More than 1,000 passengers were held on a cruise liner yesterday after an elderly holidaymaker mysteriously disappeared during a voyage.
Police boarded the Fred Olsen ship Balmoral after it docked in Southampton following a eight-day tour of the Norwegian fjords.
Crew members told passengers that a guest had gone missing on Sunday night and officers had to carry out enquiries before they could leave.
The passengers were shown pictures of the man, believed to be in his late 70s or 80s and British, and were asked to speak to the police if they had any idea what had happened to him.
The man, who is believed to have been travelling alone, is thought to have last been seen at 9pm on Sunday when the 700ft, 44,000-tonne ship was in Stavanger, Norway.
He was reported missing the following morning when the ship, which has 710 cabins, with enough room for 1,350 passengers and 500 crew, was sailing in the North Sea to the east of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said it carried out a thorough search of the ship but could not find the man.
It said the ship’s crew were first alerted to the potential of a missing passenger by a note which was discovered by a cabin stewardess
One of the passengers said: ‘We were only told what had happened when we arrived in Southampton. It was a very upsetting thing to hear. We had had a fantastic holiday and were just about to disembark and return home when we suddenly were told someone had disappeared.
‘Everyone was shocked. No one knew that it had happened, even though we had been on the ship for more than 36 hours with him missing. It is the sort of thing you read about or see on TV.
‘We were all very worried about the fate of this poor gentleman.
‘I spoke to one woman who had sat near him at dinner. She thought he was a pleasant elderly British man travelling alone.’
The passengers were eventually allowed to leave the ship after three hours and make their way home.
The man’s disappearance comes after the Mail on Sunday revealed this week how scores of passengers have gone missing from cruise ships.
According to campaign group the International Cruise Victims Association, set up by U.S. businessman Kendall Carver after his daughter disappeared on a cruise – 165 people have gone missing at sea since 1995, with 12 this year alone before this latest disappearance.
The parents of 24-year-old British cruise ship worker Rebecca Coriam, who vanished from a Disney liner in March, have urged ministers to introduce tougher laws to protect UK citizens from crimes at sea.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said it was cooperating fully with Yarmouth Coastguard and police, who said the man remained missing.