Spirit of Discovery: Saga Cruise ship passengers 'feared for their lives' as boat battered by massive waves in Bay of Biscay

The Spirit of Discovery docked in Portsmouth on Monday evening (PA)
The Spirit of Discovery docked in Portsmouth on Monday evening (PA)

Passengers have told how they "feared for their lives" after a cruise ship was caught in a storm in the west coast of France.

The Saga Cruises ship, Spirit of Discovery, returned to the UK after 100 passengers sustained injuries when it was hit by gale winds and 30ft waves as it was crossing the Bay of Biscay, an area known for its rough seas.

Passenger Richard Reynolds, 60, was on the ship with his elderly parents and recalled how people "were screaming for their lives" and some wrote final notes to loved ones as they "thought they were going to die".

"The whole experience was horrendous," he told MailOnline.

"Waves were coming up to the fifth-storey windows, people were screaming and furniture and plates and glass were flying in every direction.

"I am ex-military and fire service and I have dealt with a lot of traumatic experiences in my career but this up there with the worst of them.

'People were screaming for their lives, things were banging and crashing around us and they thought they were going to die.

'We were confined to our cabins for two days, we were laying in bed fully clothed with life jackets on.

"I know other passengers wrote notes on their phones to loved ones because they didn't think they were going to make it out of there."

A passenger told the BBC on Tuesday that people "were writing texts to their loved ones in case we capsized".

"The tone of voice in our captain...he was physically scared," he said. "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 on October 24 for a 14-day planned cruise to the Canary Islands with 1,000 on board. During a rough storm, the ship's automatic safety system was activated and it lurched to one side, injuring 100 of the passengers on board.

The "vast majority" of passengers sustained minor injuries, but five people needed immediate medical treatment according to the Saga Cruises.

Jan Bendall, 75, who was on the cruise ship with her husband, said the ship remained stationarity for 15 hours as the storm continued. She told the BBC: "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."

Describing the situation, another passenger said "tables were flying," as the waves were "throwing people around all up and down the place".Families of the passengers showed concern on social media as one wrote on X about their in-laws' "horrendous journey."

Las Palmas was scheduled as the last stop, but the crew cancelled the last leg of the trip after the weather conditions worsened and instead attempted to head for A Coruña in northwest Spain.

The Spirit Discovery returned to the UK after A Coruña’s port was closed. It docked in Portsmouth on Monday, with passengers leaving on Tuesday morning.

A spokeswoman said: "Spirit of Discovery was sadly caught in the challenging weather conditions this weekend, as she started her return to the UK.

"The ship remained safe at all times, but due to the impact of the storm some guests sustained injuries. All were treated immediately by onboard medical staff.”

"While the weather is clearly beyond our control, we want to offer our sincere apologies to all those affected who are now safely back, having sailed home in calmer seas."