'Stay safe against pirates, draw the curtains,' cruise passengers told
Passengers on world cruises have been told to observe blackouts to protect against pirates in African waters.
Captains on the P&O cruise ships Aurora and Arcadia asked the passengers to take the action while the vessels sailed through the Gulf of Aden.
They were told not to use the promenade deck and to keep the curtains closed between 6.30pm and 7am.
They were, however, allowed to leave their cabins.
The Aurora takes 1,870 passengers and the Arcadia has room for 2,000.
Passengers pay around £1,100 for a three- or four-week “sector” of the trip although the price for a full round-the-world cruise is over £7,000.
As part of the world cruise, the Aurora and Arcadia sail from Southampton through the Mediterranean, onto the Suez Canal and through the pirate-infested waters of Somalia.
The area has seen so much piracy in recent years - by gangs armed with automatic rifles and even rocket-propelled grenades - that an international patrol of warships from EU countries was set up.
The International Maritime Organization, which regulates shipping, drew up a set of advice on how to deter pirates.
The code says attacks are most common at dawn and dusk and recommends ships keep their speed up, use dummies as fake lookouts and spool razor wire around the lowest parts of the vessel.
It also recommends that people should stay off the decks during the hours of darkness.
However, drawing the curtains against pirates does not seem to be an internationally recognised solution to the problem.
A spokesman for the IMO said: “I’ve never heard of it before.”
This is the first time such measures have been taken by P&O.
Both the Aurora and the Arcadia set off on world cruises which last around 100 days from Southampton. Both head through the Suez Canal before one travels eastwards and one westwards.
The Arcadia is currently off the Italian coast and due back in Southampton in the next few days, while the Aurora is off west Africa heading home via Madeira. They passed through the Gulf of Aden in January.
A spokeswoman for P&O said: “Passengers were asked to draw the curtains in their cabins and not go onto the promenade deck. Apart from that they had the freedom of the ship, as usual.
“Cruise ship security is the industry’s highest priority, and cruising is a safe holiday.
“Security standards are strictly guided by a network of internationally approved standards, and individual cruise lines also have well established security assessment procedures and protocols.
“Our fleets are equipped with a comprehensive series of protective measures and devices which are activated in accordance with the ship’s security plan.”
British couple Paul Chandler, 60, and his wife Rachel, 56, were kidnapped by Somali pirates after their yacht was seized last October. The gunmen have demanded a ransom of £1.3m.
In November 2005, a cruise ship sailing off Somalia repelled armed pirates without returning fire by using bangs to simulate weapons.