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Cruise ship runs aground in Virginia with 66 aboard; passengers rescued safely

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    VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The captain of a small cruise ship with 66 people aboard ran the vessel aground early Thursday to keep it from sinking after it began taking on water, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
    The people on board were rescued safely with no injuries reported.
    The captain wanted to keep the 207-foot ship from sinking in the Intracoastal Waterway, the Coast Guard said. It wasn’t clear why it was taking on water.
    Two 41-foot Coast Guard boats moved the ship’s passengers and crew to a ferry landing about 2 miles away from the rural area off Virginia Beach, Petty Officer Christopher Evanson said.
    Passengers ate breakfast as they awaited rescue, he said.
    The cruise ship was lodged in mud about 9 feet below the water’s surface and was stable; the Coast Guard lowered pumps to help remove the water in the ship. The ship was only about 100 feet from shore, but the surrounding area is a wooded swamp, Evanson said.
    The boat, The Spirit of Nantucket, was on a 10-day cruise from Alexandria, Va., to Charleston, S.C., Evanson said.
    Larissa Grill, who manages hotel operations on the ship, said she was awakened by an alarm at about 5:30 a.m. and felt ‘‘just a little bump’’ when the ship stopped.
    Passengers were in good spirits while waiting to be taken off the ship, she said.
    ‘‘Everyone was having a great time, considering the circumstances,’’ she said.
    The boat is owned by Cruise West, a small cruise line based in Seattle. The damage was being assessed, the company said in a statement.
    Cruise West made arrangements to take the passengers to a hotel. A company spokesman did not return a telephone call seeking additional comment.
    The boat is 207 feet long, can accommodate 102 guests and has an 8-foot draft, making it suited for cruising shallow waterways, according to Cruise West’s Web site.
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