Richard and Julia Bath had saved for two-and-a-half years for their once-in-a-lifetime romantic holiday, which was to have lasted 93 days, taking in 28 different countries.
But the holiday was threatened with disaster when travel firm Travelscope went bust at Christmas and Mr and Mrs Bath were told the cruise had been cancelled.
Then, within a few days a second firm, Dutch-owned Club Cruise, agreed to lease the cruise liner MV Van Gogh and the trip was back on.
But after a ‘marvellous and fantastic’ holiday, Mr and Mrs Bath suddenly found themselves caught up in a legal wrangle between the two holiday firms.
As the MV Van Gogh dropped anchor in Madeira, its last port of call before returning to Falmouth, a court action was begun and the ship was placed ‘under arrest’ and a police cordon was thrown around it.
The dispute resulted in a court order detaining the vessel in Funchal while Travelscope’s receivers tried to claw back £1.5 million from Club Cruise.
The liner and its 460 passengers who had paid between £12,000 and £20,000 for their cabins, was then stranded.
It took two days before the dispute was resolved and the ship was allowed to leave the island and return to England.
Safely back in their home in Metropole Court, Minehead, Mr Bath, aged 72, and Mrs Bath, aged 71, explained to The Post how the trip had only gone ahead because ABTA had guaranteed it after passengers agreed to sign over their payments to the insurance agency.
However, Mrs Bath said the deal was that no money would be released to ABTA until after the cruise had been completed and the ship had returned to Falmouth.
She said: “By holding us hostage in Madeira, they were holding ABTA hostage and that increased the pressure to get the dispute resolved.
“They had to get us in a neutral port as it would not have worked if we had returned to the UK because the money would have been paid out.”
Despite the wrangle, Mr and Mrs Bath did not feel like prisoners.
Mrs Bath said: “We were allowed to leave the ship in the meantime and do what we wanted, and they put on an excursion for us with eight coaches on one afternoon.”
The hiccup did not spoil the holiday for the couple, whose 50th wedding anniversary was marked last September with a family party in the Beach Hotel, Minehead.
Mrs Bath said: “It was an absolutely wonderful time. There were never any worries about anything and no skimping or shortages at all.
“We went through the Panama Canal, which was an absolutely marvellous experience, and we went up Table Mountain, in Capetown, and saw lots of other places.”
The cruise also took in the Mediterranean, Egypt, the Caribbean, Ecuador, Tahiti, New Zealand, Sydney, Mauritius, and other stops.
- Our photograph shows Richard and Julia Bath, safely home in West Somerset after a round-the-world cruise drama. Photo submitted.