The Sunday episode involved four busloads of students from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester who allegedly were already drunk when they boarded the P&O ship Spirit of France en route to ski vacations to the Alps.
They were among the 1,559 passengers, who included elderly people and families.
After the ship set sail 2:20 a.m. the students allegedly smashed glasses and bottles, set ashtrays alight and overturned tables in a display Capt. Steve Johnson described as "despicable," Britain's The Sun reported.
"There was dancing on tables and bottles and glasses kicked off tables. Males and females were exposing themselves in generally drunken, loutish behavior. There were many complaints," Johnson said.
Frightened passengers were escorted to the safety of a secure room while the students ran amok, the newspaper said.
Manchester Metropolitan University said it was investigating the incident. No dollar amount was provided for the damage caused by the rowdy passengers.