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Old 21st October 2008, 17:04   #1
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Default Horror On High Seas- Simply Unforgetable

"The Tug boats search light were shinning through the dark focused directly on the sinking ship, we could hear the Captain of the tug boat repeatedly announce on the P.A system the coordinates of the sinking ship for the benefit of any un-suspecting vessels headed this way. The time was 0121hrs (Malasiyan Standard Time) on 21st may, 1999, on a beautiful moon lit night, as all 19 of us watched in total shock and dismay from our life boat, the cruise liner M.V. Sun Vista slowly but steadily disappearing in front of our eyes in the Malacca strait.
A few minutes later there was an eerie silence in the air as the ocean was now beautifully calm after engulfing the 770 feet ship in its belly. We still could not imagine this was happening to us…no one uttered a word in the life raft, even the tug boat’s speaker at the distance had gone silent, and the search light gone off. I could feel my eyes getting wet as I saw my home for over 13 months disappearing. At that time I didn’t know weather to cry for loosing all my belongings, the gifts I had bought for friends and family, the money I had saved, my job or weather it was time to celebrate, celebrate for still being alive."

HORROR ON HIGH SEAS,
This is not as fun as what a travelogue would be nor this involves traveling from point A to B, it’s an incident that happened during one of the cruises that I worked on, an incident that lasted just about 11 hours but gave me something to remember everyday for the rest of my life. Something that has made me cherish life for ever.

I always wanted to write and document these 11 hours for my own satisfaction, but could not find the right platform to do till I came across TBHP travelogue’s. So here I am sharing them with all of you.

This post does not have any real pictures of the actual sinking of the ship, but some pictures of the ship and some related to the incident that are scanned from the local news papers and a few taken from a friend’s Mr. Anand Yadav's camera.



ABOUT THE SHIP

Name : M.V. Sun Vista
Captain : Sven Hartzell
Country of registry : Bahamas
Gross Tonnage : 30,440 tons
Length : 214m/ 770feet
Draft : 9.2 meters
Cruising speed : 22knots
Maximum speed : 24.5 knots
BHP : 44,000
Guest capacity : 1024
Crew Size : 770
No. of passenger decks : 8
Total No. of decks : 11

SUN VISTA IN ITS FULL GLORY (PIC)
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M.V. Sun Vista wasn’t a very big fancy ship as compared to the massive ones that are seen these days. But it had all the facilities the fun and the frolic one would require while being a passenger on a luxury cruise liner. Being not that big it had its own advantages since smaller vessels tend to be more personal and warm. No wonder they chose this ship to shoot the movie Mann starring Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala.
This was my first job on a cruise liner. After doing my hotel Management from Mumbai and working for Taj Mumbai for 3 years, I thought this would be a good idea to see the world for free and get paid for it too. After a couple of months of adjustment problems from a land job to a confined job on the ship I was almost completing 11 months now, and was really loving every minute of working there. I was suppose to go on leave in 1 month’s time and was sure I would return back to the ship. On the Ship I was the Restaurant Manager for the 600 seater Four Seasons restaurant. It was a hard job managing 60 staff from 11 various nationalities of both sexes in the restaurant but then what’s life without some challenges. The daily routine was grueling. Breakfast was from 7am-10am, lunch was from 1200hrs to 1430 hrs and dinner was served from 1800hrs to 2030 hrs (1st sitting) and 2030hrs onwards for the 2nd sitting. But since we were all one big family being away from our actual families, we used to, in rotation take shore leaves to visit the various ports of calls.

ME ON THE BRIDGE WITH ANAND, 2ND OFFICER (PIC)
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The itnary we were doing those days looked something like this
Sunday : Embarkation Day, Sail in the evening from Singapore for Malacca
Monday : Whole day in Malacca, sail in the evening for Penang
Tuesday : Whole day Penang, sail in the evening for Phuket
Wednesday : Best part of the trip, whole day in Phuket…. Jet skis, strip bars big bikes and stuff. Sail in the evening
Thursday : Whole day at sea, lots of activities, games, shows happening on the ship and then The Grand Gala dinner in the evening.
Friday : Back to Singapore, Disembarkation day. Embarkation again for a a cruise to no where for the hard core Singaporean Chinese gamblers
Saturday : Day at sea, in international waters for the casino to remain open
Sunday : Back to Singapore, Dis-embarkation for the gamblers and then the embarkation for the regular cruisers.

JET SKIIS IN PHUKET (PIC)
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20TH MAY, 1999 THURSDAY

It was a normal beginning to another day at sea. The Sun Vista, the previous evening had set sail from Phuket on the last leg of its journey for this cruise. It was sailing gently doing about 17 knots, towards Singapore and was supposed to arrive at 1100hrs on Friday after being in the deep blue sea the whole of Thursday. In the Four Seasons Restaurant it was breakfast service going on as usual, slow to start with but filling up as it reached the closing time for breakfast. You could hear a loud chatter of the guests planning their day on board the ship. Someone could be heard saying how excited they were to take a tour of the engine room later, others were looking forward for the Bridge tour, some guests just wanted to laze around on the open decks and soak in some sun and get a beautiful tan before they disembarked the ship tomorrow. A few had planned to do some last minute shopping from the duty free shop onboard, or buy their cruise photographs from the studio or maybe try their luck again at the casino. As the restaurant finally emptied of all the guests, the staff went about their daily chores of cleaning and setting up the restaurant for lunch and in between working one could hear jokes being cracked and plans being made for Friday Singapore. What latest gadget they would buy from Mustafa or discussing about the food they should try at Indian restaurant that had just opened in the World Trade Centre, or just maybe go out window shopping at the Orchard Road

Up on the decks it was business as usual. Bar waitresses went about selling delicious looking cocktails and mocktails, the 2 swimming pools and the Jacuzzi were already full of kids playing around and enjoying their last day on the cruise. As it approached 1100 hrs the open decks were bustling with activity. It was an absolutely bright clear but somewhat a hot sticky summer day. Gentle breeze blew across the ship cooling things down a bit. A perfect day to be at sea. Since there were just about 472 passengers onboard, there was not much of a fight going on for sun beds or vantage points in the shade. In one corner a BBq was being set up, the aroma of the meats and vegetables being cooked and French fries being fried were acting as the appetizer for the lunch that was to follow. The Cruise Director had also planned loads of activities, games and shows on the open decks for the day to keep the guests. There were mostly Britishers and Australians on board so the sun the beer and BBq was the best way to keep them on the decks and make them shell out money on drinks. Thursdays were great revenue earners for the ship as the guests had no where to go but to stay on the ship and to spend the money within the ship.

SUN VISTA OPEN DECKS (PIC)
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The lunch in the restaurant opened at noon. As I had expected not many guests came in the restaurant, why would anyone leave the sun shine, the fresh air, the BBq and all the activity happening on the decks for the restaurant? After spending some time in the restaurant and realizing it won’t get any busy than what it was already I decided to close a big section of the restaurant so that the staff could set that part for the gala dinner that was to follow in the evening. Every cruise, every Thursday, every guest used to look forward for the gala dinner, and why not, Gala dinner night they get to get dressed in their best dinner jackets and their long flowing gowns. Some of the lucky ones also used to be invited on tables hosted by the Captain and the other senior officers of the ship. The restaurant transformed itself into a Chinese palace with the staff working over time after lunch to put all the decorations in place. The 600 seater restaurant looked amazing in the evening with all the red decorations, the buntings, the Chinese lanterns on the ceiling, the beautiful table clothes with colorful show plates cutlery and glass ware all put so symmetrically added to the beauty. That evening the staff had to dress up too. The staff was to dress up as the palace courtesans and I being the restaurant manager to dress up as the King of the palace. Who would have guessed that dinner we had started to plan already was never destined to happen? What could possibly go wrong? Well things did go horribly wrong and the next 11 hours became an experience of a life time.

RESTAURANT SET UP GALA DINNER (PIC)
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MY UNIFORM GALA DINNER (PIC)
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1400HRS – 1500HRS, 20TH MAY, 1999

With the restaurant now closed and the staff getting busy in setting the restaurant for the evening I decided to go up on the decks for a round. The decks now seem to have a very serene look to it as most of the guests though still up on decks in their sun beds had decided to have a siesta. Was this the lull before the storm? In some corner there was a balloon modeling competion going on and in the other I could see some cruise staff holding a trivia competion for the interested ones. The deck staff went about their regular chores of cleaning the decks and arranging the deck chairs. I stood by the railings enjoying the lovely blue calm seas go by as the ship sailed steadily towards Singapore. This was the Malacca strait notorious for its pirates, but today there wasn’t a single vessel seen for miles and miles, it was just calm blue seas without a ripple in the ocean till the horizon. It was about 1430 hrs now and I decided to stop by the restaurant to give all the finishing touches to the decorations and then proceed to my cabin for a nap. I was one of the lucky ones (amongst the crew) to have my cabin on the 5th deck of the ship. The rest of the crew had to sleep in the 3 decks, which were just below the sea level.

DECK PLAN (PIC)
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The restaurant looked lovely with the transformation complete. The few staff that was left behind sat in a group relaxing after a busy morning. I looked around the restaurant which was all dressed as my kingdom with me being dressed up as the King later on in the evening. With various thoughts passing the mind I suddenly felt something happen. The very familiar low humming sound of the engine stopped and the vibrations could not be felt any more. There was pin drop silence in the restaurant that was followed by the lights going off completely. It was about 1455hrs. It did seem a bit strange, as generally with power failure on board there are always emergency lights that come on and also the low level lighting with arrows on passage ways lit, to show directions to the closest exit. But today seems to be a total loss of power.


10 more hours to go....to be continued.
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Old 21st October 2008, 17:44   #2
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Fantastic stuff deky. Very exciting too. A la Titanic.
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Old 21st October 2008, 18:06   #3
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Waiting with bated breath for the next installment.
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Old 21st October 2008, 18:11   #4
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This is very exciting ... waiting for the next 'episode' :-)

Regards
Rex
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Old 21st October 2008, 18:13   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deky View Post
"The Tug boats search light were shinning through the dark focused directly on the sinking ship, we could hear the Captain of the tug boat repeatedly announce on the P.A system the coordinates of the sinking ship for the benefit of any un-suspecting vessels headed this way. The time was 0121hrs (Malasiyan Standard Time) on 21st may, 1999, on a beautiful moon lit night, as all 19 of us watched in total shock and dismay from our life boat, the cruise liner M.V. Sun Vista slowly but steadily disappearing in front of our eyes in the Malacca strait.
A few minutes later there was an eerie silence in the air as the ocean was now beautifully calm after engulfing the 770 feet ship in its belly. We still could not imagine this was happening to us…no one uttered a word in the life raft, even the tug boat’s speaker at the distance had gone silent, and the search light gone off. I could feel my eyes getting wet as I saw my home for over 13 months disappearing. At that time I didn’t know weather to cry for loosing all my belongings, the gifts I had bought for friends and family, the money I had saved, my job or weather it was time to celebrate, celebrate for still being alive."
Deky, I remember reading about the Sun Vista thingy in 2000 some thing when I was studying in KL. Reading the above is so chilling. I hope you have mentally recovered, though it's been 9 years.

Thank god and I am glad that you are here alive and sharing your experience.
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Old 21st October 2008, 18:14   #6
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Wow, that must be some experience!!
Waiting for the remaining part.
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Old 21st October 2008, 18:17   #7
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A very different travelogue so to say, as like all, me too waiting to read what these 11 hours had in store. As I write myself my own travel journey, I will be keeping an eye on this definitely. Glad you being safe and hope you are okay with recounting this definitely harrowing experience.

Last edited by adc : 21st October 2008 at 18:19.
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Old 21st October 2008, 18:20   #8
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wowwowww its like watching a movie!

Fantastic narration...

waiting for it to be continued...
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Old 21st October 2008, 18:41   #9
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deky you should write a book on this dude--you are a great author indeed well narrated story--waiting for what happened after 1430hrs eagerly.
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Old 21st October 2008, 19:16   #10
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Yeah thanks guys, i am working on the next part and will put up soon. I am perfectly fine with sharing the story here though it does gives me goose bumps whenever i think about it. But i am glad to be sharing this naration with such an appreciative bunch of people like you guys
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Old 21st October 2008, 19:43   #11
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Fantastic narration & details. Thanks for sharing.
Its chilling to think that you were there.
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Old 21st October 2008, 19:45   #12
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Wonderful story!! As E_L said, very exciting indeed.
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Old 21st October 2008, 20:07   #13
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Deky,

You have me hooked !! Wonderfully narrated - please continue asap.
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Old 21st October 2008, 20:15   #14
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@deky, what an experience.. a cold chill ran down my spine just at the thought of the incident and here you are reminiscing that horrible incident again. Hope you have recovered from the shock. We are waiting eagerly for the rest of the story...
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Old 21st October 2008, 20:15   #15
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Wait wait, the best or should i say the worst is yet to come.
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