January 24, 2006

Mutiny on the Queen Mary 2

The Times January 24, 2006

Mutiny on the Queen Mary 2

A MUTINY on board the world’s largest cruise liner has sailed on to the internet, with passengers pursuing their grievances online.
Trapped in their cabins in heavy weather, guests on Queen Mary 2 are protesting about the cancellation of shore visits in the Caribbean during their voyage from New York to Rio de Janeiro.
“We paid to see the Caribbean and Salvador, and we have got seven days . . . on a cruise ship,” wrote Sandra Ashton, one of the passengers.
At home in Coventry, David Ashton, her son, said that telephone calls from his mother and father had been sporadic, but that his parents had taken advantage of free e-mails offered as part of a compensation package by Cunard, the cruise operator, to try to organise a legal challenge.
“My mum and dad are not really the sort to kick up a fuss but this wasn’t just a usual holiday for them,” he said. “They have never been on holiday outside Europe before.”
Between 30 and 100 passengers are said to be planning a sit-in when the QM2 reaches Rio, which could delay the embarkation of 1,500 new passengers and the passage of the liner around Cape Horn to Los Angeles. The protesters include some very elderly cruisers. “I’m waiting for one of the 90-year-olds to be escorted off in handcuffs,” wrote one of the mutineers.
Facing the dissidents is the captain of the ship, Commodore Ronald Warwick, OBE, who formerly also served as master of the Queen Elizabeth 2.
On Saturday he convened a meeting with his passengers and laid down terms: a 50 per cent discount on the cost of the cruise, phone bills halved and an offer to negotiate compensation packages individually. Reports of the meeting described it as “like a session of Parliament with many boos and cheers”. The British contingent reportedly asked for free booze.
The trouble began when the ship grazed the side of a shipping channel as she left Fort Lauderdale in Florida. After returning for emergency repairs, she set out again last Thursday.
One of four propeller pods had been damaged and she was travelling more slowly than expected. After several hours at sea passengers were told that they would be sailing straight for Rio.
Jack Coveney, a passenger from Clipstone, Nottinghamshire, is keeping an online log. “I just hope the entertainment improves,” he wrote. “It is the same as last year’s cruise. Once you have seen one rock opera, you’ve seen them all.”
Last night the situation remained unresolved.

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