Protesting cruise ship passengers not bullies, says lawmaker Ann Chiang

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 1:24pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 February, 2014, 4:57am

Passengers involved in a sit-in on a cruise ship were not "bullies", a lawmaker who joined the protests said amid criticism that they caused unnecessary delays.

"They are not bullies. They refused to leave because they had limited bargaining power," said Ann Chiang Lai-wan, one of about 300 passengers who refused to leave the Costa Victoria on Thursday, unhappy at the level of compensation offered for missing a stop in Vietnam's Ha Long Bay.

Chiang said she was not seeking compensation as she had booked the cruise individually rather than joining a tour.

Her comments came after a fellow passenger said on a radio programme that she was "ashamed" of the protest.

"The cruise company offered its apologies and opened its restaurants ahead of schedule," the unnamed passenger said, adding that activities were organised to keep passengers entertained when the half-day trip to the Unesco World Heritage site was called off.

The protests, which broke up late on Thursday after about 17 hours, delayed the journey of 2,000 passengers booked on a trip to Malaysia.

The confrontation was sparked, in part, by a fiery meeting with a representative of travel agency Miramar on Wednesday, passenger Peter Cheung, 57, said.

"The representative said something like 'you guys are just causing a stir for money'," said Cheung, who was one of the last passengers to leave the boat at 10.30pm. "One traveller was so angry hearing that comment he took out a pile of US dollars and threw them at the rep."

Cheung said the rep had told passengers the compensation would be limited to the estimated HK$340 per head cost of the Ha Long Bay stop, part of a six-day cruise that cost up to HK$18,000.

"The rep was quite immature … he didn't even say sorry," Cheung said.

The mood deteriorated further when the ship's crew refused to provide water during the protest, and when Miramar's general manager, Alex Lee Chun-ting, told a radio programme that passengers had "hijacked" the ship.

"Even an educated person would become irrational after hours without water," Cheung said, adding the one incensed man threatened to jump overboard. Passengers only received drinks after the Travel Industry Council intervened in the afternoon.

Passenger Windy Kwok Pui-fong said matters might have turned out differently had Miramar bosses started discussions with disgruntled tourists early in the morning.

"I can't believe the crisis management of such a big agency could be so poor," she said.

Miramar manager Lee, who met 20 passengers at midnight on Thursday, refused to comment on his staff's behaviour.

On Thursday, he suggested the passenger who threw money had shown poor manners.