Introduction by Adam Goldstein
On behalf of Royal Caribbean International, I would like to express my regret for the fire that occurred on Grandeur of the Seas. At the same time, I would like to commend the Captain and crew of the ship for their excellent performance in extinguishing the fire without injury to guests or crew and for continuing to provide Gold Anchor Service to our guests until all guests were on their way home. I would also like to compliment the guests for their cooperation throughout the mustering and thereafter. As in any large scale, rare event there are going to be unexpected developments and human interest stories. One such story involves the return of Michael “Spike” Peterson to the service of Royal Caribbean’s guests 16 years after he stopped working on the water.
Guest blog by Michael “Spike” Peterson
My name is Michael Peterson or, as I have been known since I was very young, “Spike”. I am an Airline Captain currently flying the Boeing 737-400. I spent the better part of my 20’s as a shipboard employee for Royal Caribbean International, first as a Purser and then later as a Shore Excursion Manager. Those years, from 1990 to 1997, were definitely some of the best years of my life and I have always missed ship life a great deal.
Last week, I experienced one of life’s great ironies when my airline was chartered by Royal Caribbean to transport some of the Grandeur of the Seas guests from Freeport, The Bahamas, back to Baltimore after the ship experienced a fire in the mooring area in the aft of the ship. My company is not otherwise affiliated with Royal Caribbean in any way, and it was random chance that we (and I, as Captain) were chosen for the assignment.
As guests boarded my aircraft and I stood in the entryway welcoming everyone aboard, I felt the enormous, yet familiar sense of responsibility that any pilot feels on such an occasion. I also felt very strongly that I had an additional responsibility as a former Royal Caribbean employee to ensure that our flight back to Baltimore was as comfortable and worry-free as possible. I briefed my crew of six prior to boarding on the importance of providing the utmost in service to the guests, considering what they had been through in the previous 48 hours.
As I made the effort to welcome and interact with as many of the 147 guests as possible, I was not at all surprised with the overwhelmingly positive comments I received regarding the actions of the Grandeur’s crew and Royal Caribbean in general. As I would announce, “Welcome aboard. Sorry you have had such an ordeal!” the general response was consistently, “Thank you! Royal Caribbean has done a great job and we are thankful to be safe!” One guest patted his belly and said with a big smile, “They REALLY fed us well!” I later learned from my Flight Attendants that during their required safety briefing, when they reached the point where they give instruction on how to properly don and use the life vests, the entire group erupted in good-natured, raucous laughter. “Royal Caribbean has done a great job in teaching us; we are all very familiar with how to use our life vests!” they all joked.
With an aircraft full of “VIP” passengers, our flight from Freeport was mostly routine and uneventful for my crew and me, and everyone was very happy when we finally landed safely in Baltimore. As I reflect on this event, I would like to share the following important thoughts:
Royal Caribbean, to me, has always been about the people. The importance it places on people, both guests and employees, has always been, in my opinion, one of the key elements of the great success of the company. I realize that I will always feel that I am a part of the Royal Caribbean family. I feel very proud and honored to have had the opportunity to be of service in this unfortunate situation.
Lastly, I tip my hat to the Officers, staff and crew of the Grandeur of the Seas, as well as the countless shoreside employees, all of whom so professionally dealt with this incident. “Safety does not happen by accident” is what we say in aviation. Airline crews train and re-train continuously on how to effectively deal with emergency scenarios, much like ship’s crews. The safe outcome on the Grandeur of the Seas can be attributed to consistent and diligent safety training and the quick and very professional actions of the crew.
I give my thanks once again for what was a very personal, surreal and ironic opportunity to be of service.
Michael “Spike” Peterson
Purser/Shore Excursion Manager, RCCL, 1990-1997
Captain, Boeing-737, current