Passengers learn 'towel origami' aboard stranded Ocean Explorer cruise ship

The cruise ship had been stranded on the eastern coast of Greenland for days but has now been freed

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The Ocean Explorer. — X/@ViewsArctic
The Ocean Explorer. — X/@ViewsArctic

Denmark's military Joint Arctic Command (JAC) announced Thursday that a luxury cruise liner that ran aground off the eastern coast of Greenland earlier this week has been safely liberated.

On Monday, the 206-passenger and crew Ocean Explorer ran aground in Alpefjord and, according to the JAC, a fisheries research vessel freed the cruise ship on Thursday morning.

However, passengers revealed that the mood was quite good onboard the stranded cruise ship.

The ship had previously failed to float on multiple occasions, sparking worries that it would be stuck for days while waiting for the arrival of a larger Danish naval ship that was on its way to help.

Previously, three passengers on the Ocean Explorer were placed in isolation due to COVID-19, according to tour agency Aurora Expeditions. The tour agency assured that all others were healthy and safe and the ship, passengers, and surrounding water were not in danger.

SunStone, the ship's owner based in Florida, said that Tarajoq, a Greenland research vessel, successfully assisted the ship off its grounding.

“There have not been any injuries to any person on board, no pollution of the environment and no breach of the hull,” SunStone said in a press release.

The company said it had “arranged additional tug assistance in case it was needed,” but that it has now stood down on this.

“We would like to thank our charterer Aurora Expeditions as well as all their passengers for an excellent cooperation in this unexpected and difficult circumstance,” SunStone added.

“The vessel and its passengers will now be positioned to a port where the vessel’s bottom damages can be assessed, and the passengers will be taken to a port from which they can be flown back home.”

However, the company did not specify what that port would be, CNN reported.

The mood on stranded cruise 'reasonably good'

While waiting for help, a passenger named Lis joked about running out of alcohol on the ship more than the fear of potentially not being able to return to the ground safely.

“That is the biggest concern I have,” she said. “I had swimming lessons before I came and I’m a good swimmer. So look out: I could be swimming back to Iceland.”

According to Tracey Varga, another passenger who was from Phoenix, Arizona, said on Thursday while the cruise ship was still stuck “for the most part,” everyone on board was positive and most were “taking it in their stride.” There was "no panic" amongst passengers.

She said staff had been doing a good job at trying to keep passengers entertained. “Today they’re offering a towel-folding workshop to learn some towel origami,” she said.

Australian Debbie Brown, also stuck on Ocean Explorer, said that she thought morale onboard was “reasonably good” and seeing the northern lights in the past two nights had been “exciting.”

According to a statement from Denmark's JAC, the Ocean Explorer had made several attempts to free itself on tidal currents in the past few days but remained unsuccessful.

Greenland's government-owned Tarajoq fishing research vessel failed to dislodge the cruise ship during high tide on Wednesday. Later, a larger Danish naval vessel, Knud Rasmussen, was dispatched to assist but faced a 1,200 nautical mile journey to reach the cruise ship, which was expected to arrive late Friday.

“As soon as we realized that the Ocean Explorer could not get free on its own, we sent a ship towards the wreck,” Arctic Commander Brian Jensen said.

Danish military personnel who boarded the cruise ship on Tuesday confirmed that all 206 passengers are doing well, according to the Danish Armed Forces on Wednesday

The ship was designed for expedition travel to the world's most remote destinations, according to the official website for Aurora Expeditions.