The anger of the Europa's passengers began to erupt on the evening of Monday 23rd February.
As my wife and I returned to the ship after an excursion, minutes before the time we were due back before sailing, my suspicions that we were about to be fleeced were aroused by the sight of other passengers leaving the ship to, presumably, wander around Mombasa.
We then checked the sailing time advertised at the ship's 'check-in' and saw, to our immediate fury, that our departure had been delayed until the following day and that we'd be taken straight to Reunion, missing Madagascar entirely.
On our return to our cabin we found the Captain's letter on the bed, offering either €300 off our bill OR €600 off a future cruise. Unfortunately, this was no joke but was an entirely serious offer.
Public meetings of the passengers over the next few days showed that none of us were happy at such a pitiful offer. Some of the Italian contingent were content to demand that the two offers should be combined, i.e. to give us both the money off now AND more against a future cruise. Many of the English-speaking customers felt that this was insufficient.
With the help of a lawyer amongst us a rather polite letter to the captain was composed. It was given to the Services desk to pass on to him, also with a copy for the Services Director. To the best of my knowledge no reply was ever received.
This is the text of the letter:
Costa Europa Cruise Ship
26th February 2009
Dear Captain Donato,
This letter is written on behalf of all of the undersigned, who are all English-speaking passengers on the Costa Europa.
It is written in response to your circular letter dated 23rd February sent to all passengers in which you apologise for the disappointment and inconvenience caused by the further itinerary changes which were necessary as a result of the ship’s engine failure.
Your letter offers a €300 on board credit per person or, alternatively, a €600 discount on any future Costa cruise taken by 31st December 2010.
We are aware that there are other proposals being put to you by another group of passengers in which they are suggesting that you should combine the two offers that you have made.
For a variety of reasons however (predominantly involving the travel required to reach the cruise departure locations) the future cruise discount option is less attractive for most English speaking passengers than other European passengers.
In relation to the €300 on board credit, we do not consider that this represents an adequate proposal having regard to all the circumstances and the fact that the cruise itinerary has been significantly reduced from its original format.
We consider that a sum of €600 per person for both adults and children would represent a more appropriate and realistic amount on the basis that it should be paid as a cash sum on or before disembarkation in Mauritius that can be used in full or in part settlement of individual on board credit arrangements. According we invite you to agree to this counter proposal as an appropriate interim arrangement.
Since the itinerary changes have affected all passengers in different ways, this counter proposal is made on the express understanding that it is to be regarded as an interim arrangement and that in no way does it affect or limit the rights of the signatories below to pursue their own individual claims for compensation against Costa (or their travel arrangers) on their return to their respective home lands.
It is however hoped that, should you agree to this counter proposal and therefore accept responsibility for your failings, this will mean that there will be significantly fewer claims for compensation that Costa will have to deal with in the future.
Of course, when insult was added to injury by the visit to Reunion being cut to an hour only, and that only because some of the passngers had to disembark there, our position hardened considerably, as I'll explain later.