Couple angry after Northern Lights cruise aboard MV Discovery first rerouted from Avonmouth... then cancelled
A COUPLE were left furious after a long-awaited cruise was cancelled at the last minute – after officials said the ship was not fit to sail.
Peter Hughes and Ann Gunner had booked the trip on the MV Discovery, at a cost of nearly £3,000, after putting a trip to see the Northern Lights on their list of things to do during their retirement.
But the couple – who spent two nights in dock on the boat – were upset when told the cruise was cancelled after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency raised safety concerns and banned the ship from sailing.
The MV Discovery was originally due to leave Avonmouth on Thursday but was re-routed to Portland due to weather conditions and delays with re-fuelling.
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Mr Hughes and Ms Gunner, who booked the 16-night cruise in November, received a call from cruise operators on Thursday morning to say the boat had been re-routed.
The couple travelled to Avonmouth where they were taken by bus to Portland, arriving at the ship at around 8.30pm.
But when they arrived and eventually boarded the boat, which had recently undergone a refit, they saw the quayside covered in supplies.
Mr Hughes, 65, a retired headteacher, said: "It was obvious the boat was not ready as the quayside was covered in containers of food and other items and the staff were carrying it on board.
"We got to our cabin which was all right, but other guests were complaining they did not have any hot water and others said grey water was coming back into their shower trays."
The couple went to get some dinner, a buffet which had been put on by ship staff.
"Ann asked for some cheese and biscuits," said Mr Hughes. "The cheese arrived but she was then told that the biscuits would be here the next day. They didn't even have any coffee which they said hadn't been loaded on board.
"The staff did not have a clue and a lot of them just didn't understand what the guests were saying."
The next morning an announcement told guests there was a delay in sailing and that a free bus had been put on to take those guests who wished into Weymouth.
During the day guests on board noticed a number of officials walking around the ship with clipboards.
Staff were also being trained in emergency procedures, including how to lower lifeboats into the water.
Mr Hughes said: "On Friday we were told there would be an announcement at 3pm then 6pm, but it never came. During the day we noticed staff being trained in emergency procedures including lowering the lifeboats.
"They even struggled to do this properly which made me concerned about our safety while on the ship.
"Then eventually at 8pm, as we were queuing for dinner, there was an announcement from the captain who said the cruise had been cancelled because the Maritime and Coastguard Agency had refused to grant a certificate of worthiness and we could not sail. We were told the ship would be evacuated on Saturday morning."
After a second uncomfortable night on board, the couple eventually got off the boat and were taken to Avonmouth by bus before having to pay £40 for a taxi to take them home to Congresbury.
Mr Hughes said: "We feel disappointed, deflated, angry and thoroughly let down. It became evident to everyone on board that the ship, staff and facilities were not ready for the cruise to take place.
"The decision should have been made much earlier to cancel the cruise, rather than subject all the passengers – many of whom were very elderly – to the chaotic and shambolic conditions we experienced and observed."
Ms Gunner, 69, a retired administrator, said: "It was a total waste of passengers' time to be on the ship."
Ship operator Cruise and Maritime Voyages has offered a full refund and £250 compensation to passengers.
Another cruise is due out of Avonmouth on March 15.
A MCA spokesman said: "Following inspections the MCA issued a detention notice on the passenger ship Discovery preventing the vessel from sailing. This will remain in place whilst the owners and crew undertake revisions to their safety management system.
A spokesman for Cruise and Maritime Voyages said: "Due to unusual and unforeseeable circumstances beyond our control and notwithstanding the recent dry docking, the vessel has encountered technical problems which prevent her from sailing.
"We have been unable to resolve these technical issues to enable us to continue with the cruise on time and further works will have to be undertaken to ensure all issues are fully resolved."