An ailing passenger on a visiting cruise ship sparked a challenging rescue in turbulent stormy seas off Auckland last night.
Northern Coastguard spokesman Johnny Clough said the Australia-bound Norwegian Jewel was heading north near Kawau Island at 8.15pm when it reported a passenger needed to be urgently taken to hospital.
The 76-year-old woman was believed to have suffered a heart attack.
The captain headed back to Auckland where it was met in the Waitemata Harbour by the Coastguard's rescue craft with a paramedic on board.
In 2m swells, gale force winds and deepening darkness a paramedic climbed aboard the 93,000 tonne ship through a portal just 2m above the waterline.
The conditions were described as "turbulent" making for a challenging near four-hour rescue operation.
Clough said the winds were too strong to consider using a helicopter to fly the sick woman to hospital.
Clough said the sick passenger was stabilised before being lowered in a lifeboat down the side of the ship into the waiting rescue catamaran.
The rescue craft raced to the Marine Rescue Centre and was met by a waiting ambulance. The patient was taken to Auckland Hospital.
After the medical emergency the Norwegian Jewel and its 2300 passengers resumed its delayed voyage north.