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On November 6, 2023, an unsettling incident occurred aboard the cruise ship Spirit of Discovery as it traversed the tempestuous waters of Biscay Bay. Adverse weather conditions, including gale-force winds and towering 9-meter waves, prompted the activation of the vessel’s propulsion safety system, triggering an automatic change of course. This unfortunate event resulted in injuries to approximately 100 passengers out of the ship’s total of around 1000. While most injuries were minor, five passengers suffered more severe harm and required treatment at the ship’s medical clinic. Upon reaching Portsmouth International Port in England, these seriously injured passengers were swiftly offloaded and transported to a local hospital for further care.
Details of the Incident
The incident took place around 12:30 PM SBT (11:30 UTC) while the Spirit of Discovery was navigating through the challenging waters of the Biscay Bay. The adverse weather conditions, characterized by gale-force winds and towering waves, led to the automatic activation of the vessel’s propulsion safety system, which caused an unplanned course change. This sudden maneuver resulted in injuries to approximately 100 passengers, with five individuals sustaining more significant harm.
In response to the injured passengers’ medical needs, the ship’s medical staff promptly provided care in the onboard Infirmary. Upon the ship’s arrival at Portsmouth International Port on Portsea Island, England, the five seriously injured passengers were safely disembarked and transported to a local hospital via ambulance.
Given the ongoing adverse weather conditions and to ensure passenger safety, the ship’s Master, Captain Darin Bowland, decided to maintain the vessel’s position for approximately 18 hours until the storm and gales subsided.
The decision to return to the UK earlier than originally scheduled was influenced by information received by the Master regarding the closure of Port La Coruna in Spain due to inclement weather. To avoid the impending storm, Captain Bowland chose to return to the UK, as alternative routes would have exposed the vessel to the same challenging weather conditions. Saga Cruises, the operator of the Spirit of Discovery, confirmed that preparations had been made to navigate through the adverse conditions encountered during the Bay of Biscay crossing.
In response to the incident, Saga Cruises issued a statement expressing their commitment to passenger safety and offering sincere apologies to those affected. The statement acknowledged that the weather conditions were beyond their control and assured that the injured passengers had received immediate medical attention. It further mentioned that the affected passengers were on their way home in calmer seas.
The accident took place at the conclusion of the 14-day “Canary Island Quintet Cruise,” with an itinerary spanning from October 24 to November 7, operating on a roundtrip route from Portsmouth, England. The cruise originally included port calls in Funchal Madeira, Santa Cruz de la Palma, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Arrecife Lanzarote, Puerto del Rosario Fuerteventura, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and La Coruna.