“It is with a very heavy heart that I need to let you know that we have been unable to locate our guest,” the captain told passengers on Friday morning.
“In line with normal procedure the Pacific Dawn incident has been referred to Queensland Police and to the Coroner for appropriate inquiries. Out of respect for the family we will not add to P&O Cruises’ official statements.
“However, media speculation of a freak wave and sea sickness apparently based on social media reports is not supported by the facts. There is nothing to suggest anything of this kind,” he said.
The 245-metre ship with a carrying capacity of 2020 passengers was on a seven-night cruise from Brisbane to the South Pacific with scheduled calls to Noumea, Lifou and Port Vila.
“With the deepest sadness, P&O Cruises has confirmed the suspension of Pacific Dawn’s search,” Carnival Australia spokesman David Jones said on Friday morning.
“The difficult decision to suspend the search was made only after expert advice that survival after this length of time in difficult sea conditions and after a full night at sea was not considered possible.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the guest’s family at this distressing time,” Mr Jones said.
“A crew member notified the bridge straight away and the ‘man overboard’ incident response was activated immediately,” Mr Jones said in an earlier statement.
“In line with this response, Pacific Dawn turned around to follow the course it was on at the time of the incident.”
P&O released a statement saying a crew member saw the woman fall over the side of the ship about 4pm, 300 kilometres west of New Caledonia.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and New Caledonian authorities issued a call for nearby vessels to assist in the search, as the incident happened in a shared search and rescue area between the two nations.
The ship had been on a week-long cruise of Pacific islands, and left Brisbane last Saturday.