If your cruise doesn’t sail to the sites advertised in its brochure, you could claim for breach of contract.
When Which? Legal member George Turnbull booked a seven-night cruise, he never expected the ship would stay berthed in the same spot for three nights – or that he and his fellow passengers would endure long minibus trips of up to five hours just to get to places they wanted to see.
But that is what happened when George and his wife booked a cruise on the River Ganges with holiday company Voyages Jules Verne (VJV) for £4,390.
In its brochure, VJV stated that customers would avoid frenetic road travel during the trip. On the first day, the ship did make a two-hour trip – a round trip back to the same spot it had sailed from. But there the ship remained for three nights.
Instead, passengers had to take minibus rides of three to five hours on the roads they were supposed to be avoiding. In fact, it was only in the late afternoon of the fourth day that they set sail again.
The passengers were told the reason the ship couldn’t cruise as advertised was because of a ‘turtle sanctuary’. However, it wasn’t as if the ban had just been introduced – it had been in place for 20 years.
They were offered no alternative holiday or refund. George sent a letter of complaint by recorded delivery to VJV. When the company replied, it said no compensation was due. That’s when George came to Which? Legal for advice.
Our advice on claiming for an anchored cruise
We advised George to argue that VJV had breached its obligations under the Package Travel Regulations 1992, which apply to packages sold in the UK.
These say that descriptions about package holidays mustn’t be misleading and that particulars in brochures are terms of a contract entered into by the consumer and the holiday companies.
The holiday firm is responsible for making sure the contract is stuck to, even if another supplier carries out the service. In this instance, you can claim compensation from the holiday company.
This is a rare exception to the general rule against claiming damages for stress and inconvenience in English law.
Prior cases have established that for a ruined ordinary holiday you can generally claim a sum in the low hundreds of pounds. However, special holidays have attracted claims of more than £1,000 and, for very special ones (such as weddings abroad), claims can run into several thousands.
George pursued VJV, as we advised. He was offered and accepted £1,200.
This article by the Which? Legal team originally appeared in the May 2017 edition of Which?.
Have you had a similar experience on a cruise holiday? What happened?