MAHE, Seychelles -- A cruise liner that was attacked by pirates over the weekend docked safely on this Indian Ocean archipelago yesterday after changing its course in order to escape.
Passengers described their horror as pirates in speedboats chased the luxury cruise liner, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles -- with smiles visible on faces otherwise hidden by ski masks.
''I was scared, I was very scared," said Jean Noll of Florida. Her husband said the experience was not likely to deter them from taking another cruise. ''We cruise all the time," Clyde Noll said.
The Seabourn Spirit had been bound for Mombasa, Kenya, when it was attacked Saturday by pirates armed with grenade launchers and machine guns about 100 miles off Somalia's lawless coast. The ship escaped by shifting to high speed and changing course.
The gunmen never got close enough to board the cruise ship, but one member of the 161-member crew was injured by shrapnel, according to the Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line, a subsidiary of
After docking at the Seychelles, passengers boarded two buses for a tour of two of the resort islands and reporters were kept away. Most passengers were to continue from the Seychelles to Singapore, company officials said, although some who planned to tour Mombasa were to fly there today aboard a chartered plane.
Relieved vacationers praised the ship's captain for foiling the attack that lasted for more than 90 minutes, during which pirates fired their weapons at the bridge and elsewhere in an effort to cripple the vessel.
Some passengers were lucky to escape with their lives, said Charles Forsdick of Durban, South Africa. A woman survived an explosion in her stateroom simply because she was taking a bath at the time. Others flung themselves to the floor to avoid bullets that were zipping through the ship, Forsdick told Associated Press Television News.
''I tell you, it was a very frightening experience," World War II veteran Charles Supple, of Fiddletown, Calif., recalled by phone after the liner dropped anchor off Seychelles.
The retired physician said that as he started to take a photograph of a pirate craft, ''the man with the bazooka aimed it right at me and I saw a big flash. Needless to say, I dropped the camera and dived. The grenade struck two decks above and about four rooms further forward," Supple said. ''I could tell the guy firing the bazooka was smiling."
Bob Meagher of Sydney said he climbed out of bed and went to the door of his cabin shortly before 6 a.m. after hearing a commotion outside.
''I saw a white-hulled boat with men in it waving various things and shooting at the ship. At that stage it appeared to be rifle fire," he told Australian radio.
''My wife said, 'Look, they're loading a bazooka,' which we later discovered was called an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] launcher."
''There was a flash of flame and then a huge boom -- a terrible boom sound," he said, adding that the grenade hit about 10 feet from where they were.
The liner had been at the end of a 16-day voyage from Alexandria, Egypt. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that the attackers might have been terrorists. But others said the attack bore the hallmarks of pirates who have become increasingly active off Somalia, which has no navy and has not had an effective central government since 1991.