Cruise passenger launches legal battle over ‘nightmare’ journey

Cruise Ship Thomson Spirit.
Cruise Ship Thomson Spirit.

AN angry ship passenger from South Tyneside is fighting a ground-breaking legal battle over a “nightmare” luxury cruise.

John Wile, 68, from South Shields, booked the cruise with his wife to celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary, but succumbed to an “acute” infection nine days into the voyage.

He is among a number of passengers suing travel giants TUI UK Ltd after suffering sickness and diarrhoea during their May 2009 cruise aboard the Thomson Spirit.

The passengers also want thousands of pounds in damages for their distress, inconvenience and ruined holidays.

However, TUI is fighting them every inch of the way, saying it did all it could to control an outbreak of norovirus.

The outbreak, the company insists, had nothing to do with poor food hygiene but was brought on board by an infected passenger.

QC David Allan said of Mr Wile: “The acute illness persisted for several days and then he felt lethargic and low.

“During his illness, when he was confined to his cabin, no staff came to clean, and the towels and bed linen were not changed during this period.”

The ill-fated cruise started at Ibiza and finished at Newcastle, via Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Morocco, France and Belgium.

The court heard Madeline Nolan, 57, from Wallsend booked the cruise with a party of six friends and was poleaxed by a stomach bug on May 5, vomiting repeatedly, passing blood and suffering stomach cramps.

Before becoming ill, Mrs Nolan had also noticed food being left out for long periods, claimed the QC, while some of the meat she ate appeared under-cooked.

Mr Allan added: “She was disappointed with the appearance of the ship and the standard of her cabin. The TV, radio and fridge did not work. The toilet and shower did not work properly,” the barrister alleged.

In a pre-trial interview, Mrs Nolan had described her cruise experience as an “absolute nightmare”.

Lesley Jackson, from Durham, went on the cruise with a family group of five, the court heard, suffering several days of “acute symptoms” prompted by a severe stomach bug.

“After the acute phase of illness passed she was left with stomach pains and lethargy,” said Mr Allan.

Mrs Jackson, 44, said that before her illness she had “noticed practices in the buffet restaurant which disturbed her”.

“Food was left out for long periods of time, it was often lukewarm, and she observed fresh hot food being poured over cold food,” said Mr Allan.

“During the cruise she wrote a detailed letter to the captain listing her complaints but did not receive a reply or acknowledgement.”

The hearing is continuing at Central London County Court.