Cruise Ship Crippled By Engine Blast

Hundreds of British passengers are expected to be repatriated from Sweden today after their cruise ship was hit by a power failure.

Tugs were sent to rescue the stricken MSC Opera last night following an earlier engine explosion.

The vessel was then towed through the Baltic sea with 2000 people on board.

Tim Schwabedissen, of the shipping website, said the ship, which usually sales every 10 days from Southampton, had no power, ''very poor hygiene'' and its bathrooms were ''unoperable''.

After the explosion on Friday, the captain tried to continue the voyage with the one remaining main engine but ''this failed'', Mr Schwabedissen said.

''On May 15 tugs were called to pull the vessel to Visby where the battered vessel was due to arrive May 16 morning,'' he added.

''Meanwhile a team from MSC Cruises was sent to Sweden to assist the passengers.''

Last night MSC was unavailable to clarify the situation but issued a statement saying there were ''technical problems to an electrical panel''.

It said the ship was diverted towards the port of Nynamshamn, Sweden, where it was due to arrive at 11am.

''Not being able to offer to its guests the usual standards of service, MSC is organising the repatriation of all guests from Stockholm,'' it said in a statement.

Passengers have now been given a credit voucher for the full amount paid.

Leslie Freitag, 66, of Hertfordshire, and his wife Linda were due to sail on Tuesday.

He said he got very little information when he phoned an emergency number and did not know if his holiday would go ahead with the Italian-owned liner.

''They said there had not been an explosion but it was an electrical fault,'' he said.

''We are not disappointed because we are retired but it would have been nice to hear from them before we picked up news of it.''