Ghost Ship: Cruise Passengers Spend 10 Days in Darkness Hiding from Pirates

Sea Princess Cruise Ship

For most of us, pirates are the swashbuckling adventurers we see on the screen, be it big or small. From the dashing and slightly ridiculous Captain Jack Sparrow to the far more miniaturized "Jake and the Neverland Pirates," buccaneers are big money in entertainment.

However, a 104-day cruise from Sidney to Dubai had to view pirates as something far more sinister than movie characters. Passenger Carolyne Jasinski described what happened:

 Captain Gennaro Arma addressed the ship. He apologised for alarming passengers. However, the threat, he said, was real and the ship must be prepared for a pirate attack.

We were on the first leg of a world cruise from Sydney to Dubai. We stopped at Melbourne and Fremantle before heading to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, and then Dubai.

For 10 days we travelled through an area where the risk of piracy is higher — the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal.

Now I knew why they had been playing a documentary on our cabin TVs about piracy on the high seas. They were getting us ready for what was to come; gently reminding us that piracy is still a problem.

In fact, it’s a growing problem, even though it doesn’t hit the headlines nearly as much lately.

Piracy is something most Americans never think about, though intellectually we know it's a thing. Many of us watched Tom Hanks star in the title role of Captain Phillips, a movie based on an actual pirate attack. As a Navy veteran, I had a great deal of pride over the SEALs taking out several of the pirates.

Yet, in our day to day lives, the only "pirates" we're likely to encounter are people selling illegal DVDs or knock-off software.

Unfortunately, the threat of piracy is real and a cruise ship like the Sea Princess, loaded with Western passengers, would be quite a take. Millions in ransom from the cruise line itself, but also ransom from the families of the passengers.

Make no mistake: despite the United States government taking the official stance that we do not negotiate with terrorists, corporations don't seem to have a similar policy with pirates. Paying the ransom to get their ships, cargo, and employees back makes a great deal of sense. Employees taken by pirates know they'll eventually be freed and pirates have every incentive to keep employees alive.

I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been to learn that for a week and a half the threat of something most only see on the big screen is hanging over their head like a Sword of Damocles.

No deck parties, no movies under the stars, no late-night outdoor bar hopping or pool dipping.

No lights, no party atmosphere, no lapping up tropical breezes on their balconies.

All around the ship, as the sun set, all curtains were drawn and all shutters closed.

Bright lights, which normally signal the presence of the Sea Princess on the ocean, were dimmed or turned off altogether.

She was a ghost ship.