms.  In addition, they insisted on keeping their life vests close at hand.  They were not even remotely convinced it was safe any more.


As I reviewed these pictures before posting them, at first I felt a little embarrassed.  I felt like I had failed to capture the drama of The Incident. After all, anyone can see that the majority of the damage was superficial at best.  I was crestfallen.  The nightly news was spreading word of our terror around the world and here was a bunch of overturned chairs to show as proof of our ordeal.

Our greatest danger was having our "Nightmare Cruise" exposed as a total fraud.

In my defense, the real disaster areas were out of sight behind locked doors.  I heard that thousands of dollars of precious glasses and dinnerware were shattered in the dining room and valuable equipment was toppled over in the kitchen.  I heard the incredible chandelier was damaged.  I heard a grand piano was smashed and broken.  I heard an elephant toppled into the pool.  I heard the gym was a wreck.  In addition, all the balcony furniture went overboard.

Unfortunately all of those areas were sealed off behind locked doors.  So the true extent of the damage remained a secret to me.  Instead all I have to show are some silly pictures of scattered paper and battered furniture.  Not very terrifying.

Furthermore, I never once saw a single picture revealing any injury at all, much less a slight injury.  How can you have a disaster without damage or injury?   Normally I would agree that the pictures tell the story, but not this time.  This incident clearly defied the axiom.  My pictures DO NOT even begin to tell the whole story. 

On the other hand, what if this same incident had occurred at 3 pm instead of 3 am?   The ship was incredibly luck to avoid any severe injuries thanks to the 3 am timing.

Indeed, if this same incident had occurred at 3 pm instead of 3 am, then all those flying objects would have turned into lethal weapons. 

People would have been thrown across the room like ragdolls.  People on the stairs would have fallen several flights. Then the pictures would have looked much much different than a bunch of silly overturned chairs!

So the real story here is not the amount of damage that was incurred, but rather the incredible amount of damage that was narrowly avoided.

Pretty soon terror turned into questions.  And those questions turned into anger. 

That is our next story.

Chapter Four

The Burning Question

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