Storm injures 100 cruise ship passengers in Bay of Biscay

Passengers on board a cruise ship have described “holding on for dear life” as they were caught in a storm off the western coast of France.

Around 100 people suffered injuries when the Saga Cruises ship Spirit of Discovery was hit by bad weather conditions in the Bay of Biscay last weekend.

The majority of the injuries were minor, the cruise line confirmed but said that with five individuals needed treatment for more serious injuries in our medical facilities onboard.

As a result, the vessel cut short its 14-day cruise and returned to the UK last night (6 November).

Since disembarking in Portmouth this morning (7 November), passengers have spoken of their experience, some claiming they were told to remain in their cabins as the ship rocked in the strong waves.

Passenger Jan Bendall, 75, told the BBC that she and her husband were “holding on for dear life” during the storm and added: “It was quite frightening, I’m not somebody who frightens easily, it was quite dramatic.”

She described how the staff were “absolutely fantastic” and set up “a makeshift medical area” in the dining room to treat the injured while passengers were told to stay in their cabins for the rest of Saturday and Sunday.

There were around 1,000 passengers sailing at the time of the incident. The ship, which has been sailing since 2019, veered to one side as the propulsion safety system was activated when after the vessel found it itself in poor weather.

Were you, or anyone you know, on board Spirit of Discovery? Email

After departing the UK for the Canary Islands on 24 October, the first 10 days of the 14-day holiday went as planned, but the final stop in Las Palmas was dropped when a storm was forecast.

A course was plotted to the port in A Coruna, in northwest Spain, but adverse weather forced it to close – with crew deciding to head back to the UK early. It was here, while in an area known for rough seas, that the injuries occurred.

A spokesperson for Saga Cruises said: “Spirit of Discovery was sadly caught in the challenging weather conditions this weekend, as she started her return to the UK. The ship remained safe at all times, but due to the impact of the storm some guests sustained injuries.

“All were treated immediately by onboard medical staff. While the weather is clearly beyond our control, we want to offer our sincere apologies to all those affected who are now safely back, having sailed home in calmer seas.”

Last month, an explosion on a cruise ship docked in the US, owned by American Queen Voyages, left one crew member burned and led to the evacuation of more than 200 people onboard.