By now, you’ve likely heard about Majestic America Line’s Empress of the North, which ran aground in Alaska early Monday morning. What you may not have heard is that this is not the ship’s first grounding.
According to USAToday, the Empress of the North has had a troubled past. In October 2003, it hit a navigation lock on the Snake River in Washington, and one month later, it ran aground while cruising on the Columbia River in Oregon. In March 2006, the ship got stuck on a sandbar near Washougal, Washington. And yesterday, the ship ran into rocks in southeast Alaska in the middle of the night.
In addition, the ship failed its most recent CDC inspection in February 2007. The ship received a failing grade of 67 (86 is passing), losing points in areas such as hygienic practices, food storage practices, cleanliness and safety of equipment and surfaces in contact with food, and storage of toxic items.
Although the cause of the Alaska grounding has not been determined, it seems to me that Majestic America Line could do more to protect its passengers, either by fixing the ship’s steering problems or bringing its health and safety levels up to code. [Editor’s note: I’ve been informed by Majestic America Line that the ship fixed many of its health problems, receiving a passing grade of 91 in a May re-inspection.]
Many of you may not have heard of Majestic America Line prior to this incident, and may be thinking, “Well, I just won’t sail with them.” But, cruising fans should note that Majestic America Line is owned by Ambassadors International, the company that just bought Windstar. While the Empress of the North’s problems may be confined to the ship, if I were planning a future Windstar cruise, I would keep tabs on Ambassadors International and Majestic America Line. Let’s all hope the Windstar team maintains its commitment to passenger health, safety, and onboard luxury.