Saga Cruise ship passengers 'texted families goodbye' as boat was battered by massive waves in Bay of Biscay

8 November 2023, 08:39

Around 100 people suffered injuries on board the ship when it was caught in bad weather
Around 100 people suffered injuries on board the ship when it was caught in bad weather. Picture: Alamy/Social media

By Asher McShane

Passengers have told of their terror on board a Saga cruise ship as 30 foot waves battered the vessel in the Bay of Biscay.

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The Spirit of Discovery ship was forced to cut short its two-week voyage, returning to Portsmouth on Saturday after tourists were left fearing for their lives.

Around 100 people suffered injuries on board the ship, with some taken to hospital when it reached port.

One passenger , 58, said: “You could hear plates crashing and then there was an announcement from the captain who screamed over the tannoy system as the ship veered. The panic in his voice made everyone else panic.

“The medics were overrun. My mum saw someone being resuscitated, there were broken bones, people on stretchers and people crying including the crew, who were running around frantically trying to help everyone. It was petrifying.

The Spirit of Discovery ship was forced to cut short its two-week voyage
The Spirit of Discovery ship was forced to cut short its two-week voyage. Picture: Alamy

“People were sleeping with life jackets on and writing messages home to loved ones in case we didn’t get back. We’re happy to be alive.”

Another passenger, Peter Sawyerl, 76, said : “We couldn’t believe how high we were being thrown when the 54ft waves were hitting. People were being picked up off the floor.”

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

“The whole experience was horrendous,” he said.

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

About 100 guests on board were injured with five suffering "more serious injuries."

The Saga Cruises ship Spirit of Discovery was on a 14-night cruise to the Canary Islands when it was hit by the bad weather conditions last weekend.

It is understood the ship had to cancel a visit to Las Palmas as the weather worsened and was instead heading towards La Corona when that port was closed because of the conditions.

The ship's crew took the decision to return to the UK when the ship's propulsion safety system was activated in the poor weather causing it to veer suddenly to the left, bringing the vessel to a sudden halt.

This led to 100 of the 1,000 guests on board being hurt with the "vast majority" suffering minor injuries although five needed treatment for more serious injuries in the ship's medical facilities, according to Saga Cruises.

Passenger Jan Bendall, 75, told the BBC that she and her husband were "holding on for dear life" during the storm and added: "It was quite frightening, I'm not somebody who frightens easily, it was quite dramatic."

She described how the staff were "absolutely fantastic" and set up "a makeshift medical area" in the dining room to treat the injured while passengers were told to stay in their cabins for the rest of Saturday and Sunday.

The Spirit of Discovery arrived back at Portsmouth on Monday evening but Saga Cruises has not confirmed if any of those injured require further treatment ashore.

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."