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SoBo native aboard burning Royal Caribbean cruise ship

A graduation cruise that could have been a dream vacation for South Boston native Kayla Baker turned into a terrifying experience she will not soon forget.

It was around 2 a.m. Monday morning when Baker and her boyfriend, Andrew Jarosz, were awakened from their sleep by the emergency alarm on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship — Grandeur of the Seas — the ship on which they had spent the past three days.

Grandeur sailed out of Baltimore, Md., last Friday morning and was on its way from Florida to CocoCay Bahamas when the front end of the ship went up in flames.

Baker had taken her boyfriend on the cruise as a graduation present, and both were “having a blast” until the horrific incident.

“It was great before the fire,” Baker said Wednesday.

As the alarm went off, the captain came over the intercom and ordered all guests to grab their life jackets and report to their muster stations because the ship was on fire.

“I jumped out of bed. I was gone,” Baker said. “When I opened the door, the housekeepers were banging on people’s doors telling them they didn’t have time to get anything, to just go up immediately.”

Baker said before the ship even set sail, the passengers were assigned muster stations and were required to run through a practice emergency drill, so she already knew what to do. But being prepared did not ease the fear of what was taking place that night.

“I was terrified. I was so scared,” Baker said.

 For about four and half hours, she and the other passengers stood in the muster stations pondering what their futures may hold. 

“We had to stand, and they actually lowered the boats, but they didn’t put them in the water, and they told us how we were going to get in them and everything. They thought we were going to have to get on the boats, and they brought another cruise ship on standby, and the Coast Guard was there,” she added.

Baker did not see the actual fire and said fortunately no one was injured.

It was a little after 7 a.m. when some of the passengers were allowed to go back to their rooms, she said.

Because one end of the ship sustained major fire and water damages, others were unable to go back to their rooms and were sent to a hotel.  She and her boyfriend, however, were able to remain aboard the ship.

The fire forced the ship to take a detour to Freeport in the Bahamas, instead of its original destination of CocoCay.

“Instead of going to CoccoCay they had to go to Freeport because I guess that’s where the big port was, and officials had to come on the ship to check it out, and it was too bad to go anywhere,” Baker said.

She and her boyfriend were aboard the ship for at least 24 hours after the ship caught fire before being flown back to Baltimore along with hundreds of other passengers.

In the hours after the fire, Baker said the ship staff tried as much as possible to get things back to normal.

“They tried to come up with activities to do. They still did shows in the theater, and they told us we were allowed to go on and off the boat as we wanted in the Bahamas. There was no curfew as well, as long as we came back to the pier in time for our flight,” Baker said. “The hot tubs were the only pool because they had to drain both the pools to put out the fire, so there were no pools, and they had to stop serving alcohol after the fire. But they still had music going and shows, so they still tried to have stuff going on for everybody.”

Baker and her boyfriend decided to venture around the Bahamas in the aftermath of the fire.

“We got a taxi and just went to the beach, and then we went to some of the restaurants there, and we went to the straw market where they had the handmade Bahamas stuff,” Baker said.

Although Baker and her boyfriend, along with other passengers, were given a full refund along with another free cruise, she’s a little uneasy about going on another cruise after her experience.

“I honestly didn’t want to, but my boyfriend is making me, so I am going to go back,” Baker said. “They honestly couldn’t have handled it any better. Everyone knew what they were doing. It was great how they handled it.”

 

Baker is the daughter of Trina Morris and Kelvin Baker, both of South Boston.