No end in sight for cruise nightmare

Will Bennett talks to passengers forced to endure sub-contractors' nois e and clutter on their luxury QE2 trip

For Peter Ludlow and his fiancee, Merrilyn Wesley, their cruise on the QE2 is the third luxury sea trip that they have taken with Cunard in the past year.

The couple, from Camberley in Surrey, are used to the best and were horrified to discover that the corridor outside their cabin was littered with debris when they went on board last Saturday.

A floor sweeper, a life-jacket and a roll of carpet were lying there. In several corridors in that part of the ship, the ceilings were hanging down in an unsecured condition.

Mr Ludlow, 48, a diamond setter, was so concerned that he called out the ship's safety officer at 2.30 on Sunday morning and asked him to record officially that the corridors were in a dangerous state.

The embarrassed officer, who was used to providing a high standard of service, had to admit that Mr Ludlow was right. The complaint was logged, meaning that if a passenger had been injured, Cunard would have been liable.

Mr Ludlow and Miss Wesley, increasingly feeling as though they were bit-part players in a television sitcom, called the officer by telephone, partly for convenience but also because the deck by the purser's office was impassable.

After a few hours' sleep the couple, who paid £7,400 for the cruise to New York and the Caribbean, were awoken, not by gentle music or a waiter bearing breakfast but by the sound of workmen drilling in the cabin above, which began at 8am and continued remorselessly.

Mr Ludlow said: "It was supposed to be a dream holiday but it has turned into a nightmare. I don't think that we will be travelling with Cunard again." However, they have decided to stay with the cruise for its second leg from New York to the Caribbean. As American workmen are taking over from the British ones, who are going home for Christmas, the noise and disruption are likely to continue.

Whether Christine Hall will be able to wear the expensive ballgowns she bought specially for the cruise is open to serious doubt.

The American professor won her ticket for the cruise in a draw. She said that she was worried about wearing them because the jagged edges left by unfinished work might damage them. She might have done better to pack steel-capped boots and a hard hat instead. It was bad enough for some passengers to have to swill out their lavatories with water from ice buckets and sleep on mattresses on the floor. But even when they have got away from their cabins and the surrounding corridors, all has not

been well.

Some of the public areas were not finished at the start of the voyage. The Yacht Club Bar was full of welding equipment, a room called the Lido was closed, an outside swimming pool contained builders' rubbish and the theatre was not opened until two daysafter the QE2 left Southampton.

Workmen have been sleeping in the nursery despite the fact that a number of families with young children are among the passengers.

Even where the work has been finished, some passengers have said that it looks shoddy. In the cabin that has been allocated to Professor Hall, new panelling is already coming off the wall and some of the lights do not work.

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