Pirates target cruise ship

A cruise ship carrying hundreds of British passengers has been targeted by pirates in the Indian ocean.

Holiday-makers on board The Spirit of Adventure had a formal dinner interrupted to be told pirates were approaching.

The 350 guests and 200 crew of the ship, operated by British company Acromas which also owns Saga and the AA, were asked to go to the main lounge and sit on the floor until the danger had passed.

The speedboat carrying the pirates came within "several hundred metres" of the The Spirit of Adventure, said the cruise ship's spokesman Paul Green.

Passengers on the two-week cruise, costing £2,000-a-head, were 100 miles off the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania, when the drama unfolded last night. They had been given a 45-minute safety briefing, including instructions on what to do in case of a pirate attack days previously.

Mr Green said: "The ship spotted on its radar a small vessel approaching it at speed and so a set of well-rehearsed procedures were put in place, including informing the relevant naval authorities and implementing security measures on board."

Guests were in the lounge for 45 minutes before the all-clear was given once the pirate ship was 10 nautical miles away.

"It was within close range for 10 minutes and came within several hundred metres of The Spirit of Adventure," said Mr Green. "There was no attempt to board and there was no firing at the ship."

He said that it appeared the pirates wanted to "check out" the cruise liner, which led to them shadowing it as it made its way towards Zanzibar.

"I think seeing that the ship was well-prepared, and that it was a cruise ship, they went away," Mr Green added.

There are not thought to be any recorded incidents of pirates trying to board cruise ships.

Passengers on the ship, which offers holidays to people aged 21 and above, are mostly British, although there are also some Australians onboard.

They are said to have remained calm throughout and gave the Australian captain Frank Allica a standing ovation when he entered the main dining room after dinner was resumed, singing "For he's a jolly good fellow".

Mr Green said: "It's clearly of concern, but precautions were put in place that are tried and tested and it went off without incident.

"It has given passengers something interesting to put on their postcards."

The ship set off from Mauritius on New Year's Day and is due to finish its journey in Mombasa, Kenya.