Wexford tourism chief in cruise ship terror

By David tucker

Published 19/02/2016 | 00:00

Maura Bell
Maura Bell

wexford people were caught up in ferocious storms at sea thousands of miles apart last week.

Maura Bell, who runs the Irish National Heritage Park, was among 6,000 people on board the battered Royal Caribbean cruiser liner 'Anthem of the Seas,' caught up in a terrifying voyage in huge seas, driven by 125-mile-per-hour winds.

The ship docked in Bayonne, New Jersey, three days after passengers hunkered down in their rooms Sunday as the captain of the cruise ship battled the storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Royal Caribbean, facing scrutiny after the ship sailed into the storm in the Atlantic, apologised to passengers in a statement sent shortly before the ship docked, saying 'we have to do better.'

Friends said Maura had been left very shaken up by her experiences on what was 'a voyage from hell' and her first and last experience on a cruise liner. A relative said yesterday (Monday) that Maura was now 'home safe and well'.

In a separate storm-related incident, a vehicle owned by Wexford haulier Robert O'Leary was one of those damaged on board the Irish Ferries' ship Epsilon which was caught up in Storm Imogen as the vessel sailed between Cherbourg and Dublin last Sunday night.

The rig was one of a number which boarded the ferry after Stenaline said in advance its ferry, the Stena Flavia, would be waiting out the storm in the lee of one of the UK ports after setting sail from Cherbourg in the event that it encountered Imogen. Mr O'Leary could not be reached for comment.

Epsilon suffered tens of thousands of euro in damage to her cargo, with pictures taken on board showing cars crushed amid piles of fruit and vegetables which had spilled from some of the badly damaged lorries.

One observer said it was most likely the 'worst ever' crossing from France and suggested it was 'lucky the ship was not lost'.

Heavy seas and winds blowing up to Force 11 meant the Epsilon, sailing from Cherbourg to Dublin, had to divert into safer waters. The ship was forced to take shelter at sea in waters off the north Devon coast.

The Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) says several of its members also sustained broken ribs and a wrist in what it describes as a 'near Titanic' situation.

A total of 58 cars and almost 30 trucks were badly damaged when a trailer 'broke loose' in the cargo hold during the heavy weather. More than 100 passengers were on the ferry, with several said to have suffered bad bruising.

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