Couple relive nightmare evening aboard Marco Polo cruise ship as wind and waves battered the vessel
PUBLISHED: 12:23 21 February 2014 | UPDATED: 22:20 22 February 2014
Littleport couple Jake and Julie Coleby had a lucky escape after an enormous wave which hit their cruise ship and killed a passenger narrowly missed them.
The retired couple were returning from a once-in-a-lifetime cruise along the Amazon River, in Brazil, when they got caught in Friday’s violent storm in the English Chanel, with winds in excess of 80mph.
Enormous waves were crashing into the British vessel Marco Polo and Mr Coleby, 74, said people were being knocked off their feet while furniture was sent flying.
The couple began the evening of Valentine’s Day in the ship’s restaurant but, when tables started sliding across the dining room and passengers falling out of seats, they decided to beat a retreat to their cabin.
But matters quickly worsened and Mr Coleby, a retired mechanic, said he and his wife, who celebrated her 69th birthday on the cruise, had no choice but to stay on the bed as standing up proved impossible.
He said: “I know young people use the word ‘awesome’ a lot these days but the waves were truly awesome. The power was just unbelievable. At some points the window of our cabin was covered top to bottom by the sea.
“After a while we just gave up trying to put furniture back, it was like walking up the side of a mountain. It was so rough, we could see the boat going up and down.
“Our cabin attendant, a young Ukrainian girl, came in to check on us at one point and as soon as she opened the door she was straight on to her backside and slid across the room and she couldn’t get back up for some time.
“I think it was fortunate we left the restaurant when we did because not long after we went, the passengers were told they had to sit on the floor and they were there for four hours while the storm was at its worst.
“The wave that caused a lot of injuries and led to someone being killed hit a deck below us, so we were quite lucky. I have to say that the crew of the rescue helicopter which came to collect him were incredibly brave.”
James Swinstead, 85, of Colchester, Essex, died after a huge wave crashed into the vessel.
His widow, Helen, praised the crew but said that the ship was “badly maintained”.
Operator Cruise and Maritime Voyages said the ship was fully compliant with maritime regulation but Mr Coleby, of Silt Road, said that the boat was “rather old to say the least”.
The couple were allowed to disembark the ship at the end of their six-week cruise on Sunday morning and were greeted by their relieved daughter Marianne at their home in Silt Road.