Sakalis FamilyExperience on Tilted Princess Ship

ByCatherine Tsounis

The "Poseidon Adventure" continues to excite the imagination of America. On July 18th, Maria and John Sakalis of Bayside and Mattituck, New York experienced a real life version of the "Poseidon Adventure" on the Crown Princess Cruise ship.

We picked the Crown Princess because it is the jewel of the Princess fleet," said Maria Sakalis, a pharmacist in Bayside. "We wanted our children Irene, eight years old and Anna, 5 years old, to enjoy activities. We loved the ship's 'Movies Under the Stars' poolside Movie Theater and the 10-day cruise from new York to the Caribbean. We were looking forward to an unforgettable vacation."

Unforgettable? Two hundred and forty passengers were injured on July 18th, after the ship tilted off the coast of Florida. An alleged mistake, involving the automatic pilot steering that was switched to manual thinking by a rookie officer, caused the ship to tilt 18 degrees. The results included: the spilling of the pools' water on deck, slot machines and exercise equipment tumbling on passengers and the coast guard requirement that the crew manually steer the ship while in water less than 50 meters deep.

Anna Sakalis with five year old daughter Anna.

Eight year old Irene is still visibly upset over the incident. Five year old Anna was clinging to her mother during the interview. "My husband and I were watching a Disney movie on the seventh deck while Irene was on the 17th deck in a children's activity," said Maria. "When the boat tilted, the table broke and bar glasses was shattered in the lounge we were at. People began screaming and started running to the back of the ship. In a few seconds, everyone experienced horror. The captain's voice on the speakers sounded terrified. He said 'Don't be scared.' No one believed him. We put on our life jackets. We had practice drills daily throughout the cruise. But, this time we were faced with the real thing. When the ship dipped, persons in the pool were thrown out onto the deck, causing serious injuries. The sea was calm during the entire incident."

Our concern was for our daughter, Irene, who was separated from us by eleven decks," said the young mother. "John raced to the 17th deck while I stayed behind on the 7th deck with Anna. Persons were praying, singing religious hymns and crossing themselves. An old man was crying. If the Princess had tilted five more degrees, we would have tipped over like the 'Poseidon Adventure.'"

She explained that "two persons were airlifted. The boat turned around and went back to Cape Canaveral. There were many ambulances taking persons away for medical care. One man had broken ribs. Many were injured from the pool water that tumbled on deck. I pray and am grateful for every day. A French comedian, who acted fifteen years on cruise ships, said 'this had never happened before.' I was thinking how we were going to save our children from falling into the water. Six hundred children were on board. After the accident, we stayed onboard for free from July 18th to 20th, until we made arrangements for our departure by airplane from Cape Canaveral."

They (Princess Cruise ship personnel) shuttled us to the airport, reimbursing us for the return air ticket and cruise tickets," according to Maria. "Ironically, the evening of the accident, the scheduled movie on 'Movie under the Stars' was Titanic. Passengers who took the cruise after us on July 22nd received a 50% discount on their tickets. I do not know if I will ever go on a cruise, even though this was a rare incident."

Irene, the oldest daughter, said "I will go on another cruise if Yiayia (Grandmother Irene Moustakos) goes with me." Anna, the younger daughter wants to "go on the Mickey Mouse boat (Disney cruise)." The Sakalis family is from Mytilene and Nysiros. A love of sea traveling is their blood. They will probably continue their sea travels in the future.

(Posting date 11 August 2006

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