A Saga cruise ship was chased by Somali pirates but managed to outrun them as passengers hid below deck.

Spirit of Adventure, a cruise ship which charges passengers £2,000, was on its way from Madagascar to Zanzibar carrying 350 people when the speedboat pulled up alongside.

Fearing it was Somali pirates, the captain ordered passengers – who were in the middle of dinner – to take shelter blow deck in case the pirates shot at them.

Passengers were told to keep their heads down until the all-clear was given.

Meanwhile the captain sped up and, despite being chased by the pirates, managed to get away.

A passenger said: “It was terrifying. We were told to keep our heads down in case they shot us through the window.

“We were told to keep our heads down in case they shot us through the windows. Then we were told they were up beside us.”

A Saga spokesman said: “The captain put in place plans for the Indian Ocean, taking on board security measures and alerting the naval authorities.

“The mood was calm. All travellers in the Indian Ocean have a full security briefing.

The captain sped up to full speed and the vessel went away.”

He added: “The meal was interrupted and then restarted. The soup was warmed up again.

“At breakfast the following morning, the captain was given a standing ovation. It is a very British way of doing things.”

The Spirit of Adventure was travelling through part of the Indian Ocean that has become notorious for pirate attacks. Recently, pirates have begun attacking further afield towards Tanzania and east beyond the Seychelles to avoid surveillance by European naval patrols protecting the international shipping lanes in the Red Sea.