Episode 12 Rip Off Britain


Episode 12

The team investigates a life-changing accident in Cuba that left one group of friends asking who is responsible when disaster strikes on a trip abroad.


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Transcript


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We asked you who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to your

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holidays, and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.

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I thought it was a joke, I really did.

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You know, I started laughing.

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I said, "You cannot be serious."

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They were saying it was not their fault. It was unbelievable.

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I can't even explain.

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So, whether it's a deliberate rip-off,

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a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,

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we'll find out why you're out of pocket and what you can do about it.

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Your stories, your money.

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This is Rip-Off Britain.

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Hello and welcome to Rip-Off Britain, which this series is all

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about some of the disasters that you've told us you experienced while on holiday.

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Now, obviously we all hope our trips away will be hassle-free and full of

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sunshine, just like it is here in Tenerife,

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but occasionally, things do go wrong.

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Sometimes horrendously, as we're going to see.

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If, for instance, the situation in which you suddenly find yourself

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is especially serious or, worse still,

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puts the health of someone with whom you're travelling in jeopardy,

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finding someone to help to get things resolved is going to be your

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priority. But you're going to be miles from home on holiday,

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in a country that may have very different rules and regulations and,

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of course, an entirely different language.

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So it's not always going to be easy to get someone to resolve the

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-situation.

-Actually quite a tricky position to be in and, of course,

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it won't help if what's likely to be your first port of call,

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in other words, the company you booked your travel with,

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doesn't necessarily see what's happened

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as anything whatsoever to do with them, which, I'm afraid,

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applies to some of the cautionary tales we're about to hear.

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And, you know, without someone on board to help or even just listen to

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you, the road to recovery can feel

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a very long one indeed, and very frustrating.

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Coming up, a nine-hour wait for a life-saving operation in Mexico,

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all because the insurance company back home couldn't confirm

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it would cover the cost.

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I thought my daughter might die here.

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If they don't pay up, we haven't got the funds to pay for this,

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what are we going to do?

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And which country's laws apply if you run into problems on a cruise?

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How this man's troubles with an onboard paint job

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threw up a surprise you might not realise when you take to the waves.

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Fumes were so seriously strong that it makes you feel not well,

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it affects your breathing.

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And I was extremely concerned.

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Now, wherever you are, if you have an accident or fall seriously ill,

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you're going to want to get treatment as quickly as possible,

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but when you're on holiday,

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the often inevitable hold-ups and finding the right hospital

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or waiting for a doctor to see you

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can be magnified by the complications

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of getting in touch with the insurance company back home that you

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hope will be covering the cost of the treatment you need.

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And when every second counts, as it did for the family we're about to

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meet, that kind of delay isn't just stressful,

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it could even make the ultimate difference to how things turn out.

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These holiday snaps with five-year-old Ellie centre stage

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should be a reminder of all the good times

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on the Whitfield family's recent trip to Mexico.

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But it's another image of Ellie from the holiday

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that brings back the most vivid memories -

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ones they'd like to forget.

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August 2016,

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and Ellie had been particularly looking forward to the trip as

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she was going to play a key role in her grandmother's wedding.

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Ellie was really excited to go on the holiday,

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we'd had it planned for a year and she was going to be bridesmaid.

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It was the furthest that the family had flown together, and with two

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children under five, mum Sophie was keen to get the right insurance.

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She searched on comparison websites and eventually plumped for a policy

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with the company insurefor.com

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..paying £22.42 for a single trip economy policy, which included free

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-cover for the children.

-It was one of the cheapest,

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it seemed good value for money

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because it had a high level of cover,

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so if anything did go wrong, I know I'd be covered.

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With everything booked and travel insurance secured,

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all the family had to do was look forward to jetting off.

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We were all so excited,

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we'd paid for it the year before, so we had a full year of waiting for

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the holiday and the lead-up to it with the wedding

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and all the family going, we all just couldn't wait to go.

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And when they arrived, everything seemed just what they'd hoped for.

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Our hotel was lovely,

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Ellie loved the pool and the little kids' disco in the night.

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But four days into the trip, Ellie started to feel unwell.

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Sophie initially thought it was just a reaction to the change in water.

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Ellie had stomach cramps, she was in a lot of pain.

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I was just hoping it was a tummy bug

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and everything was going to be all right.

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But it soon became clear that it was something far more serious.

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She was throwing up bright green sick, temperature, she wouldn't eat,

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so we realised there was something more to it.

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As Ellie's condition deteriorated,

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the family took her to see the hotel doctor.

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He felt around her stomach and he noticed it was the right side,

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so he suspected it was appendicitis

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and he recommended we get an ambulance.

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The family was rushed to the nearest hospital, but as is common in this

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kind of situation in foreign hospitals,

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before the doctor would even see Ellie, let alone treat her,

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the family was hit with a demand for cash.

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My partner went into the hospital and he came back and said we needed

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£2,000 for Ellie to be seen,

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and that was just to get into the hospital.

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It was a sense of panic at first,

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I felt just I needed to get her seen,

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so I went into the hospital and rang the insurance.

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Hoping that securing payment from insurefor.com was just a formality,

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Sophie was surprised when the company said

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they'd have to call her back,

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and the insurers couldn't give any idea when that might be.

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At this point, Ellie was screaming in the waiting room in agony and her

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dad had broke down crying, he just wanted to get her seen,

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so I was ringing the insurance all the time, just trying to get them to

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see how critical she was.

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Every moment was critical,

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but the minutes turned into hours

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and there was still no positive response from insurefor.com.

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So Sophie and her partner, Christopher, decided they couldn't

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wait any longer and found the money themselves.

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My partner's mum put it on a credit card, she said, "Just pay it,

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"she needs to be seen," so we just did it.

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The credit card authorisation gave the green light for initial tests

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while the hospital waited for the insurer to confirm cover.

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Ellie had an ultrasound scan and an X-ray, which confirmed that she had

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appendicitis and needed emergency surgery.

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But the hospital said the only way the operation could be carried out

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was if it received confirmation that someone would pay the cost,

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which amounted to over £10,000.

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And again, to Sophie's horror,

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a prompt answer from her insurer wasn't forthcoming.

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I was ringing them every ten minutes, telling them, "Look,

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"she's in and out of consciousness,

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"this is urgent, you need to get her down."

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And my partner was really upset.

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Insurance just didn't understand.

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I tried to tell them on the phone how critical she was

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and they just didn't care.

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Now, the insurer would argue that behind the scenes it was working hard to get the family

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the answer it needed, but it's easy to see that miles from home,

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with her daughter's health on the line,

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it didn't look that way to Sophie,

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especially when Ellie took a turn for the worse

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and her appendix actually burst.

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I was so scared, in a different country, watching her in that state

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and knowing I couldn't do anything

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but wait for the insurance to answer.

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At one point, I thought my daughter might die here.

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If they don't pay up, we haven't got the funds to pay for this,

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what are we going to do?

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That was my main worry after sitting in that hospital for nine hours -

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will she come through and make it at the other end?

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Will I lose her?

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Sophie says it was only after the Mexican surgeon himself got on the

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phone to the insurers, stressing the urgency of the situation,

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that the company was able to finally confirm it would come up with the

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-cash.

-It was like a manic rush

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once they said she could have the go-ahead for the surgery.

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The surgeons rushed in and they had her up in the theatre straightaway.

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It was such a relief.

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The surgery was a success and Ellie was admitted to intensive care.

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But to the family's dismay,

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the insurer then said it still wasn't able to confirm whether it

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would cover the hospital's after-care following the operation.

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The insurance had confirmed that they'd pay for her operation,

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but they hadn't confirmed they would pay for her care there afterwards.

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Ellie was discharged after two days in hospital,

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at which point Sophie says they were hit with a bill for around £4,000,

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which appeared to be for her care after the operation.

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But I'm afraid even THAT wasn't the end of it.

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Just two days later,

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Ellie was rushed back into hospital after contracting an infection, and

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to Sophie it didn't seem that insurefor.com was in any rush

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to confirm it would cover the cost of her treatment this time, either.

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And we were back in square one, what were in when we first went.

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They treated her for an infection,

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they treated her without us paying

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any money, but once we got discharged,

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we had to pay again on a credit card.

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Now, the insurer did guarantee that it would pick up that cost,

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which came to around a further £6,000,

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but Sophie and her family had to guarantee the full sum

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on their own credit card just in case.

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So by now, Sophie says they had undertaken to pay out

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around £12,000 for Ellie's treatment,

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which they'd only been able to do thanks to the help

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of generous friends and family.

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And although there was some confusion over the total costs,

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with prices quoted in US dollars,

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Mexican pesos and British pounds,

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Sophie knew this could leave her family seriously out of pocket.

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I felt really guilty, and the other family members, that they'd had to

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put their personal money on a credit card

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just for us to get out of the hospital.

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Though relieved that Ellie was free to return to the UK,

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the couple were distraught at the thousands of pounds of credit card

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payments they'd been forced to authorise in Mexico.

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And their worries only got worse when,

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11 days after they returned home,

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the hospital e-mailed Sophie to say it was still pursuing the insurer

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for payment. And it suggested she chase up the company, too, to avoid

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that £12,000 coming off her and her family's own cards.

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My partner was querying, should we sell our car,

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should we sell our house, where else would we find the money from?

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That was our only options, really.

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Well, luckily it didn't come to that because, shortly afterwards,

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insurefor.com did pay out and settled the bill

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for all of Ellie's hospital treatment.

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But Sophie remains upset at why,

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throughout all of this, they'd had what she considered

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such a slow response from the insurance company.

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As far as she's concerned,

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the insurer made a traumatic situation many times worse and she

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still can't understand why, in an emergency like this,

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an answer can't be given right away.

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If they'd made that decision quicker, we wouldn't have had to

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go through Ellie's appendix bursting and then having to fight off an

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infection and being taken back into hospital.

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So, how quickly should you expect to get a response from your travel

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insurance provider?

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Well, personal finance expert Sarah Pennells says

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that while every second counts in an emergency,

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perhaps surprisingly, there's no set timeframe within which

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insurers have to agree to send payment.

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I think you're in a very difficult situation if you find yourself in

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the circumstances that Ellie's parents were.

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There aren't actually any hard and fast rules that say a time limit by

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which an insurer should deal with a claim.

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And of course, in Ellie's case,

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sort of, hours mattered.

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All you can do, really, is to make

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your voice heard as loudly as possible

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and to make sure that the people at the top of the company

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know this issue, because sometimes

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people who are in the call centres aren't actually

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allowed to make decisions that to you and I

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might seem to be common sense.

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Well, we asked insurefor.com to explain why it took so long to make a decision on

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Ellie's care, especially given the critical nature of the situation.

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It told us that while it was sorry to hear of the situation and

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delighted that Ellie's made a full recovery, it...

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Once the written paperwork and key authorisations were received, it did

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give the go-ahead for surgery.

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And subsequently, after a full

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and thorough review of the family's policy,

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covered the cost of the rest of the treatment.

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The company went on to stress that

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it always aims to deal with customers

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in the shortest time possible, and though it works with third parties

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to administer and underwrite its policies,

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it takes full responsibility for the regulation and administration of

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those policies to ensure that they are fit for purpose

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and meet the needs of customers.

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We also contacted the Association of British Insurers,

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which told us its members understand the need to respond quickly when

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someone needs urgent treatment, and it's...

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It says in an emergency situation, insurers will generally give the

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go-ahead on a presumption there is cover in place,

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keeping in regular contact with the policy holder,

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their immediate family and the medical facility overseas to ensure

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treatment goes ahead as soon as possible.

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Of course, as we've seen, things may not always be that simple.

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So Sarah Pennells has this advice

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when choosing the right insurance policy for your next holiday.

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My advice is to look really carefully at the cover you get

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with your travel insurance,

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and also to do some research into how well and quickly

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the insurance company pays out.

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Most people, we've got better things to do than to spend time buying

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travel insurance and we tend to go for the cheapest option, but it may

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not be the right one for you. And if you need to make a claim on your

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insurance policy, you want to know

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that it will be there and it will pay out when you need.

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In the meantime, though Sophie's trying to concentrate on the good

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memories of the holiday, she can't forget the enormous stress

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that trying to contact her insurer caused.

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From us getting to the hospital to getting an answer from the

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insurance for the go-ahead for the operation, we waited nine hours.

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I paid that money for the insurance thinking everything would be OK.

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When something goes wrong whilst you're away on holiday, it's quite a

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natural reaction to want to find someone to take responsibility.

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But very often it's quite hard to establish who that might be,

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and that's, of course, at the root

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of an awful lot of the stories that you send to us.

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But some of you have come across a very specific reason why it can be a

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particular problem when you've been on a cruise, and it means that if

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the trip itself wasn't plain sailing,

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I'm afraid getting things resolved may not turn out to be any better.

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Last year, 24 million passengers hopped on board a cruise ship and

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the industry employs over 900,000 people,

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meaning that on any given day,

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thousands of people are at sea aboard these huge floating cities.

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And to keep up with demand,

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27 new ships have hit the seas in 2016 alone.

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But one ship that certainly isn't new is the Marco Polo.

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It was built in 1965 and has been through several owners and numerous

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renovations since.

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It's currently operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages,

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a UK-based company. And as can be seen from this promotional video,

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a trip on the Marco Polo is definitely one to remember.

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'So why not experience a Cruise & Maritime voyage for yourself?

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'We'll make you very welcome.'

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And it was a slice of the ship's luxury that appealed to Judy and Graham Sexton from Lincolnshire.

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They've a lifelong love of boats,

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but in their retirement fancied handing over the controls to the

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captain of the Marco Polo on a five-week cruise.

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We were really looking forward to the trip

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because the venues were fantastic.

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Unusual, some of them. Greenland,

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three places in Greenland, the Faroes,

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parts of Canada that we'd never been to.

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-Oh, thanks.

-OK.

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But the couple didn't find the cruise quite as enjoyable as they'd hoped.

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The Marco Polo, now in its 52nd year,

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was due a bit of TLC and was being painted when Graham and Judy boarded

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the ship. And Graham says one of the products being used

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began to cause him some problems.

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The fumes were so strong that I had to hold my breath

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coming down the gangway, because there was about three or four people

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painting the boat and the fumes were absolutely horrendous.

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They were painting all the rails, they were varnishing all the stairs.

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Graham says the fumes were so bad,

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they even began to affect his breathing.

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So he paid a visit to the ship's doctor.

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One of the big concerns was Graham has asthma and the fumes were so

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seriously strong that it makes you feel not well,

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it affects your breathing, and I was extremely concerned.

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In fact, the couple considered the fumes so bad, they even wondered if

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they could carry on with the trip.

0:19:190:19:21

By the time we got to Montreal, it was just about halfway through the

0:19:210:19:24

holiday. We'd come to the decision, sadly,

0:19:240:19:27

that we were most probably going to have to leave and fly home.

0:19:270:19:32

However, to their relief,

0:19:320:19:34

after making their concerns known to the crew, they were moved to a

0:19:340:19:37

different part of the ship.

0:19:370:19:39

We were moved into another cabin,

0:19:390:19:41

which wasn't quite as large as the one we had,

0:19:410:19:44

but it actually did move us on to another deck, which improved...

0:19:440:19:49

The paint fumes weren't as bad on that deck.

0:19:490:19:51

-I'm sitting there while they're painting.

-Yeah.

0:19:510:19:54

But they couldn't escape them completely, and Graham and Judy say

0:19:540:19:57

painters continued working in public areas throughout the trip.

0:19:570:20:02

When they got back home, Graham decided to put in a complaint to the

0:20:020:20:05

company operating Marco Polo, Cruise & Maritime Voyages.

0:20:050:20:09

I wrote to the company and initially I thought I was

0:20:090:20:12

getting a sympathetic ear.

0:20:120:20:13

The company responded to Graham, saying it was looking into the

0:20:150:20:18

matter further. But after some more

0:20:180:20:20

correspondence, it ultimately concluded that

0:20:200:20:23

all the relevant rules had been followed.

0:20:230:20:26

So, not content with that,

0:20:260:20:28

Graham decided to see if he could get someone else

0:20:280:20:31

to take his complaint on board. However,

0:20:310:20:33

working out just who that should be wasn't immediately obvious.

0:20:330:20:37

I contacted the Port of London Authority for advice.

0:20:370:20:41

They said, "You should try the country of registration of the ship because

0:20:410:20:46

"the country of registration of the ship are responsible for what happens

0:20:460:20:50

"on that ship."

0:20:500:20:52

So in this case, it didn't really matter that Cruise & Maritime Voyages has its headquarters in

0:20:520:20:57

the UK, the key factor was the country where the ship was registered, and

0:20:570:21:03

it's usually that country's rules which apply on board.

0:21:030:21:06

But in this case, that was 4,000

0:21:060:21:08

miles away from Graham, in the Bahamas.

0:21:080:21:11

I wrote a letter to them pointing out what had happened,

0:21:110:21:13

the problems on board,

0:21:130:21:15

all that sort of thing and I never got a reply even.

0:21:150:21:19

Whilst writing to the Bahamian authorities about a cruise ship company

0:21:190:21:24

with its headquarters in Essex might sound a little odd,

0:21:240:21:27

in fact it's not all that uncommon because, though you may never have

0:21:270:21:31

realised it, most cruise ships operate under what's known as a

0:21:310:21:35

flag of convenience, which means they're officially registered in a country

0:21:350:21:39

that's perhaps miles away from where you might assume they were based,

0:21:390:21:43

as Mark Watson from Tourism Concern explains.

0:21:430:21:46

Flags of convenience are used by the shipping industry to register their

0:21:460:21:49

ships in countries other than the country where they come from.

0:21:490:21:53

So a UK-operated cruise ship, for instance,

0:21:530:21:56

can register under Liberian regulations, the Bahamas,

0:21:560:21:59

the Marshall Islands, even Mongolia, which is a landlocked state.

0:21:590:22:03

And then the ship is controlled by the regulations of that country,

0:22:030:22:06

so things like employment rights,

0:22:060:22:09

health and safety and all legal rights for consumers are governed by

0:22:090:22:12

the rules of the flag country rather than the home country.

0:22:120:22:16

So that means any problems you might have relating to a ship's upkeep,

0:22:160:22:20

structure or, as with Graham, its maintenance,

0:22:200:22:23

will be subject to the laws of the flag state,

0:22:230:22:26

in this case the Bahamas,

0:22:260:22:27

and not those of the country where its parent company is based.

0:22:270:22:31

And whilst there's nothing to suggest that any of this would have

0:22:310:22:34

an effect on how the Marco Polo was being maintained,

0:22:340:22:37

Mark says it does mean that establishing which country's rules a

0:22:370:22:41

ship is legally bound by may prove more difficult than you'd expect.

0:22:410:22:46

Flags of convenience first came around in the '50s, where many American

0:22:460:22:49

companies registered in Panama to avoid US regulations, and that still

0:22:490:22:53

applies now. The cruise ship companies register in countries with

0:22:530:22:56

very poor regulations, so it cuts down on the cost for them and the red tape and

0:22:560:23:00

they only have to operate by the regulations of that country,

0:23:000:23:03

which quite often has very poor labour standards,

0:23:030:23:05

very poor health and safety standards and very poor legal regulations

0:23:050:23:09

around operating a cruise ship.

0:23:090:23:12

Now, there's no suggestion that Cruise & Maritime Voyages

0:23:120:23:15

or any of the best-known cruise companies, for that matter,

0:23:150:23:18

are cutting corners or ducking their responsibilities

0:23:180:23:21

by registering their ships in this way.

0:23:210:23:24

In fact, there are plenty of reasons why a ship might be registered

0:23:240:23:27

in another country, not least, for example, so that it can hold

0:23:270:23:31

a wedding at sea which is illegal under British rules,

0:23:310:23:34

but not those of some other countries.

0:23:340:23:37

However, chances are a lot of cruise passengers simply hadn't realised

0:23:370:23:41

that some of the biggest names in the industry

0:23:410:23:44

register their vessels in places they perhaps did not expect.

0:23:440:23:48

Take, for instance, Southampton-based P&O Cruises.

0:23:480:23:51

Most of its ships are registered in Bermuda,

0:23:510:23:53

including their oldest liner, the Oriana.

0:23:530:23:56

The brand-new Carnival Vista, jewel in the crown of Carnival Cruises,

0:23:570:24:01

along with the rest of Carnival's fleet, is registered in Panama.

0:24:010:24:06

Cruise legend Cunard, considered by many a British institution,

0:24:060:24:10

now also registers all of its ships in Bermuda.

0:24:100:24:14

And Scandinavian-sounding Norwegian Cruise Line

0:24:140:24:17

registers most of its ships more than 4,000 miles away from Norway

0:24:170:24:22

in the Bahamas, just like the Marco Polo.

0:24:220:24:24

Even so, if you do have a complaint about a cruise,

0:24:250:24:28

you'd hope that whatever laws its owners appear to be bound by,

0:24:280:24:32

they'd still want to put it right.

0:24:320:24:34

If something goes wrong on a cruise ship,

0:24:340:24:35

then the first port of call would be the cruise ship company themselves

0:24:350:24:38

and that would be the best chance of getting anything resolved.

0:24:380:24:42

The difficulty is if you need to escalate it further,

0:24:420:24:45

where do you go?

0:24:450:24:46

If the cruise ship don't address the issue,

0:24:460:24:49

there are very few other places to go, particularly to do that.

0:24:490:24:52

But I'm pleased to say that when flying the Rip-Off Britain flag,

0:24:520:24:56

we contacted Cruise & Maritime Voyages about Graham's case,

0:24:560:25:00

we got a response from its UK office right away,

0:25:000:25:03

so there was no need to go all round the world looking for answers.

0:25:030:25:07

The company reiterated that it has

0:25:070:25:09

fully investigated Graham's concerns, but says

0:25:090:25:12

it only uses approved indoor and outdoor paints

0:25:120:25:15

and that it goes to great lengths to ensure any maintenance operations

0:25:150:25:20

do not interfere with passengers' enjoyment.

0:25:200:25:23

It says of the 150,000 passengers it's carried on the Marco Polo,

0:25:230:25:27

Graham and Judy's is the only complaint it has received

0:25:270:25:31

regarding paint use onboard.

0:25:310:25:33

What's more, it robustly dismissed any concerns

0:25:330:25:36

over flags of convenience,

0:25:360:25:38

saying a ship's flag in no way allows it to avoid

0:25:380:25:41

very stringent international health and safety standards,

0:25:410:25:45

or consumer protection regulations,

0:25:450:25:48

pointing out that all cruise ships are subject to international safety

0:25:480:25:52

regulation coordinated by a dedicated UN agency,

0:25:520:25:56

the International Maritime Organisation.

0:25:560:25:59

And those operating in the EU must follow...

0:25:590:26:03

And while the company has, nevertheless,

0:26:090:26:11

apologised for any inconvenience,

0:26:110:26:13

Graham still feels the situation should never have arisen.

0:26:130:26:16

It was a good cruise in many ways, but the paint fumes ruined it.

0:26:160:26:21

It shouldn't have and we paid good money for it.

0:26:210:26:25

We didn't get value for money.

0:26:250:26:27

Still to come on Rip-Off Britain,

0:26:340:26:36

a holiday cut short by a life-changing accident,

0:26:360:26:39

but whose responsibility is it to put things right?

0:26:390:26:43

If that had have been me, I wouldn't have been as strong. I'd have died.

0:26:430:26:46

I used to look at that and think, "I'm not going to get out of here".

0:26:460:26:50

Our travel expert, Simon Calder,

0:26:550:26:57

has all the secrets to save you money on your travels.

0:26:570:27:00

He is also full of tips on everything,

0:27:000:27:02

from how to avoid the crowds to the best way to steer clear

0:27:020:27:05

of those tourist traps and scams.

0:27:050:27:07

This time Simon is looking at the ever popular Balearic Islands.

0:27:090:27:13

For half a century, the Spanish Isles of Majorca,

0:27:130:27:15

Menorca and Ibiza have been among our very favourite holiday destinations.

0:27:150:27:20

Yet, what began as cheap and cheerful islands,

0:27:200:27:23

can sometimes these days be ferociously expensive,

0:27:230:27:26

so let me help you enjoy the Balearics on a budget.

0:27:260:27:30

And the best time to start saving is as soon as you arrive.

0:27:310:27:35

Every time I touch down at one of the island's airports,

0:27:350:27:38

there's a great long line of people queueing up for rental cars,

0:27:380:27:41

and I walk straight past.

0:27:410:27:43

The public transport is widespread, efficient and extremely good value.

0:27:430:27:47

On Majorca for example, for just five euros,

0:27:500:27:52

a bus will get you from Palma airport into the city centre,

0:27:520:27:56

where you can join the excellent train network to the rest of the island.

0:27:560:28:00

From Mahon airport on neighbouring Menorca,

0:28:000:28:02

the fare on the number 10 bus into town is 2.65 euros.

0:28:020:28:08

And the bus from Ibiza airport is also a number 10,

0:28:080:28:11

but the fare is a tiny bit higher at 3.50 euros.

0:28:110:28:15

But if you do decide to forego public transport and rent a car,

0:28:150:28:18

picking up the vehicle in the city centre is likely to be cheaper,

0:28:180:28:22

without the airport surcharge.

0:28:220:28:23

If there's one thing that might make you sleep a little less soundly

0:28:250:28:29

in the Balearics, it could be the controversial bed tax,

0:28:290:28:32

introduced in the summer of 2016.

0:28:320:28:36

The tax is on a sliding scale from 50 cents per person per night,

0:28:360:28:40

if you are camping or staying in a hostel,

0:28:400:28:43

to two euros for luxury hotels and upmarket apartments.

0:28:430:28:46

From nine nights onwards,

0:28:460:28:48

the tax is halved and the children under 16 go free.

0:28:480:28:52

So for example, a couple spending a fortnight at a four-star apartment

0:28:520:28:56

will now pay an extra £40 or so at today's exchange rate.

0:28:560:29:00

But you can reduce the tax

0:29:010:29:03

by choosing a lower grade of accommodation,

0:29:030:29:06

visiting the Balearics between November and March

0:29:060:29:08

when tax rates are halved, or going somewhere else.

0:29:080:29:12

And timing your sightseeing correctly

0:29:120:29:14

can also save you some cash.

0:29:140:29:16

Majorca's Miro Museum on the outskirts of Palma is best seen on a Saturday

0:29:160:29:20

when it's absolutely free.

0:29:200:29:22

And on Menorca, just on the way in from the airport,

0:29:220:29:25

the amazing Cornia Nou, which is an ancient 3,000 year-old watchtower,

0:29:250:29:29

is another absolutely free attraction,

0:29:290:29:31

but do check the opening times because they vary during the week.

0:29:310:29:36

Best of all, in generous Ibiza, Mace, the fabulous museum

0:29:360:29:39

of contemporary art, is free every single day of the week,

0:29:390:29:42

except Mondays, when it's closed.

0:29:420:29:45

Finally, why stick to just one island

0:29:450:29:47

when it's so easy to go Spanish island hopping?

0:29:470:29:50

Each of the biggest islands has a very different vibe,

0:29:510:29:54

so do check the sailing times and don't limit yourself

0:29:540:29:57

to just one of the Balearics.

0:29:570:29:58

You can squeeze in two, and you never know, maybe all three!

0:29:580:30:01

Now, as you know, every year we have our pop-up shop.

0:30:060:30:08

It's a drop-in advice clinic where you can share your experiences

0:30:080:30:12

with us, and most important of all, our experts.

0:30:120:30:15

It's all done face-to-face.

0:30:150:30:16

Last time around, I heard one story that really did stick in my mind,

0:30:160:30:20

and not just because of the dramatic results involved,

0:30:200:30:23

but what struck me about it the most

0:30:230:30:25

was the way it underlines how important it can be

0:30:250:30:28

when things go wrong to have somebody acknowledge the extent

0:30:280:30:32

of what you have been through, and really, just to properly listen

0:30:320:30:35

to exactly what has happened.

0:30:350:30:37

Well, the rest of our team found this particular case

0:30:370:30:40

especially memorable, so all of us wanted to find out more.

0:30:400:30:43

This year as ever,

0:30:460:30:47

our Rip-Off Britain pop-up shop helped dozens of viewers

0:30:470:30:50

get an instant resolution to their problem.

0:30:500:30:52

-Thank you very much.

-It's an absolute pleasure to meet you.

0:30:540:30:56

-Thank you.

-We are very grateful for the help we've had.

0:30:560:30:58

-Thank you.

-Thank you, thank you.

0:30:580:31:00

Isn't he a nice man?

0:31:000:31:01

Lovely.

0:31:010:31:02

But when nurses Kate, Linda, Lavinia and Diane

0:31:040:31:07

came to get some advice from Simon Calder,

0:31:070:31:10

it was clear that theirs was a problem

0:31:100:31:12

we were unlikely to be able to resolve there and then.

0:31:120:31:16

Tell me what happened.

0:31:160:31:18

Their story started back in March 2014

0:31:200:31:22

when the ladies had taken a dream holiday to Cuba.

0:31:220:31:26

During the holiday, they decided to visit a market nearby,

0:31:260:31:29

one of the local attractions,

0:31:290:31:31

and the transport they chose to get there

0:31:310:31:33

was a traditional horse and trap, which at the welcome meeting,

0:31:330:31:37

the reps had pointed out could be taken from within the hotel grounds.

0:31:370:31:41

We all had a coffee, changed some money.

0:31:410:31:44

We're all upbeat and happy.

0:31:440:31:46

We just went outside, we were directed to the horse and trap...

0:31:460:31:51

This is right outside your hotel?

0:31:510:31:53

It's within the hotel grounds.

0:31:530:31:54

So we climbed aboard and off we went and within ten minutes,

0:31:540:31:58

the nightmare began.

0:31:580:32:00

After a sudden, loud crashing noise,

0:32:000:32:03

part of the steel harness became detached from the horse.

0:32:030:32:06

As a result, the cart started to wobble violently

0:32:060:32:09

and the panicked horse ran off the road, up a steep embankment,

0:32:090:32:12

dragging the cart and all its passengers along after it.

0:32:120:32:16

Diane managed to jump out of the trap, shortly before it overturned,

0:32:160:32:20

with the other ladies, I'm afraid, trapped inside.

0:32:200:32:23

What state were you all in then?

0:32:240:32:26

You must have been petrified?

0:32:260:32:27

I must've lost consciousness because I don't really remember very much.

0:32:270:32:32

My arm was fractured in four places

0:32:320:32:34

and the cart had actually landed on my pelvis and it was fractured,

0:32:340:32:39

it was dreadful.

0:32:390:32:41

Really dreadful, because the ladies all sustained injuries.

0:32:430:32:46

With a fractured pelvis and left arm,

0:32:460:32:49

Linda spent 11 days in a Cuban hospital,

0:32:490:32:51

where the enormity of having such a serious accident

0:32:510:32:54

in a foreign country soon hit home.

0:32:540:32:57

Just get me home now.

0:32:570:32:58

Lavinia, Diane's 72-year-old mum, was left with a neck injury

0:32:580:33:02

and both she and her friend Kate suffered from concussion.

0:33:020:33:06

Diane had damage to her right shoulder, elbow and hand.

0:33:060:33:10

All of them were treated for their injuries in hospital.

0:33:100:33:13

But thousands of miles from home,

0:33:130:33:15

the whole experience was a really traumatic one.

0:33:150:33:18

You just want to get home, don't you, Lind?

0:33:180:33:21

I do.

0:33:210:33:22

With their holiday totally ruined, as soon as they were well enough,

0:33:220:33:25

the ladies flew back to the UK,

0:33:250:33:27

Linda by air ambulance.

0:33:270:33:29

But their journey to recovery was only just beginning.

0:33:290:33:32

As nurses with such busy and physically demanding jobs,

0:33:320:33:36

the impact of their injuries on their lives was even more dramatic.

0:33:360:33:39

Diane needed five months off work and 18 months of physiotherapy.

0:33:390:33:44

Indeed, she was just recovering from a further operation

0:33:440:33:48

to remove some bone from her damaged shoulder

0:33:480:33:50

when she came to see us at the pop-up shop.

0:33:500:33:53

Lavinia, Diane's mother, suffered headaches

0:33:530:33:55

and the accident has left her severely shaken.

0:33:550:33:58

Kate, who received a blow to the head, has been similarly affected.

0:33:580:34:02

And for Linda, the injuries she sustained

0:34:020:34:05

have had such a lasting impact that she was forced to take

0:34:050:34:08

early retirement from the nursing career she just loved,

0:34:080:34:12

and she still experiences severe pain from her broken pelvis.

0:34:120:34:16

I mean, that is just all so terrifying, isn't it?

0:34:160:34:18

And in fact you've brought some photographs, have a look at these.

0:34:180:34:21

-Oh, crikey.

-This is obviously Linda.

0:34:210:34:24

Yes.

0:34:240:34:25

In hospital.

0:34:250:34:27

So I mean, it's just horrendous.

0:34:270:34:29

It's not just the injuries that have had an effect on the ladies,

0:34:310:34:34

they all feel that the ways in which the incident has been handled

0:34:340:34:37

by both their tour operator and their various insurers,

0:34:370:34:40

only added to their distress.

0:34:400:34:42

What an awful experience for you all and I understand

0:34:430:34:47

it's still causing you a lot of problems today.

0:34:470:34:51

Let me try to extract the key things here.

0:34:510:34:55

There you were on the holiday of a lifetime to a beautiful,

0:34:550:34:59

fascinating, but very poor country, Cuba.

0:34:590:35:03

You suffer an appalling accident as a result of somebody's negligence.

0:35:030:35:09

That seems to be fairly clear,

0:35:090:35:10

but it's also clear that the negligence was committed

0:35:100:35:14

by somebody who...there's no point suing

0:35:140:35:17

because even if you can track him down,

0:35:170:35:20

you're going to find he's very poor and therefore,

0:35:200:35:23

you are stuck with possibly talking to your tour operator,

0:35:230:35:28

who is going to say, at the welcome meeting we certainly mentioned

0:35:280:35:31

that these things existed, we did not recommend it

0:35:310:35:34

and crucially, we did not sell you that tour,

0:35:340:35:37

you decided to enter into a contract with the provider of that

0:35:370:35:41

horse and trap journey and therefore your issue is with them.

0:35:410:35:46

-They've already said that.

-I'm not surprised.

0:35:460:35:48

So having no luck with their travel company,

0:35:510:35:53

and with any legal action against the horse and cart owner

0:35:530:35:56

unlikely to succeed, the ladies turned to their insurance companies

0:35:560:36:00

to see what compensation they might be able to offer

0:36:000:36:03

for the life-changing injuries they've suffered.

0:36:030:36:06

Did you have travel insurance?

0:36:060:36:08

-Yes.

-All of you?

-Yes.

0:36:080:36:09

I fear the travel insurance will just say,

0:36:090:36:11

"Look, all we are doing is providing backup when things go wrong,

0:36:110:36:15

and if people are going to go off and be adventurous

0:36:150:36:18

"in wonderful countries, sadly, things will happen.

0:36:180:36:21

"All we are doing is picking up the pieces afterwards

0:36:210:36:25

"to the extent that we are able to,

0:36:250:36:27

"and unfortunately we are not going to have any kind of long-term

0:36:270:36:32

"responsibility for you, for your condition."

0:36:320:36:35

Well, only two of the ladies received any money

0:36:370:36:40

from their various insurance companies.

0:36:400:36:42

Lavinia and Kate received £1,200 each,

0:36:420:36:45

but Diane and Linda haven't received one penny.

0:36:450:36:49

And in Diane's case, she says that's because her insurers told her

0:36:490:36:53

they would only pay out if they thought legal action

0:36:530:36:56

would end in a successful outcome.

0:36:560:36:58

And with the horse and cart driver based in Cuba,

0:36:580:37:01

it didn't seem there was much chance of that one.

0:37:010:37:03

But although the ladies all feel they should be able

0:37:040:37:07

to blame someone or take their case further,

0:37:070:37:10

Simon can't see that there's anything more they can do,

0:37:100:37:13

and that news is a bitter blow.

0:37:130:37:16

What is making you upset?

0:37:160:37:17

The fact that there seems to be little redress?

0:37:170:37:19

Is that what's making you upset?

0:37:190:37:21

No, it's just the photographs bring it back.

0:37:210:37:25

I think to myself, a lovely holiday, my whole life's changed.

0:37:250:37:29

A career that I loved has gone.

0:37:290:37:33

So sad and it's clear to see how raw this whole experience has been.

0:37:330:37:37

So Simon asked Martin James from the Financial Ombudsman Service

0:37:370:37:41

what he made of how this tricky case had been handled.

0:37:410:37:45

One of the things that's really, really important

0:37:450:37:47

is knowing that you've actually done as much as you can

0:37:470:37:51

and at least your voice has been heard.

0:37:510:37:53

I get the impression you've really not been listened to very much.

0:37:530:37:57

Only today.

0:37:570:37:58

Certainly, there are lots of restrictions on insurance policies,

0:37:580:38:01

but the question is what's the right thing to do here?

0:38:010:38:04

Sometimes insurance companies can be very, very literal,

0:38:040:38:07

and actually it's just a case of finding somebody in charge

0:38:070:38:10

to have a look at the whole situation.

0:38:100:38:13

I'll ask one of our experts if we can look at the cases together

0:38:130:38:16

and see if we can get the insurance company just to kind of respond to you,

0:38:160:38:20

-and, at the very least, we'll make sure your voice is heard.

-Thank you.

0:38:200:38:23

A little bit of hope, but what struck me

0:38:230:38:25

about the ladies' experience was how a fleeting moment on their holiday

0:38:250:38:29

had so impacted their day-to-day lives.

0:38:290:38:32

And back at home away from the bustle of the pop-up shop,

0:38:320:38:35

it's very clear to see the women were still coming to terms

0:38:350:38:38

with what had happened to them.

0:38:380:38:40

Just get me home.

0:38:400:38:42

If that had been me,

0:38:420:38:44

I wouldn't have been as strong, I'd have died.

0:38:440:38:47

I used to look at that and think, "I'm not going to get out of here."

0:38:470:38:50

I've started already!

0:38:520:38:54

I know, don't worry, Lind.

0:38:540:38:56

My life's completely changed.

0:38:560:38:59

Even sitting here now,

0:38:590:39:02

I'm in pain down this side

0:39:020:39:04

because this is the side where the actual,

0:39:040:39:07

the fractures at the back, it buckled.

0:39:070:39:10

It's going to be there always, every time it starts up,

0:39:110:39:15

I need to do physio.

0:39:150:39:16

Now, dreadful as this case is,

0:39:170:39:19

it's a very useful reminder of the limitations of what any

0:39:190:39:22

travel insurance policy you might have is likely to cover.

0:39:220:39:26

Because once the overseas medical bills have been paid

0:39:260:39:28

and the cost of getting home has been covered,

0:39:280:39:31

the insurer's responsibility actually ends there.

0:39:310:39:34

And even though the horse and cart may have been suggested

0:39:340:39:37

by the holiday rep as a means of getting around,

0:39:370:39:40

the journey the ladies took was certainly taken

0:39:400:39:43

very much at their very own risk,

0:39:430:39:44

a fact they have found out a very hard way.

0:39:440:39:48

It all has an impact, I think, because when I came back

0:39:480:39:52

I was chatting to people about it and there was a degree

0:39:520:39:56

of post-traumatic stress there.

0:39:560:39:58

And I don't think that's gone, because I don't talk about it.

0:39:580:40:02

The difficulty though, Linda, is, that when we talk about it,

0:40:020:40:06

we relive the whole event.

0:40:060:40:08

Yeah.

0:40:080:40:09

Well, after we filmed with the women,

0:40:130:40:15

in one of his last acts before leaving the Financial Ombudsman Service,

0:40:150:40:19

Martin James reported back to us with the news

0:40:190:40:21

that although the insurance companies in Lavinia, Kate and Linda's case

0:40:210:40:26

had not acted improperly, his team's investigation had decided

0:40:260:40:30

that in the case of Diane, the insurance company

0:40:300:40:32

and its underwriters could have done better in communicating

0:40:320:40:35

their reasons for not paying out,

0:40:350:40:37

and as a result, they promised £150 by way of apology.

0:40:370:40:42

But far more important than the money for all of the women

0:40:440:40:47

is having had someone to listen to their complaint

0:40:470:40:50

and take it seriously, and that's something I'm very glad to say

0:40:500:40:53

we were able to provide at the pop-up shop that day.

0:40:530:40:56

And although that isn't to say the ending is a happy one,

0:40:560:40:59

they'd all agree that it's gone a little way towards speeding up their recovery.

0:40:590:41:04

I was absolutely thrilled

0:41:050:41:07

and we were really excited that actually we'd have the chance

0:41:070:41:11

to go and tell our story.

0:41:110:41:13

That's all I contacted Rip-Off Britain for,

0:41:130:41:15

was to generate a little bit of public awareness

0:41:150:41:18

of when you're involved in something bad like we were,

0:41:180:41:22

nobody really is there to help you.

0:41:220:41:24

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate,

0:41:330:41:36

then we now have even more ways to get in touch.

0:41:360:41:39

You can join in the conversation on our Facebook page,

0:41:390:41:42

just look for BBC Rip-Off Britain.

0:41:420:41:44

As well as the most up-to-date news, you'll also find exclusive,

0:41:440:41:48

behind-the-scenes clips and pictures from the show.

0:41:480:41:51

Or you can log onto our website,

0:41:510:41:52

bbc.co.uk/ripoffbritain,

0:41:520:41:57

where there's plenty of advice and fact sheets

0:41:570:41:59

full of tips on how you can avoid getting ripped off.

0:41:590:42:02

Or, if you'd like to send us an e-mail,

0:42:040:42:06

then our address is...

0:42:060:42:10

Or indeed, if you want to send us a letter,

0:42:110:42:13

then our new address is...

0:42:130:42:18

Well, we've heard some deeply upsetting stories

0:42:260:42:29

on the programme today, and I have to say

0:42:290:42:31

I feel real sympathy for those women who had that awful accident in Cuba.

0:42:310:42:35

Not only was the trauma itself difficult to bear,

0:42:350:42:38

but what's equally harsh is the fact that it seems

0:42:380:42:40

there isn't really anyone who can take responsibility.

0:42:400:42:42

They just have to try and move on and put it all behind them.

0:42:420:42:45

And so, I think you can totally understand and see

0:42:450:42:48

why they just wanted someone, at the very least,

0:42:480:42:51

to listen to what they've been through.

0:42:510:42:53

And you know, I do think that, quite often,

0:42:530:42:55

just being heard can mean as much as compensation to some people,

0:42:550:42:59

and it's pretty obvious that, sometimes,

0:42:590:43:01

big companies just forget that, don't they?

0:43:010:43:03

Yes, they do. And I think what we've all learned from today

0:43:030:43:06

is the fact that, no matter what the situation is,

0:43:060:43:08

we want people at least to listen to us and maybe give a degree

0:43:080:43:11

of understanding or sympathy, whatever goes with the territory,

0:43:110:43:14

but generally, it's how an incident is dealt with

0:43:140:43:17

that can make all the difference, and I think, on that note,

0:43:170:43:19

that's where we've got to leave it for today.

0:43:190:43:21

But do please keep sending in your stories and your experiences.

0:43:210:43:25

Not just about holidays, of course,

0:43:250:43:27

but on any topic whatsoever that you'd like us to investigate.

0:43:270:43:30

We've got lots more programmes coming up this year.

0:43:300:43:33

But for now, thank you very much for your company,

0:43:330:43:35

hope you've enjoyed the programme, and from all of us, bye-bye.

0:43:350:43:37

-Goodbye.

-Goodbye.

0:43:370:43:39

Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and Julia Somerville investigate a life-changing accident in Cuba that left one group of friends asking who is responsible when disaster strikes on a trip abroad.

Plus a nine-hour wait for a life-saving operation in Mexico, all because the insurance company back home couldn't confirm it would cover the cost.

Travel expert Simon Calder has money-saving tips for exploring the Balearic Islands, and why the laws that apply on a cruise ship may not always be those of the country you'd expect.


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