Furious passengers screamed for their lives as 30-foot waves crashed into the side of their cruise ship and prepared to sue Saga for millions of pounds if they were not given adequate compensation.
The Spirit of Discovery ended its two-week voyage to Portsmouth on Saturday after tourists feared for their lives amid the terrifying Bay of Biscay storm.
About 100 of the 980 people on board were injured, with Saga claiming the majority of them were injured when the ship’s safety system activated, causing it to dramatically veer and shudder to a stop, but passengers on board said many others suffered emotional trauma incurred.
In a letter to passengers, Saga CEO Nigel Blanks promised a compensation offer by the end of the week, but a group of at least 25 passengers are already gathering evidence in anticipation of a lawsuit.
Richard Reynolds, 60, who traveled with his wife and elderly parents, spent £19,000 on the cruise. During the terrifying crossing of the Bay of Biscay, his mother was injured after being thrown off balance by a giant wave and spent two nights in the medical center.
Richard Reynolds, 60, who was traveling with his wife Jayne (pictured on board before she was caught in the storm) on the cruise ship The Spirit of Discovery, feared for their lives during the cruise when they found themselves in the middle of a terrifying storm in the Bay of Biscay
The Spirit of Discovery cut short its two-week voyage and returned to Portsmouth on Saturday as holidaymakers feared for their lives during the Bay of Biscay storm
The majority of those injured were injured when the ship’s safety system activated, causing the ship to dramatically veer and shudder to a stop, Saga said.
The ship was halted for 18 hours, at the mercy of towering waves, with passengers claiming the waves were as high as 17 meters – bigger than three double-decker buses.
He said: ‘A lot of people have been injured, but many more people have been traumatized by what happened
‘My wife has not been able to sleep for the past two nights, my mother was in tears when she got off the boat.
‘The whole experience was terrible. Waves hit the windows of the fifth floor, people screamed and furniture, dishes and glass flew in all directions.
‘People were screaming for their lives, things were crashing and crashing around us and they thought they were going to die.
‘We were there to accompany my elderly parents, my mother was in the medical department because she had fallen. They were so swamped that they had to turn the main dining room into a makeshift first aid room as it was completely flooded.
‘She witnessed someone being resuscitated by three staff members.
“We are waiting to see what Saga says about compensation, but have formed an action group including people who know much more about the law than I do, to gather video and photographic evidence and we are not ruling out legal action at all.”
As the cruise ship was mercilessly battered for 18 hours, some desperate passengers wrote notes to loved ones in case they didn’t make it home – while other traumatized travelers wore life jackets for two days.
As the cruise ship was mercilessly battered for 18 hours, some desperate passengers wrote notes to loved ones in case they didn’t make it home – while other traumatized travelers wore life jackets for two days
The horrific ordeal saw part of the dining room converted into “a makeshift medical room” and passengers were told to remain in their cabins for the rest of Saturday and throughout Sunday.
About 100 of the 1,000 people on board were injured, but some passengers who saw the carnage firsthand warn that the number of injured could be closer to 150.
A map showing the planned route of The Spirit of Discovery. The cruise ship was sailing through the Bay of Biscay when 100 passengers were injured
In response to questions about the decision to return to Britain via the Bay of Biscay, Saga claimed that continuing the original tour or choosing an alternative route would have meant facing the storm head-on.
The crew initially planned to dock at the port of La Coruna in northwestern Spain, but along the way were told the port was closed due to bad weather, forcing them to continue north and cross Biscay on the way to Great Britain.
The company claims that the vessel was adequately prepared for the expected challenging conditions.
But Mr Reynolds claims Saga prioritized getting the ship ready for the next cruise.
He added: ‘The bottom line is we shouldn’t have been there, we were the only cruise ship that didn’t seek shelter.
‘Three days before the storm hit, we were told that we were trying to get ahead of the storm. All they cared about was getting back in time for the next cruise.
“In the end they gambled and it came to nothing, and now they have to make amends.
‘All we’ve had is a letter from CEO Nigel Blanks apologizing, which is normal corporate stuff, and saying they’ll be in touch this week about compensation.
‘I know very well why they do that. When we are back in our beautiful, cozy homes, the elderly begin to forget the trauma.
Pictured is Saga Cruises’ Spirit of Discovery in port at Portsmouth International Port after the incident last weekend
The ship’s automatic safety system activated, causing the engines to fire and the ship into a sharp turn, reportedly causing injuries
“What they’re trying to do is split the passengers up so they can get 50% off their offer, then 20% might go a little further than 30% who they might have to deal with.
“The next stage is to wait for correspondence from Saga, but they need to know this won’t go away.”
A statement from Saga Cruises said: ‘Spirit of Discovery was unfortunately caught out by challenging weather conditions this weekend as she began her return to Britain.
‘The ship remained safe at all times, but the impact of the storm caused some guests to sustain injuries. All were immediately treated by medical personnel on board.
‘While the weather is clearly beyond our control, we would like to sincerely apologize to all those affected who are now safely on their way home in calmer seas.’