By Susan Lim Editor
msnbc.com
updated 3/23/2006 9:25:00 PM ET 2006-03-24T02:25:00

MSNBC.com business editor and producer Susan Lim and her husband, Caleb, were aboard the Star Princess when the fire erupted. Here is her description of what she saw:

I think I'm still shocked at what happened last night.Caleb and I were actually awake watching a movie when some messages to the crew were broadcast around 3 a.m. ET, followed by the emergency call for everyone to get their lifejackets and head to their designated muster stations.

When we headed down to the muster station we could smell smoke. As we gathered, the crew started to tell everyone to calm down and sit down until further directions.

Over the next three hours, we got messages over the speaker system from the captain telling us what was happening. During that time, the crew had all the lifeboats deployed in case we had to use them. Because all the passengers were gathered on one level of the boat, it became very hot in the muster stations.

It felt like more than an hour before the captain announced the fire was out and contained. In one announcement, the captain said the fire had melted locks on some of the doors. Our friends had a cabin located near the fire. When they had opened their door to leave, black smoke had already filled the halls and they had to crouch to get to the stairs.

Once the boat began moving again, the crew asked if anyone needed to get medicine from their cabins. I took a stroll around our gathering area, and people looked very miserable. People were sleeping on the ground in their PJs, robes, etc. After nearly six hours of waiting in our designated areas, everyone looked exhausted.

By late Thursday afternoon, the captain announced the cruise had been terminated and said all the passengers would be rerouted. The captain took the time to thank the crew members for their efforts in the fighting the fire and keeping everyone together. Immediately, there was applause from passengers.

The crew members maintained a very positive tone throughout last night to try to keep everyone's spirits up.

A little after we landed at Montego Bay, Jamaica, the captain gave the OK for half the passengers to head back to their rooms, but everyone with cabins on the fire side had to wait at least two more hours. But the crew had prepared the dining rooms and everyone was able to go and eat some breakfast.

Within an hour, some people had showered and were even sunbathing on the top deck. The buffet line was up and running and people were again carrying around their beach bags, ready to hit the beach.

Later in the day, I passed a few people who had smoke marks on their arms and legs, and I saw quite a few pieces of luggage that were charred. I heard some people lost everything in the fire. And we could still smell smoke throughout the ship.

During the evening, Princess sent a letter to all cabins stating that the full cruise fare and air transportation will be reimbursed.

Princess also announced it would arrange flights out of Jamaica for Friday and Saturday. Anyone who wanted to disembark the ship for any reason was allowed to up until 7:30 p.m. Thursday. I believe anyone who wanted to get off the ship was offered a hotel stay. And because people were still on board, it was announced that there would be entertainment Thursday night, a show, movie and live music in some lounges.

Just announced over the speaker system: There have been two charter flights arranged for Friday morning — 138 seats from Montego Bay to Fort Lauderdale, and 250 seats from Montego Bay to Atlanta. People living in those areas will likely be assigned to those flights.

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