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Published: Saturday, 3/25/2006

Evacuees include area residents


Captain's announcements on the Star Princess cruise ship repeatedly reassured that the fire that had awakened passengers shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday was under control.

But when the lifeboats were lowered, Brent Joost, a real estate broker from Defiance, said he thought, "Oh man, this is bad."

Mr. Joost was awakened at 3:15 a.m. when his fiancee's daughter came in and said she could see sparks from their balcony deck.

But even when alarms went off and Mr. Joost and his companions were sent to their muster station, he was not particularly worried. Many of the 400 or so people waiting with them in a lounge near their lifeboats stretched out and went to sleep.

In other parts of the ship, however, Mr. Joost heard later that people were far more frightened.

"On another floor, the halls were filled with smoke and you could hardly see and the women were screaming and getting pretty panicky," he said last night, speaking on a mobile phone.

For Mr. Joost, the fire boiled down to a free trip and an unexpected stop at a luxury resort in Jamaica.

His suite suffered smoke and water damage from the fire, so he, his fiancee, Ann Johns, and her daughter, Lacey Johns, were among about 400 people taken to a five-star resort in Jamaica.

The resort, where it was 85 degrees and sunny, offered a sandy beach, multiple pools, and great food and drinks - all on the cruise line's tab.

The cruise line was arranging flights back to the United States for the cruisers, but Mr. Joost last night was in no hurry. The cruise line is also reimbursing the full cost of the cruise and offering passengers a 25 percent discount on their next cruise.

Those whose rooms were not damaged and who remained on the cruise ship in port did not have it quite as good. There was no air conditioning on the damaged ship, Rachel Melchior, a 22-year-old Ohio State University senior from Perrysburg, told her mother, Suzanne.

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