Pacific Encounter accidents and incidents

Pacific Encounter cruise ship

Former names
Star Princess

Length (LOA)
290 m / 951 ft

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CruiseMapper's Pacific Encounter cruise ship accidents, incidents and law news reports relate to a 3115-passenger vessel owned by P&O Australia (P&O Cruises). Our Pacific Encounter accidents page contains reports made by using official data from renown online news media sources, US Coast Guard and Wikipedia.

Here are also reported latest updates on cruise law news related to ashore and shipboard crimes still investigated by the police. Among those could be arrests, filed lawsuits against the shipowner / cruise line company, charges and fines, grievances, settled / withdrawn legal actions, lost cases, virus outbreaks, etc.

  • fires - 2006 (twice)*
  • pollution in Alaska - 2008
  • Norovirus (passengers/crew) - 2 outbreaks in 2003 (107+ / 14+), 2007 (?), 2012 (74 total), 2015 (135 / 16), 2015 (78 pax)
  • deaths - 2006 (during the fire)
  • injuries/crimes - 2006 (during the fire), sexual (2013), 2018
  • medevacs - 2017, 2024
  • boat rescue - 2012, 2024

In the period 2002-2020, the vessel was operated by Princess Cruises under the name "Star Princess", and since 2021 by P&O Australia as "Pacific Encounter".

04 May 2024Boat Rescue

On May 4, 2024, the ship received a distress call from a stranded yacht off New Caledonia, and altered course/diverted to assist the vessel and its passengers.

As a result were saved three sailors (two men and a woman) sailing from Queensland to Noumea. Their yacht was drifting for three days after suffering a broken mast and power loss.

Retrieved by the crew, the 3 individuals (New Caledonians) were found to be in good health after assessment in the Infirmary by the ship's medical team. Subsequently, Pacific Encounter resumed the course towards Noumea.

The incident occurred in the beginning of the 7-day "Pacific Island Hopper Cruise" (itinerary May 3-10, roundtrip from Brisbane) visiting destinations in New Caledonia (Noumea/May 5th, Lifou Island/May 6th) and Vanuatu (Port Vila/May 7th).

03 March 2024Coast Guard Medevacs

(CruiseMapper-emailed report from Duncan Gatland)

Sunday, 03 March 2024, after 17:40, the Pacific Encounter, on departure from Lyttelton [port to Christchurch NZ] bound for Port Chalmers [port to Dunedin NZ] enacted a sudden change in direction. Then it made 2 approximately rectangular circuits prior to reboarding the Pilot and re-entering Lyttelton Harbour.

As at 18:50, Tug Boat Titan [IMO 9824239] was fast on the Starboard Forward quarter, and Tug Boat Blackadder [MMSI 512003189] was standing by Starboard Aft. Due to the proximity of the Christchurch Rescue Helicopter, and that not attending, it is believed that the vessel has returned due to machinery failure.

The writer is a retired Sea Going Marine Engineer.

Note: The incident reportedly occurred during the 14-day "Kiwi Adventure Cruise" (itinerary Feb 24-Mar 9, roundtrip from Brisbane, Queensland Australia) visiting New Zealand's ports Auckland (Feb 28), Tauranga (Feb 29), Napier (Mar 1), Wellington (Mar 2), Lyttelton/Christchurch (Mar 3), Port Chalmers/Dunedin (Mar 4), and the Fiordland National Park (Mar 5).

(CruiseMapper-emailed report from David/received on May 4th)

Information contained on the Pacific Encounter accidents and incidents is incorrect.

On the 3rd of March 2024 the return to port had nothing to do with a technical problem … it was due to a medical incident hence the possible need for the rescue helicopter. The passenger was offloaded safely and last i heard was well.

I know because I was a passenger on this cruise.

23 October 2018Crew / Passenger Crimes

(Star Princess) On October 23, 2018, a 74-year-old male passenger was arrested and charged with physical assault of another passenger. The victim (a 73-year-old male) sustained head injuries and was medevaced to Hilo (Hawaii Island) via military helicopter.

Reportedly, he was using a public restroom on deck 7. When he opened stall's door to exit, an agitated man (from Nevada USA) confronted him. They exchanged words. While attempting to leave the restroom, the victim was kicked in the leg, fell down and hit his head on a toilet.

The incident occurred during the 16-day Hawaiian Islands cruise (itinerary Oct 20 - Nov 4) roundtrip from homeport Los Angeles (California) to Hawaii (Hilo, Honolulu, Nawiliwili, Lahaina) and Mexico (Ensenada).

05 April 2017Coast Guard Medevacs

(Star Princess) On April 5, 2017, the USCG assisted 2 medevacs (by helicopters) while the ship was in Sea of Cortez. The first was a male passenger with a medical issue, the second – a female crew who suffered a serious head injury after falling.

20 February 2017Coast Guard Medevacs

(Star Princess) On February 20, 2017, a 73-year-old female passenger was medevaced from the ship (en-route to Ensenada, Baja Mexico), approx 140 km / 85 mi southwest of San Diego CA. The elderly woman was experiencing severe abdominal pains. A USCG flight crew (MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter) was dispatched from San Diego.

November 2015Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(Star Princess) October-November 2015, after CBC News picked up the story, Princess Cruises confirmed that a total of 78 passengers and crew were infected with Norovirus during the 15-days Hawaiian cruise roundtrip from Vancouver BC (Canada). The itinerary (Sept 19 - Oct 4) included as call ports the Hawaiian islands Hilo, Lahaina (Maui), Honolulu (Oahu) and Nawiliwili (Kauai).

May 2015Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(Star Princess) April-May 2015, CDC reported on voyage Apr 29 to May 14, a Norovirus outbreak (gastrointestinal illness) infected 135 passengers (out of 2588, or 5,2%) and 16 crew (out of 1093, or 1,5%). All sick suffered from Norovirus symptoms (vomiting, diarrhoea) and were quarantined to their cabins for 48 hours. The ship was on 15-day Hawaiian cruise roundtrip from homeport San Francisco CA.

31 July 2013Crew / Passenger Crimes

(Star Princess / sexual) On July 31, 2013, a female crew was allegedly sexually assaulted by 2 male crew. The incident occurred between 4-6 am when the ship was on a 7-day Alaskan cruise from homeport Seattle WA and en-route to Juneau AK. Later, along the itinerary was reported that the woman doesn’t want to pursue the matter / further investigation. No arrests and charges were made.

10 March 2012Boat Rescue

(Star Princess) On March 10, 2012, the ship was transiting from South America to Australia, when 3 passengers noted and notified the crew about a fishing boat in distress, approx 100 ml / 160 km at sea. The boat was drifting, and the 3 seamen (all of the Panamanian origin) were waving toward the ship. However, the cruise vessel didn’t stop.

Several weeks later, in the region of Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) a fishing boat was recovered with only 1 survivor – the 18-year-old Adrian Vasquez. The boat was drifting for 28 days. During that time, 2 of the 3 sailors aged 24 (Oropeces Betancourt) and 16 (Fernando Osario) died.

The incident’s investigation report said that according to Princess Cruises, the Captain was not notified of the sighting. Later, the company confirmed that a crew was alerted by a passenger and that the crew actually conveyed the sighting to the Navigation Bridge. An entry in the logbook confirmed that the cruise vessel deviated its course to avoid fishing nets. In the log was also mentioned that the fishermen were waving toward the ship “expressing thanks for avoiding their nets”.

(law news) On June 6, 2012, the sole survivor on the disabled fishing boat (Adrian Vasquez) filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade courthouse against Princess Cruises. The company argued that it had no legal duty to assist seafarers in distress in open seas. Its lawyers cited the Brussels Convention (aka “Salvage Treaty”), according to which while the Captain is obliged to assist disabled vessels at sea, the cruise company itself has no such legal obligations.

January 2012Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(Star Princess) On January 16, 2012, Princess Cruises announced its disappointment of the government of Falkland Islands (UK territory in South America) for not allowing the cruise ship to dock at Port Stanley. The decision was based on the fear of spreading Norovirus illness in Port Stanley since a total of 74 (passengers and crew) on the ship suffered from Norovirus symptoms (vomiting, diarrhoea). The ship was on 14-day South American cruise from Chile to Brazil (Valparaiso-Santiago to Rio De Janeiro).

Note: When the itinerary doesn’t include US cruise ports, the ship is not required to report to CDC, thus no official illness report would be issued.

August 2008Sea Pollution

(Star Princess) In August 2008, the ship was reported for sea pollution, violating the Alaskan wastewater quality standard for copper (concentration levels were higher than allowed).

11 January 2008Fire Accident

(Star Princess) On January 11, 2008, an incinerator room fire broke out on service deck 3. Via the PA system, the Captain commanded the crew to respond to the emergency. A few minutes later, he came on again and announced that a small fire had been put out. The ship was on 14-day South American voyage and en-route from Buenos Aires Argentina to the Falkland Islands.

December 2007Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(Star Princess) December 2007, passengers reported a Norovirus outbreak (unspecified number of infected people) during voyage Dec 3 to 20. The ship was on 18-day westbound Transatlantic repositioning cruise from Europe to Florida (Civitavecchia-Rome to Port Everglades / Fort Lauderdale).

04 October 2006Other Incidents

(Star Princess) On October 4, 2006, while operating on a Canada New England cruise, after docking in St John’s NF, all passengers were forced to disembark the vessel. It was extensively searched, after some passengers reported seeing a stranger leaving the ship. During the search, local police found and removed 3 suspicious packages. The ship was cleared and left port ~3 hours late than scheduled.

23 March 2006Fire Accident

(Star Princess) On March 23, 2006, at ~3 am, a fire broke out midship-portside, in the passenger sections. A whistle over the ship’s PA system woke up all passengers. The Captain ordered them to go to the respective muster stations. After checking, passengers were stationed in various big-capacity public facilities on the ship (like the Theater lounge and Dining Room restaurants) for ~7 hours. The crew went to some staterooms to retrieve the medications of passengers needing regular medication. The evacuation was done orderly, through smoke-filled hallways.

Then the ship’s lifeboats were lowered, but by that time the fire was already extinguished. Under its own power, the vessel continued to and entered into itinerary’s next call port Montego Bay Jamaica. The ship was on 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise from homeport Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) Florida.

The investigation report said the fire was caused by a lit cigarette left on a passenger cabin balcony. The fire melted the plastic dividers between the verandas and lit their plastic furniture. The cruise ship's all balcony partitions were made of polycarbonate (approved material).

As a result of the accident, on decks 9 through 12, a total of 171 cruise cabins were severely damaged (79 of them completely destroyed). Another 112 staterooms sustained smoke damage. A male passenger died from asphyxia due to smoke inhalation.

The balconies’ highly combustible dividers and all the plastic furniture produced a large quantity of thick black smoke. Unfortunately, their glass doors were neither fire resistant nor automatically closing. The verandas also lacked fire suppression/sprinkler systems. Another reason for the fire to spread so quickly was that the fire zone (outside) was without any structural boundaries.

After the Star Princess fire accident, all cruise cabin balconies (including on vessels of other fleets) were fitted with sprinklers. Their plastic lounge furniture was replaced with another, made of a non-combustible material.

After sustaining major damages, the vessel was moved to the Bahamas and prepared for a Transatlantic relocation to Germany. Drydock repairs were done in Bremerhaven by the shipbuilding company Lloyd-Werft. All the remaining Caribbean cruises were cancelled and replaced by European voyages (in Baltic Sea). The ship returned to service on May 15, 2006, operating Baltic itineraries from homeport Copenhagen Denmark.

23 March 2006Crew / Passenger Deaths

(Star Princess) On March 23, 2006, a 72-year-old male passenger died during the fire accident in Jamaica. The man (Richard Liffridge) was former military personnel with 20 years of US Air Force service. He died from “asphyxia secondary to smoke inhalation”.

A total of 13 passengers suffered from significant smoke inhalation, leading to respiratory complications.

August 2003Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

(Star Princess) July-August 2003, CDC reported two consecutive Norovirus outbreaks on the cruise ship while operating in Alaska. Unfortunately, the CDC website doesn’t have them anymore and lists only the voyages’ dates – itinerary July 26 to August 2, and itinerary August 2-9.

An alternative data source reports, that on the second voyage (Aug 2-9, roundtrip from Seattle WA) a total of 107 passengers and 14 crew suffered from Norovirus symptoms (vomiting, diarrhoea).

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