TWO Redditch women are urging holidaymakers to check visa entry requirements for their destination after being left to watch their cruise ship sail away without them on it.
Pat Briney, 78, from Matchborough, and Ruth Long, 83, from Lodge Park, were due to set sail on the Queen Mary 2 From Southampton for a 26-day round trip to New York and the Caribbean, only to be hoisted back onto the dock because they did not have an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) to enter the US.
When the pair were made aware they would be unable to travel, they said they were ‘just dumped’ at the docks with no way of getting home.
Pat and Ruth paid £275 for a taxi back from Southampton and were among 12 others due to go on the trip who were not aware of their need for an ESTA to enter the US. Some had traveled from as far as Scotland to Southampton to take the voyage.
The ‘trip of a lifetime’ cost the pair a total of £9,000 between them and, after later having their ESTA approved, have bitten the bullet and paid £800 for a flight to New York to board the ship on Saturday, November 25.
They appreciated it was their responsibility to arrange the documentation, however they feel let down that they were not at least made aware by the travel agency which planned the trip for them.
Pat told the Standard: “We felt like criminals when they said we couldn’t get on, as if we’d done something wrong.
“In all the times we’ve travelled, we’ve never experienced anything like this.
“This was supposed to be my chance to enjoy the money I have left after my husband passed away.”
Ruth added: “All we wanted was to get on-board. We wanted the ship to come back.”
They are now stressing the importance of properly researching when booking a trip and suggest people seek the advice of friends or family if they are not particularly tech savvy or lack access to a computer or the Internet.
Although, not exactly as planned, the pairs’ trip will go ahead when they rejoin the cruise in New York.