/ Travel & Leisure

Ever had a dream holiday turn into a holiday nightmare?

Sad traveller

If you’re jetting off this half term, we hope you have a stress-free trip. But we know that’s not always guaranteed, so here’s your chance to vent about holiday nightmares. You might just help launch a new campaign…

It doesn’t take much to put a dampener on your holiday. When my sister and I went away last year, we found the news that the swimming pool was closed devastating.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can now concede that a closed swimming pool is not, as it felt at the time, the end of the world.

Holiday nightmares

More severe holiday horror stories, however, aren’t hard to come by. One friend told me how he spent all night camped out at the airport only to find out his flight was cancelled. Another arrived at her destination only to discover the 5* luxury hotel she was sold looked more like her old school – the food tasted no better.

Previous posts here on Which? Convo have revealed stories of weary travellers being picked up from the airport by the tour operator only to be told that their hotels are fully booked and that they’ll have to stay in a different hotel. One traveller, B, was even moved to another city:

‘I once booked a 4* hotel in Paphos, Cyprus with Thomas Cook. This was a deal for ANY 4* hotel.

‘On arrival in Paphos we were escorted to coaches and divided between two coaches. We were then informed we were not staying in Paphos but we were going to a hotel in Limassol… some 50kms away. One lady sat down on the tarmac and wept.’

Help us with your stories

Holidays are precious, so we want to give you the chance to vent about when things go wrong. Your views could even help us kick start a new Which? campaign…

Have you ever arrived at a hotel to find that it wasn’t what you expected? Have you ever been told that your booking would have to change? Have you ever had terrible customer service? Or do you have another holiday nightmare you’d like to share with us?


The days of going into a travel agent and choosing your holiday based on 1 picture in a brochure are happily long gone. In the past, I have stayed in quite a few places that were below an acceptable standard.

With the internet, it is now possible to get reviews and see many pictures of your accommodation before you book.

These days, I think there is no excuse for why a travel company cannot tell you where you are staying when you book even if it requires a phone call for a last minute booking. I think getting a deal for “any hotel” is just a way of getting customers into undesirable accommodation. That was my experience the one time I did that many years ago.

It was a last minute holiday booked through a High Street travel agent with one of the well-known tour operators.

The only accommodation we could get was a 3* apartment allocated on arrival. It turned out to be a very noisy, zero star, really tatty one room that they would not change as there was no other accommodation available. At the time, we couldn’t afford to pay for another place to stay so had to put up with it.

We checked the tour operator brochure when we returned and it was not listed. We had looked at their 3* when booking and they looked acceptable.

But it was pre-internet.

Rob Cheetham says:
28 May 2014

I booked 6 flights to Goa India in April 2013 for March 2014 for 3 weeks, I went into Thomas cook on the town centre where I live to make some amendment’s. Only to be told that my flight’s didn’t exist. Unbeknown’s to me my brother in-law had been in to cancel 4 flight’s for him & his family. Even though the Booking was in my name they allowed him to cancel, but not just his 4 flight’s but mine and my wife’s also. When I finally sorted it out it cost me a further £623 pound’s to get my 2 flight’s back!! So that’s when I vowed never to go with Thomas Cook again Rip-Off’s.

Why blame Thomas Cook. I trust your brother in law reimbursed your £623.

I tend to think Thomas Cook have done no wrong and could probably have done no right in the circumstances. With hindsight one could say that leaving a booking unrevisited for many months could be a little risky as anything could have happened, even unintentionally. Perhaps Mr Cheetham didn’t have his brother-in-law’s authority to book the holidays in the first place. I guess there’s more to this tale than we are told. The lesson for travel agents should surely be that they check that the person commissioning the booking has the authority of the other members of the party [especially if giving different addresses]. That might have been one of the tick boxes on the form that should have received more attention in the Thomas Cook shop; in my experience airline websites require the customer to confirm that they have the consent of any other passenger for whom they are booking or changing the seating, but this is usually a perfunctory tick-box procedure that is more for the airline’s protection than the customer’s.

Pre-booked & paid for return transfers with Holiday Taxi’s a couple of years ago. Holiday was to/from Majorca. Outbound all fine. Upon return (as many people know) clients have to re-confirm the return transfer and pick up time. The day we were due to leave was the annual ‘iron man’ sport event in north Majorca. All roads in and out of certain resorts would be closed at a certain time, for quite a few hours. We were aware of this in advance. When we confirmed the rtn transfer with the provider, they gave us a ‘late’ time that we questioned (knowing roads would be closed).
Provider was adamant the time allocated for pick up was sufficient. They collected us at that time (and other passengers for other flights) and within 15mins – we came across a road block. There was no way out!
This resulted in us missing our flight home, all due to their error in the pick up time! (Other providers allowed for the sport event/delays). We had to pay for new flights home to a different airport as there was no flight to our original departure airport. We had to pay upfront / cash for a very expensive taxi to take us home. I did manage to obtain confirmation before we flew home that a full refund would be provided for the taxi fare. That wasn’t easy! I kept all receipts. Upon return home, after much perserverance, escalation to senior management & emails (with significant determination!) I eventually obtained full refunds with some additional compensation (that I requested) due to the fact that the whole matter took up precious time which it should not have! All due to their mistake!

We have never yet had a problem with the tour operator failing to organise a timely pick-up from the hotel to get us to the departure airport in good time but it was a close-run thing at Venice one time as the roads were clogged, the airport was bursting, and the check-in staff were largely absent.

I also remember an occasion when we were idly dozing at an airport and we were suddenly summoned by loudspeaker to the gate for our flight which we thought would be at least an hour later. The flight had been listed on the departure screens but we thought it was a previous one and were waiting for our departure time to be listed. Unfortunately, Thomas Cook had not adjusted the documentation for what is a regular routine flight to allow for the clocks going forward. By running at the double we made it onto the end of the queue for the plane and we had booked seats so there were no problems, but now we always verify the departure times not only to ensure they are correct for Winter/Summer Time but also to check whether the departure times from foreign airports are expressed in local time or GMT or BST. I find BA cut it a bit fine at times on when they open the check-in/bag-drop positions; they were fairly disorganised when departing from Miami last year when some of the systems broke down, passengers were queuing in the wrong places, and the baggage conveyor decided to disengage from its traction motor. The unknowing staff turned up to do the check-ins and discovered that everything was a complete shambles; they got it sorted though and some manual labour was rapidly deployed, but not before some of the pasengers were either getting very stroppy or having palpitations about missed connections etc. That’s the good thing about holidays, there always something to talk about afterwards.

Ian Bradford says:
30 May 2014

I rented a villa called Casa Alegria in Spain (Javea) 2 years ago through a company called White Coast Property Management which I found through HomeAway.co.uk. My elderly parents were going with me and when we arrived the house was very nice but there was the most appalling building noise from a nearby building site – pounding through rocks which went on from 8.00 to 17.00 with an hour break at lunch. It made it impossible to sit outside or even have the house windows open. I emailed the agent and suggested it was a problem and her response was “no one else has complained so I can’t help you there”. In fact I spoke to a neighbour who said that another owner was trying to sue the building company for lost rental. I find it inconcievable that no-one else had complained. On my return I discussed this further with agent and she refused to give any discount. I tried to write an honest review a number of times on HomeAway’s review system and each time the review was rejected for a different reason. It seems as if they would not accept a review that was in anyway negative. I looked this up online and there a were people saying that this was the case – they will only accept positive reviews – very useful!

Several years ago my wife and I went to Madeira. The first full day of the holiday we went on the famous “road toboggan”, a kind of wicker sofa on runners that slides down the steep hills guided by two men with ropes. A hundred metres or so from the start, one of the men tripped and the other tried to hold on, pulling the toboggan round before he too had to let go, so that we were sliding downhill backwards. We collided with a parked car, which smashed the wooden back-rest of the seat, right in the middle of my wife’s back. I had a few bruises, but nothing serious, while my wife was unconscious, her face the colour of ivory. When she came round and the ambulance had arrived, the (evidently untrained) ambulance men encouraged her to stand up and walk about, despite serious pain. X-rays later revealed that she had seven broken ribs and her pelvis was broken in three places, meaning that walking about could easily have been fatal, even with her spine undamaged. We finished our fortnight in a private hospital, she in bed and I visiting, and we returned home occupying three complete rows of seats on the plane because she was on a special stretcher, and accompanied by a nurse who had come out from Britain, then by private ambulance to our local hospital. And the moral is – make sure your insurance is in order, because even with an EHIC (which would not pay for a private hospital) the repatriation would cost thousands of pounds.

Yes, we were insured, but the company wanted lots of details of expenses, and ended up saying there was some kind of cap on what they could pay out. Still, they did cover clinic, flights, ambulance, etc., and we did get some cash as well. The main thing, though, is that my wife recovered after several months in a wheelchair and after extensive hydrotherapy. I was assured – and I believe it to be true – that such accidents are extremely rare.

John Humphrey says:
31 May 2014

Jan/Feb 2013, my wife and I stayed at the Riu Nautilus in Torremolinos, Spain, for four weeks, as we have done for many years. But this holiday turned out to have a very unhappy ending. Our room was entered, by the use of a key ( there was no evidence of any forced entry ), whilst we were at dinner. About £3000 worth of jewellery was stolen, and the locks on the suitcases were destroyed. Although the hotel reception was duly helpful in contacting the police, we had to visit the police station to make a statement, there was no offer to inspect the scene of crime.The Management could not have been less helpful. In fact the impression that my wife and I got was that there was a wish that we would just go away. There was not any form of regret or apology. It was not until the Thomson rep got involved did the hotel offer a bottle of wine. Later,information emerged that, from video recordings, there was no suspicious visitors either entering or leaving the hotel. It still makes me wonder how many people have keys to the hotel rooms and are aware when clients are unlikely to be in their rooms. No feedback has suggested that any formal investigation took place. Even Riu, the hotel group did not show any serious interest.

Stephen Roberts says:
2 June 2014

The family booked a holiday to Lara Beach in Turkey for a week. We were due to fly from Manchester airport Terminal 2 to Antalya. We arrived within 2 and a half hours of flight departure. There was a HUGE concertina queue at the Thomas Cook check-in desks, of which only 3 of the many check-in desks were ‘manned’.
The queue went down very very slowly, and there were still at least a hundred people in the queue, of which there were 20 or so in front of us, when the flight was closed! “What’s going on?” we said. “We called your flight twice” said two woman with ‘Servisair’ uniforms. “We’ve been in that queue for nearly 2 hours up till now!!!” we said. “Sorry, the flight’s closed. You’ll have to get on another flight….. Tomorrow!” We were totally gobsmacked. My daughter burst into tears. the Thomas Cook chceck-in staff said “It’s nothing to do with us. Servisair have closed the flight” Nothing we said had any impression. They chose to totally ignore us, and waved the waiting people on to continue their check-in.
We had to commute to Birmingham to get a flight the next day. We had to pay for a hire car, and ensue an extra charge because it was a one-way journey – we had brought our own car to Manchester airport ‘Meet-and Greet’, and so had to get back to Manchester on our journey home. When we got to Lara Beach, we checked in after midnight, only to be told the (5 star) hotel was full, we’d lost our rooms, and we could not stay there. “We’ll move you to another hotel.” Thomas Cook denied all responsibility. We lost a day and a half of a week’s holiday, got no compensation, or apology. Thomas Cook are the absolute pits, and a disgrace to the holiday industry. ABTA could do nothing.

Brian Smith says:
2 June 2014

REF: Thomson’s Cruises Best of the Black Sea – 6th October – 20th October 2014

After numerous phone calls, several visits to the in-store Thomson’s shop in ASDA in Watford, and a response by email (in reply to ours) on facebook advising that we should have heard from the company by now regarding the contingency plans for the above cruise, I am losing patience.

We have booked to go on the above cruise to the Crimea which, very obviously, cannot happen now although we have heard nothing at all from Thomson’s either by email, letter or phone. We know this because when we tried to book a shore excursion in the Crimea, we were informed that the ship would not be calling there. This is information we should have received from Thomson’s, not second hand. We are still waiting for the revised itinerary. We have been told by ‘Christina’ on facebook a few days ago that we should have been informed by now of the revised plans. WE HAVE HEARD NOTHING. It would appear from the forums, that nobody else has heard anything either.

Other cruise lines, I note, seem to have informed their passengers. I can only deduce from this that they place a higher value on their customers than Thomson’s do.

We booked to go to the Crimea. We did not book a mystery cruise – if we had wanted one, we would have booked one. However, it appears that this is now what we are going on, whether we like it or not!

WE WANT TO KNOW WHERE WE ARE GOING IN OCTOBER. Whilst Thomson’s have our money, they might at least be courteous enough to tell us where we are going. It is simply rude not to reply and certainly not the professionalism I would have expected of a large tour operator such asThomson’s. I should not be chasing you to find out these details; it should be you, as the tour operator, contacting us. As it stands, we are still going to the Crimea!!!!!

According to their website, Thomson’s are still going to take you to Sevastopol and Yalta in Crimea on the way to Sochi!

Visiting Crimea would be in defiance of the UK government’s recommendation [as confirmed on the FCO website] and it is unlikely that would occur even if the geo-political situation reverted over the next few months which is virtually impossible now. Because the calls at the other ports have probably already been scheduled and committed with refuelling, stores replenishment, and excursion logistics lined up it seems you are going to miss two fascinating ports of call and spend an additional two days at sea which would be a very poor substitute. Thomson’s have two or three other cruises destined to call at Sevastopol between now and October with no mention of any alternative arrangements. It is quite incredible that the company has not made any announcements or informed their passengers directly. Even if they confirmed that calls at Sevastopol and Yalta were still going,ahead, many travellers would probably be unhappy in view of potential trouble and difficulties if they went ashore; the situation remains volatile, I think this is a major failure in customer care. I even tried posting a question [“What is the situation with cruises scheduled to call at Crimea (Sevastopol and Yalta)?”] on their website “Ask Us” facility. Useless. I would say this company is not fit to be running international cruises. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea took place three months ago – long enough to plan an alternative itinerary or offer customers a free cancellation or an alternative cruise. This behaviour raises questions over the company’s commercial robustness.

Brian Smith says:
2 June 2014

Thank you for your reply which was very helpful. Just a follow up to the previous email to you. Today I called in at the local Thomson travel agent in Watford where I spoke to the Assistant Manager, Kelly, and explained the situation which she seemed totally unaware of as she said no-one had booked this particular cruise with them personally. She seemed more keen to pass the buck on to the original booking agent which was actually done on the phone with Thomsons in their Glasgow office.

I asked her as a representative of Thomsons if she might be able to ring them as they probably wouldn’t keep her on hold for 15 minutes like they did myself – they didn’t! She then explained that the itinerary hadn’t been changed because under the booking conditions they reserved the right not to publish the new itinerary until 2 months before the actual start date of the cruise in case the situation changed ie 6th August (the cruise start date is 6th September). Unfortunately, they want the balance of this cruise £2661 paid on 14th July, well before they are prepared to issue the new itinerary.

In effect we will be paying more than £3000 for a mystery cruise. I told her I was not happy with this but she assured me that once the new itinerary was issued in August, if we did not like it, she guaranteed we would get a refund of the total amount we had paid. However, if we cancelled before the new itinerary was issued we would lose our deposit on the basis we had cancelled before being made aware of the new itinerary. She made it very clear that if we were to cancel now we would lose our deposit.

I endeavoured to clarify with her that should we pay the balance and then not like the itinerary, she would be able to guarantee on behalf of Thomsons, a refund of our money. Her assured previous tone changed and she answered that it ‘was not set in stone’ that the money would be refunded.

We appeared to be going round in circles so I asked her to advise me of any changes to the itinerary should she hear and gave her my contact numbers. I had to ask her to do this, she did not offer.

I am not sure where to go next with this but it obviously affects approx 1000 people and not just us. I feel we are not being treated with respect or fairness and far from being treated as valued customers, we are being treated as a commodity.

PS: The ship was actually due to call at 3 ports in the Ukraine, Sevastopol, Yalta and Odessa so it made up a significant part of the itinerary.

When there is major destabilisation in a region which is bound to affect future holiday destinations and itineraries, companies like Thomson – that want to be taken as leading operators with a powerful presence in the UK market – have got to do better than this. I think you are entitled to a written assurance that a full refund will be given in the event of your cancelling following the issue of a revised itinerary; a refusal to give such an assurance would be very worrying and would not do Thomson’s reputation any good. Although they have up to 6 August to publish a new itinerary and still allow free cancellations, I would hope they would not leave it to the last minute as finding an alternative holiday in your chosen period will be difficult.

I realised that a port call at Odessa was also included and was thinking that might possibly still go ahead as the situation in western Ukraine was less problematic and, following the presidential election, the region was now a bit more settled. Nevertheless, UK government advice remains negative and going ashore could still be risky unless you were on a fully secured excursion [i.e. not wandering about by yourselves as you would be able to do normally]. If the Odessa call was also omitted, I think the cruise would be ruined and it would be so much different to what you ordered that there would be a fundamental breach of contract for which extra days at other ports would not be adequate or satisfactory compensation [there aren’t that many other places in and around the Black Sea that are suitable or desirable as cruise destinations].

I am left wondering how Thomson are dealing with their other Black Sea cruises with Crimea port calls; one of them sails next Monday! Holiday companies can be forgiven for bungling their responses to earthquakes and ash clouds which are unpredictable, but they could see this one coming a mile off and have kept you in the dark.

I notice that other cruise lines have altered and reduced their Black Sea offerings to avoid Ukrainian and Russian ports, but for many people thay were the main attraction in preference to Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. I suppose Thomson are petrified by the possibility that most of their bookings will disappear and that, even if they actually cancel the cruises and redeploy personnel, they will be left with unproductive ships, empty seats on aircraft, port charges and compensation to various shore-side organisations; it’s unlikely that even surrendered deposits would cover much of that. The economics of cruises depend heavily on the profits from on-board consumption and services.

Best of luck, Brian – and keep us posted.

The Which? advice is very good and deals well with a one-destination resort holiday that is clearly rendered impossible by particular events. I think the question with a cruise will hinge on how much of the overall holiday experience is affected. With Brian’s fourteen-night Black Sea cruise there are ten ports of call and it is possible that three of them will be omitted. Thomson might be able to insert one alternative port call and/or prolong the stay at another one, but the loss of the three Ukrainian destinations makes a very significant difference to the desirability of the overall package and devalue it to the point that one would not have even considered booking it. Thomson’s would no doubt argue that passengers will still be able to enjoy N miles of cruising [with 75% of their port calls], sail around the Black Sea shores viewing the attractive landscape, be able to laze away more time on a sunbed in the sub-tropical climate, and enjoy all the on-board facilities with even more time for spa treatments and other indulgences.

It is certain that Thomson will have to make some changes to this cruise and I think they owe it to their customers to say immediately what their policy will be on cancellations in the event that, when the changes are announced, passengers dislike the new package. It would also be an act of goodwill if they postpone the final balance payment date until three working days after they make that announcement.

Judging by the amount of advertising and promotion going on right now, it looks to me as though the cruise market is in a fragile state and there is too much capacity chasing too few customers. Thomson, together with Fred. Olsen and Saga, appeal in particular to what I would describe as the respectable segment of the UK market that is very discerning and looking for a richer experience, especially with regard to the itinerary. Thomson would forsake this market at their peril in my opinion; their vessels are getting a little elderly for today’s expectations and lack the range of entertainment opportunities and space that passengers nowadays desire. Treating their, generally loyal, customers with disdain is a courageous move since there are currently plenty of alternative travel options.

Brian Smith says:
5 June 2014

Hi John and all at Which?
Here is a copy of an email I received today 5/6/214 13:55 from the Thomson Programme Change Team.

RE: Your holiday to Turkey (Dalaman).

Departure date 06/10/2014. Reference Numbe **********

Thank you for choosing to travel with Thomson Cruises. We’re writing to give you some important information about your cruise.

We’ve been monitoring the situation in the Ukraine closely since the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all travel to Crimea due to the increased tensions in the region. As a result of this, we’ve had to make some changes to your schedule.

With your safety in mind, we’re changing all our visits to the Ukraine – Odessa, Sevastopol and Yalta – replacing them with calls to Constanta in Romania and Batumi in Georgia. We’ve also rejigged the order of your itinerary a bit, and added a day at sea, to better fit the new ports.

There’s plenty to look forward to in your new ports of call.

Constanta is your gateway to Bucharest, the Romanian capital. Once known as the Paris of the Balkans, this city is filled with palaces and tree-lined boulevards.

You can also visit the Danube Delta from Constanta. The Delta stretches across the mouth of the Danube, and is home to some of the best bird watching in Europe.

Batumi, meanwhile, is a port city where old and new get along famously. In the city itself, the chrome and glass of a 21st-century revamp sit alongside a lovingly restored old town of walnut trees and grapevine-draped balconies. It’s the ideal introduction to Georgia, a country that’s very much off the beaten tourist trail and packed with history – a real hidden treasure.

Your new itinerary and timings in port now look like this…

Day Port Country Arrive Depart

1 Marmaris Turkey 22:00

2 At Sea

3 Istanbul Turkey 08:00

4 Istanbul Turkey 15:00

5 Nessebar Bulgaria ]07:00 18:00

6 Constanta Romania 06:00 19:00

7 At sea

8 Trabzon Turkey 09:00 18:00

9 Sochi Russia 07:00 18:00

10 Batumi Georgia 06:00 18:00

11 Sinop Turkey 12:00 17:00

12 At sea

13 Mytilene Lesbos 08:00 18:00

14 Kusadasi Turkey 08:00 16:00

15 Marmaris Turkey 08:00

If you had any Ukrainian trips or tours booked, via our website, these will be cancelled automatically and refunded in full.

If you booked tours through your local Thomson shop, please take this letter to your Holiday Advisor who will be able to cancel your trips and take you through the options available to you Constanta and Batumi.

While the situation in the Ukraine is out of our control, we do appreciate that the Crimea was one of the many highlights of this cruise. With that in mind, we’d like to give you £75 of on-board spending money per adult by way of an apology.

We hope this doesn’t cause any undue problems, and that we’ve explained the change clearly, but if you’ve got any questions you can either visit your local travel shop, chat to us on Facebook by visiting http://www.facebook.com/thomsoncruises or give us a call on 0800 009 3870.

We hope you have a fantastic time on-board.

The Team at Thomson Cruises.

We will need to think about this new itinerary and the £75 pp on board credit – But it’s not the Crimea which is why we booked the cruise.

Hello Brian . . . . I have only just caught up with your latest post. It looks to me as though Thomson have made a fair effort to adjust to the situation in such a way that customers can’t complain too much but, as you say, the alternative port calls [and the extra day at sea] are not what you wanted. I think they should have confirmed officially in writing that, now you have seen the revised itinerary, you can cancel the cruise without penalty. As to the £75 on-board credit [each, presumably], if you did not already have an allowance then that’s as good as cash back – it’s difficut not to run up much more than that with excursions, drinks, photos, purchases, spa treatments, and laundry on a fourteen-night cruise. If I were you, I’d go for it and have as good a time as you can – it could be some time before the FCO lifts the restriction on Ukraine. Having said that, there are some good cruise deals available with other lines right now so it would pay to look around if you can get all of your money back from Thomson.

Brian Smith says:
10 June 2014

Hi just to keep you uptodate. I rang the Thomson helpline today (there was a 25 minute wait) to advise that we were not happy with the new itinerary as we had booked this holiday expressly with the Ukrainian ports in mind and Romania is indeed a poor alternative. Thomsons told us there was no alternative other than an offer to rebook another cruise before the balance of the holiday was due and transfer the deposit across. I pointed out that they had made a significant change to the itinerary and as such we should be offered the option to cancel with a full return of our deposit. They argued that the change of itinerary was, according to their legal team, not considered to be ‘significant’. If we didn’t like it we should take it further through the courts. They would not budge from this position.

Thank you John Ward for your comments. I think we will keep the booking but also keep an eye on the cruise price to see if its offered at a sale price before the balance is due and it may be worth cancelling and re-booking at the lower price.

I am not surprised by Thomson’s response. I can understand their legal team’s position and I think it probable that the Court would support them. You could not possibly have anticipated the present situation in Ukraine and made made visits to Ukraine, and specifically Crimea, a key part, indeed the essence, of the contract, and even if you had I don’t think that would have been much help in the current situation since Thomson could not have anticipated it either and what they have done in response would, to many people – including a judge, look very good. Logistically, it cannot have been easy to recast the itinerary and set up new port calls. I think your pragmatic approach is sensible; other available Thomson cruises are possibly of no greater interest to you than the revised Black Sea cruise but at least I expect the ship’s company will be doing their utmost to give passengers as good an experience as they possibly can. Cruise prices seem to go progressively upwards as the date approaches but then, a few weeks before departure, they often come down dramatically in order to fill the ship, so it is certainly worth keeping a eye on the prices. Alternatively, there might be a way in which you can still pay the same price but get an upgrade. Behind the scenes I bet there’s a fair bit of juggling going on, but Thomson’s have the advantage because they know, and you don’t, what other passengers are doing [putting up with it in most cases I suspect!]. Best of luck and have a happy holiday.

A further thought . . . in anybody’s book it is no longer honest to market this cruise under the title “Best of the Black Sea” since it cannot get you into Odessa, Sevastopol and Yalta and the substituted destinations are much less appealing.

Tim says:
4 June 2014

Some time ago – pre-Madeleine McCann disappearance – myself and my immediate family (Mother, Father, and Brother) were flying from Manchester to Faro, in the Algarve, Portugal, for a holiday in that area (Algarve). We were flying with some rather random and surely very little known-about airline, who probably by now do not exist any more. They also probably only had around one or two planes.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, I believe that check-in took about an hour, then we were through to departures for breakfast, which we had – everything up until this point seemed absolutely fine. After breakfast, we may have shopped around a bit, before heading to our gate. Upon arrival there, I believe that ourselves and everyone else on the flight were either held there at the gate for a while, or just sent straight downstairs to some slightly-secluded waiting area ‘at runway level’. We waited around down there for what was definitely over three hours but what was then approaching 4-hours (which I believe was, back then, the limit before I believe they had to reimburse passengers financially or provide food/drinks, etc.) before we were then finally taken out to the plane…… which we then sat on for another [not so] good few hours (probably, by now, waiting a clear slot to take off)!

At some point now on the plane, they handed out little plastic cups for hot drinks with a packet of some kind of biscuit inside, but they didn’t want to serve us hot drinks in-case we suddenly got a take-off slot (understandably, ultimately).

In the end, we /eventually/ arrived in Faro and then finally arrived at our end destination via hire car in-time for dinner – we were meant to arrive in-time for lunch(!).

Basically, they had kept us waiting for as much time as possible up to just before the point where they had to arrange for financial compensation or complimentary food/drinks, before then keeping us waiting yet again but now on the plane.

In hindsight, I’m grateful that I don’t actually truly remember the name of this shoddy airline!

Sian Fitzpatrick says:
2 July 2014

My daughter went on holiday to turkey this year with her boyfriend and his family. They went on a jeep safaris and the driver was texting on his phone causing the vehicle to overturn and Bryony was catapaulted through the roof. She fell 260ft down a mountain. Miracously she survived with bruising and scratches. She waited 2 hours to be rescued. She spent 4 days in intensive car and wasn’t allowed to fly home for another week. She has pictures if the jeep and her injuries. Obviously there’s more detail to the story but she’s really lucky to be alive. An angel was certainly looking down on her that day.

I booked a hire car with Alamo from Inverness Airport for a holiday touring Scotland. I took Which? advice and had taken out Insurance to cover the excess on the rental agreement, which cost £19.93 for the week. When I went to the Alamo desk they were offering their own excess insurance for about £20 PER DAY, so thank you to Which? for the very good advice.

S Patel says:
27 July 2014

My partner and I currently on holiday from hell in Crete, Greece due to a package holiday sold online by Thomson Holidays. We paid £400 each for a one week stay but have been put in a s**t hole without running hot water, no change of towels, bed linen or cleaning of toilets. On the Thomson website it was described as a 3 star one bedroom apartment but in actual fact the place is barely 2 star, our bed is just two roll away beds put together and the apartment is just a tiny room with no furniture. I had also paid for hotel transfers from airport but we were not taken to hotel just dumped in middle of town left to find our own way to hotel with luggage! Also had to pay hotel extra for air conditioning and safe which is ridiculous considering the amount paid per person. So far all complaints have fallen on deaf ears and Thomson are not willing to change our hotel, most liky hoping they can stall for a week and we forget about this nightmare when we get back home! Please advise what I can do?

Tim says:
27 July 2014

To ‘S Patel’,

If I’m not mistaken, your best course of action at this stage would be to make contact with ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents).

Their website is http://www.abta.com

On their site, you may also find this http://abta.com/resource-zone/faqs/search&category=103&&43 page of frequently asked questions of some use to yourself.

Also, they have a consumer helpline “open from 10.00-16.00 Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays”. This is reachable by calling 020 3117 0599 (so likely +44207 3117 0599 from abroad).

If at-all needed, ABTA’s postal address is “ABTA Ltd, 30 Park Street, London, SE1 9EQ”.

Finally, and if I’m understanding you correctly that you had paid in-advance (i.e.: before you left the UK) for the airport-to-hotel transfer(s), then there is some potential that as this was not provided as I assume you understood should have happened,f this may constitute a breach of contract. The Citizens Advice Bureau’s excellent* Consumer helpline – reachable on 03454 04 05 06 (+443454 04 05 06) or via the the relevant contact form link on this page http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/consumer_e/consumer_protection_for_the_consumer_e/consumer_citizens_advice_consumer_service_e/if_you_need_more_help.htm – ought to be able to advise you on this matter and what your next course of action should be.

I trust that this helps, and wish you the very best of luck.


* = I recommend it personally as I have used them myself previously and they’ve been very good and haven’t let me down yet – in-fact they have always given out the correct advice (often as I understood but wanted to confirm was indeed the case under the law) to me.

It was our 1st year anniversary and my partners birthday so we decided to book a holiday to Turkey. I went to Turkey 3 years and throughly enjoyed it, the food and hotel was excellent. We decided to go to another resort as I assumed all 4* hotels and food would be as good as the previous hotel I stayed in. We went to our travel agent and saw this amazing deal, hotel pictures, reviews and restaurant looked great, so we booked the holiday. I emailed the hotel to inform them it was our anniversary and my partners birthday, so therefore requested if we could be upgraded, I didn’t get a reply. I should have realised something was wrong then. We arrived at our hotel at 3.15am, to be greeted by a very unhelpful gentleman. He took us to our room to 2 single beds. I was in tears and very upset. The bathroom was disgustingly filthy and dirty. There was no way I could wash in the shower. We complained to the unhelpful, non English speaking gentleman. He said we have to stay here and to speak to the manager in the morning. We was so tired, it left us with no choice, we hardly slept. The next morning we spoke to the manager, tried to explain the 2 single beds and filthy shower. She was clearly not interested, or wanted to know. The house keeper checked our shower and said its clean. The manager went on to say she has no rooms, yet we booked a double room. She went on to say we need to speak to our rep. This was totally unacceptable. We went to the restaurant to have breakfast, to our disgust the food was apalling. The choice was very limited and not appealing. Everything was dirty, we poured hot water in our cup, there were black bits floating in the cup. This put us right off. Olympic Holidays have done nothing to help us, we filled in a complaint form and was told to write to the UK office. The UK office said i needed to sort it out at the office in the resort. This has been a total nightmare from hell. We ended up going out for our meals and drinks. This hotel Bitez Han Resort Hotel was definitely not a 4* all inclusive hotel. We actually thought, we was in a bed and breakfast. Please can you help me take this further. Thank you Sue. I will never travel with Olympic Holidays too.

Tony Brooks says:
24 September 2014

In September 2013 we booked a fantastic 2 week holiday to Florida for our family with Virgin Holidays. We pushed the boat out and upgraded to Premium Economy flights to make sure that this holiday was special as it would probably be our last family holiday with the girls. We arrived in Florida on the 4th of July 2014 where we collected our hire car before we set of to collect our keys for our villa. When we arrived at the villa office, which was closed, we went to the drop box to collect our keys to find no envelope. We contacted the villa companies out of office service to be told they didn’t have a booking for us. We then contacted Virgins out of office service, based in Las Vagas, who couldn’t help us and didn’t seem to be bothered!!!! The villa people then offered us a villa 80 miles further south, which we had no option to take due to Virgins lack of support. During the 2 weeks we were in Florida we had no contact from Virgin. They totally ignored the emails I sent them.

Once we got back we sent a letter of complaint which wasn’t dealt with, with any satisfaction. When things go wrong, and you’ve paid a reputable company you expect the reps to sort things out!! We just wanted them to say SORRY , and deal with the matter. What should have been an idyllic holiday turned into a ‘make do holiday’. Not what you spend 8K on!!! I would not book or recommend another Virgin holiday.

Keisha says:
29 August 2015

I booked an apartment in New York between 23rd May 2015 – 2nd June 2015 through HomeAway.com (HomeAway), from a male that we will call the ‘Harlem Homeowner’, a total payment of $1,384.00 was made in March 2015 and paid directly to HomeAway (bank statements to prove this). I contacted the trust and security department of HomeAway on the 22nd May 2015 advising that I had heard nothing from the ‘Harlem Homeowner’. HomeAway also made a number of attempts to make contact with the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ but were also unsuccessful (email proof available). I had no choice but to book alternative accommodation through Airbnb for $1,768.00.

During a number of calls made to HomeAway on the 22nd and 23rd May 2015 I was advised that;

1. A payment had NOT been made to the ‘Harlem Homeowner’,
2. The money was being held in escrow with a sister company of HomeAway called VRP (vacation rental property),
3. If the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ had not made contact with HomeAway by the 24th May 2015 a fraud investigation would be carried out and HomeAway would contact me to confirm; and
4. The payment to the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ was not due to be made until the 25th May 2015 (the idea behind this is that they wait until travellers have accessed a property before any funds are released to homeowners)

At the point at which HomeAway were also unable to get in contact with the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ it was obvious that I was unlikely to get access to the apartment I had booked, HomeAway as a result of my issue removed the ‘Harlem Homeowners’ other property listings from their website. Additional advice I was given by HomeAway, was to;

1. File a complaint with the NYPD; and
2. Contact the bank to see if they could stop the payment (a payment that had been made to HomeAway two months previously and that was now being held in escrow with HomeAway’s sister company VRP vacation rental property

The one positive about HomeAway was that their trust and security representative did apologise for all the problems I was having and was kind enough to send me a list of property owners I could contact to see if they had accommodation I could rent for the rest of my time in New York. All the property listings I was given however were listings that would need to be booked through another sister company of HomeAway called VRBO.com. I would call this a 50% goodwill gesture, the other 50% is using my misfortune to make more money for HomeAway and its subsidiaries, but thank you J*** nonetheless. While sending a list of property owners, that could be booked through HomeAway’s sister company (VRBO.com), the trust and security team advised that I could NOT transfer my payment to a new apartment booked through their sister company and I also could NOT get a refund, but would have to make an additional payment (email proof of this conversation).

On the 25th May 2015 HomeAway, processed my payment to the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ even though;

1. HomeAway had known since the 22nd May 2015 that I had not been in contact with the ‘Harlem Homeowner’,
2. They knew I had not accessed the apartment on the 23rd May 2015 as agreed with HomeAway and the ‘Harlem Homeowner’,
3. HomeAway had removed all of the property owners listings from their website due to this issue and because they too was unable to get through to the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ (email proof of conversation); and
4. They had sent me a list of alternative apartments I could rent for the remainder of my holiday in New York

I sent numerous emails to HomeAway throughout my stay in New York and when I returned to London, but heard nothing from HomeAway, one of my emails included information relating to the ‘Harlem Homeowners’ social media accounts and proof that the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ was holidaying in Europe. I did a lot of my own detective work in order to identify the ‘Harlem Homeowner’, I managed to find him on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and his place of work. Understandably HomeAway would not give any information about the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ due to data protection, so I had to investigate myself (the wonders of the World Wide Web).

After hearing nothing from HomeAway for over a week, on the 9th June 2015 I contacted C*** S******* a CEO from HomeAway, who did very little to help, accept to advise that he had received my email and would forward it onto the correct department (I guess I should be happy he responded). Finally on the 18th June 2015 I did get a response back from HomeAway.com, BUT it wasn’t from the CEO; that would be too kind, or the customer service team; nope that would be too kind or the trust and security team; no that would be too kind also. It was from the Better Business Bureau an organisation I had first contacted on 31st May 2015 as advised by the NYPD (The Better Business Bureau is a platform in America to make complaints about companies, they will forward your complaints directly to the business for response). The full response from HomeAway regarding my complaint is below;

‘We cannot comment on this consumer/traveler’s complaint, because it appears that this complaint is not with our online advertising service, but appears to be the result of a marketplace transaction between this consumer and the owner or manager of an individual vacation home rented by that owner or manager to the public. We are in no way a party to the agreement or contract between this consumer traveler and the owner manager, and cannot solve this consumer’s complaint. Our advertising service is an online site for owners to advertise and travelers to find vacation homes to rent, but we are never involved in the transaction between the traveler/consumer and the landlord/property manager. See theTerms and Conditions below that the consumer/traveler and landlord/property manager agreed to about our role here. Therefore, this complaint is incorrectly being associated with HomeAway Inc, and it should be associated with the landlord/property manager.’

‘Finally, while we do take certain measures with a goal to assist users to avoid potentially fraudulent or other illegal activity of which we become aware, we assume no liability or obligation to take any such measures or actions. In the event we do provide warnings or messages to users about any such activity, we do not warrant that such messages or accurate or that such messages will reach any or all users they should have reached in a timely manner or at all or that such messages or measures will prevent any harm, result or action.’

‘According to our records this consumer also filed a formal property complaint against this advertiser. As part of that formal complaint process we did reach out to the advertiser on behalf of this consumer in order to try to get the two parties to settle their dispute. We however do NOT mediate; we simply try our best to put the two parties together to work the situation out if possible’.

The response from HomeAway still does not explain why HomeAway processed a payment to the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ after being aware that the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ had breached his contract by not giving access to the apartment as agreed. There is nothing in the HomeAway terms and conditions that advise travellers that payments to homeowners will be made irrespective of whether a traveller accesses an apartment or not and irrespective of whether the fault lies with the homeowner.

While HomeAway do not mediate between two parties, they would not give any information relating to the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ (email to prove this). HomeAway were a third party to the agreement as they were in receipt of the payment not the ‘Harlem Homeowner’, stopping the payment had nothing to do with not being a party to an agreement or not mediating between travellers and homeowners. There is also nothing relating to a non-refund policy relating to travellers, when it is the homeowners fault nor is there anything that states that travellers are not able to transfer their payment to another apartment when HomeAway or their subsidiaries are still in receipt of a travellers payment. HomeAway had every opportunity to stop my payment being made to the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ and they did nothing.

To end my nightmare experience booking with HomeAway, ultimately HomeAway are a breeding ground for fraudsters, HomeAway made a payment to a rogue homeowner and have no strategies in place to stop payments to homeowners where they breach their contract with travellers, in the form of not giving them access to apartments which is the end result when booking an apartment through HomeAway. Instead they make payments to rogue homeowners and leave traveller to fight to be reimbursed, which I am still in the process of, nearly 3 months after returning from New York.

I would urge anyone that has had a similar issue with HomeAway to make it public, I cannot even begin to imagine how many people this has happened to and the blame should lie first and foremost with HomeAway. It is about time HomeAway, the ‘Harlem Homeowner’ or any other rogue homeowners are held accountable for the negative impact their errors have on unsuspecting travellers.

P.S. My advice to anyone that is going through this issue or something similar

1. Always take the name of any customer service representatives you speak to
2. Always make a note of the date and time you make any calls to a business like HomeAway
3. Always make a note of the key points of a conversation you are having with a business like HomeAway
4. Let the person on the other end of the line know you are making notes and confirm that they are recording the conversation also
5. Before you end a call go over all the notes you have taken so you are both clear on what is discussed
6. Ask for an email address to confirm so you can confirm your telephone call in writing

Our dream Mallorca trip turned into a nightmare
My husband booked a flat-rate trip to Mallorca with JT TOURISTIK from July 4 until July 8. We arrived at Mallorca airport around 08:00 p.m. We took the bus from the airport to go to the hotel, but they kept us sitting in the bus for about an hour until the bus was full and all seats were occupied. Finally, the bus dropped us at the hotel around 09:45 p.m. Upon arrival they told us that dinner time was over and they gave us a lunch box instead. When we checked into the room, we discovered that it was a very bad and noisy one that overlooked a busy street. The room had two small beds and the towels in the bathroom were torn and looked as if they had been used. My husband complained to the Front Desk and, fortunately, they moved us to a different room. Although our reservation was until July 8 and our flight was at 02:55 a.m., they told us that we must check out on July 7!! When we complained (again), they gave us a bad room like the first one and told us that we must check out at 08:00 p.m. and we must also pay extra charge. We accepted to do so because we had no choice.
The day we were leaving a bus was supposed to pick us up to take us to the airport at 12:45 a.m. We kept on waiting and waiting but the bus never came!! We complained (again) to the man in charge who told us to wait for another 15 minutes and if the bus does not come we should ask the hotel to call a taxi to take us to the airport!! The bus did not come and we asked the Front Desk to get us a taxi. Finally, a taxi showed up and took us to the airport around 01:30 a.m. While my husband was paying the driver, his wallet slipped out of his pocket on the back seat of the taxi. The wallet had all his money and credentials, including two debit cards, his and my IDs, and the Insurance Card. By the time my husband realized that he must have unknowingly dropped his wallet in the taxi, the taxi was already gone. Accidentally, another taxi from the same company arrived at that moment, so we rushed to the driver and asked him to call the company to get in touch with our taxi driver so we can get the wallet back. He called up the taxi company and they called our driver but he did not answer the phone!! So we decided to go to the airport police and tell them what happened. The policeman spoke very bad English and he was extremely slow to take action. I called the hotel and I asked the Front Desk to try to reach the taxi driver and I explained to the receptionist that we were with the airport police. The receptionist asked to speak to the policeman and they kept talking for a very long time. At the end, the policeman said the hotel got in touch with the driver and that he found the wallet but he had passengers with him and that after he drops them off he would leave the wallet with the hotel Front Desk!!!! We told the policeman that we had a plane to catch and we needed to get the wallet before we depart. We told him to tell the driver to come to the airport to give us the wallet, but he told us the driver was afraid that we would not pay him for this (airport) trip!! We assured him that we would pay the fare and that we would even give him extra money for returning the wallet. When the policeman called the taxi company to tell them to send the driver to the airport, the company told him that the driver did not find any wallet on the back seat of the taxi!!!! We gave up on getting the wallet back, so we asked the policeman to write a report of what happened. Ironically, the policeman did not know how to write the name of the hotel where my husband and I had stayed!!! My husband had to write the name of the hotel in a piece of paper and give it to the policeman to write it in the report!!
We rushed to check in our luggage at the counter because we were running out of time. Although Mallorca is supposed to be a very famous tourist destination, most of those working at the airport did not speak any English!!!! Anyway, my boarding pass was not scanned properly and I could not go through, so I asked (in English) an airport assistant to help me quickly because we did not want to miss the plane. She came over to me so slowly and spoke to me in Spanish!!! Finally when we got onto the plane they told us that the flight would be delayed for refueling. The plane took off around 04:30 a.m. although it was scheduled to depart at 02:55 a.m. And after it took off, they announced that nobody was allowed to use any electronic devices at all because the plane had just been refueled and it would be very dangerous and the plane could blow up if an electronic device was used!!! And as if this and the turbulence we had to endure along the way were not scary enough, they even turned off the lights on the plane all the way from Mallorca to Munich until it landed around 06:00 a.m.
The Mallorca police gave us a number to call every now and then to find out if there is something new about our case. The number is: 0034 971 789 074
We have been calling that number since we got back but they just keep hanging up on us every time we call. We hereby appeal to anyone in Mallorca to help us.