QE2 passengers marooned by refit delay

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The Independent Online
Cunard could face compensation claims running into millions of pounds from passengers because a British plumbing contractor failed to finish work on the luxury liner QE2 in time.

Yesterday some of the 190 passengers who were unable to board the liner for its Christmas cruise on Saturday formed an action group to sue Cunard. Despite being offered a refund and a replacement cruise, they said the company must have known that not allthe cabins would be ready. Altogether nearly 500 out of 1,100 passengers were unable to go. About 300 were warned by Cunard and did not turn up at Southampton.

Last night, Cunard refused to name the contractor. The company has not yet decided whether to take legal action.

The QE2 was supposed to have completed a £30m refit at a German shipyard in time for the passengers to board for a £4,000-a-head cruise to New York and the Caribbean.

The Germans and most British contractors refurbishing the 69,000-ton liner finished on time, but the firm working on passengers' bathrooms did not.

On Saturday, Cunard said that some passengers would be unable to go and asked for volunteers, prompting chaotic scenes. The ship left more than six hours late with the plumbers still on board finishing their work.

The action group has been formed by David Steene, a solicitor from Hertfordshire who paid £19,000 to take his wife, Dianne, and three children on a trip to America. He said: "Cunard must have known the boat would not be ready and they should have told u s last week instead of just a few hours before she left."

Cunard has offered the passengers a full refund and a free cruise next year with £250 spending credit.

Shambles at Southampton, page 3