THE mother of a singer left stranded on a stricken cruise ship in the Indian Ocean cried tears of joy as he returned home.
Scarlett Clegg flung her arms around 27-year-old Anthony, who finally returned to Cleveleys yesterday following his ordeal on the Costa Allegra.
Mr Clegg, a professional singer on the vessel, said passengers and staff kept their spirits high despite a fire causing the ship to lose power and drift dangerously through waters renowned for Somali pirates.
The ship – from the same fleet as the ill-fated Costa Concordia, which floundered off the coast of Italy in January – killing 32 people – had to be towed to the Seychelles after the blaze broke out on Monday. It docked in the capital, Victoria, on Thursday and, after a hot meal and shower, Mr Clegg boarded a plane home.
Mr Clegg said: “It’s a shame what has happened but the important thing is we are all safe. It was a relief to get off and have a shower!
“It’s great to be back and see my family and eat some nice English food.”
Mrs Clegg, of Cleveleys Avenue, said: “I’m overjoyed. I burst into tears when I saw him and flung my arms around him.
“It’s so nice to have him home.”
Mr Clegg explained he was sat in the bar having a coffee when an alarm went off around 1pm local time on Monday.
He said: “Everyone had a muster point to go to and we just had to wait to see what was going to happen. Thankfully we had a fantastic team of firefighters on board who put the fire out.
“Everyone then gathered on the deck, they stayed in really good spirits. Everyone mucked in. People spent the time sunbathing and chatting. Most people slept on the deck where it was cool.”
The 627 passengers and 400 staff had to contend with no lights, no air conditioning and toilets that would not flush.
Mr Clegg said passengers had been sunbathing on deck when suddenly there was “terrible black” smoke and passengers had got their lifejackets and assembled at their muster stations.
No one was injured in the fire but the vessel, which was sailing from Madagascar towards the Seychelles, had to be towed by a French fishing vessel.
Mr Clegg, who studied performing arts at Blackpool and The Fylde College after moving to the resort when he was 20, added: “The conditions weren’t what you’d choose but the staff did everything they could to make sure everyone was OK and everyone had food and drink.
“There were some helicopter drops and we had some flyovers to make sure we were OK. It was reassuring.
“It was a totally different situation to the Concordia. People discussed it, but it was completely different.”
The liner’s Italian chaplain, Father Camillo Testa, said there was “a real emergency” when the fire broke out.
He said: “The fear was that we would have to abandon ship with all these children and elderly people in the middle of the Indian Ocean, far from land.
“The worst moment was when I heard the coded alarm. I was in the cabin. The emergency procedure was implemented immediately. We went to the assigned deck. Not being able to go back into the cabins sparked a bit of panic on board.”
The Costa Allegra’s captain, Niccolo Alba, said the fire had been extinguished “in an hour” and he praised his crew.
Despite the drama, Mr Clegg says he can’t wait to return to the ship to carry on performing.
He added: “It’s sad to have left the ship, it’s been our home since May. Life on there is brilliant. I couldn’t ask for a better job – I get to travel the world doing what I love doing.”