Cruise line turns away 80-year-old widow from Scottish voyage

An 80-year-old great-grandmother was turned away from a UK cruise because she did not have acceptable ID – and was then given no assistance as she sought to catch up with the ship. 

In January, Shelagh Doyle paid £950 for a one-week “Lochs of Scotland” cruise aboard the Fred. Olsen ship Black Watch. She was told at the time that she must travel with an acceptable form of ID: a passport, driving licence or similar official document.

But when she travelled to Liverpool eight months later to board the ship, Mrs Doyle failed to take the right ID. Along with at least three other passengers, she was denied boarding.

Mrs Doyle, from Cambridgeshire, was told to call the cruise line’s Guest Services – even though the number passed her through to a department closed at weekends or a full mailbox.

Members of her family tweeted the company a number of times, which also went unanswered.

She then travelled to London, where her grandson met her and brought her some ID. Mrs Doyle then travelled by train to Edinburgh, and booked a flight for Monday morning, 17 September, to Kirkwall – where the ship was due to call.

Finally on the Monday morning the company made contact with Mrs Doyle, but Fred. Olsen staff could not confirm the ship was actually in Kirkwall.

Instead, her family told the cruise line that Black Watch was moored in the Orkney port, as they had contacted the harbourmaster.

Fred. Olsen has refused to pay compensation to Mrs Doyle. The firm said the photo ID requirement was stipulated by the ship’s security plan under the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.

A spokesperson said: “We need confirmation that the guest is who they say they are when boarding the vessel.”

“The letter given to Mrs Doyle when she was denied boarding gave a telephone number which didn’t take into account Sunday business hours, and we have since altered the form accordingly.

“Mrs Doyle was phoned by one of the team first thing on Monday morning and given procedures on how to join the vessel.”

“Our responsibility is to make sure that guests are aware that photo ID is required. Mrs Doyle was notified both verbally and in writing at different times prior to travel that this was needed.

“As a gesture of goodwill Mrs Doyle was offered a future cruise discount voucher equating to the value of her travel expenses to join the ship.”

Her son, Simon Doyle, said: “It was a total fiasco and they couldn’t have cared less, admitting the phones had not been manned.

“Fred. Olsen sent her away from Liverpool and washed their hands of the situation. They offered no communication. They offered no help or guidance.

“This isn’t like taking a train journey, this was supposed to be a holiday. If it hadn’t been for my mother totally gambling and rushing around the country on a wing and a prayer the whole holiday would have been lost.”

The cruise line’s policy on identification has become more onerous. Fred. Olsen now demands a passport with at least six months’ validity even for cruises which stay entirely within UK waters.

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