Storms continue for public relations disaster

BY LEONARD DOYLE

With tales of exploding toilets, freezing conditions and desperately unhappy fare-paying passengers, the QE2's Southampton to New York Christmas cruise of 1994 will be remembered as one of the great public relations disasters of the decade.

Cunard also suffered the indignity of having its refitted flagship vessel impounded by the US Coastguard upon arrival in New York and being forced to carry out vital repairs to the ship before it continued to the Caribbean. Then there were the excruciating television interviews with passengers on the luxury vessel and finally the damning home videos of the holidaymakers showing blocked corridors and fire escapes and electrical wires hanging from unfinished ceilings.

Yesterday's announcement that the cruise line will be forking out pounds 7.5m in compensation to passengers and that the shipping company's chairman John Olsen has paid for the fiasco with his job is far from the end of the story, however.

Yet to be settled by a US federal judge in Manhattan are large damages claims by passengers who say they were exposed to asbestos dust and toxic fumes during the cruise. The passengers also want compensation for the stress they say they suffered for being on board an unseaworthy ship.

The class action against Cunard involves more than 200 British, American and other European passengers who are demanding that a pounds 30m fund be set up to cover potential health claims. The suit is being handled by the law firm Kreindler & Kreindler which recently won a multi-million criminal injury suit on behalf of several victims of Pan Am 103, the aircraft which was blown up over Lockerbie. The suit also seeks pounds 65,000 in compensation for each of the 400 or so passengers who are expected to join the legal action.

About 100 British passengers on the cruise have already accepted the compensation offered by Cunard and agreed not to take part in the US lawsuit, but a large number of other passengers have joined the case. Many are unhappy with the way Cunard has handled their claims and say that the cruise line has tried to short-change them.

Cunard immediately refunded all of the passengers the money they paid for the cruise and it has offered passengers a free holiday at the same time next year.

But because many of the passengers paid less than half price to travel by booking as late as possible, they will have to pay Cunard the balance if they want to book a holiday next year.

Peter Ludlow, of Camberley, Surrey, said that he would have to pay Cunard the pounds 7,000 it refunded him in order to take up the offer and that he was unhappy about the way the company was dealing with the compensation claim.

"Cunard's problem is that from the outset they tried to label us as troublemakers," he said. "They never treated us as customers."

Mr Ludlow also has what he claims is highly incriminating video footage of the voyage, showing blocked corridors and fire escapes.

"We would be happy to get a holiday from Cunard at the full price, but every time we agree to an offer they come back and say they cannot honour it," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Businessman at desk circa 1950s
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this secondary s...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Recruitment Genius: Recording Engineer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A long established media compan...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea