'The waves were up to the 5th deck'

The P&O cruise ship Pacific Sun has arrived in Auckland after experiencing 7 metre swells and 50 knot winds in which 42 passengers were injured.

The boat rolled sharply in the heavy seas, caused by the same storm that hit New Zealand yesterday.

Onboard medical staff treated the injured yesterday and in a statement released by the company today, three passengers have remained under medical supervision.

The vessel was carrying 1732 passengers and 671 crew and arrived in Auckland today after an eight day cruise in the South Pacific.

One of the first passengers to disembark was Jacinda Pollard who said she saw waves level with her window on deck 5.

"We heard stuff crashing everywhere. We heard screaming, things were a bit of a mess... Casino machines fell over. It wasn't that scary, the Captain and crew did a good job," Ms Pollard said.

A statement released by the company today said that counselling was being offered to passengers and crew who had been shaken by the experience. The company had also arranged travel and a hotel for waiting family and friends.

P&O Cruises spokesman Sandy Olsen thanked the family and friends who had been waiting for their loved ones to return.

"We realise the return journey from the South Pacific has been difficult for many of our passengers and P&O Cruises have taken extra measures so that passengers and their families are assisted on their arrival," Ms Olsen said.

Some people on the ship feared for their lives. TV3 reported an email from a terrified passenger, which read: "We are nearly on our side. If we get out of this, it will be a miracle. I won't go to bed tonight, but will sit up by the life rafts. Please give (my daughter) an extra big hug and kiss from me. Make sure her life is fun. I am so scared."

The Herald received an unconfirmed report that some people had broken bones and one person lost a finger.

Maritime New Zealand spokesman Ross Henderson said the organisation was notified of the storm damage after a relative of a passenger called police reporting fears for family on board.

He said an investigation was being made. But because the ship was not a New Zealand-registered vessel and the incident occurred so far out at sea, Maritime New Zealand had no jurisdiction over it, Mr Henderson said.

But investigators could demand that the ship had repairs before it departed, he said.

P&O spokesman Anthony Fisk said the ship was scheduled to arrive in Auckland yesterday.

But bad weather had delayed the ship's departure from Auckland on July 23 and stopped it returning yesterday as planned.

Damage to the ship was "superficial" but had delayed the next cruise, with 1650 passengers, which was scheduled to leave yesterday.

Mr Fisk said those passengers would now sail tomorrow and would be offered compensation on a "case-by-case basis".

He said passengers who have missed out on two days of sailing would be compensated.

The company was also considering compensation for some of the 1732 who went through the storm.

Yesterday passengers on board the Pacific Sun emailed the Herald and said that a sudden movement had caused a mess in parts of the ship.

Some of the family members of those on board told the Herald that email from the ship was only intermittent and it was hard to get in touch with the Pacific Sun, except by satellite phone.

Cerise Jordan emailed the Herald to say that her mother was on board the cruise ship.

"She has confirmed that there are a number of passengers injured. Most with varying degrees of bruising. She stated clearly that the staff have been fantastic in extremely difficult circumstances.

"Last night when the ship rolled she and her party were in the casino. They were injured as a result of machines coming loose and rolling into them. When in the dining hall the ship rolled again and she said all the crockery went flying."

Some of the families of injured passengers on board the cruise ship heard about their loved ones through the media.

"Kim" from Christchurch was trying to contact her elderly father, sister and friends on the cruise.

She said they were told this morning that the ship was going to be delayed 24 hours because of the weather, but did not know about the injuries until listening to news bulletins.

The Pacific Sun was due to leave Auckland last night but will now leave on Saturday night for an eight night New Caledonian cruise.

- NZHERALD STAFF, NEWSTALK ZB

- NZ Herald

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