British cruise ship pursued by pirates
A British cruise ship packed with Saga holidaymakers was pursued across the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates.
Guests on the Spirit of Adventure were ordered to take shelter below deck as a speed boat carrying men thought to be pirates drew alongside.
The incident took place as the vessel, which is operated by a sister company of Saga, travelled from Madagascar to Zanzibar.
Susie Browne, 73, from Enford, Wilts said: "It was a really terrifying ordeal. We were eating dinner and then ordered below deck with our heads bowed. The captain sped up and tried to outrun the pirates.
"Three days ago we had been given a lecture on what to do if a pirate ship bears down on us."
Passengers were having a black tie dinner when a code word was issued to staff over the tannoy and they were moved to a lounge.
Mrs Browne said: "They told us to sit on the floor and the doors were barricaded. We were told they had spotted pirates two miles behind us. We were told to keep our heads down in case they shot us through the windows. Then we were told they were up beside us. Everyone was calm. We are speeding towards Zanzibar."
The ship, carrying 350 passengers, was able to outpace the pirates and dinner was resumed. Naval authorities were alerted.
A Saga spokesman said: "The Spirit of Adventure was followed by a suspect vessel for about an hour this evening. After guests were moved down to the middle of the ship the captain sped up to full speed and the vessel went away. We think it was scouting out the ship. Usually pirates are not interested in passenger ships but in cargo ones which have a higher value. There are well rehearsed procedures that are put in place for this sort of incident."
He added: "The soup may have got cold for a while but we have heated it back up again."
The Spirit of Adventure was due to arrive at a Zanzibar port this morning. It will then stop in Dar es Salaam, Tanga and then Mombassa where the cruise finishes on January 17.
In April last year, the cruise ship Discovery was approached by a speed boat of Somali pirates which had rocket propelled grenade launchers on board. It was deterred when crew released rolls of razor wire over the stern rail.