Passengers Behaving Badly on P&O's Ventura

January 12, 2009

A recent P&O Cruises Caribbean cruise is making headlines in a case of decorum gone overboard. According to U.K. newspapers such as the Times and Telegraph, a group of passengers onboard Ventura's New Year's cruise put a damper on holiday cheer with their poor conduct, allegedly fighting over deck chairs and spewing foul language. The Telegraph and Times even reported that two badly behaved minors were kicked off the ship. The reports also say youths started food fights and even attempted to set fire to a restaurant and Christmas tree -- and that the captain was booed as he led the official countdown to 2009.

So why all the reports of unusually rude and dangerous behaviour? Granted, 3 of 10 scheduled port calls were skipped due to adverse weather, which is no doubt disappointing for even the most understanding passengers who've saved and waited for their cruise holiday. But the Times and Telegraph suggest another explanation as the primary reason for such shoddy behaviour -- that deep discounting to fill berths at the last minute led to a change in ambience onboard, with the cruise line attracting a type of "cut-price" passenger, which in turn caused a rift between those who paid full price and those who did not.

P&O says in an official statement that the cancellation rate prior to the sailing was only 4 percent, and that those cabins "were filled quickly without recourse to undue discounting." Based on the actual capacity of this particular sailing (3,095), 4 percent would mean 123 people. But it's difficult to know for sure if any of the latecomers were among the rabble-rousers -- and what percentage of those onboard were aware of or impacted by the acts of rebellion.

A thread was posted on our P&O forum in response to the news coverage of this particular cruise. One Cruise Critic member who was on the affected sailing, ecallaghan, posts: "Having been onboard I can only in the most part concur with most aspects of the cruise. The petty bickering and towel bagging of sun loungers did upset people. We had an unexpected detour for a medical evacuation to Martinique but this was an airlift ... so I am not sure about the truth in the detour to eject unruly passengers.

"Yes it was disappointing that three islands were missed and no compensation offered, but the weather is unpredictable and it happens ... For a holiday booked and dreamt about by our 4-year-old for 18 months it was a shame to be spoilt in part by the passengers but the staff were brilliant and the kids' club was exceptional." (A P&O spokeswoman tells us that passengers received a full refund of the cost of any shore excursions booked, but per the terms and conditions, other compensation is not payable if the itinerary is altered due to force majeure.)

It's important to remember that this cruise took place over New Year's when there are likely to be more children onboard, which by simple math would raise the ratio of those that are unruly. Plus, the nature of holidaymaking, particularly over New Year's Eve, encourages the type of drinking that could lead to foolish behaviour. But, just like saying passengers who paid less for their holidays may be responsible for the trouble onboard, this is all speculation.

One thing that we can say for certain is that this is not the first instance of mutinous behaviour onboard a cruise ship. Passengers onboard a Sapphire Princess cruise in Asia in 2007 were so furious about weather-related port cancellations that they huddled around computers in the Internet cafe and searched Google Maps for proof that the captain's navigational skills were inept. Last year, a Carnival passenger got kicked off his ship for outlandish behaviour after a medical emergency forced the captain to bypass Jamaica.

In Ventura's case, those onboard were equally upset with their fellow passengers and the lack of corrective action taken onboard. "This huge family were throwing cigarette butts overboard," passenger Heather Pearce told the Times, "and we stood watching the butts land on the cabins underneath. Usually on a cruise boat there is a lot of security around, but on this one we just didn't feel safe."

Obviously, Ventura passengers like Pearce were disappointed enough with their cruise to discuss it with local newspapers and on message boards -- but oddly enough, P&O tells us the line has not received any correspondence regarding passenger issues on this cruise, and is encouraging passengers to contact customer service so that representatives can "respond to them personally and immediately and thoroughly investigate the concerns." Click here for information on how to contact the cruise line.

We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, tell us what you think here.

--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor, with reporting by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor

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