Sheringham couple who survived Marco Polo cruise ship disaster had concerns over standard of ship
17:27 17 February 2014
Archant Norfolk 2014
A couple of keen birdwatchers feel lucky to be alive after their cruise ship they were holidaying on was hit by a giant wave.
Retired GP Moss Taylor and his partner Robina Churchyard. from Heath Road, Sheringham, have also voiced concerns about the standard of the British vessel Marco Polo run by Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV).
The ship was at the end of a 42-night voyage heading towards its home port of Tilbury in Essex when a wave struck the liner in the English Channel on Valentine’s Day, killing James Swinstead, 85, from Colchester.
Mr Swinstead and his wife were sitting on the starboard side of the restaurant on deck six when water crashed through a window beside him.
Dr Moss, 70, and Mrs Churchyard, 75, were sitting on the port-side of the dining room at the time.
Since the disaster, Mr Swinstead’s widow Helen said the ship was badly maintained.
Dr Moss said: “The more I talk about it, the more I realise how lucky we were. It is incredible that not more people were killed.
“We were very concerned about the ship. The windows did not look tidy, they looked old.”
He claimed some screws in the metal frame, surrounding the glass windows, were missing, and there was rust around the dining room windows.
A CMV spokesman said: “As required by international law, the Marco Polo cruise ship is subject to stringent and rigorous safety standards with on-going stringent safety checks.”
The ship has all relevant safety certificates and the Passenger Ship Safety Certificate - given out to seaworthy ships with a safety management system - was issued on December 17 last year.
“CMV is committed to passenger safety and if there are lessons which can be learned from this incident then the company will work with the authorities to improve the safety and comfort of our passengers and crew which is and will always be of paramount importance to the company... Allegations that the ship or its equipment was substandard or unseaworthy are denied,” the spokesman added.
Mrs Churchyard said: “The whole ship gave a very bad impression. Everyone was saying there were major issues with that ship.”
The couple added staff were concerned about the 22,000 tonne vessel and amenities including the lift and gym were sometimes out of order.
They also caught norovirus before the Valentine’s Day disaster.
Dr Moss, whose GP work also saw him serve as the town’s lifeboat doctor, described the waves as mountainous.
Despite having 15 years experience of wildlife lecturing on cruise ships the former EDP nature columnist said the Marco Polo incident made him wary about travelling on the water.
“It is going to make me think about going in cruises,” he added.
He hopes to write a novel or factual story about the disaster.
It was the first time the couple had travelled on that particular ship and returned to Sheringham yesterday.
The holiday cost £2,900 per person but they will not be claiming compensation.
An investigation, led by the cruise ship company, into the incident started on February 14 and other authorities carried out an investigation at Tilbury yesterday.
The CMV spokesman said: “These investigations are continuing. If there had been any issue regarding the vessel’s ability to go to sea, then CMV would not have hesitated to cancel the next cruise.”
The Marco Polo left Tilbury last night and is on its way to the Northern Lights.
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