Stepping blinking into the sunlight, the first of just over 1,600 passengers have started disembarking from a cruise ship sent to rescue them when they became stranded as a result of a volcano erupting in Iceland.
The Island Cruises ship Island Escape has been on a mercy mission, rescuing holidaymakers unable to get home due to their flights being cancelled because of the cloud of volcano ash high above Europe making flying dangerous.
The cruise liner was called in to action on Monday, once the extent of the flight restrictions was realised.
Island Cruises and sister company Thomson worked around the clock to re-route itineraries, cancelling a planned cruise around the Canary Islands in order to use the ship for the rescue.
Onboard the ship have been a number of passengers who were unable to fly back to the UK after their cruise, plus 300 non-cruise Thomson and First Choice customers who were collected in Funchal, Madeira en-route.
As the cruise ship arrived into Falmouth Docks almost every passenger could be seen filling the top deck and balconies, waving and cheering with delight at finally arriving back in the UK.
Among then Stephanie and Ron Warren from Milton Keynes, who had enjoyed a week’s holiday in Madeira and were then treated to an impromptu cruise after being unable to fly home.
Mrs Warren said: “Thomson have really gone the extra mile for us.”
Her husband added: “At first we didn’t actually believe it. When somebody said we’d got a boat tomorrow we though it was a joke.”
Two passengers were so grateful that they made a makeshift banner, drawing on a bed sheet – with staff’s permission – to say: “Great job. Thanks Island Cruises and Thomson.”
Genesis Rebekah and Keishema-Louise Kurr from South East London praised the company for continuing their cruise with all the all-inclusive perks they had enjoyed during their week-long holiday around the Canary Islands.
Flight restrictions have now been lifted and airports are slowly returning to normal, working through the backlog of passengers.
For the full story see next week’s Packet.