Passengers on board the P&O cruise ship, Britannia, have shared their harrowing experiences after the vessel collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Spain. The ship, which had a capacity of 3,647 passengers, was "close to capacity" when gale-force winds caused it to break free from its mooring and crash into the tanker. The incident occurred during a storm off the coast of Palma de Mallorca.
One Welsh woman, who was on the ship with her partner and two children, described the scene as "panic stations." She explained that they were initially told they could leave their cabins, but soon discovered that all crew members were wearing life jackets and preparing for an emergency. "We were up browsing on our phones in bed and heard the big horn after the bang. It was panic stations, I was bawling my eyes out," she said. "We went out onto our balcony and could see debris in the ocean and all the damage to the side of the boat and our lifeboat. The captain said: 'Everyone to their muster stations, this is not a drill.'"
Another family on board reported hearing a loud bang and seeing falling debris before being advised by the captain to stay in their cabins. Passenger Ricky Stubbs described the chaos that ensued, with people running and trying to escape the strong winds and rain. "People were being ushered in by other guests and staff. You could clearly see some had injuries due to either falling over or debris flying around, and people were distraught."
Despite the chaos, passengers praised the captain and crew for their calm response to the situation. Mark Beckwith, another passenger, commended the captain for doing an "amazingly calm job" in handling the incident. He also mentioned that the atmosphere on board was now calm and relaxed as the ship was redocking to collect passengers who had been off the ship during the incident.
Footage posted on social media showed the Britannia swaying in the gale-force winds before breaking free from its mooring. The ship was then blown by the winds towards the oil tanker. Some passengers were injured during the incident, either from falls or flying debris. The storm in Mallorca had produced winds of up to 74 mph and heavy rainfall, leading to an amber weather alert on the island.
Following a technical assessment, it was determined that one of the Britannia's lifeboats had sustained structural damage and could not be repaired on board. As a result, 321 guests were scheduled to be flown home early as the ship returned to Southampton, UK, in compliance with maritime law. P&O Cruises, the company operating the ship, apologized for the incident and stated that the remaining passengers would still be able to enjoy the entertainment and activities scheduled for the remainder of their trip.
Passengers who experienced the terrifying collision expressed their dissatisfaction with the compensation offered by P&O Cruises. Despite being offered a 20 percent discount on their next cruise, some felt that it did not adequately compensate for the distressing situation they had endured. Nonetheless, they maintained respect for the captain and crew who remained calm and kept them updated throughout the ordeal.
In a statement, a spokesperson for P&O Cruises acknowledged the minor injuries sustained by a small number of individuals and assured that they were being cared for by the onboard medical center. They also reiterated that the incident was weather-related and that the ship was required to return to Southampton with a reduced number of passengers due to the damaged lifeboat.