Travel body probes sunken barge claim after Vietnam cruise protest

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 February, 2014, 4:13am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 February, 2014, 4:13am

The Travel Industry Council is investigating whether a sunken barge in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, was the real reason why a cruise skipped the top tourist spot, sparking an onboard protest when the trip ended in Hong Kong last week.

The council's executive director Joseph Tung Yiu-chung said it was checking the claims by tour agency Miramar Travel with the Vietnam consulate.

"It would be a serious matter if it turned out that there was no sunken barge preventing the ship from docking," Tung said.

Some 300 passengers staged a sit-in on the Costa Victoria on Thursday in protest at the HK$340 offer of compensation for missing out on the Unesco World Heritage site.

The protesters reached a confidential agreement with Miramar Travel, after four hours of talks on Friday.

Some reports suggested compensation had been increased to HK$1,000 per. Tung refused to confirm or deny the figure, but added: ""I would not be surprised if there was some lai see given during the Lunar New Year."

Tung stressed the cash was a refund rather than compensation. The holidaymakers had earlier demanded refunds adding up to a third of their fares, which cost up to HK$18,000 per cabin.

The onboard protest delayed the journey of 2,000 passengers booked on a trip to Malaysia. And the protestters' mood deteriorated when the ship's crew refused to provide water and Miramar's general manager, Alex Lee Chun-ting, told a radio programme that passengers had "hijacked" the ship.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan, who had been on the cruise, has denied a suggestion that the protesters were "bullies", while the ship's owner, Costa Cruises, has said it "reserves the right" to sue the protesters.