Tourists on cruise from hell fight back

By David Eames

A Thames woman is calling on fellow passengers to join forces after their P&O cruise to Vanuatu ended in a terrifying, white-knuckle return journey to Auckland.

Dianne Connors and her husband, Bruce, were on the 47,000-tonne Pacific Sun when it rolled wildly in high seas north of New Zealand on July 30. The ship was at the end of an eight-day return cruise to Vanuatu.

Though they escaped physically unhurt, Mrs Connors is having counselling. She has used the three sessions offered by P&O, but will need further treatment.

"I am still very traumatised."
She wants other passengers to get in touch with their own stories, with a view to extracting an official apology _ and perhaps a refund. About 20 people representing various passenger groups have responded so far.

Supporting her campaign is fellow passenger Amelia Wakefield, whose 75-year-old grandmother, Shirley Wakefield, was seriously injured.

"I want them to recognise that it was a fault of their own," Amelia Wakefield said. "The whole experience, the weather, going into the storm. They knew about this weather, they chose to go into the storm.

"We at least want recognition they were in the wrong ... everyone should get full compensation."

But P&O says the passengers were on their way back to Auckland, with no further stops to make. It says it does not usually pay out for bad weather.

Shirley Wakefield is still receiving treatment after her finger was severed when the ship rolled.

"We went flying on the floor across the deck," Amelia Wakefield told the Weekend Herald. "[Nana] hit her head on the staircase ... I don't know what cut her finger off, she just stood up and the finger was gone."

Shirley Wakefield's wedding ring finger was severed at the top knuckle and she had a 15cm cut to her head.

Though ship staff stitched her head, they did not seem to know what to do about her severed finger and simply bandaged it, she said.

"A guy found the tip of my finger, and put it on ice, but I didn't think they were equipped to do it anyway. They said they couldn't."

But P&O spokeswoman Sandy Olsen _ speaking from Australia _ said the cruise line was

"confident that Mrs Wakefield received the best possible medical treatment and care for her type of injury. We have highly trained medical teams on board".

Shirley Wakefield said she considered P&O's offer of a 25 per cent discount on any future cruise "an insult" as she'd "never go on a cruise again".

Amelia Wakefield said it was wrong that passengers forced to wait two days for the next Pacific Sun cruise from Auckland appeared to have received better treatment than those in the storm, with free accommodation in Auckland and daily spending money, a practice Ms Olsen described as "appropriate". Ms Olsen said P&O

"offered the credit as a gesture of goodwill because we would like to see people back on board for a more positive cruising experience".

The line had been in touch with the Wakefields, and was "reviewing their individual circumstances".

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DOUBLE TROUBLE FOR GRANDMOTHER

Shirley Wakefield could be forgiven for never leaving her home again.

No sooner had the Thames grandmother begun to recover fully from a serious bus crash, than she found herself minus a finger and suffering nasty head injuries after an eight-day Pacific cruise went horribly wrong.

Mrs Wakefield, 75, had her left ring finger severed at the top knuckle after being smashed into a staircase when the Pacific Sun pitched madly in high seas last month.

It was the second injury to her left hand in barely a year.

Mrs Wakefield was one of 17 people injured when a bus carrying members of the Thames Coast Garden Club collided with a truck on a notorious stretch of State Highway 2, at Maramarua, in August last year.

The force of the crash sent her flying through a window.

"I didn't go right out, I was hanging out. It's unbelievable, really, isn't it."

Her daughter, Tracy Wakefield, says it is likely Mrs Wakefield's hand had been broken in last year's accident, "but they don't really know".

Mrs Wakefield is due to begin physiotherapy on Monday, and is still receiving care for the injury incurred on her recent cruise.

When asked if her misfortune has affected her plans for any future holidays she is adamant: "Oh, yes."

"I think I will just pitch a tent in the back garden."


- NZ Herald

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