Susan Brown, 65, from Bristol in the United Kingdom was on the final leg of a cruise in Madeira with her husband when an argument broke out, according to BBC News.
The BBC reported the couple decided to end their trip four days early following a heated row, booking flights back to the UK for Saturday night, after arriving on Madeira from the West Indies.
Following the argument, Mrs Brown lost sight of her husband Michael and is said to have become convinced he had returned to the vessel.
According to the Daily Mail, Mrs Brown was later found by fishermen just after midnight on Sunday, off the coast of Madeira in ice-cold waters. She was suffering from hypothermia after swimming for more than three hours.
Mrs Brown told rescuers she jumped into the water believing her husband was aboard the Marco Polo cruise ship. They had both disembarked earlier that day after having an intense dispute.
The Daily Mail reported Mrs Brown took to the water to make chase after noticing the ship passing the airport’s coastal runway.
While reportedly clutching her handbag, Mrs Brown made it more than 500 metres out from shore before struggling.
She was eventually rescued by passing fishermen who heard her screaming for help and splashing in the darkness.
Mrs Brown was taken to a nearby hospital suffering severe hypothermia, according to the Daily Mail.
Funchal port captain Felix Marques told local journalists that Mrs Brown was lucky to survive.
“She was in the water for more than three hours and was suffering from the effects of hypothermia when she was rescued by fishermen who heard her cries for help around 12.20am on Sunday.”
“All she had on her was the clothes she was wearing and a handbag which she was clinging to.
“She could easily have died if she had not been rescued when she was.”
The Daily Mail reported that Portuguese police confirmed that Mr Brown had returned to the UK alone on Saturday night.