The crew of the U.S. merchant ship that was seized by Somali pirates last week has arrived home for a joyous reunion with their families.

The seamen arrived early Thursday morning at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, after a chartered flight from Mombasa, Kenya.  

Pirates hijacked the 17,000-ton container vessel "Maersk Alabama" on April 8 as it was sailing several hundred kilometers off the coast of the northern Puntland region of Somalia.  The 19-member crew retook control of the ship several hours later, but the pirates took Captain Richard Phillips off the boat and held him hostage on a lifeboat for several days.

Phillips was rescued Sunday when U.S. Navy snipers on board the USS Bainbridge killed his three captors.

The captain was scheduled to reunite with his crew, but the Bainbridge was diverted to assist another U.S. merchant ship that was attacked by pirates earlier this week.  That ship, The Liberty Sun, has arrived in Mombassa.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.