When the cruise ship Athena docked in Falmouth today, passengers, many from the South West said their trip of a lifetime became a nightmare.

They had to put up with hurricane winds and became annoyed when the ship failed to visit the places they had expected. It was, said many, a holiday they did not wish to experience again.

A 70-year-old man also died during the cruise after falling down steps during a storm.

Travelscope who charter the vessel said the ship had suffered an "unfortunate chain of events". Richard Ford, managing director said there were "extremely unusual weather conditions" for this time of year.

One couple who came ashore this morning said they had spent £5,000 on the cruise and were unlikely ever to go to sea again. It had been a disaster.

Mr and Mrs Jack and Jean Lloyd from Middlesborough said the passengers had formed a committee on board to see what could be done after so many things had gone wrong.

During the bad weather many had been injured by being thrown off their chairs, furniture was thrown around and some passengers still in bed found themselves shunted to one side as their mattresses slid of their bases.

Many of the places they were supposed to visit were cancelled and no proper reason given. When the ship left New York for the Azores it turned round and headed for France instead.

When the vessel left Falmouth it was heading to St John's, Newfoundland, in Canada on a 24-day Atlantic cruise when the bad weather hit.

"There were a lot of people ill and there was one gentleman, a 70-year-old man, who fell off steps between decks and died," said another passenger.

Following the death, the ship went straight to Halifax, Nova Scotia, missing the second scheduled destination, Sydney in Nova Scotia.

They were also delayed by local authorities at Bar Harbour, Maine, USA, and refused entry into Boston before getting to New York earlier than planned although spent three days ashore rather than the scheduled two.

Passengers had been asked not to move around the vessel unless they really had to and to stay seated where possible.

Mr Nicholas Hill, whose parents were on board celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, having paid out £1,800 for the cruise, said the trip had been a great disappointment.

"It was two weeks at sea without docking," he said. "There were so many things that went wrong. Everyone was told to stay in their cabins at one stage and not to walk around the deck."