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Friends’ storm ordeal on North Sea ferry

FERRY FURY ... from left, Alison Gibbs, Emma Gardner and Stacie Burton and, inset, Stacies bruised leg. Below, a helicopter over the vessel as it headed to Holland and photographs of the storm-hit vessel.

FERRY FURY ... from left, Alison Gibbs, Emma Gardner and Stacie Burton and, inset, Stacies bruised leg. Below, a helicopter over the vessel as it headed to Holland and photographs of the storm-hit vessel.

A FURIOUS ferry passenger says her North Sea crossing ended in “carnage” after setting sail in one of the worst storms to hit the North East in years.

Angry Emma Gardner hit out at DFDS Seaways for allowing their Amsterdam-bound vessel to leave the Tyne last Thursday.

The 29-year-old, from Marsden, South Shields, and four of her friends had booked the ferry trip to Holland for a Christmas shopping trip.

But their time on board the Princess Seaways turned into a nightmare when they sailed into severely bad weather.

Emma, a civil servant, says conditions on the ship were so bad that passengers were thrown from their chairs and beds, hot coffee pots flew towards them, and tables were thrown across the room.

She said: “The weather was really bad on Thursday, and we’d heard that the ferry meant to be sailing on Wednesday night had been cancelled, so we rang up to check.

“We were told we were still going and we were on the ferry for 3pm, but we didn’t set sail until 5.30pm.”

Despite the ferry being scheduled to arrive in Amsterdam at 9.30am the following day, it was 2pm before the girls – Emma, Alsion Gibbs, Stacie Burton and Carol Trevor – arrived.

Emma said: “We were terrified when we were on the ship and when we got home we were told there had been a Force 12 violent storm.

“We should never have set sail in that weather – it was dangerous, and it made a lot of people ill.

“When people complained to staff about it, they told people they couldn’t help the weather and asked people what they expected when they were on a ship.

“I know the weather can’t be controlled, but I don’t think we should have set sail when it was that bad.”

She added: “There was a woman who was literally flung from her wheelchair, people were being thrown around the restaurant, a hot coffee pot flew off the counter in the restaurant and narrowly missed us, the duty free shop had to close because all the bottles were falling and smashing everywhere – it was carnage.”

Emma said that she and her party went back to their cabins before an announcement told them to stay in their rooms and hold onto something, but that the weather was so violent that she was thrown from her bed.

Pal Stacie, meanwhile, suffered a bruised left leg when their cabin door was flung open and struck her.

She added: “Staff were going round and talking to people, and the ferry was deathly quiet, so we asked what was wrong.

“They told us that the engines had failed hours ago, and we had just been drifting ever since.

“Announcements kept coming out from the captain saying that everything was fine, but we knew that wasn’t true.

“One of my group became severely unwell and a member of staff brought a doctor to our room.

“But it turned out he was just a passenger who they had asked to go around and see everyone who had been injured.”

Emma said that by the time passengers made it onto the bus and arrived in Amsterdam it was 3pm, and they were told they had to be back on the bus to the ferry by 4pm.

She added: “We were given an hour in Amsterdam, and there were no apologies or compensation or anything.

“Thankfully, by this point, we’d booked flights home because we didn’t want to get back on the ferry and we never will again.

“They even had to pilot somebody from the port onto the ferry by helicopter to bring the ferry in.

“The whole experience was horrendous.

“Myself and the other members of my group were traumatised by our experience on that ship.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazvicki

WHEN contacted by the Gazette, a spokeswoman at DFDS Seaways said: “We would like to apologise to all passengers who were affected by our sailing on our Newcastle-Amsterdam departure on Thursday, December 5.

“The setback was caused by adverse weather conditions on the North Sea, which resulted in the outbound crossing of Princess Seaways from Newcastle being delayed.

“As with all transport operators, we are sometimes at the mercy of adverse weather conditions. Our primary focus at DFDS Seaways is always on passenger safety.

“The final decision to sail always lies with the Captain of the vessel, who considered the weather conditions for the sailing ahead and would never have departed if there was ever any safety risk to passengers.

“On this occasion, the Captain took an extra precaution of taking an alternative route that was more sheltered from the weather.

“However, at 10am on Friday, December 6, passengers experienced rough sea conditions, with the wind between Force 8-9.

“Our highly-trained crew worked very hard to ensure our passengers were kept updated throughout the sailing, and did advise passengers at one point to remain in their cabins for a more comfortable crossing.

“The ship’s engines were fully functional throughout the sailing.

“As a result of the delayed arrival, our passengers booked on an Amsterdam mini-cruise were offered an alternative excursion so that they could return to the ship for the scheduled departure from Ijmuiden.

“The Captain asked for assistance from tugs to help the ship dock when arriving in Ijmuiden, which is standard procedure for when there are high winds.

“When tugs are used, it is a requirement that a pilot is brought onboard to assist, which in this instance was via helicopter.”

 

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