A cruise ship hosting performances by eighties pop acts including Tony Hadley, Toyah and T’Pau has been rocked after a passenger allegedly jumped overboard.
The Virgin Voyages cruise ship Valiant Lady had been on its way back to its boarding point Portsmouth from its tour of Spanish and Portuguese ports on the Atlantic when the male passenger went into the water on Wednesday night.
When it was discovered that the man had gone into the sea, the ship turned round to search for the person overboard.
Coastguards in France and Spain were alerted and a spotter plane and helicopter were dispatched to try to locate the passenger in the water.
Two merchant vessels in the vicinity were also diverted to assist in the search. The Valiant Lady’s captain even asked cruise passengers to try to scan the water for any glimpse of the missing person.
The Valiant Lady (pictured here moored at Liverpool, was enroute to Portsmouth after a tour of Spain and Portugal when tragedy is said to have occurred
A male passenger is feared to have drowned after going overboard on the Valiant Lady
The cruise ship featured stars including Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley and T’Pau’s Carol Decker
But after hours of searching in vain the rescue operation was finally suspended yesterday evening. The passenger, believed to be British, is now feared drowned.
Further inquiries on board revealed the man had apparently jumped overboard ‘deliberately’. It’s not clear yet whether the jump was witnessed by others passengers or picked up on CCTV.
After the search was suspended the Valiant Lady resumed her original course and is expected to dock in Portsmouth this evening, around 12 hours later than originally planned.
The incident was the culmination in a series of incidents that had already blighted the cruise – on which passengers paid up to £5,000 to enjoy the cruise as well as an entertainment bill featuring eighties stars also including former Spandau Ballet frontman Tony Hadley, Toyah, T’Pau, Altered Images, ABC singer Martin Fry and former Radio 1 DJs Bruno Brookes and Gary Davies.
One passenger said: ‘Everyone among the passengers is devastated by what’s happened – it’s just horrible to think that a fellow passenger has probably died.’
The party cruise ship offered glamorous nightlife with icons including former Spandau Ballet frontman Tony Hadley, Toyah, T’Pau, Altered Images, ABC singer Martin Fry and former Radio 1 DJs Bruno Brookes and Gary Davies
The male passenger is said to have gone overboard from the deck of the cruise ship Valiant Lady
A Virgin Voyages spokesman said: ‘In the early hours of the morning, we were informed of a man overboard incident involving a Sailor [passenger], which resulted in a search and rescue mission. We’re deeply saddened by this news and our thoughts are with this Sailor’s family and loved ones. Our investigation indicates that this was an intentional act and that no foul play is suspected.’
A Maritime and Coastguard spokesperson said: ‘Since 7.30am yesterday HM Coastguard was coordinating a search for a man overboard from the Valiant Lady cruise ship in the Bay of Biscay, with the assistance of our counterparts in Spain and France.
‘The French sent a fixed wing aircraft to provide air support to a helicopter sent by Spain to conduct a search. Two merchant vessels and the cruise ship were also assisting. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has been informed.’
They confirmed yesterday evening that the search had been called off.
The cruise had already experienced a number of problems as it journeyed around the Atlantic from Portsmouth
The itinerary should have included La Coruna in Spain, Madeira, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and two full days and an evening in Lisbon but the latter had to be cut to one evening and Madeira dropped all together.
Then, a passenger became gravely ill and had to be airlifted off the ship by helicopter, a drama that dominated one evening.
And finally on Wednesday night, a passenger ‘deliberately jumped’ into the sea, causing the ship to delay its return to the UK to look for him. It had been due in Portsmouth tomorrow but looks certain to be delayed.
A map shows the route of the beleaguered cruise ship, which was forced to abandon Madeira among its destinations
The Valiant Lady promised to be a fun voyage featuring 80s icons Tony Hadley and T’Pau
Another passenger said: ‘The cruise has felt cursed from the outset – it’s been beset by one problem after another. First it was small things like them running out of food and drinks and the wifi not working, then the performances were being rejigged and the itinerary changed.
‘There were covid infections – they had to create an area of the ship for those who tested positive to isolate in. And then someone got so ill they had to be air lifted to hospital. And now this terrible incident. It’s been awful.’
The Virgin Voyages spokesman added: ‘We did have an earlier incident where one of our Sailors on board experienced a medical emergency and required shoreside medical care.
‘Our team acted quickly and with the help of the local authorities, we were able to have them airlifted to the hospital. We’re very happy to report that this person is doing well and receiving medical care.
‘In terms of the other areas of focus, we set ourselves a high standard and in this case we have fallen short on some things and we are very sorry this has not been ideal.
‘While not everything is in our control like supply chain challenges to fulfill all the offerings on board, or the weather, we remain focused on the Sailor experience and know we need to keep improving.’
Last night passengers were informed that because of the problems with the trip they would be offered a free European cruise with Virgin Voyages this summer.
Imagine Cruises which had chartered the boat and arranged the cruise have been contacted for comment.
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