Costa Allegra: Relief as cruise ship docks in Seychelles

Media caption,
Cruise passenger: "All of a sudden we saw terrible black smoke"

Passengers of the stricken cruise ship the Costa Allegra are back on dry land after three days drifting without power in the Indian Ocean.

The ship lost all power after a fire on board on Monday and was towed into port in the Seychelles capital, Victoria.

It is from the same fleet as the Costa Concordia, which sank off the Italian coast in January, killing 32 people.

Italian investigators were waiting at Victoria port when the ship docked to question the crew.

The Costa Allegra's captain Nicolo Alba has said passengers "were never in any danger".

Chris, one of over 1,000 passengers who stepped ashore, said those on board "thought the worst had happened".

"I could picture having to jump for it into the water, my wife was terrified," he told AFP news agency.

The cruise ship's chaplain, Father Camillo Testa, described the moment when a fire broke out in the engine room and knocked out the power on board as "a real emergency".

He told Italy's Sky TG24 news channel: "The fear was that we would have to abandon ship with all these children and elderly people in the middle of the Indian Ocean."

Tough conditions

Those on board have spent three days without power or hot food, with supplies flown in by helicopter.

The ship has also had no functioning air conditioning. Most of the passengers stayed on deck to benefit from the cooling breeze in the hot weather.

Media caption,
BBC's Katy Watson watches as the passengers are taken off the Costa Allegra

American passenger Gordon Bradwell told Associated Press that the heat was "immense".

One passenger described the experience as "a rough ride".

"We had to sleep on deck because there was no air conditioning and the cabins stank, because we couldn't flush the toilets," Alena Daem, a 62-year-old passenger from Belgium, told the AFP news agency.

The average age of passengers on the Costa Allegra is thought to be around 55 - those in the weakest medical condition were brought off first.

According to Costa Cruises, more than half the passengers will remain in the Seychelles at the firm's expense to continue their holiday, reports the BBC's Katy Watson on Mahe, the Seychelles' main island.

Accommodation is being arranged, but with hotels are already busy because the islands are preparing for Carnival, most are expected to fly straight to Italy.

The rest of the passengers will fly to Rome on three planes chartered by the company, and will get back home on Thursday and Friday, our correspondent says.

The company which owns the Costa Allegra says the ship received its regularly scheduled maintenance in dry dock in October 2011.

Families of British passengers can call the company's emergency line on +44 (0) 20 7940 3300.

Image source, (C) British Broadcasting Corporation