A “cruise from hell” returned to Melbourne on Saturday morning following police escorting 23 bruised and bloody passengers off the Carnival Legend after factions of an extended family started a violent mass brawl on board.
It is believed the blows, punches and screams followed days of arguing between the 26-member family on board the vessel returning to Melbourne from the South Pacific.
Up to 30 people have been injured, while other terrified passengers reportedly hid in their cabins on the 10-day voyage.
It remains unclear what started the brawl, but one family member known as Zac told Melbourne radio station 3AW he had been locked in his room overnight before being removed.
He said the fighting started with another group over a “thong” and his family had been unfairly targeted.
“This is all over a thong, not a foot, a thong being stepped on and being instantly apologised for,” he said.
The Carnival general manager Jennifer Vandekreeke said there were “limited and isolated events with the family in question” in the lead-up to the brawl.
“Disembarking a family from a cruise is an unprecedented incident,” Ms Vandekreek said at a press conference in Sydney on Friday.
“It is always our last resort. We felt it was the best course of action for the safety and security of our guests and our crew.”
In a written statement to those on board on Saturday, Ms Vandekreeke said the company was supporting travellers who were affected by the incident.
“We sincerely apologise to our guests who were impacted by the disruptive behaviour of the group removed from the ship by the NSW Police in Eden,” she said.
“We want to reassure all embarking guests today, and in the future, that the safety and security of our guests and crew is our number one priority
“This is reflected in our zero tolerance policy to excessive behaviour onboard,” she said.
The captain of the Carnival Legend made the unscheduled stop in the far south-coast town of Eden in New South Wales to boot off the 23 passengers with some wearing bandages at about 1.30pm on Friday.
In a statement, New South Wales police said the fight on board the ship involved several men after an argument at about 12.45am on Friday morning.
Six men, three teenage boys were removed from the ship at Twofold Bay as well a further 14 passengers, including women and children.
The group were transported to Canberra, while Marine Area Command investigators begin their investigations into the incident.
“Security intervened and detained the men before notifying the Marine Area Command,” police said.
Shocking video footage has emerged of a violent brawl on the pool deck of the boat with people screaming with one security personnel escorting a passenger away from the fight.
Another video taken below the deck shows men pushing and shoving each other as security members try to stop passengers from filming the incident.
One passenger told 3AW the group of troublemakers had been starting fights for a few days, including a fight in front of children playing in the pool.
“There are people walking around with cut heads and hands,” the passenger told the radio station.
“The fought in front of my children in the pool…five of them surrounded my husband.
Passenger David Barkho said his 20-year-old son called and begged him to call authorities after suffering a head injury while on the ship.
He told his father “a lot of people are bleeding; a lot of people are down”.
“He rang me about 1am this morning and said, “Please dad, please da, call the federal police,” Mr Barko told the radio station on Friday.
Carnival Cruise Line has also launched an internal investigation into the incident.