CAIRO, Egypt -- American cruise ship passengers stranded in Cairo by the hijacking of the Achille Lauro said Tuesday they were relieved to be safe but sick with worry about those trapped aboard the vessel.
'We're torn,' said Anita Rosenthal, one of more than 650 passengers who left the ship Monday for a sightseeing trip in Cairo before heavily armed Palestinian gunmen seized the Italian luxury liner.
'We are so glad to be here and not on board, but what is happening to those people is just so dreadful,' she said. 'It's horrible. What can we do? We feel so helpless.'
Mrs. Rosenthal and her husband, Lou, of Tamarac, Fla., said they are doubly glad to be clear of the crisis because they are Jewish.
'I'm afraid we shall think twice before coming to this part of the world again. This is just no good,' said her husband, a retired American Express employee.
'That so few can hurt so many, with nothing anyone can do, is just a terrible thing,' his wife said. 'I just give thanks I am not in the hands of those people.'
She said the excursion party of about 660 people, including 72 Americans, went on the land tour from the Egyptian port of Alexandria and were to rejoin the ship at Port Said around midnight Tuesday.
'There was no ship. It wasn't there. At first they said it was caught up in traffic in the Suez Canal but then later we got the truth, that it had been hijacked,' Mrs. Rosenthal said.
She said all of the stranded passengers had been booked into large Cairo hotels and were being well treated.
'It was a little exhausting,' she said. 'We didn't get into the hotel until about 4:45 a.m. But what does that matter? We're safe, that's the main thing. It is just that I feel so sorry for those people out there.'
Neither the Rosenthals nor any other passengers stranded in Cairo had any idea how they would return home. But they said all had been told that they would be returned to their original destinations.
They said U.S.Embassy officials had notified their relatives in the United States that they were safe and well.
Many declined to give their names to reporters, saying they did not feel completely safe talking about the hijacking.
'I actually support a homeland for the Palestinians,' said one middle-age doctor. 'I can understand their feelings. But this is a hijacking. People are suffering out there.'