Pictures taken into the cruise ship battered by a storm, leaving passengers screaming for their lives as they crossed the Bay of Biscay, have revealed the extent of the chaos left in the aftermath.
The Spirit of Discovery left the UK on October 24 for a two-week cruise but turned back early on November 4 due to a storm.
While going through the Bay of Biscay off the western coast of France, 30ft waves smashed into the ship and shattered windows and the rocking threw furniture around.
Richard Reynolds, 60, was on the ship with his wife and elderly parents. He described it as one of the most traumatic things he’s ever experienced.
His 84-year-old mother was injured after being thrown to the floor by a wave and the family was kept in their cabins.
Others wrote goodbye messages to their families and didn’t take off lifejackets for two days.
He said: “The whole experience was horrendous. 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.”
Another passenger told the BBC ‘tables were flying’ and the waves were ‘throwing people around all up and down the place’. It’s believed that more than 100 of the 1,000 passengers were injured when the boat made a sharp turn.
“The medical ward was so swamped they had to turn the main dining room into a makeshift first aid area because it was completely overrun,” said Mr Reynolds.
Five 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 Harbour.
Saga has said that continuing on the original tour or choosing an alternate route to northwestern Spain would have meant confronting the storm head-on. 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.”