Imagine you’re on a beautiful cruise ship, sailing around the stunning waters of Fiji, enjoying your vacation. But suddenly, the captain’s voice crackles over the intercom, announcing an unexpected change of plans. This was the reality for Ali Gilchrist, a passenger aboard the Pacific Explorer, who found herself witnessing a remarkable rescue operation.
On that fateful night, the Pacific Explorer received a distress call from a yacht with a broken mast located just southwest of Nadi, Fiji. The cruise ship, without hesitation, altered its course to answer the mayday call. Captain Gilchrist informed the passengers about the situation, explaining that they would reach the distressed yacht around 0100 hours.
With determination, the captain successfully located the troubled vessel and managed to rescue one of its passengers. The saved individual was brought aboard the Pacific Explorer and received medical attention in the ship’s hospital. However, another person on the yacht was in a condition that prevented them from being safely transferred that night. Instead, the cruise ship was asked by RCC NZ (Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand) to monitor the yacht from a safe distance due to challenging weather conditions.
The unexpected turn of events left passengers like Ali Gilchrist in a state of both surprise and anticipation. They watched as the Pacific Explorer stayed alongside the distressed yacht, awaiting further assistance. Unfortunately, the unfavorable weather conditions prevented the cruise ship from using its tender boats for a rescue operation.
According to Gilchrist, “There was a buzz of nervous excitement amongst the passengers. At that point, we didn’t know what type of vessel it was.” Despite the uncertainty, the crew and passengers remained hopeful for better weather conditions that would allow them to safely assist the second person on the yacht.
Maritime NZ’s rescue coordination centre reported that two additional support vessels were on their way to the scene, one expected around midday and another at 4 pm local time. These vessels were dispatched to aid the remaining individuals on the distressed yacht, as the Pacific Explorer’s size and the challenging conditions made it impossible for them to provide direct assistance.
As Gilchrist put it, “Hopefully, they can help. We are hoping for conditions to improve so we can lower our tender safely.”
RCC Fiji took the lead in responding to the distress call, with Maritime NZ’s RCCNZ providing support throughout the operation.
The Pacific Explorer had embarked on an eight-day round trip journey around Fiji from Auckland on September 22, with plans to return on September 30. The cruise ship, formerly known as the Dawn Princess, has a maximum capacity of 2,395 people.
Due to the rescue mission, the Pacific Explorer had to skip its planned visit to Suva port. Despite the unexpected detour, passengers were making the most of their time on the ship, knowing that their vessel had played a crucial role in coming to the aid of fellow sailors in distress.