A PASSENGER from Essex was killed during stormy conditions aboard the Marco Polo on the English Channel.
The cruise ship, based out of the Port of Tilbury and operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages, was bound for the Thurrock terminal when it was hit by a large wave off the coast of Cornwall.
An 85-year-old man, named as James Swinstead from Colchester died after water crashed through one of the vessel's windows.
A woman, aged 70, was airlifted to hospital but her condition is not said to be life threatening. Fourteen other passengers aboard the ship, which was due at Tilbury this afternoon after completing a 42-night cruise to the Azores, were left with minor injuries.
The vessel's Waldorf Restaurant sustained damage during the incident but the CMV bosses say tomorrow night's scheduled sailing to the Northern Lights will go ahead.
One of the injured passengers, Allan Cooper, told Channel 4 News: "The seas, visible through the windows, were very rough. Waves were peaking nearly parallel to the windows. Furniture in the restaurant was beginning to shift, so people were holding on to tables and chairs.
"Suddenly there was a very loud 'bang' and the daylight in the room reduced as a wall of seawater covered most of the starboard windows. The bang was the breaching of a forward window in the restaurant.
"Pandemonium broke out. Some people were drenched and most people were wet but people were very well-behaved, looking out for each other, whilst all anxious to get out of the danger area."
At lunchtime on Saturday, a spokesman for CMV said: "Cruise and Maritime Voyages confirm that following a freak wave that hit their cruise ship Marco Polo yesterday afternoon during adverse sea conditions.
"We regret to advise that one elderly passenger has died and a second unrelated passenger was airlifted for further shore-side medical assistance where we understand her condition is not life threatening.
The Marco Polo returning to Port of Tilbury on Sunday night. [Pic: On The Thames - Twitter] http://onthethames.net
"Marco Polo has sustained some damage in the Waldorf Restaurant and following reparation works will sail tomorrow evening from Tilbury on her scheduled 14 nights cruise to Norway and the land of the Northern Lights."
The vessel sailed from Tilbury on January 5 and is carrying 735 mainly British passengers and 349 crew.
Mr Swinstead was a former marketing man and father-of-two. He had been on the dream cruise with his wife, Helen, 82.
The company spokesman said: "Our thoughts are very much with these passengers and their families during this difficult time."
Severe warnings for wind and rain were issued by the Met Office as more high winds and heavy rain battered the south and south east of England on Friday night.