(7:30 a.m. EST) -- Thomson Cruises has been forced to cancel the remainder of the cruise onboard Thomson Majesty following the death of five crewmembers in a lifeboat accident on Sunday.
The ship has been held in port in La Palma, Canary Islands, since Sunday as police continue their investigations into the accident.
Thomson Cruises took the decision to cancel the cruise and fly passengers home today and tomorrow on specially-chartered Thomson Airways flights. Passengers are being offered a full refund on the cost of the cruise plus a discount on a future cruise.
“Discussions with the relevant authorities are still ongoing and in the absence of a guaranteed departure time we've regrettably taken the decision to cancel the remainder of this cruise.
“We're currently looking at travel arrangements for all passengers and will be updating them in the morning. We're keeping all passengers on board up to date with the latest information and have set up a customer care desk on board to answer any immediate questions.
“We've flown extra support staff out to La Palma tonight who are onboard providing assistance to our passengers.”
A statement released by the line added: “Customers will be offered a full refund of the cost of the cruise element of their holiday. Travel plans have now been finalised and we will be repatriating customers today and tomorrow on specially arranged Thomson Airways flights.
“We fully understand that this is disappointing news for our customers and we have dispatched a specially trained team to assist with travel plans and provide support to those affected by the incident.”
The accident happened when a winch cable snapped during a routine lifeboat drill, as the boat was being winched back up. It flipped over, trapping five crewmembers in the water; another three were taken to hospital and have since been discharged and are back on the ship.
Passengers have taken to the Cruise Critic message boards to express their sadness at the accident -- and to say how well Thomson is handling it.
One Cruise Critic member who is onboard, nix111, writes: "I'm currently on board the Majesty just wanted to say what a brilliant job Thomson have done handling this terrible tragedy. The cruise has been cancelled which is the right thing and we've been offered a full refund and a discount on future cruise.
The whole crew have been great trying to ensure we all are informed at each stage. I can't fault the way this has been managed. Well done Thomson!
We are waiting to find out when we'll be going home but in the meantime we continue to enjoy the onboard facilities."
Some members are also asking whether the next sailing -- scheduled to depart this Friday, February 15 -- will go ahead.
Ladyjayneq asks: “Whilst I am extremely upset over what has happened, I am also concerned, we are due to be joining the Majesty on Friday the 15th. Can you advise if she will be in service and the cruise will go ahead.”
Thomson has written on its Facebook page: “At this time, we have no reason to believe future cruises on the Majesty will be impacted. However if this information were to change then our Programme Change Team would contact you.”
Another passenger asks the line whether Thomson will set up a special emergency fund to help the families of those killed in the accident.
We have asked Thomson whether it plans on setting up an Emergency Fund, and are waiting for a response.