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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We asked you who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to your
holidays, and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.
I thought it was a joke, I really did.
You know, I started laughing.
I said, "You cannot be serious."
They were saying it was not their fault. It was unbelievable.
I can't even explain.
So, whether it's a deliberate rip-off,
a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,
we'll find out why you're out of pocket and what you can do about it.
Your stories, your money.
This is Rip-Off Britain.
Hello and welcome to Rip-Off Britain, which this series is all
about some of the disasters that you've told us you experienced while on holiday.
Now, obviously we all hope our trips away will be hassle-free and full of
sunshine, just like it is here in Tenerife,
but occasionally, things do go wrong.
Sometimes horrendously, as we're going to see.
If, for instance, the situation in which you suddenly find yourself
is especially serious or, worse still,
puts the health of someone with whom you're travelling in jeopardy,
finding someone to help to get things resolved is going to be your
priority. But you're going to be miles from home on holiday,
in a country that may have very different rules and regulations and,
of course, an entirely different language.
So it's not always going to be easy to get someone to resolve the
-Actually quite a tricky position to be in and, of course,
it won't help if what's likely to be your first port of call,
in other words, the company you booked your travel with,
doesn't necessarily see what's happened
as anything whatsoever to do with them, which, I'm afraid,
applies to some of the cautionary tales we're about to hear.
And, you know, without someone on board to help or even just listen to
you, the road to recovery can feel
a very long one indeed, and very frustrating.
Coming up, 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.
I thought my daughter might die here.
If they don't pay up, we haven't got the funds to pay for this,
what are we going to do?
And which country's laws apply if you run into problems on a cruise?
How this man's troubles with an onboard paint job
threw up a surprise you might not realise when you take to the waves.
Fumes were so seriously strong that it makes you feel not well,
it affects your breathing.
And I was extremely concerned.
Now, wherever you are, if you have an accident or fall seriously ill,
you're going to want to get treatment as quickly as possible,
but when you're on holiday,
the often inevitable hold-ups and finding the right hospital
or waiting for a doctor to see you
can be magnified by the complications
of getting in touch with the insurance company back home that you
hope will be covering the cost of the treatment you need.
And when every second counts, as it did for the family we're about to
meet, that kind of delay isn't just stressful,
it could even make the ultimate difference to how things turn out.
These holiday snaps with five-year-old Ellie centre stage
should be a reminder of all the good times
on the Whitfield family's recent trip to Mexico.
But it's another image of Ellie from the holiday
that brings back the most vivid memories -
ones they'd like to forget.
and Ellie had been particularly looking forward to the trip as
she was going to play a key role in her grandmother's wedding.
Ellie was really excited to go on the holiday,
we'd had it planned for a year and she was going to be bridesmaid.
It was the furthest that the family had flown together, and with two
children under five, mum Sophie was keen to get the right insurance.
She searched on comparison websites and eventually plumped for a policy
with the company insurefor.com
..paying £22.42 for a single trip economy policy, which included free
-cover for the children.
-It was one of the cheapest,
it seemed good value for money
because it had a high level of cover,
so if anything did go wrong, I know I'd be covered.
With everything booked and travel insurance secured,
all the family had to do was look forward to jetting off.
We were all so excited,
we'd paid for it the year before, so we had a full year of waiting for
the holiday and the lead-up to it with the wedding
and all the family going, we all just couldn't wait to go.
And when they arrived, everything seemed just what they'd hoped for.
Our hotel was lovely,
Ellie loved the pool and the little kids' disco in the night.
But four days into the trip, Ellie started to feel unwell.
Sophie initially thought it was just a reaction to the change in water.
Ellie had stomach cramps, she was in a lot of pain.
I was just hoping it was a tummy bug
and everything was going to be all right.
But it soon became clear that it was something far more serious.
She was throwing up bright green sick, temperature, she wouldn't eat,
so we realised there was something more to it.
As Ellie's condition deteriorated,
the family took her to see the hotel doctor.
He felt around her stomach and he noticed it was the right side,
so he suspected it was appendicitis
and he recommended we get an ambulance.
The family was rushed to the nearest hospital, but as is common in this
kind of situation in foreign hospitals,
before the doctor would even see Ellie, let alone treat her,
the family was hit with a demand for cash.
My partner went into the hospital and he came back and said we needed
£2,000 for Ellie to be seen,
and that was just to get into the hospital.
It was a sense of panic at first,
I felt just I needed to get her seen,
so I went into the hospital and rang the insurance.
Hoping that securing payment from insurefor.com was just a formality,
Sophie was surprised when the company said
they'd have to call her back,
and the insurers couldn't give any idea when that might be.
At this point, Ellie was screaming in the waiting room in agony and her
dad had broke down crying, he just wanted to get her seen,
so I was ringing the insurance all the time, just trying to get them to
see how critical she was.
Every moment was critical,
but the minutes turned into hours
and there was still no positive response from insurefor.com.
So Sophie and her partner, Christopher, decided they couldn't
wait any longer and found the money themselves.
My partner's mum put it on a credit card, she said, "Just pay it,
"she needs to be seen," so we just did it.
The credit card authorisation gave the green light for initial tests
while the hospital waited for the insurer to confirm cover.
Ellie had an ultrasound scan and an X-ray, which confirmed that she had
appendicitis and needed emergency surgery.
But the hospital said the only way the operation could be carried out
was if it received confirmation that someone would pay the cost,
which amounted to over £10,000.
And again, to Sophie's horror,
a prompt answer from her insurer wasn't forthcoming.
I was ringing them every ten minutes, telling them, "Look,
"she's in and out of consciousness,
"this is urgent, you need to get her down."
And my partner was really upset.
Insurance just didn't understand.
I tried to tell them on the phone how critical she was
and they just didn't care.
Now, the insurer would argue that behind the scenes it was working hard to get the family
the answer it needed, but it's easy to see that miles from home,
with her daughter's health on the line,
it didn't look that way to Sophie,
especially when Ellie took a turn for the worse
and her appendix actually burst.
I was so scared, in a different country, watching her in that state
and knowing I couldn't do anything
but wait for the insurance to answer.
At one point, I thought my daughter might die here.
If they don't pay up, we haven't got the funds to pay for this,
what are we going to do?
That was my main worry after sitting in that hospital for nine hours -
will she come through and make it at the other end?
Will I lose her?
Sophie says it was only after the Mexican surgeon himself got on the
phone to the insurers, stressing the urgency of the situation,
that the company was able to finally confirm it would come up with the
-It was like a manic rush
once they said she could have the go-ahead for the surgery.
The surgeons rushed in and they had her up in the theatre straightaway.
It was such a relief.
The surgery was a success and Ellie was admitted to intensive care.
But to the family's dismay,
the insurer then said it still wasn't able to confirm whether it
would cover the hospital's after-care following the operation.
The insurance had confirmed that they'd pay for her operation,
but they hadn't confirmed they would pay for her care there afterwards.
Ellie was discharged after two days in hospital,
at which point Sophie says they were hit with a bill for around £4,000,
which appeared to be for her care after the operation.
But I'm afraid even THAT wasn't the end of it.
Just two days later,
Ellie was rushed back into hospital after contracting an infection, and
to Sophie it didn't seem that insurefor.com was in any rush
to confirm it would cover the cost of her treatment this time, either.
And we were back in square one, what were in when we first went.
They treated her for an infection,
they treated her without us paying
any money, but once we got discharged,
we had to pay again on a credit card.
Now, the insurer did guarantee that it would pick up that cost,
which came to around a further £6,000,
but Sophie and her family had to guarantee the full sum
on their own credit card just in case.
So by now, Sophie says they had undertaken to pay out
around £12,000 for Ellie's treatment,
which they'd only been able to do thanks to the help
of generous friends and family.
And although there was some confusion over the total costs,
with prices quoted in US dollars,
Mexican pesos and British pounds,
Sophie knew this could leave her family seriously out of pocket.
I felt really guilty, and the other family members, that they'd had to
put their personal money on a credit card
just for us to get out of the hospital.
Though relieved that Ellie was free to return to the UK,
the couple were distraught at the thousands of pounds of credit card
payments they'd been forced to authorise in Mexico.
And their worries only got worse when,
11 days after they returned home,
the hospital e-mailed Sophie to say it was still pursuing the insurer
for payment. And it suggested she chase up the company, too, to avoid
that £12,000 coming off her and her family's own cards.
My partner was querying, should we sell our car,
should we sell our house, where else would we find the money from?
That was our only options, really.
Well, luckily it didn't come to that because, shortly afterwards,
insurefor.com did pay out and settled the bill
for all of Ellie's hospital treatment.
But Sophie remains upset at why,
throughout all of this, they'd had what she considered
such a slow response from the insurance company.
As far as she's concerned,
the insurer made a traumatic situation many times worse and she
still can't understand why, in an emergency like this,
an answer can't be given right away.
If they'd made that decision quicker, we wouldn't have had to
go through Ellie's appendix bursting and then having to fight off an
infection and being taken back into hospital.
So, how quickly should you expect to get a response from your travel
Well, personal finance expert Sarah Pennells says
that while every second counts in an emergency,
perhaps surprisingly, there's no set timeframe within which
insurers have to agree to send payment.
I think you're in a very difficult situation if you find yourself in
the circumstances that Ellie's parents were.
There aren't actually any hard and fast rules that say a time limit by
which an insurer should deal with a claim.
And of course, in Ellie's case,
sort of, hours mattered.
All you can do, really, is to make
your voice heard as loudly as possible
and to make sure that the people at the top of the company
know this issue, because sometimes
people who are in the call centres aren't actually
allowed to make decisions that to you and I
might seem to be common sense.
Well, we asked insurefor.com to explain why it took so long to make a decision on
Ellie's care, especially given the critical nature of the situation.
It told us that while it was sorry to hear of the situation and
delighted that Ellie's made a full recovery, it...
Once the written paperwork and key authorisations were received, it did
give the go-ahead for surgery.
And subsequently, after a full
and thorough review of the family's policy,
covered the cost of the rest of the treatment.
The company went on to stress that
it always aims to deal with customers
in the shortest time possible, and though it works with third parties
to administer and underwrite its policies,
it takes full responsibility for the regulation and administration of
those policies to ensure that they are fit for purpose
and meet the needs of customers.
We also contacted the Association of British Insurers,
which told us its members understand the need to respond quickly when
someone needs urgent treatment, and it's...
It says in an emergency situation, insurers will generally give the
go-ahead on a presumption there is cover in place,
keeping in regular contact with the policy holder,
their immediate family and the medical facility overseas to ensure
treatment goes ahead as soon as possible.
Of course, as we've seen, things may not always be that simple.
So Sarah Pennells has this advice
when choosing the right insurance policy for your next holiday.
My advice is to look really carefully at the cover you get
with your travel insurance,
and also to do some research into how well and quickly
the insurance company pays out.
Most people, we've got better things to do than to spend time buying
travel insurance and we tend to go for the cheapest option, but it may
not be the right one for you. And if you need to make a claim on your
insurance policy, you want to know
that it will be there and it will pay out when you need.
In the meantime, though Sophie's trying to concentrate on the good
memories of the holiday, she can't forget the enormous stress
that trying to contact her insurer caused.
From us getting to the hospital to getting an answer from the
insurance for the go-ahead for the operation, we waited nine hours.
I paid that money for the insurance thinking everything would be OK.
When something goes wrong whilst you're away on holiday, it's quite a
natural reaction to want to find someone to take responsibility.
But very often it's quite hard to establish who that might be,
and that's, of course, at the root
of an awful lot of the stories that you send to us.
But some of you have come across a very specific reason why it can be a
particular problem when you've been on a cruise, and it means that if
the trip itself wasn't plain sailing,
I'm afraid getting things resolved may not turn out to be any better.
Last year, 24 million passengers hopped on board a cruise ship and
the industry employs over 900,000 people,
meaning that on any given day,
thousands of people are at sea aboard these huge floating cities.
And to keep up with demand,
27 new ships have hit the seas in 2016 alone.
But one ship that certainly isn't new is the Marco Polo.
It was built in 1965 and has been through several owners and numerous
It's currently operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages,
a UK-based company. And as can be seen from this promotional video,
a trip on the Marco Polo is definitely one to remember.
'So why not experience a Cruise & Maritime voyage for yourself?
'We'll make you very welcome.'
And it was a slice of the ship's luxury that appealed to Judy and Graham Sexton from Lincolnshire.
They've a lifelong love of boats,
but in their retirement fancied handing over the controls to the
captain of the Marco Polo on a five-week cruise.
We were really looking forward to the trip
because the venues were fantastic.
Unusual, some of them. Greenland,
three places in Greenland, the Faroes,
parts of Canada that we'd never been to.
But the couple didn't find the cruise quite as enjoyable as they'd hoped.
The Marco Polo, now in its 52nd year,
was due a bit of TLC and was being painted when Graham and Judy boarded
the ship. And Graham says one of the products being used
began to cause him some problems.
The fumes were so strong that I had to hold my breath
coming down the gangway, because there was about three or four people
painting the boat and the fumes were absolutely horrendous.
They were painting all the rails, they were varnishing all the stairs.
Graham says the fumes were so bad,
they even began to affect his breathing.
So he paid a visit to the ship's doctor.
One of the big concerns was Graham has asthma and the fumes were so
seriously strong that it makes you feel not well,
it affects your breathing, and I was extremely concerned.
In fact, the couple considered the fumes so bad, they even wondered if
they could carry on with the trip.
By the time we got to Montreal, it was just about halfway through the
holiday. We'd come to the decision, sadly,
that we were most probably going to have to leave and fly home.
However, to their relief,
after making their concerns known to the crew, they were moved to a
different part of the ship.
We were moved into another cabin,
which wasn't quite as large as the one we had,
but it actually did move us on to another deck, which improved...
The paint fumes weren't as bad on that deck.
-I'm sitting there while they're painting.
But they couldn't escape them completely, and Graham and Judy say
painters continued working in public areas throughout the trip.
When they got back home, Graham decided to put in a complaint to the
company operating Marco Polo, Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
I wrote to the company and initially I thought I was
getting a sympathetic ear.
The company responded to Graham, saying it was looking into the
matter further. But after some more
correspondence, it ultimately concluded that
all the relevant rules had been followed.
So, not content with that,
Graham decided to see if he could get someone else
to take his complaint on board. However,
working out just who that should be wasn't immediately obvious.
I contacted the Port of London Authority for advice.
They said, "You should try the country of registration of the ship because
"the country of registration of the ship are responsible for what happens
"on that ship."
So in this case, it didn't really matter that Cruise & Maritime Voyages has its headquarters in
the UK, the key factor was the country where the ship was registered, and
it's usually that country's rules which apply on board.
But in this case, that was 4,000
miles away from Graham, in the Bahamas.
I wrote a letter to them pointing out what had happened,
the problems on board,
all that sort of thing and I never got a reply even.
Whilst writing to the Bahamian authorities about a cruise ship company
with its headquarters in Essex might sound a little odd,
in fact it's not all that uncommon because, though you may never have
realised it, most cruise ships operate under what's known as a
flag of convenience, which means they're officially registered in a country
that's perhaps miles away from where you might assume they were based,
as Mark Watson from Tourism Concern explains.
Flags of convenience are used by the shipping industry to register their
ships in countries other than the country where they come from.
So a UK-operated cruise ship, for instance,
can register under Liberian regulations, the Bahamas,
the Marshall Islands, even Mongolia, which is a landlocked state.
And then the ship is controlled by the regulations of that country,
so things like employment rights,
health and safety and all legal rights for consumers are governed by
the rules of the flag country rather than the home country.
So that means any problems you might have relating to a ship's upkeep,
structure or, as with Graham, its maintenance,
will be subject to the laws of the flag state,
in this case the Bahamas,
and not those of the country where its parent company is based.
And whilst there's nothing to suggest that any of this would have
an effect on how the Marco Polo was being maintained,
Mark says it does mean that establishing which country's rules a
ship is legally bound by may prove more difficult than you'd expect.
Flags of convenience first came around in the '50s, where many American
companies registered in Panama to avoid US regulations, and that still
applies now. The cruise ship companies register in countries with
very poor regulations, so it cuts down on the cost for them and the red tape and
they only have to operate by the regulations of that country,
which quite often has very poor labour standards,
very poor health and safety standards and very poor legal regulations
around operating a cruise ship.
Now, there's no suggestion that Cruise & Maritime Voyages
or any of the best-known cruise companies, for that matter,
are cutting corners or ducking their responsibilities
by registering their ships in this way.
In fact, there are plenty of reasons why a ship might be registered
in another country, not least, for example, so that it can hold
a wedding at sea which is illegal under British rules,
but not those of some other countries.
However, chances are a lot of cruise passengers simply hadn't realised
that some of the biggest names in the industry
register their vessels in places they perhaps did not expect.
Take, for instance, Southampton-based P&O Cruises.
Most of its ships are registered in Bermuda,
including their oldest liner, the Oriana.
The brand-new Carnival Vista, jewel in the crown of Carnival Cruises,
along with the rest of Carnival's fleet, is registered in Panama.
Cruise legend Cunard, considered by many a British institution,
now also registers all of its ships in Bermuda.
And Scandinavian-sounding Norwegian Cruise Line
registers most of its ships more than 4,000 miles away from Norway
in the Bahamas, just like the Marco Polo.
Even so, if you do have a complaint about a cruise,
you'd hope that whatever laws its owners appear to be bound by,
they'd still want to put it right.
If something goes wrong on a cruise ship,
then the first port of call would be the cruise ship company themselves
and that would be the best chance of getting anything resolved.
The difficulty is if you need to escalate it further,
where do you go?
If the cruise ship don't address the issue,
there are very few other places to go, particularly to do that.
But I'm pleased to say that when flying the Rip-Off Britain flag,
we contacted Cruise & Maritime Voyages about Graham's case,
we got a response from its UK office right away,
so there was no need to go all round the world looking for answers.
The company reiterated that it has
fully investigated Graham's concerns, but says
it only uses approved indoor and outdoor paints
and that it goes to great lengths to ensure any maintenance operations
do not interfere with passengers' enjoyment.
It says of the 150,000 passengers it's carried on the Marco Polo,
Graham and Judy's is the only complaint it has received
regarding paint use onboard.
What's more, it robustly dismissed any concerns
over flags of convenience,
saying a ship's flag in no way allows it to avoid
very stringent international health and safety standards,
or consumer protection regulations,
pointing out that all cruise ships are subject to international safety
regulation coordinated by a dedicated UN agency,
the International Maritime Organisation.
And those operating in the EU must follow...
And while the company has, nevertheless,
apologised for any inconvenience,
Graham still feels the situation should never have arisen.
It was a good cruise in many ways, but the paint fumes ruined it.
It shouldn't have and we paid good money for it.
We didn't get value for money.
Still to come on Rip-Off Britain,
a holiday cut short by a life-changing accident,
but whose responsibility is it to put things right?
If that had have been me, I wouldn't have been as strong. I'd have died.
I used to look at that and think, "I'm not going to get out of here".
Our travel expert, Simon Calder,
has all the secrets to save you money on your travels.
He is also full of tips on everything,
from how to avoid the crowds to the best way to steer clear
of those tourist traps and scams.
This time Simon is looking at the ever popular Balearic Islands.
For half a century, the Spanish Isles of Majorca,
Menorca and Ibiza have been among our very favourite holiday destinations.
Yet, what began as cheap and cheerful islands,
can sometimes these days be ferociously expensive,
so let me help you enjoy the Balearics on a budget.
And the best time to start saving is as soon as you arrive.
Every time I touch down at one of the island's airports,
there's a great long line of people queueing up for rental cars,
and I walk straight past.
The public transport is widespread, efficient and extremely good value.
On Majorca for example, for just five euros,
a bus will get you from Palma airport into the city centre,
where you can join the excellent train network to the rest of the island.
From Mahon airport on neighbouring Menorca,
the fare on the number 10 bus into town is 2.65 euros.
And the bus from Ibiza airport is also a number 10,
but the fare is a tiny bit higher at 3.50 euros.
But if you do decide to forego public transport and rent a car,
picking up the vehicle in the city centre is likely to be cheaper,
without the airport surcharge.
If there's one thing that might make you sleep a little less soundly
in the Balearics, it could be the controversial bed tax,
introduced in the summer of 2016.
The tax is on a sliding scale from 50 cents per person per night,
if you are camping or staying in a hostel,
to two euros for luxury hotels and upmarket apartments.
From nine nights onwards,
the tax is halved and the children under 16 go free.
So for example, a couple spending a fortnight at a four-star apartment
will now pay an extra £40 or so at today's exchange rate.
But you can reduce the tax
by choosing a lower grade of accommodation,
visiting the Balearics between November and March
when tax rates are halved, or going somewhere else.
And timing your sightseeing correctly
can also save you some cash.
Majorca's Miro Museum on the outskirts of Palma is best seen on a Saturday
when it's absolutely free.
And on Menorca, just on the way in from the airport,
the amazing Cornia Nou, which is an ancient 3,000 year-old watchtower,
is another absolutely free attraction,
but do check the opening times because they vary during the week.
Best of all, in generous Ibiza, Mace, the fabulous museum
of contemporary art, is free every single day of the week,
except Mondays, when it's closed.
Finally, why stick to just one island
when it's so easy to go Spanish island hopping?
Each of the biggest islands has a very different vibe,
so do check the sailing times and don't limit yourself
to just one of the Balearics.
You can squeeze in two, and you never know, maybe all three!
Now, as you know, every year we have our pop-up shop.
It's a drop-in advice clinic where you can share your experiences
with us, and most important of all, our experts.
It's all done face-to-face.
Last time around, I heard one story that really did stick in my mind,
and not just because of the dramatic results involved,
but what struck me about it the most
was the way it underlines how important it can be
when things go wrong to have somebody acknowledge the extent
of what you have been through, and really, just to properly listen
to exactly what has happened.
Well, the rest of our team found this particular case
especially memorable, so all of us wanted to find out more.
This year as ever,
our Rip-Off Britain pop-up shop helped dozens of viewers
get an instant resolution to their problem.
-Thank you very much.
-It's an absolute pleasure to meet you.
-We are very grateful for the help we've had.
-Thank you, thank you.
Isn't he a nice man?
But when nurses Kate, Linda, Lavinia and Diane
came to get some advice from Simon Calder,
it was clear that theirs was a problem
we were unlikely to be able to resolve there and then.
Tell me what happened.
Their story started back in March 2014
when the ladies had taken a dream holiday to Cuba.
During the holiday, they decided to visit a market nearby,
one of the local attractions,
and the transport they chose to get there
was a traditional horse and trap, which at the welcome meeting,
the reps had pointed out could be taken from within the hotel grounds.
We all had a coffee, changed some money.
We're all upbeat and happy.
We just went outside, we were directed to the horse and trap...
This is right outside your hotel?
It's within the hotel grounds.
So we climbed aboard and off we went and within ten minutes,
the nightmare began.
After a sudden, loud crashing noise,
part of the steel harness became detached from the horse.
As a result, the cart started to wobble violently
and the panicked horse ran off the road, up a steep embankment,
dragging the cart and all its passengers along after it.
Diane managed to jump out of the trap, shortly before it overturned,
with the other ladies, I'm afraid, trapped inside.
What state were you all in then?
You must have been petrified?
I must've lost consciousness because I don't really remember very much.
My arm was fractured in four places
and the cart had actually landed on my pelvis and it was fractured,
it was dreadful.
Really dreadful, because the ladies all sustained injuries.
With a fractured pelvis and left arm,
Linda spent 11 days in a Cuban hospital,
where the enormity of having such a serious accident
in a foreign country soon hit home.
Just get me home now.
Lavinia, Diane's 72-year-old mum, was left with a neck injury
and both she and her friend Kate suffered from concussion.
Diane had damage to her right shoulder, elbow and hand.
All of them were treated for their injuries in hospital.
But thousands of miles from home,
the whole experience was a really traumatic one.
You just want to get home, don't you, Lind?
With their holiday totally ruined, as soon as they were well enough,
the ladies flew back to the UK,
Linda by air ambulance.
But their journey to recovery was only just beginning.
As nurses with such busy and physically demanding jobs,
the impact of their injuries on their lives was even more dramatic.
Diane needed five months off work and 18 months of physiotherapy.
Indeed, she was just recovering from a further operation
to remove some bone from her damaged shoulder
when she came to see us at the pop-up shop.
Lavinia, Diane's mother, suffered headaches
and the accident has left her severely shaken.
Kate, who received a blow to the head, has been similarly affected.
And for Linda, the injuries she sustained
have had such a lasting impact that she was forced to take
early retirement from the nursing career she just loved,
and she still experiences severe pain from her broken pelvis.
I mean, that is just all so terrifying, isn't it?
And in fact you've brought some photographs, have a look at these.
-This is obviously Linda.
So I mean, it's just horrendous.
It's not just the injuries that have had an effect on the ladies,
they all feel that the ways in which the incident has been handled
by both their tour operator and their various insurers,
only added to their distress.
What an awful experience for you all and I understand
it's still causing you a lot of problems today.
Let me try to extract the key things here.
There you were on the holiday of a lifetime to a beautiful,
fascinating, but very poor country, Cuba.
You suffer an appalling accident as a result of somebody's negligence.
That seems to be fairly clear,
but it's also clear that the negligence was committed
by somebody who...there's no point suing
because even if you can track him down,
you're going to find he's very poor and therefore,
you are stuck with possibly talking to your tour operator,
who is going to say, at the welcome meeting we certainly mentioned
that these things existed, we did not recommend it
and crucially, we did not sell you that tour,
you decided to enter into a contract with the provider of that
horse and trap journey and therefore your issue is with them.
-They've already said that.
-I'm not surprised.
So having no luck with their travel company,
and with any legal action against the horse and cart owner
unlikely to succeed, the ladies turned to their insurance companies
to see what compensation they might be able to offer
for the life-changing injuries they've suffered.
Did you have travel insurance?
-All of you?
I fear the travel insurance will just say,
"Look, all we are doing is providing backup when things go wrong,
and if people are going to go off and be adventurous
"in wonderful countries, sadly, things will happen.
"All we are doing is picking up the pieces afterwards
"to the extent that we are able to,
"and unfortunately we are not going to have any kind of long-term
"responsibility for you, for your condition."
Well, only two of the ladies received any money
from their various insurance companies.
Lavinia and Kate received £1,200 each,
but Diane and Linda haven't received one penny.
And in Diane's case, she says that's because her insurers told her
they would only pay out if they thought legal action
would end in a successful outcome.
And with the horse and cart driver based in Cuba,
it didn't seem there was much chance of that one.
But although the ladies all feel they should be able
to blame someone or take their case further,
Simon can't see that there's anything more they can do,
and that news is a bitter blow.
What is making you upset?
The fact that there seems to be little redress?
Is that what's making you upset?
No, it's just the photographs bring it back.
I think to myself, a lovely holiday, my whole life's changed.
A career that I loved has gone.
So sad and it's clear to see how raw this whole experience has been.
So Simon asked Martin James from the Financial Ombudsman Service
what he made of how this tricky case had been handled.
One of the things that's really, really important
is knowing that you've actually done as much as you can
and at least your voice has been heard.
I get the impression you've really not been listened to very much.
Certainly, there are lots of restrictions on insurance policies,
but the question is what's the right thing to do here?
Sometimes insurance companies can be very, very literal,
and actually it's just a case of finding somebody in charge
to have a look at the whole situation.
I'll ask one of our experts if we can look at the cases together
and see if we can get the insurance company just to kind of respond to you,
-and, at the very least, we'll make sure your voice is heard.
A little bit of hope, but what struck me
about the ladies' experience was how a fleeting moment on their holiday
had so impacted their day-to-day lives.
And back at home away from the bustle of the pop-up shop,
it's very clear to see the women were still coming to terms
with what had happened to them.
Just get me home.
If that had been me,
I wouldn't have been as strong, I'd have died.
I used to look at that and think, "I'm not going to get out of here."
I've started already!
I know, don't worry, Lind.
My life's completely changed.
Even sitting here now,
I'm in pain down this side
because this is the side where the actual,
the fractures at the back, it buckled.
It's going to be there always, every time it starts up,
I need to do physio.
Now, dreadful as this case is,
it's a very useful reminder of the limitations of what any
travel insurance policy you might have is likely to cover.
Because once the overseas medical bills have been paid
and the cost of getting home has been covered,
the insurer's responsibility actually ends there.
And even though the horse and cart may have been suggested
by the holiday rep as a means of getting around,
the journey the ladies took was certainly taken
very much at their very own risk,
a fact they have found out a very hard way.
It all has an impact, I think, because when I came back
I was chatting to people about it and there was a degree
of post-traumatic stress there.
And I don't think that's gone, because I don't talk about it.
The difficulty though, Linda, is, that when we talk about it,
we relive the whole event.
Well, after we filmed with the women,
in one of his last acts before leaving the Financial Ombudsman Service,
Martin James reported back to us with the news
that although the insurance companies in Lavinia, Kate and Linda's case
had not acted improperly, his team's investigation had decided
that in the case of Diane, the insurance company
and its underwriters could have done better in communicating
their reasons for not paying out,
and as a result, they promised £150 by way of apology.
But far more important than the money for all of the women
is having had someone to listen to their complaint
and take it seriously, and that's something I'm very glad to say
we were able to provide at the pop-up shop that day.
And although that isn't to say the ending is a happy one,
they'd all agree that it's gone a little way towards speeding up their recovery.
I was absolutely thrilled
and we were really excited that actually we'd have the chance
to go and tell our story.
That's all I contacted Rip-Off Britain for,
was to generate a little bit of public awareness
of when you're involved in something bad like we were,
nobody really is there to help you.
If you have a story you'd like us to investigate,
then we now have even more ways to get in touch.
You can join in the conversation on our Facebook page,
just look for BBC Rip-Off Britain.
As well as the most up-to-date news, you'll also find exclusive,
behind-the-scenes clips and pictures from the show.
Or you can log onto our website,
where there's plenty of advice and fact sheets
full of tips on how you can avoid getting ripped off.
Or, if you'd like to send us an e-mail,
then our address is...
Or indeed, if you want to send us a letter,
then our new address is...
Well, we've heard some deeply upsetting stories
on the programme today, and I have to say
I feel real sympathy for those women who had that awful accident in Cuba.
Not only was the trauma itself difficult to bear,
but what's equally harsh is the fact that it seems
there isn't really anyone who can take responsibility.
They just have to try and move on and put it all behind them.
And so, I think you can totally understand and see
why they just wanted someone, at the very least,
to listen to what they've been through.
And you know, I do think that, quite often,
just being heard can mean as much as compensation to some people,
and it's pretty obvious that, sometimes,
big companies just forget that, don't they?
Yes, they do. And I think what we've all learned from today
is the fact that, no matter what the situation is,
we want people at least to listen to us and maybe give a degree
of understanding or sympathy, whatever goes with the territory,
but generally, it's how an incident is dealt with
that can make all the difference, and I think, on that note,
that's where we've got to leave it for today.
But do please keep sending in your stories and your experiences.
Not just about holidays, of course,
but on any topic whatsoever that you'd like us to investigate.
We've got lots more programmes coming up this year.
But for now, thank you very much for your company,
hope you've enjoyed the programme, and from all of us, bye-bye.
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.