|Cruise Ship MSC Opera|
But the ten-day cruise quickly turned into a nightmare for the 1,700 people on board – including 400 Britons – when their luxury liner broke down in the Baltic Sea.
Holidaymakers aboard the stricken MSC Opera staged a mutiny after enduring blackouts, food shortages and no running water or working toilets for almost three days. The passengers were yesterday towed to land in Sweden and placed on flights to take them home.
The cruise liner had set sail from Southampton on Saturday, May 7. But it ran into trouble in the Baltic Sea off Sweden on Saturday when the ship’s electricity – and attempts to restart the engines – failed. Retired Isle of Wight hotelier Mary Birch, 65, said her fellow passengers directed their fury at the captain and were placated with free alcohol by anxious staff.
Mrs Birch said: ‘We stopped in the middle of the Baltic, nobody knew why, for about three hours. Then it came across the tannoy that the boat was experiencing some difficulties and then it stopped again for 12 hours, and then finally they got some tugs out to pull us in.
‘The toilets were unusable and then they got them working and then they didn’t work again. There was no water. Food-wise, we’ve just been on rolls.’
Mrs Birch, who was speaking to Isle of Wight Radio, added: ‘The captain we haven’t seen, there was a bit of a mutiny [on Sunday night], everybody shouting for the captain but he never appeared and then they decided to give us all free drink.
Her son Mark Birch, senior coxswain at the Sandown and Shanklin Inshore Lifeboat, who was not on board the ship, said passengers chanted: ‘We want the captain, we want the captain.’ He added: ‘He wouldn’t come down but they opened the bar to calm everyone down.’
Mr Birch said his mother had saved up for the cruise as she had always longed to visit St Petersburg. ‘They’ve been offered a free cruise but she’s a bit frightened of the sea and I imagine it will put her off for life.’
Jo Orchard from Exmouth, Devon, received a panicked telephone call from her parents Dennis and Linda Huntley, who took the trip to celebrate Mr Huntley turning 65. Mrs Orchard said: ‘For 24 hours, they were told nothing. They had no water, no electricity, no food, no sanitation. All they had to eat all day was a dry biscuit.
‘It was scary for them. They were just floating aimlessly in the dark.’ Their ordeal came to an end when tugs were sent out on Sunday to pull the vessel to shore.
It reached land yesterday and passengers were bussed to Stockholm and flown to Bournemouth last night.
An MSC Cruises spokesman said all passengers would receive a credit voucher for another ten-day cruise. The company has cancelled the ship’s next excursion, due to sail out of Southampton today, which will affect around 500 passengers.