Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 11:56 UK

Couple hit with cruise fuel bill

Ron and Gwenda Bennett
Gwenda and Ron Bennett said they were "shocked" by the surcharge

A Dorset couple were forced to cancel a dream cruise holiday after they were landed with a 892 fuel surcharge just months before they were to set sail.

Ron and Gwenda Bennett had paid a 900 deposit on a 9,000 Mediterranean cruise but were told by the travel company that a surcharge was also due.

But they could not afford the extra 892 and were forced to cancel.

Voyages of Discovery, which runs the cruise, blamed the rising cost of fuel and currency exchanges.

But as the surcharge came in at 8 less than 10% of the total cost of the holiday, the couple were not entitled to a refund of their deposit.

Voyages of Discovery have denied profiteering from customers.

The incredible and unanticipated increase in fuel costs has caused us much heartache and worry
Voyages of Discovery

Mrs Bennett said: "It was quite expensive to start with but with everything going up so much over the last 12 months we found it more and more difficult to rake the money together.

"The extra 892 was a bitter blow."

Under travel industry rules issued by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), people are entitled to a refund on their holiday if the surcharge is 10% or more.

"I was quite shocked when I realised how close the whole thing was to 10%," said Mr Bennett.

"They're not breaking any rules but in principle I think it's very poor. It makes it look contrived."

Smaller cabin option

The couple's cruise - incorporating visits to Lisbon, Rome, Venice and Croatia - was due to set sail in September.

In a statement, Voyages of Discovery said they had followed ABTA guidelines and had sought ABTA approval when applying the surcharge.

The company added: "The incredible and unanticipated increase in fuel costs has caused us much heartache and worry.

"The surcharges were applied as per the terms and conditions laid out in our brochure."

The Bennett's were offered a shorter cruise or the option of a smaller cabin as a compromise.

But Mr Bennett added: "We wanted the best cabin we could afford for the whole month.

"I've heard of people being upgraded many times but never heard of anyone being downgraded."


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