The Azamara Quest is seen docked at the Sandakan Port in Sandakan (AFP, Mohd Rasfan)

The US-based Azamara Quest, which was carrying hundreds of tourists from North America, Europe and Australia, limped into the port of Sandakan, on Borneo island, under escort from the Malaysian coastguard.

The 180-metre (592-foot) vessel, which boasts spas, gyms, swimming pools, a casino and eight restaurants, as well as an acupuncture service, had been on a 17-night voyage that began in Hong Kong and was to end in Singapore.

But it was crippled late on Friday after an engine-room blaze that knocked out power and left five of the crew with smoke inhalation. One was seriously hurt, but no passengers were injured.

The liner’s captain had initially mustered all guests at assembly stations.

“The cruise liner has berthed in Sandakan port. The Malaysian authorities will ensure the passengers’ safety and provide the necessary assistance,” First Admiral M. Karunanithi, head of the Malaysian coastguard in Sabah, told AFP.

The fire, which left the ship drifting for a day in Philippine waters before onboard engineers restored partial power, deals a further black eye to an industry already reeling from two recent incidents.

The Azamara Quest was carrying 590 passengers and 411 crew. More than a third of the holiday-makers were from the United States. British, Australian, Canadian and German citizens were also on board.

Karunanithi said the passengers would be brought to shore after the operator announced on Saturday that the ship’s voyage, which was supposed to take in a number of idyllic islands including Bali, was over.

“I think one seriously injured crew will be warded (taken to hospital) and we have deployed two ambulances at the jetty,” Karunanithi said.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Malaysia told AFP it will send a consular team to Sandakan to assist its citizens.

In January, the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia ran aground off Tuscany, killing 32 people after it keeled over.

A month later a fire struck the Costa Concordia’s sister ship Costa Allegra in the Indian Ocean. The vessel, which was carrying more than 1,000 people, had to be towed to shore by a French fishing boat.

The Florida-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, the world’s second-largest cruise company, operates Azamara Club Cruises.

Larry Pimentel, president and chief executive of Azamara Club Cruises, was expected to fly to Sandakan to meet the passengers. He was scheduled to arrive in Malaysia on Monday morning.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.


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