The original story said that the fire began with an unsupervised cutting and welding operation in a laundry room on board the Ecstasy on July 20, 1998, while the ship was sailing off Miami Beach, Florida with 2567 passengers aboard, where crew were welding a laundry folding machine called a Mangle.
This was suppose to have begun on Deck 2, when an arc from welding equipment landed on lint nearby and ignited. The crew attempted to put the fire out, and were unsuccessful as they were driven away from heavy smoke.
As the crew in the laundry area exited the fire, the manage activate the fire alarm. Smoke began spreading to the decks below and above Deck 2, The initial report was of smoke on Decks 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. But, when fire brigade workers began to investigate, they found fire and smoke on Deck 4.
The brigade members began closing fire doors, trying to contain the fire. When they got to the Mooring Deck, they found an intense fire, that had flared due to pallets of polypropylene rope mooring lines. Sprinklers activated on Decks 3 through 7. With the ropes ablaze, a thick black smoke was seen billowing from the back of the vessel. This was seen by Port of Miami video cameras and the United States Coast Guard.
The ship had just left port on a four day cruise to Cozumel Mexico, after leaving the Port of Miami with 2557 passengers and 920 crew on board.
This vessel had ten decks. The aft mooring deck, is where the majority of the damage occurred was located on deck 4, the Riviera Deck.
The Coast Guard contacted the master of the ship around 5:30pm, and asked if they were alright, and needed any assistance. The captain indicated the ship's fire brigade was handling the situation, and refused assistance.
But, 30 minutes later as the USCG watched on the port webcam more smoke and then flames were engulfing the entire stern of the ship. Coast Guard and other fire-fighting vessels were dispatched to the ship’s location, 2.7 miles northeast of Miami Beach in spite of Ecstasy's captain.
In the meantime the ship had lost control of propulsion systems and began to drift northward. The Coast Guard and private assistance began arriving between 6:00 and 6:25 p.m.
The fire was brought under control around 7:15 p.m. The vessel was then towed back to the Port of Miami and arrived at 2:20 a.m. the next day.
Once in port, 60 injured passengers and crew needing further medical attention were transported to local hospitals. The injuries included smoke inhalation and chest pains. Seven were hospitalized overnight and another two remained in the hospital for an additional day for observation.
One of the injured aboard was a crew member later went to maritime attorney Charles Lipcon for legal advice. A class action law suit was filed and Lipcon learned from his client, who worked in the engine room, that the fire actually began there. Which explains the ship engine shutting down. What is not clear is why the cruise line lied about the origin of the fire.
The ship was moored in the Port of Miami for four days while the investigation was conducted. Ecstasy then left Miami on Friday July 24, 1998, under her own power and sailed to Newport News, Virginia, where extensive repairs were completed. The ship was placed back into service on September 18, 1998.