It was March, 1971. My wife Doris and I sailed into St Thomas only to find Angelino Lauro (ex-Orange) afire at the West Indian Docks.
The fire had begun while the passengers were ashore. We learned the inside story from Brian Starer, a Merchant Marine Museum trustee who was involved in the litigation. There was a large pan in the galley for making sauces. A crewman decided to cook some French fries. He put melted fat in it and turned on the heat without benefit of a thermostat. It overheated and burst into flames, igniting a ventilation trunk coated with grease. Rapidly, the fire spread and the vessel capsized at the pier where she remained for months.
The Orange and the Willem Ruys were Dutch liners owned by rival companies. While still under the Dutch flag, both ships were involved in a bizarre accident.
Each sailed regularly around the world, one westward, the other eastward. Once they met at sea head on, each coming from the opposite direction. Neither captain gave way and they collided with much damage.
Later, Willem Ruys became the Achille Lauro. In Alexandria, during the summer of 1985, she was seized by terrorists who murdered passenger Leon Klinghofer; confined to a wheelchair, he was cold-bloodedly thrown overboard to drown.
At the time of this horrifying episode, we were aboard another cruise ship nearby. At each stop we made after that murder, our vessel was inspected by divers who checked to see that no terrorist devices had been planted anywhere near the hull. It was highly unnerving.