Guests onboard a small cruise ship in Portland Harbor, Maine, experienced a terrifying moment on Wednesday morning when an explosion occurred in the engine room. The incident resulted in one crew member sustaining serious injuries and the evacuation of 128 guests from the ship.

The American Queen Voyages cruise ship Ocean Navigator had just completed its cruise from Montreal, Canada, returning to Portland to begin a cruise around the East Coast. 

An explosion onboard the Ocean Navigator around 7:25 AM on October 18, 2023, caused guests and crew members to be evacuated from the vessel. Ocean Navigator, which has space for 202 guests, had just arrived at the Ocean Gateway Terminal in Portland. 

A spokesperson from the Portland Fire Department said that one crew member suffered burn injuries to the hands and arms during the explosion. The crew member was taken to hospital to receive treatment for his injuries. The crew member’s condition is stable, and his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

Initial reports point to a generator in the engine as the fire’s origin. The Portland fire department and the cruise ship’s crew acted promptly to put out the flames. Guests were evacuated to the nearby cruise terminal and are awaiting news on whether they can return to collect their possessions. 

Ocean Navigator had docked in Portland early on October 18, marking the conclusion of its current voyage, which began in Montreal, Canada, ten days ago. Guests are due to embark on the cruise ship today, however, it remains to be seen whether this cruise will leave on time or if it will be cancelled altogether.

The vessel is scheduled to sail to several picturesque ports around Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island, such as Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard, Newport, Plymouth, Gloucester, Eastport, and Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, all part of the popular fall cruises around New England.

The U.S. Coast Guard is now assessing the cruise ship to determine if it’s secure for guests to proceed with their cruise. The Ocean Navigator, constructed in 2001 and receiving a refurbishment in 2019, was due to stay overnight in Portland, with plans to depart on Thursday.

The U.S. Coast Guard has yet to release any statements on the current state of Ocean Navigator and whether any decisions have been made over the vessel’s seaworthiness.

While distressing for guests, cruise lines have extensive safety policies in place to ensure the safety of guests and crew members onboard their ships. Besides the safety drills performed when guests board the ship, crew members routinely perform fire safety drills that include incidents such as engine room fires.

Ocean Navigator Cruise Ship Explosion

The incident does bring into focus the future of Ocean Navigator, especially considering recent announcements from American Queen Voyages. In June, the company announced its intentions to decommission both the Ocean Navigator and its sistership, the Ocean Voyager.

In fact, the coming voyage is the last one for American Queen Voyages, with the vessel going into winter layup from the end of October, and the company already making clear it does not intend to bring her back to the Great Lakes next year.

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