Following a series of disastrous incidents at her hotel, a disabled holidaymaker from Kent has been awarded substantial damages against her tour operator with the help of Simpson Millar.
The £3,500 holiday in Sal, Cape Verde was intended to celebrate our client's 50th birthday, her 20th wedding anniversary and her son's 18th birthday.
However, what should have been a joyous family occasion in an exotic location was ruined by gastric illness, a twisted ankle, rude staff and a disappearing holiday rep – shortcomings for which the hotel and its UK agent were held entirely liable.
"Our special holiday, for which we had saved up for so long to afford, was completely ruined," our client said. "I cannot say how upset and disappointed all of my family were."
The family's holiday misfortunes started in April 2013 while they were staying at the 5-star, all-inclusive Melia Tortuga Beach hotel, said Simpson Millar's Simon Lomax.
Simon acted for the claimant against TUI (UK) Ltd, which owns Thomson Holidays. "Our client suffered a gastric intestinal disorder due to a parasite ingested after consuming contaminated hotel food, drinking water and/or swimming pool water.
"Our client also sustained injuries when she tripped and fell on an uneven surface.
"This was the first holiday our client, who has been unwell for some time and is registered disabled, had been able to take for 5 years," Simon explained. "Given its triple celebratory nature, it was one of those special family occasions that only come along very rarely."
From the moment the family arrived at the Melia Tortuga, our client noted a far from 5-star state of repair. "The bedding was dirty, a broken bathroom socket's wires were exposed, the living area light-fitting was hanging off the ceiling, the bathroom towel rail was hanging from the wall, the kitchen tap could not be used and the bedroom drawers were broken," she said. "The accommodation was completely unsafe."
Our client added that eating facilities also left much to be desired. "Tables were never cleaned properly. A member of staff would wipe everything down with a dirty cloth and use it for furniture. There were insects all over the walls, birds flying around and stray cats and dogs wandering into the bar area.
"Cutlery was dirty – I had to wash it myself – and food was put out in uncovered trays. There was nothing to keep the cooked food hot and cold food was not kept chilled."
Our client added that none of the restaurant staff wore gloves, hats or hairnets and the hotel had no hand sanitisers.
Although the family quickly brought their concerns to the attention of the resident Thomson representative, no follow-up was forthcoming from the Melia Tortuga's management. More problems were to come, however, when a staff error over a bottle of wine at dinner led to a confrontation with a waiter.
"The wine proved to be far more expensive than our original choice," the holidaymaker said. "When we questioned this the waiter shouted at us and was rude – frighteningly so.
"We tried to defuse the situation by paying anyway and we had a subsequent meeting with management, but nothing came of it."
6 days after her arrival our client started feel unwell, experiencing a stomach ache, diarrhoea and vomiting "like never before". Still in great pain and discomfort the morning after, she sought the Thomson rep. But hotel staff said the individual had left her job without notice.
"Management also advised that they had seen no complaints from us or other guests as the rep had binned them!"
Our client's illness continued for the rest of the holiday, Simon noted. "A few days later our client's husband and son came down with similar symptoms, as did many other hotel guests."
2 days before the end of the holiday things went from bad to worse, when our client – who walks with the aid of a stick and is often obliged to use a wheelchair when at home – tripped over dangerously irregular and unmarked stone blocks on a pathway and fell heavily.
"I was very shocked and immediately felt pain in my right ankle," the 50-year-old said. "I stayed in our room as my ankle and knee became swollen so much and I was also still suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting."
Simon said that although the latest incident was reported to the replacement Thomson rep, once more nothing was done. "Our client was advised not to consult a doctor as the swelling could prevent flying, but she was resolutely determined to get home and put her disastrous experience behind her."
On her return to Rochester our client slowly recovered from her injuries and illness. However, her opinion of Thomson – from which she was awarded £11,250 compensation following the operator's numerous breaches of Package Travel Regulations – is now tarnished beyond repair.
"We saved long and hard for this combined holiday, knowing it would be the last spent as a family.
"To say I am upset is an understatement. Thomson will never ever get another penny from me and I am totally disgusted with the way we have been treated."