LONDON (Reuters)--A fleet of pirate vessels was repelled and sunk by an elderly group of British and American grandmothers and grandfathers on board the luxury cruise liner the Seaborn Adventurer on Sunday off the Somali coast.
The attack occurred in the early morning at the break of dawn as guests slept in their spacious cabins complete with sea views, marble bathrooms, hot tubs and mahogany dining rooms.
The heavily armed band of pirates in their fleet of at least twenty zodiac boats attacked en masse and attempted to storm aboard the Seaborn Adventurer to rob it or hold it and the passengers hostage.
The passengers, some of whom had paid more than $100,000 for the 16-day voyage, were woken at 5.30am when the attack began 100 miles off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean.
The armed men aboard the inflatable boats fired automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at the liner as they tried to climb aboard.
Initially terrified passengers reported a series of explosions as the pirates fired on the luxurious 10,000-tonne cruise liner.
But despite the onslaught by the bandits, the 200-man crew broke out their own arsenal and distributed machine guns, grenades and their own RPGs to the hundreds of passengers who needed little coaching to begin returning fire and sinking the pirate vessels.
Grandmother Mildred Minderbinder, 85, from Hampstead Garden Suburb in north London, who claimed direct descent from Admiral Horatio Nelson, assumed command of the defences and enthusiastically fired thousands of rounds from an AK-47 at the attackers. She was credited with sinking eight of the zodiacs with machine gun and RPG fire.
"Got the bastards!" cried Minderbinder more than once as she sank another pirate vessel. She ordered the captain of the cruise ship to turn about and chase the pirates until they were all sunk.
"Remember Trafalgar!" she shouted at other British passengers as they fired their own AK-47s at the pirates. "Take no prisoners!"
The guests, mainly wealthy British and Americans, were 13 days into a 16-day voyage which had taken them via Jordan, Egypt and the Red Sea. They were due to visit Mombasa in Kenya, where an exclusive safari awaited them.
Barman Richard Rolfer who worked on board said the passengers should be rewarded for helping the crew to repel the bandits.
"There were at least fifteen pirate RPGs that hit the ship, one in a stateroom four doors down from our cabin," he said. The liner fired at least four dozen of its own RPGs and sank all of the pirate vessels.
Passenger Mike Meeger of Vancouver said, "The captain very skillfully ran several of the pirate boats over. They were small boats, about 25ft long, and we could see them and their crew get shredded by our propeller and eaten by sharks."
"There's some minor damage done to the ship," he added. "Several of the grenades went off in the bar and the cabins, but most everyone on board is fine aside from some flesh wounds and shell shock."
Maude Marlowe, a spokeswoman for the Miami-based company Seaborne Cruises owned by US cruise giant Carnivale, said the ship was sailing in an area it had sailed many times before and was adhering to international maritime safety regulations.
She added, "All the passengers and crew are mostly safe and excited. The pirates were unable to gain access to the ship. Most all of our guests said they'd like to do it all over again and cleanse the seas of pirates. We are getting lots of inquiries from potential passengers."
Such pirate attacks off eastern Africa, in the Indian Ocean, off South America, in Indonesia, as well as off the Philippines and Malaysia, are increasingly common and pirates have even been known to hijack large oil liners. This is the first time a luxury liner has been attacked and the passengers have been recruited to repel invaders.
The ship was rated as the most luxurious in the world earlier this year by Condé Nast Traveller and has previously boasted passenger lists including Queen Elizabeth, the Pope, Bill Gates, Tom Cruise, Donald Trump, Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt, Bill Clinton, Jessica Simpson, Alan Greenspan, George Bush and Cory Crotchmug, a Milwaukee waiter.