A cruise ship hosting performances by 80s pop artists including Tony Hadley, Toyah and T’Pau has been rocked after a passenger allegedly jumped overboard.
The Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady cruise ship was on its way back to its Portsmouth embarkation point after touring Spanish and Portuguese Atlantic ports when the male passenger entered the water on Wednesday evening.
When it was discovered that the man had gone overboard, the ship turned around to search for the person overboard.
The French and Spanish coast guards were alerted and a spotter plane and helicopter were dispatched to try to locate the passenger in the water.
Two nearby merchant ships were also hijacked to assist in the search. The captain of the Valiant Lady even asked cruise passengers to try to scan the water for a glimpse of the missing person.
The Valiant Lady (pictured here moored in Liverpool, was on her way to Portsmouth after a tour of Spain and Portugal when tragedy is believed to have occurred
A male passenger is feared to have drowned after falling overboard on the Valiant Lady
The cruise featured stars such as Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley and T’Pau’s Carol Decker
But after hours of futile searches, the rescue operation was finally suspended last night. The passenger, believed to be British, is now feared drowned.
Further onboard inquiries revealed that the man had apparently jumped overboard “deliberately”. It is not yet clear whether the jump was seen by other passengers or picked up by CCTV.
After the search was suspended, the Valiant Lady resumed its original route and is expected to dock in Portsmouth this evening, approximately 12 hours later than originally scheduled.
The incident was the culmination of a series of incidents that had already marred the cruise – on which passengers paid up to £5,000 to enjoy the cruise as well as an entertainment bill featuring 80s stars 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 happened – it’s just awful to think another passenger is likely to have died.”
The party cruiser offered glamorous nightlife with icons such as former Spandau Ballet frontman Tony Hadley, Toyah, T’Pau, Altered Images, ABC singer Martin Fry and former Radio 1 DJs Bruno Brookes and Gary Davis.
The male passenger is believed to have fallen overboard from the deck of the Valiant Lady cruise ship
A Virgin Voyages spokesperson said: ‘In the early hours of the morning we were made aware of a man overboard incident involving a sailor [passenger], which culminated in a search and rescue mission. We are deeply saddened by this news and our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of this sailor. Our investigation indicates that this was an intentional act and that no foul play is suspected.
A Maritimes and Coastguard spokesman said: “Since 7.30am HM Coastguard has been coordinating a search for a man overboard from the cruise ship Valiant Lady in the Bay of Biscay, with the help from our Spanish and French counterparts.
“The French sent a fixed-wing aircraft to provide air support for a helicopter sent by Spain to carry out a search. Two merchant ships and the cruise ship were also assisting. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has been informed.
They confirmed last night that the search had been called off.
The cruise had already encountered a number of problems on its journey around the Atlantic from Portsmouth
The itinerary should have included La Coruña in Spain, Madeira, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and two full days and an evening in Lisbon, but the latter had to be reduced to one evening and Madeira was dropped.
Then, a passenger fell seriously ill and had to be transported by helicopter from the ship, a drama that dominated an evening.
And finally on Wednesday night, a passenger “deliberately jumped” overboard, causing the ship to delay its return to the UK to pick him up. It was scheduled for Portsmouth tomorrow, but it seems certain it will 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 journey starring 80s icons Tony Hadley and T’Pau
Another passenger said: ‘The cruise felt cursed from the start – it was beset by one problem after another. First it was little things like them running out of food and drink and the wifi wasn’t working, then the performance got revamped and the route changed.
“There were covid infections – they had to create an area of the ship for those who tested positive to self-isolate. And then someone got so sick he had to be airlifted to hospital. And now this terrible incident. It was horrible.
The Virgin Voyages spokesman added: ‘We had a previous incident where one of our sailors on board experienced a medical emergency and required medical attention ashore.
“Our team acted quickly and with the help of local authorities we were able to airlift them to hospital. We are very happy to report that this person is doing well and is receiving medical attention.
“As for the other areas of focus, we set ourselves a high standard and in this case we missed some things and we are very sorry that it was not ideal.
“While not everything is in our control, such as supply chain challenges to meet all onboard offers, or the weather, we remain focused on the Sailor experience and know we must continue to improve. .”
Last night passengers were told that due to travel issues they would be offered a free European cruise with Virgin Voyages this summer.
Imagine Cruises, which had chartered the boat and organized the cruise, has been contacted for comment.
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