Two couples whose dream cruise did not meet their hopes have lost their case against the operator.

A judge told them just because it did not live up to a trip one pair had taken 13 years ago, that did not mean the cruise firm was in breach of contract.

Pearl and Ian Smith and Mary and Trevor Wild told a small claims court hearing in Colchester yesterday (Wednesday) that their trip was ruined by a string of problems.

But District Judge David Hallett decided Sea Vacations UK Ltd, which acts as an agent for Carnival Cruise Line, did not breach its contract or misrepresent the holiday they would get.

Speaking on behalf of the couples, Mrs Smith, of Gurdon Road, Colchester, said she and her husband persuaded her brother and sister-in-law to go on a cruise.

They paid £4,746.60 between them for a Panama Canal cruise in March 2000, which coincided with the Wilds' 30th wedding anniversary.

They listed the following problems:

Traffic meant they missed their plane and had to take a later flight

A suitcase padlock was crushed and cruise ship staff gave them screwdrivers to open it

Some diners wore T-shirts and shorts in the dining room, ignoring the smart dress code

The food range was disappointing and one party member had to ask for plainer food every night

There were only five courses a night, not seven as promised

No-one laughed at the comedians and his catchphrase made one woman "want to strangle him"

There were no showgirls like those in the brochure

One "whole island was closed" because of a national holiday

They could not disembark in Costa Rica because of civil unrest

Their room was noisy and they used towels to stop lights rattling.

Martin Shein, a consultant for Carnival Sea Vacations, said Mrs Smith had not made an official complaint about the suitcase.

He said the dress code for dinner is for guidance and as the cruise is all-inclusive, they could not turn people away because of their clothes.

He said the meals were to the normal standard the company offers and the entertainers, who were all professionals, were a matter of personal taste.

Mr Shein added: "I do not believe that any misrepresentations were made and I believe the cruise that was provided was of a satisfactory quality."

District Judge Hallett rejected all the complaints, saying the company had not broken the contract made when the couples first booked the holiday.

He said the trip did not match, in their minds, a dream cruise taken by the Smiths 13 years ago with the same company and they were clearly disappointed.

But, he said, when they booked the 2000 cruise, the company had not agreed that it would live up to the 1987 one.

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