Cruise nightmare 'like a disaster movie'

01:43, Jan 31 2009
SAFE ON LAND: Passengers Henry and Pam Garrett of Northcote leave the ship. Henry was injured.

Passengers disembarking from the storm-hit cruise liner Pacific Sun have spoken of a nightmare journey like a "disaster movie", complete with gruesome injuries.

The P&O cruise liner hit  rough weather at about 7pm on Wednesday night causing many of the 1732 passengers on board to fear for their lives.

Fairfax Media understands one passenger lost a fingertip, while another passenger has a fractured pelvis and a broken arm.

LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Theona Wright of Auckland, who suffered severe bruising to her arm when a slot machine fell on her in the Pacific Sun's casino. She said she felt lucky to be alive.

A spokesperson for Carnival Lines told Fairfax Media a passenger's claim that someone had lost a foot was wrong.

Many others have cuts from flying glass and have required multiple stitches.

Two New Plymouth women on board the liner told the Taranaki Daily News "it was like being in a disaster movie."

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DISEMBARKING: The Pacific Sun berths in Auckland.

New Plymouth receptionist Erica MacGregor said: "There were screams and people crying as they looked for their lost children."

The storm hit just after dark as many were sitting down for dinner, she said.

"In the dining rooms the tables were bolted down but nothing else was and everything just went flying.

SAFE HARBOUR: The Pacific Sun in calm waters.

"It was like slow motion but happened so quickly. People were desperately trying to grab hold of things to keep safe,” Ms MacGregor said.

Diane Wilson thought she was going to die.

"This is an official change to my will,'' Ms Wilson wrote in an e-mail to her two children in New Plymouth.

She said the ship had left port despite being warned of the horrific storm on its way.

"Sorry for sounding negative but we are in for two more days of hell and I am struggling not to just sit down and cry. Hopefully see you in a couple of days but if this floating disaster goes down fight for us,'' she said.

Chris and Joy Vickers from Tauranga said they were on the top deck when a massive wave hit.

They were thrown about the deck from side to side "like human ragdolls."

Numerous people suffered injuries including compound fractures and broken ribs.

Mrs Vickers said she didn't have the words to describe what it was like.

"Just think [of the movie] Poseidon," she said.

Passenger Kevin Partridge said a crew member working in the pizzaria suffered internal injuries but was stabilised on board.

He said he was in the restaurant having dinner at the time the wave hit. There was lots of flying crockery and glasses but at no time did he think the ship was in danger, Mr Partridge said.

"A couple of people got caught in the middle of it, that's all."

He and his wife Karryl and four other member of their group were booked on the next two cruises, which were 10 and eight nights respectively, and had no concerns about reboarding the ship.

The group were seasoned seafarers, having been on more than 30 cruises.

Approximately 42 passengers were injured.

P & O spokesman Anthony Fisk said the course for the cruise between Vanuatu and Auckland had been planned to avoid as much of the poor weather as possible, but the ship had still been unexpectedly caught out.

Mr Fisk said the worst two injuries to passengers were a fractured pelvis and fractured wrist. Four other people suffered minor fractures but he did not have any details, and was unable to confirm the condition of any of the crew members. Damage to the ship was "superficial", he said.

Mr Fisk said the company would do all it could to help passengers, and that included offering compensation on a "case-by-case basis".

Fairfax Media