The Sea: Tale of Two Ships

"You had better listen to this boat drill," Captain Otto Thoresen cautioned passengers. "Next time it might be the real thing." As the 30-minute no-nonsense safety demonstration proceeded, the Viking Princess steamed out of Miami on a seven-day pleasure cruise. Last week, in the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti, the cruise was nearing its end when the real thing did happen. The Princess was ablaze.

In many ways, the fire that swept the 16-year-old Norwegian vessel resembled that aboard the Yarmouth Castle, the Panamanian-registered cruise ship on which 90 people—mostly passengers—died last November. In both cases the vessels were...

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