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An Australian mother and daughter were aboard the Ponant ship Le Boreal when they were forced to abandon the vessel due to an engine fire last week.

The British RAF came to the rescue of the stricken vessel off the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, winching many of the 357 passengers and crew to safety.

The two Australians were later put up by hospitable Falklands Islanders before being flown to Santiago where the pair decided to continue their journey.

L’Austral, sister ship to Le Boreal, later took on some of the passengers.

Sarina Bratton, Australasian chair of Ponant, told the story of the rescue of the Australians for the first time during an interview with Cruise Passenger magazine.

She said two other passengers had booked through an Australian travel agent, though she could not be sure they were Aussies.

Ms Bratton maintained the video and TV footage of the event was over-dramaticised.

“I’ve been involved in quite a number of rescues with previous companies – Cunard, Holland America – and no, this wasn’t as dramatic as that.

“I think to some extent the fact that the British media were all over it, and there was some exaggeration on the number of people that were actually picked up by the helicopter.

“We had actually evacuated the ship, no issues with the guests and also the crew. We left the captain and crew members on board, and that’s what you do in circumstance where you have lost power.

“We lost power so the captain went through normal protocols of evacuating the ship, then because the ship didn’t have power and we were only a couple of miles offshore he waited until such time as he passed over a sandy bottom area so he could then drop anchor.

“But without power, you are going to roll, you have no stabiliser, you don’t have anything and so that always looks a bit more dramatic as well. But fortunately we also had a sister ship close. No other company could do that – so we were able to take guests and crew on to L’Austral.”

“The crew was just amazing, the way they accommodated the guests into their living quarters while we needed it for the night before we could get to Port Stanley. And then the people of Falkland Islands were absolutely remarkable, they opened up their homes for homestays so the passengers could stay there in comfort.

“They stayed until we could get charter flights, that was the challenge. “

Ms Bratton said specialists were assessing what needed to be done to fix Le Boreal.

“The next two sailings have been cancelled, and both of those were charters but not from Australia.”

Ms Bratton said despite the accident, bookings for the line were so high that her biggest problem was keeping up with demand.  Ponant, she said, now had a dominant position in luxury expedition and Chinese cruisers were booking entire vessels from the four-ship fleet.

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