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Stranded cruise ship pensioners to fly home

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Passengers who have been aboard a cruise ship detained in Belfast for three days are expected to be flown home today.

Over 200 people, mainly German pensioners, from the Italian-flagged Vistamar have been docked at Stormont Wharf since Wednesday after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) deemed the vessel unsafe.

Agency Inspectors found a raft of deficiencies, including a lifeboat with a broken engine, a defective PA system and 10 faulty fire doors on board the 21-year-old ship.

International law means the Vistamar, which was en route from Invergordon in Scotland when it docked in Belfast on Wednesday morning, cannot sail without approval from the MCA.

Many passengers, who paid thousands of euros for a two-week cruise, spoke of their frustration at having to cut the holiday short.

Christel Gehrig (63) said: “We are not happy. We should have been here one day and yet three days and we are still here. We will fly home from Belfast in the morning. On Thursday we took the bus to Belfast and on Friday we were in Dublin — it was very good. But our situation is not good.”

In 2006 the 290-capacity ship was also held for safety reasons in London when damaged lifeboats and missing escape signs were detected.

It is understood parts for the ship arrived yesterday and repairs were being carried out for most of the day.

The luxury ship is owned by a German tour operator and boasts a pool, four-poster bedroom suites and a glass elevator — which passengers said has been broken for the duration of the trip.

Pensioner Karin Kries, who is on the cruise with her family, said: “Eating and drinking on board is good but the information is not good.

“The ship is broken and we are going home by plane.”

Tour operator Markus Dombrowski (48), who was on board with a group of 40 people, said the company would have to pay out compensation.

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