Spirit of Discovery: Cruise ship passengers 'scared for their lives'

Passengers on the Spirit of Discovery have described a state of fear on board the cruise ship after it was hit by a storm in the Bay of Biscay.

About 100 people were injured when the boat veered during a safety manoeuvre on Saturday.

Most of the injuries were described as minor by cruise company Saga but five people were taken to hospital when the ship docked in Portsmouth on Monday.

One passenger said some of those on board "feared for their lives".

Spirit of Discovery cruise ship
Five people were taken to hospital when the ship docked in Portsmouth on Monday night

"People were writing texts to their loved ones in case we capsized," Richard told BBC News.

"The tone of voice in our captain... he was physically scared. We had crew crying. We had many passengers in awful states of fear.

"To say 'minor injuries' is an insult to the many horrific broken bones, pelvises, lacerations, stitches etc. that were caused [to] a very old passenger clientele."

The ship departed for a 14-day cruise around the Canary Islands on 24 October with about 1,000 people on board.

A decision was made to return to the UK early due to worsening weather, but on Saturday the ship encountered the storm in the Bay of Biscay - a notoriously rough area for boats.

It was there that the ship's safety system kicked in, causing it to veer suddenly to the left and effectively stop. A Saga spokesperson said this was when most of the injuries occurred.

The ship was then held in position until weather conditions improved.

Jan Bendall, 75, who was on the cruise with her husband, said they were in their cabin when the captain's voice over the speaker system told them to "remain seated or lie down".

She said after the ship halted it was stationary for about 15 hours whilst "caught in the middle of the storm", during which she and her husband were "holding on for dear life".

"It was quite frightening," she said. "I'm not somebody who frightens easily... it was quite dramatic."

She went on: "We were lucky - we're quite able-bodied, but I think some of the older people and people in their own in cabins were quite worried."

Spirit of Discovery cruise ship
One passenger said the ship was stationary for about 15 hours whilst "caught in the middle of the storm"

Another passenger told the BBC "tables were flying" and the waves were "throwing people around all up and down the place".

Mrs Bendall said part of the dining room was converted into "a makeshift medical area" and passengers were told to stay in their cabins for the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday.

Despite the ordeal, she said the staff were "absolutely fantastic".

She said the crew and captain gave regular updates and repeatedly reassured passengers "the ship is safe".

She and her husband disembarked at about 09:00 GMT on Tuesday and described seeing workers replacing glass doors, windows and partitions that had been smashed in the storm.

Saga confirmed there had been "very limited" damage to some fixtures inside the boat but said earlier that the ship "remained safe at all times".

"While the weather is clearly beyond our control, we want to offer our sincere apologies to all those affected who are now safely on their way home in calmer seas," the spokesperson added.

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