A cruise ship sailing from Sydney made passengers live 10 days in darkness and total silence once the sun went down. All outside activities were prohibited once dusk arrived. The ship was trying to avoid attracting the attention of pirates in the area. The ship is on a world tour, with 1,900 passengers spending 104 days at sea, as News.com.au reported.
The passengers were not aware of what was going on when they were told to turn off all lights, sounds, and close room shades. Rumors spread about everything from terrorist attacks on board to vampire attacks. In reality, it was an involved set of safety measures enacted to stave off pirate takeovers.
The measures were taken during the first leg of the ship’s journey, when it was headed to Dubai. After visiting other cities in Australia, the ship was scheduled to make a stop at the capital of Sri Lanka before docking in Dubai. The concerns centered on crossing the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Suez Canal, areas most at risk for pirate attacks.
The Princess Cruises company was playing documentaries about sea piracy from cabin rooms as a way of warning passengers that piracy is still a threat. Carolyne Jasinski, a reporter for News.com.au, recalled how watching the documentaries prepared her for the safety drills and procedures she took part in.
She recalled that passing through waters off Somalia held the worst danger of piracy. Somali infrastructure and government are in chaos, and high piracy is a reflection of the overall picture of what is considered a failed state. The pirates usually go out in small, undetectable, fast boats known as skiffs. The skiffs hold guns and ladders for bigger ship takeovers.
If captured, the ship gets pulled back into Somali waters and held for months. Cargo and crew are held for ransom. Crew often face torture. That is why very serious drills require the participation of all on board. The passengers in the three cabins who chose not to take part in the Sea Princess’s drills were shamed over loudspeaker by the captain. Apparently they had a card game going that they weren’t willing to put down.
The 10-day sunset blackouts and ban on outdoor activities are part of a very common reality for such cruises, according to people who commented on the News.com.au article. If the ship appears invisible to pirates, the risk to all on board drops. Ten days later, the evening fun resumed and everyone got along safely.
The reality that set in on the minds of passengers on board—that piracy is real—became a point of intrigue. “A fishing boat was not looked at the same way. It was no longer an interesting speck on the horizon. We wondered what they were doing so far out at sea and whether there was something hiding behind it,” said Jasinski.
A Telegraph article reported that there actually had never been a successful pirate attack on a cruise ship. That doesn’t mean there weren’t attempts. Cruise ships have the capability to outrun pirate boats. The problem is noticing their presence before the pirates have a chance to act.
In 2008, Oceania Cruises’s Nautica cruise ship was fired on by pirates, but they could not keep pace with the cruise ship’s powerful engine, as written about on Cruise Critic. In 2009, pirates tried to board a cruise, at first unnoticed by the captain and crew, but were thwarted by passengers throwing tables and chairs. Spiegel Online reported that the crew was then able to access pistols and engines were thrown into high gear.