TODAY   |  May 28, 2013

Cruise ship catches fire at sea

Passengers on a Royal Caribbean International cruise ship were awakened around 3 a.m. on Monday after a fire broke out on the third deck of the ship and spread to a crew lounge on the fourth deck. NBC’s Mark Potter reports.

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>>> let's start this half hour with passengers from a royal caribbean cruise liner headed home today after a fire on board the ship. this incident is only the latest for a cruise industry that has seen some pretty rough waters in recent months. nbc's mark potter is down in miami with the latest on this. mark, good morning to you.

>> reporter: and good morning, matt. those passengers will be flown today from the bahamas to baltimore, where the trip began, as the national transportation safety board and the u.s. coast guard try to figure out why that ship caught fire at sea. the royal caribbean international " grandeur of the seas " is now docked in freeport, bahamas, the damage to the stern clearly visible. some passengers are still shaken.

>> she passed out. it was quite, like -- frightening.

>> reporter: in a cell phone video, passengers can be seen putting on life jackets and heading for their emergency assembly stations. they had been awakened monday after a fire broke out on the third deck of the aft moorg area. the blaze then spread to the fourth deck, places where passengers are not allowed. the crew was given high marks for keeping everyone calm.

>> they kept us informed every step of the way, and as a consequence, they have generated a lot of goodwill.

>> they kept us updated. thought it was awesome.

>> reporter: they were on a seven day cruise that began friday in baltimore. after the fire crew put out the blaze, the cruise line said the crew and guests were safe and the company and ceo went to freeport to inspect the damage and meet personally with passengers.

>> i apologized on behalf of the company that we disrupted their vacation in this way. we're in the business of delivering outstanding vacations, not 'tis ruptured vacations.

>> reporter: the fire comes on the heels of several other high-profile incidents involving cruise ships this year. most notably, the carnival "triumph," which lost engine power in february, and was adrift for days, without air conditioning and working toilets. still, industry experts predict the number of cruise passengers setting sail this year will reach 17 1/2 million, undeterred by recent events.

>> i had fun. cruises are amazing. i would cruise with them again.

>> reporter: now, as for those passengers flying home today, the cruise line ceo says they'll not only get a full refund for this trip, they'll also get a certificate for a future cruise, should they decide to try again. matt?

>> pretty smart move. mark potter down in florida. thank you very much.