The luxury cruise liner Pacific Dawn docked in Brisbane this weekend, having failed to find a passenger lost overboard off New Caledonia.
The captain of the P&O cruise ship made the announcement to passengers on Friday morning that the woman, who was lost overboard at around 4pm on Thursday, had not been found despite a night-long search.
Rough conditions hampered the search operation and it was officially called off the following morning.
The woman was believed to have been on the week-long Pacific cruise with her husband and children.
Police have confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances involved, although conjecture remains around whether the woman fell or jumped over the ship’s rail.
“It is with a very heavy heart that I need to let you know that we have been unable to locate our guest,” the ship’s captain told passengers on Friday morning.
“As a result, we have now made the extremely difficult decision to continue our journey towards Brisbane.
“I know I speak on behalf of all of you when I say our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
In line with normal procedure, the Pacific Dawn incident has been referred to Queensland Police and to the Coroner for inquiries and Queensland Police spoke with crew and passengers when the ship docked on Sunday morning.
Carnival Australia spokesman David Jones said: “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.”
Mr Jones said that a crew member notified the bridge as soon as the woman fell and the ‘man overboard’ incident response was activated immediately.
“In line with this response, Pacific Dawn turned around to follow the course it was on at the time of the incident,” he said.
Primary responsibility for the ship lies with its flag state of the UK, with Queensland Police assisting British authorities with the investigation.
A passenger, who requested not to be named, told AAP the atmosphere on the ship was “very sad, solemn and quiet”.
The Pacific Dawn was on a seven-night cruise from Brisbane to the South Pacific with scheduled stops in Noumea, Lifou and Port Vila.