A Kiwi couple's 30th wedding anniversary was ruined when they were trapped on the cruise from hell.

Harold and Carolyn Eggink were aboard the luxury Norwegian Sun for a 16-day journey between Miami and Los Angeles via the Panama Canal last month.

Instead of poolside sunbathing and relaxed dinners, the Matamata couple say they were almost overcome by fumes in their room.

Eggink booked the $7500 cruise a year ago to celebrate the milestone anniversary and also his 56th birthday.

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But as soon as they boarded things started to go wrong.

"We went to have a bit of an explore on the top deck, and that's when we saw a crane lifting all these pallets of hundreds of litres of paint and paint thinner."

Hundreds of passengers have voiced their fury over the dream trip that turned into a nightmare.

About 2000 passengers only discovered the ship was going to be upgraded once they had set sail on March 16.

Eggink said two of the decks with swimming pools and a walking track around the ship were closed off. That was disappointing but the smell in the cabin was overpowering.

"I woke up after about an hour and a half with a splitting headache, and I just thought, 'man, something doesn't smell good'."

"They'd painted the floors while we were off the ship, then the paint had heated up and it was coming through the air conditioning vents in our room."

Eggink called the service desk who told him they'd get room services to "come down with a can of air freshener", he said.

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"I hit the roof. There were a lot of angry people at the front desk complaining about the same smell. So I go back downstairs and there's four guys in the hallway with these big vacuum blowers, which was just making it worse because it was blowing the smell back in."

Eggink said he acknowledged he sounded dramatic, but emphasised that it was dangerous.

"I'm an engineer, and if my guys were working in a place that smelled that bad, I would have been shut down."

Eggink said he'd been offered a refund in the form of another trip with the cruise line to the same value.

Norwegian Cruise Lines did not respond to questions yesterday but a spokesman said last week those affected would be offered a 25 per cent discount on their next cruise. Some passengers have slammed that as being unacceptable.

A spokeswoman told Newsweek: "At Norwegian Cruise Line, we continuously aim to offer the best vacation experience for all our guests. As part of our Norwegian Edge programme, Norwegian Sun is undergoing enhancements to better serve our guests. The programme is a significant investment designed to ensure every ship across the fleet delivers a consistently high-quality experience to all of our guests.

"While we do our utmost to minimise any impact on the guest experience when these enhancements are taking place, we recognise that in this situation our guests experienced some inconvenience."

Earlier, passengers voiced frustration and anger about their experiences.

Passenger Mae-Claire Locke says her family endured "16 days of hell" on the ship.

"It wasn't a vacation," she told news.com. "It was a full-on construction zone."

Many of the ship's restaurants and amenities were closed, there was excessive noise and passengers also complained of the smell of chemicals.

Locke also told of how shards of metal went into her son's eyes.

"We had to take him to the doctor as we couldn't unglue his eyes with hot or cold face cloths. They put us all in significant danger."

Fellow passenger Charles P. O'Dale wrote on a Facebook page created to bring attention to the nightmare: "These are the metal shards that rained down on us in our balcony from a jack hammer one metre above us.

"This is the danger to my health and safety they put me in with metal chips/filings that we were exposed to on our cabin balcony. Hopefully we did not inhale any.

"Work like this requires eye/ear/breathing protection, we had none."

Annie Barber was also on the ship and said the scale of the work was unbelievable.

"By Sunday 18th March we were shocked at the level of work that was being carried out," she said.

"Old deck flooring was being removed and new liquid flooring laid and then polished.

"Existing metal supports were also rubbed down when old decking was being removed. Debris from this work was constantly falling everywhere on the ship and airborne particles were very evident.

"There was a strong smell of chemicals for long periods during the cruise, not only in the public areas but also in our stateroom."