A couple has opened up about the scary moment they were warned to “remain seated or lie down” as a storm ravaged their cruise ship. This halted their progress in the Bay of Biscay, forcing them to hang on for all they were worth.
The cruise ship, named The Spirit of Discovery, was on its way back to Portsmouth after cutting short its two-week voyage when raging winds and choppy waters caught up with it. The storm left about 100 people out of 1000 onboard injured. Most got hurt as the ship’s safety system was activated, causing it to veer and grind to a halt.
The force reportedly tossed people around. Photos of the aftermath show books and furniture flung to the ground. Jan Bendall, 75, was traveling with her husband. She reported that after the emergency stop, the vessel remained unmoving right in the middle of the storm. This lasted for 15 hours.
She said: “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.”
According to her, a part of the dining room was converted into “a makeshift medical area.” Meanwhile, all passengers were instructed to remain in their cabins for the rest of Saturday, November 4, 2023, and the whole of Sunday, November 5, 2023.
It was a trying ordeal, but Mrs Bendall praised the staff for being very professional. She said the crew and captain gave regular updates and constantly reassured passengers that “the ship is safe.”
Bendall and her hubby exited the ship at about 09.00 GMT on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. They witnessed workers doing considerable repair work on the ship’s parts smashed in the storm, even though the company had stated minimal damage.
Other passengers told news outlets that the ship’s captain had sounded “physically scared” when he spoke to them. Staff members were reportedly crying as they worried about safety. Richard Reynolds, a 60-year-old, had been on the ship with his wife and elderly parents. He called the ordeal one of the most traumatic things he had ever experienced.
His mother, 84, got injured during the whole affair while he and others were sequestered in their cabins. Some wrote final messages to family members and wore lifejackets for two days in case the ship capsized.
It was supposed to be a fun-filled cruise. It cost Reynolds and his family £19,000. However, it traumatized them, and he is now considering legal action against Saga.
He said: “We haven’t seen the captain since this incident – normally they would say goodbye to their passengers. All we have had is a letter from the CEO Nigel Blanks apologizing, which was normal corporate drivel, saying they will be in contact in a week regarding compensation.”
Including him and his family, Reynolds believes that the actual number of people injured is closer to 150 than 100. He added: “There were 980 passengers on board, and we heard that over 150 people were injured; that’s 15% of passengers when the average age was 76.”
Reynolds also insists that the injuries were far from minor. He is incensed that passengers were subjected to extreme conditions, but the event is being whitewashed. In response to questions about the decision to return to the UK via the Bay of Biscay, Saga stated that proceeding on the original tour or choosing an alternate route would have meant facing the storm head-on.
The company also certifies that the ship was well prepared for the challenging conditions. However, according to Mr. Reynolds, the event could have been avoided if Saga had not prioritized getting the vessel back ready for the next cruise.
He said: “The bottom line is we shouldn’t have been there, we were the only cruise ship that didn’t seek shelter.”
Reynolds continued: “I was tracking this storm on my phone two days before we got to it. They thought they could get ahead of it. But we were trapped in the storm with 14-meter waves and 70 mph winds.”
The company has apologized to those affected by what happened and has confirmed that those on board are safely home.