Gastric Illness on cruise
Two retired schoolteachers endured a nightmare Golden Wedding when they and 20 other holidaymakers were abandoned at a Jamaican hotel after an outbreak of gastric illness aboard their luxury Caribbean cruise liner.
The group was forced to contact the British Consul to receive medical treatment having been taken from the Sea Princess and dumped at the hotel by their tour operator after half of them were hit by vomiting and diarrhoea.
Colin McPherson, 73, and his 72-year-old wife Margaret, were due to fly home to Grimsby to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with their family – but instead spent their special day trapped inside the hotel eating takeaway food.
The couple, along with other guests on board the luxury cruise ship, have now instructed travel experts at leading law firm Irwin Mitchell to take legal action on their behalf after their £3,000 dream cruise ended in tears.
Mrs McPherson fell ill the day before the end of the cruise, suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting and headaches after eating in the ship's restaurant. She was so ill that she needed to see a nurse on board the 400-room vessel, whose owners Princess Cruises claim offers "an unforgettable dining experience".
The next day – their Golden Wedding Anniversary and the day they were due to fly home to their family - Mr and Mrs McPherson and the other holidaymakers affected by the outbreak were moved off the ship and booked in to the Altamont Court Hotel in Kingston.
They were then left there for three days, with no information about when they would fly home and were told by a local holiday agent: "If you carry on being ill, that's your own problem".
Mr McPherson said: "We were hoping to enjoy a relaxing cruise and then celebrate our 50 years of marriage in style but Margaret was badly ill and we were both trapped in a hotel with no idea about when we would be getting home. It was heartbreaking, really, because you only get one chance to mark the day and our families wanted to see us too.
"I am still incensed by how we were treated. I just didn't expect Princess Cruises to act in such a cavalier fashion – regardless of how much you pay for a holiday like this you expect to be dealt with in a civil way.
"We just weren't told anything. We didn't have a clue about what was happening and it was very worrying to be just left somewhere that is completely foreign to everyone."
The Jamaican authorities took stool samples from the group and are investigating the cause of the sickness outbreak. The group was eventually flown home on Tuesday, March 31, after three days stuck in the hotel.
Fellow holidaymaker Mrs Rahnat Addoo, 65, from Greenwich, south London, was also taken off the Sea Princess having suffered from vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pains. She was given medication by a doctor before being left at the Altamont.
Mrs Addoo, who was travelling with her sister, complained: "The way we were dumped in this hotel without any further medical attention or any kind of help was appalling. I was so ill I didn't even know what was going on but I'm just thankful that the other holidaymakers were able to contact the British Consul. It was only then that anybody took any notice of our plight."
Mr McPherson blamed the hygiene practices on board the Sea Princess for the outbreak of sickness.
"I have been on four cruises before and there has always been disinfectant around the ship which you have to use before entering each room," he said.
"But they did not seem to comply with such standards on the Sea Princess. They only had the gel dispensers by the buffet restaurant and even then there were no strict rules to ensure people were using them.
"My wife Margaret was ill all through the evening before we were meant to leave. We assumed that she was the only one but then the captain announced that there was an outbreak of Norovirus on board.
"We were driven off to the hotel but they didn't know why we were there. The food was disgusting – I ended up eating cornflakes out of a polystyrene cup because they didn’t give us any bowls."
Mark Watts, from the International Travel Litigation Team at Irwin Mitchell, said: "What our clients have endured on what should have been a relaxing cruise around the Caribbean is truly shocking. This should have been a dream holiday – it ended up nothing short of a nightmare.
"For Mr and Mrs McPherson, the fact this happened when they should have been enjoying their Golden Wedding makes it even more distressing. What should have been a special day for them ended up being memorable but for all the wrong reasons.
"But for this entire group, their tour operator quite simply let them down very badly indeed. Princess Cruises should have ensured these holidaymakers' safety and made sure they were looked after properly. It is simply unacceptable that this group, many of whom are retired, were left to fend for themselves, unsure when they would get home and unable to call their families."