Although tickets for the cruise cost parents 750 euros, the trip turned out to be “a total nightmare”. “We felt ripped off, this has been the worst school trip of our lives,” said students from the Jorge Guillén secondary school in Torrox, one of the four schools in Malaga province that organised a trip with the Italian cruise company GNV. The holiday, on board the Rhapsody, took place between 2 and 8 April, leaving from and returning to the port of Malaga.
In fact nearly all of the 1,600 passengers were teachers and students from 43 schools in Andalucía and Castilla La Mancha who had arranged the school holiday for the week after Easter. However, the promotional material was “absolutely nothing like” the reality on board the ship.
“Filthy cabins and communal areas of the boat, terrible, monotonous food and a lack of safety.” That was how Mercedes Ariza, an English teacher at the Torrox school, described the “terrible cruise” which took its passengers to Naples, Rome, Florence and Mallorca.
On the ship were 206 pupils from Malaga province, including 87 from the Victoria Kent school in Marbella, 58 from Jorge Guillén, 42 from Los Colegiales de Antequera and 19 from IES Andrés Pérez Serrano in Cortes de la Frontera.
“The boat also set off over an hour late,” said Ariza, who met up with a large group of pupils and parents to write a letter of complaint to the local agency that sold them the trip.
One of the other teachers on board the ship told SUR that she lost four kilos. “We had a terrible time on board the boat, I wouldn't wish it on anybody,” said the French teacher, who would prefer not to reveal her identity.
“The management of the boat got to know me quite well by the end, because I had to complain about something every day. I'm lactose intolerant, and they didn't take that into account at all,” she said.
The anger towards the organisers of the cruise has been taken to the media across all of Andalucía, with regional TV channel Canal Sur broadcasting a report with the students' experiences.
“We called it the 'horror cruise',” a spokesperson for the parents association at a school in Adra told the newspaper Ideal. “There wasn't enough food, the water came out of the taps dirty and there were thefts in the rooms.”
SUR tried on repeated occasions without success to contact the cruise company for its reaction to the complaints.