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We went to Cyprus for a week recently. While there, we went on a “VIP Catamaran” trip which was sold to us by the holiday company, Thomson. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what we’d been lead to think it would be by Thomson’s advertising. Thomson’s response hasn’t been very good, as you’ll see. If anyone has any ideas about what to do about this, I’d be glad to hear them.
A web search shows that Thomson have had complaints going back to 2006 about the number of people on the trip. I wish we’d found that before we booked. I hope I’ve got some Google juice and that’ll mean more people find this and consider whether the trip is worth the money.
The advertising said that “numbers are strictly limited, so there’s plenty of room to sunbathe on the rigging nets” and “there’s room to stretch out”. It also said “there’s snorkelling gear and canoes too”. The accompanying photograph shows a fairly sparsely populated boat.
What you actually get is a coachload (I’d say at least 50 people) on a boat which certainly doesn’t have room to fit everyone on the nets. The people who get off the coach and to the boat first get those and stick their towels on them. The rear half of the boat has a shaded area with some tables, so we sat at one of those. Someone nearby started smoking. We moved. A whole bunch of people near where we moved to chain smoked through the trip. By then other people had expanded into the space we’d been sat in before. So we got treated to a nice bit of passive smoking, as well as ash blowing onto our clothes and towels. I’d guess we were one of the few, if not the only, non-smoking groups on there. We couldn’t have expected everyone not to smoke, but the density of people on there meant we couldn’t get a space away from it.
The canoes turned out to be 2 canoes. The crew told people to share them, but this wasn’t very realistic given the number of people on the boat and the duration of the swimming stops.
They also play pretty loud dance music during the portion of the cruise when the sail isn’t up.
By the end of it we were fuming at having paid 70 quid each for the privilege of being in a nightclub before the smoking ban came in.
We were glad to get back to the shore. That evening, we saw Chris, the Thomson rep, at the Sunrise Pearl hotel, and told him we weren’t happy with the way the trip had been sold and we wanted a refund. As soon as he heard we wanted a refund, he began to stonewall. He said that a refund was not available as we’d had the trip. We pointed out that it was impossible to get off until the end of the trip. He told us that we couldn’t expect the boat to have the same number of people on it as the photograph, and that he hadn’t mentioned numbers in his presentation on the excursions (which he gave when we arrived). He said that “I said there were canoes and there were canoes”. I told him I’d blog about this, and I’m as good as my word (unlike Thomson, alas).
Chris said he’d investigate our claims the following day. When we went back the next evening, he said he’d spoken to some people on the trip from other hotels, who had been perfectly happy with it. When we asked what the extra money for the “VIP” cruise was for (when compared with the other catamaran excursion), he said it was for the open bar and better food, but didn’t mention the extra space and “more relaxed” stuff mentioned in the Thomson advertising. His investigation hadn’t gone as far as actually finding out how many people had been on the boat that day. When we told him that we weren’t happy with his lack of concern, he offered us a bottle of wine. We initially accepted it but later that evening rejected it as it’d have to go in our hold luggage on the flight the next day, and we didn’t want it to break. (I also wasn’t sure whether accepting it would prejudice a future claim for our money back).
When we asked what the official complaint procedure was (but only when we asked), he filled in a web form. As a result, I got an email telling me that “My team are fully trained and empowered to resolve your complaint and I hope you’re satisfied with the outcome and that we’ve taken every step to resolve it fully. If you feel this isn’t the case, then please review the solution with your Holiday Advisor as we will not contact you again about this matter.” Super.
As a result of this, we won’t be buying from Thomson again. It’s a shame as the hotel was really good, but there are other good hotels. In these straitened times, I’m quite surprised the company thinks they can get away with service like this.
I’m not inclined to let this drop. If anyone knows what our options might be at this point, I’d be interested to hear them. I’m aware that the Advertising Standards Authority might take an interest, that I might have some recourse because I bought the trip on a credit card (although it may be complicated by the fact that Thomson were acting as agents for the company who ran the cruise, whose name is on the credit card receipt), and that we might be able to use the Small Claims Court (though I’m not sure whether they have jurisdiction as we bought the trip in Cyprus). Anyone dealt with anything like this before? What’s my next move here?