- Two-week cruise began on October 24 but ended prematurely due to the storm
- Spanish ports were closed due to bad weather, forcing crew to turn back to UK
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Around 100 holidaymakers were injured on Saturday when a Saga cruise ship heading back to Britain was battered by gale force winds and 30ft waves as it crossed the Bay of Biscay off France‘s west coast.
The passengers and crew of cruiseliner ‘Spirit of Discovery’ faced a harrowing ordeal when they were forced to cut a trip to the Canary Islands short last week as weather reports forecasted a horrific storm.
The ship departed Britain on October 24 for a two-week cruise but on Saturday the decision was made to abandon the final few days and turn back to the UK to avoid the oncoming tempest.
But while sailing through the Bay of Biscay, the punishing winds and choppy waters caught up with them, and at around 12:30pm the conditions were so rough that the ship’s automatic safety system was activated.
The vessel’s engines fired and jerked the ship into a tight turn, causing some 100 passengers minor injuries as they were caught off guard and tumbled to the floor or slammed into furniture.
For the next 18 hours, passengers – including five who suffered more serious wounds – were forced to ride out the brutal storm, nursing their wounds as the ship held position and waited for the worst to pass.
In a letter to passengers seen by Portsmouth outlet The News, Saga Cruises CEO Nigel Blanks attempted to assuage the traumatised passengers, acknowledging the ‘extremely frightening time’ while emphasising that the ship remained ‘safe’.
Blanks also promised forthcoming details on compensation following the ‘disappointing end’ to the ill-fated cruise.
The passengers and crew of cruiseliner ‘Spirit of Discovery’ (pictured) faced a harrowing ordeal when they were forced to cut a trip to the Canary Islands short last week
One thousand passengers embarked on the cruise, with 10 per cent sustaining injuries.
The five more seriously injured passengers were treated at the ship’s medical centre and were taken to hospital last night as a precaution after the vessel finally arrived at Portsmouth Port.
Were YOU aboard the cruise ship?
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Responding to questions over the decision to return to the UK via the Bay of Biscay, Saga contended that continuing on the original tour or choosing an alternate route would have meant confronting the storm head-on.
The crew had initially planned to moor at La Coruna port in Northwestern Spain, but were informed while en route the port had been closed due to bad weather, forcing them to continue north and traverse Biscay on the way to the UK.
The company maintains that the ship was adequately prepared for the anticipated challenging conditions.
A Saga Cruises statement 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 on their way home in calmer seas.’