SOUTHAMPTON, England – Coast guard are searching for a passenger believed to have fallen overboard on a luxury cruise liner off the Isle of Wight this morning.
The man is thought to have gone into the water from the giant P&O Ventura vessel at 4.30am as it returned to Southampton from a 14 night trip around the Mediterranean.
The 116,000 ton ship with 3,000 on board circled the area searching for the passenger as lifeboats and helicopters were called in.
The hunt made it more than five hours late reaching its home port.
Passengers waiting in Southampton to board the 19-deck craft for a two day Christmas shopping trip to Zebrugge in Belgium were delayed.
The Ventura had been to Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Florence, Alicante and Gibraltar on the £1,500-a-head cruise.
It was christened in 2008 by Dame Helen Mirren and at the time was the UK’s largest liner.
A spokesman for P&O said it was the first time someone had gone missing from it.
Andy Harmer, director of Cruise Lines International Association refused to speculate whether it was a suicide.
But he added: “Incidents of a person overboard in the cruise industry are rare, and typically found to be the result of an intentional act.
“Cruise lines take a number of steps to help prevent such situations. This includes the design and construction of cruise ships, including railing heights.”