Shropshire Star

Couple tell of frightening experience after cruise ship hit by storm in Bay of Biscay

A retired couple have described their frightening experience on board a cruise ship which was hit by a severe storm in the Bay of Biscay at the weekend.

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Peter and Elaine Webber enjoying a meal on their cruise before the storm hit.

Peter and Elaine Webber, from Berriew, near Welshpool, were on a two-week Canaries trip with Saga Cruises when they were caught up in the drama at sea, which reportedly left 100 passengers with injuries.

The Spirit of Discovery was hit by a huge wave while Peter and Elaine were about to have a meal in their cabin.

Peter, 88, who was seated, was sent flying across the cabin along with a table and chairs, while Elaine was thrown head first onto the bed and, fortunately, escaped injury.

Mr Webber, former owner of cancer diagnostics company CellPath in Newtown, said: “I received a gash on my leg as I was thrown across the cabin with our lunch and I ended up on the deck of the boat and couldn’t move until a cabin assistant came and lifted me up.

"All in all, it was a scary and harrowing experience.

“If we had been forced to abandon ship, there is no way we could have been rescued from that sea. The crew did their best and they couldn’t control the weather, but I think the captain could have made different decisions because we were tracking the ship’s route."

The Spirit of Discovery

He added: “We missed out on the last island and lost four days of our 14-day cruise because of the storm. I learned at school about the terror of the Bay of Biscay but I never thought I would live to experience it!”

In a letter of apology to Mr and Mrs Webber, Nigel Blanks, Saga Cruises chief executive, stated that the ship was heading to Las Palmas when the captain decided to change direction to La Coruna to get ahead of the approaching storm.

Subsequently, he was informed that La Coruna port was closing due to the worsening weather conditions.

The captain decided to head back to the UK earlier than planned to avoid the storm, while accepting that there would be challenging conditions crossing the Bay of Biscay.

However, at around 12.20pm on Saturday, the propulsion safety system activated, causing the ship to turn suddenly and come to a halt.

Mr Blanks wrote: “I understand it was at this time that a number of guests sustained injuries which was very sorry to hear about.

“The master then took the correct decision to hold our position until the conditions improved sufficiently for us to continue our journey back to the UK.

“I appreciate it was an extremely frightening time but I wanted to reassure you that the ship itself remained safe.”

Saga Cruises has promised to get back to passengers with details of a compensation package by the end of this week.

It has been reported that around 100 people were injured, with five people taken to hospital when the ship docked in Portsmouth on Monday.

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