Cruise Passengers, Beware!
Pirate Alley may not be the one novel you want to read just before (or during) your first cruise. However, if you’ve ever cruised, you will want to read it. I did! Fans of Stephen Coonts will enjoy it even if they are confirmed land lubbers. They will be glad to hear that Jake Grafton, a familiar Coonts hero plays a prominent part in this one.
One thing many of us love about cruising is the polite cruising attitude and pleasant on board ambiance. Cruising represents a serene escape from the stress and strain of everyday life, as well as the rancor of today’s impolite political discourse, and the harshness of world events.
That’s just how it began for a ship full of cruisers on the fictional Sultan of the Seas in “Pirate Alley.” That’s also what came to an abrupt halt with the appearance of four small blips on the ship’s radar, blips that turned out to be Somalian pirate skiffs!
While Pirate Alley is fiction, it’s not that far removed from a very possible reality. In recent years, pirates have, indeed, attempted to capture cruise ships on occasion. You’ll find vignettes about some of those attempts farther down on this page.
Thankfully, none of these attempts were successful. This book makes one wonder what might have happened had they been.
Read it on your next cruise – if you dare!
Today’s Real Life Pirates Are Terrorizing the High Seas
Lest anyone be misled, modern pirates are a far cry from the endearing characters portrayed by Johnny Depp and friends in recent movies. They are terrorizing the high seas along stretches of the African Coast, in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, the waters around Singapore, and other areas. They aren’t cute or funny. They’re after money, lots of it, and have no regard for the lives of those who stand in their way of getting it.
Everyone remembers the recent taking of the Maersk Alabama, which focused attention on the realities of piracy for a short while. But that was far from an isolated incident. It’s a serious on going problem. Some estimates have put financial losses due to piracy in recent years at an astounding 16 billion dollars annually. And that’s not all, lives have been lost, and hostages held in primitive conditions for months on end. Countless seafarers have been subjected to the very real fear that they were about to be captured.
The brigands in the book, like the ones in real life today, are bereft of charm, consideration, or any vestige of civility. It is in their filthy hands that the crew and passengers of theSultan of the Seas find themselves. And it’s a favorite Coonts hero, Jake Grafton, who is called upon to extricate them from the clutches of the greedy savages demanding millions in exchange for liberating the hapless vacationers from the squalid and primitive conditions in which they’ve been confined.
Pirates Today are a Dangerous Menace
Disney’s recent pirate movies may be fun to watch, but there’s nothing fun about today’s real life pirates. They a menace. Somalia remains a haven for those engaged in these sea crimes, and over 20 countries are now cooperating to combat the scourge.
Numerous ships, along with their crews have been captured, and held for ransoms that often reach into the millions.
Many of us watched with bated breath the televised reports of the pirate attack on and seizure of the Maersk Alabama. We all breathed a sigh of relief when Navy Seals rescued Captain Richard Phillips (held in a lifeboat), his ship, and crew.
The names of the ship and captain of the Maersk Alabama were briefly in the news again recently, when former Navy Seal Robert O’Neill disclosed that he was a part of that Seal Team Six rescue team.
Learn More about Real Life Pirates
If you’d like to learn more about real pirates, there’s plenty of reading material to choose from. If you’re looking for a place to start, you can begin from a current or a historical perspective. Here are two suggestions. Both are non fiction.
The first, The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World, by Jay Bahadur, gives us a rare look into the lives of those pirates based in and around Somalia.
The other, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History, which reminds us that, even for America, piracy is not a recent problem, is a new best seller.
Actual Attempted Pirate Attacks on Cruise Ships
Though commercial carriers are frequent targets, ships and boats of all sizes and types have been targets of these lawless bands, from fishing boats to yachts, and even, on occasion, luxury cruise liners. So, yes, there is certainly basis in fact for Stephen Coonts’ novel, Pirate Alley. It’s a basis that we hope never becomes a reality. But to deny the possibility that it could ever occur is to be less than realistic. Following are pictures of some of the cruise ships on which attacks have been attempted in recent years, along with a brief synopsis of each incident.
MV Seabourn Spirit (2005)
MV Seabourn Spirit Under Fire
In November of 2005, Seaborn Spirit, with 115 passengers on board, came under fire from pirates in two speed boats off the coast of Somalia. The boats were launched from a ‘mother ship,’ which had itself been acquired through piracy. The cruise liner took fire from machine guns and rocket propelled grenades
The crew as able to drive the pirates away using a defensive acoustic device that directed painful ear piercing sounds at the attackers. Fortunately, there was only one injury. The Spirit’s Master at Arms received wounds from shrapnel during the successful defense.
MS Nautica (2008)
MS Nautica Outran Pirates
In November of 2008, a pair of pirate boats were spotted approaching the MS Nautica in the Gulf of Aden. The cruise ship was able to out maneuver and out run them. It was a wild ride for the passengers!
MS Astor (2008)
German Frigate Defended Astor
Another incident took place November of 2008. This time, it was in the Gulf of Oman, and pirates went after the MS Astor. She was successfully defended against the Somalians by a German Frigate.
MV ATHENA (2008)
29 Pirate Boats Surrounded the MV Athena
Imagine being on a cruise vacation. only to find your ship literally surrounded by hostile forces. That’s what happened to passengers aboard the MV Athena in December of 2008.
In the Gulf of Aden, at least 29 pirate boats converged on the MV Athena, and surrounded her. The ship’s crew defended her with water cannon, and a P-3 Orion from the US Navy circled above, a combination which eventually drove the intruders away.
The cruise ship now sails for another line, under the name of the MV Azores.
MSC Melody (2009)
Boarding Attempt on MSC Meoldy Initally Defended by Passengers
While sailing near the Seychelles, the Melody came under under automatic rifle fire from Somalian Pirates attempting to board. The first attempt at repelling the siege was actually by passengers, who bombarded the pirates with deck chairs and tables. This occurred in the minutes before the vessel’s private security force arrived on deck.
The attack was repelled by the ship’s Israeli security detail, using water cannon and, when that wasn’t enough, pistol fire.
SS Oceanic (2010)
Passengers Rushed to Defend Their Peace Boat
While on an around the world cruise for Peace Boat, Pullmantur’s Oceanic came under a grenade attack off the coast of Yemen. A defense with high pressure water hoses was used, while the captain employed zig zag maneuvers to escape the terrorists, who were later arrested by NATO.
The Oceanic went to the breakers in 2012, but she will long be fondly remembered by many who knew her as The Big Red Boat, when she sailed for Premier Cruise Line, out of Port Canaveral.