David Bookbinder: 'Cruise ruined by 3.30am wake-up'
CONTROVERSIAL ex-Derbyshire County Council leader David Bookbinder is suing two holiday firms after claiming he had to wake early on a cruise "so excursions could be sold".
The former politician claims he and his brother had to get up at 3.30am one morning while aboard a luxury cruise liner touring the Mediterranean Sea in February.
On the morning the ship was due to call at Israel's Eilat port, Mr Bookbinder said staff had asked passengers to be ready by 5am, so they could be interviewed by Israeli officials ahead of being allowed into the country.
Mr Bookbinder, 71, argued the early start was to facilitate the selling of excursions and that the immigration procedures could have been held at a "more acceptable" time.
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He said the experience caused a level of "distress" that "ruined" the holiday.
As such, he is suing booking agent Thomas Cook and Thomson Cruises for the entire cost of the seven-day cruise – a total of £1,532.
The matter is due to be resolved by a small claims court next Tuesday.
Mr Bookbinder, who lives in Derby, said: "This was supposed to be a luxury cruise aimed at an elderly population.
"I'm happy to get out of bed at 3.30am if the ship is sinking – but not so excursions can be sold.
"My brother is wheelchair-bound and at the time he was 86 years old. He has many health problems and the aggravation and stress of getting him up at 3.30am was immense. He was jittery afterwards and complaining to me about the situation. All the benefits of the holiday were lost."
The situation arose when the ship – called the Celebration – was diverted away from Egypt, where it had been due to stop, due to political unrest there. A replacement stop at Eilat was arranged.
Mr Bookbinder said he was confident of winning his claim but added he would have no regrets if he loses.
"Even if I lose this case, I believe I will have exposed a great wrong," he said.
A spokeswoman for Thomson Cruises said: "We are sorry to hear that Mr Bookbinder was unhappy with the way the immigration process in Israel was handled.
"Israel has very strict immigration procedures and interviews customers and crew on board. Customers are therefore required to make an early start, which we warn them of in advance.
"This immigration process is common practice for all ships visiting Israeli ports.
"Thomson Celebration is one of our most popular ships. Our customer satisfaction questionnaires, from the cruise Mr Bookbinder was on, show that 86% of respondents rated their holiday overall as good or excellent."
A spokeswoman for Thomas Cook added: "Inevitably there are times when travel companies have to alter certain elements of people's holidays but we always work hard to keep those to a minimum.
"In this specific case we acted as the travel agent so the delivery of the cruise holiday wasn't within our sphere of control and we're sorry Mr Bookbinder feels it necessary to take this step."
'STILL WAITING FOR ALL-CLEAR'
DAVID Bookbinder is still awaiting the all-clear from cancer.
The ex-county council leader has twice successfully fought the disease but remains in remission.
Mr Bookbinder said his treatment was a success and there is currently no trace of cancer in his body.
He said: "I'm still under surveillance but I've got three more inspections to go, over the next 12 months, before I can be given the all-clear."
Mr Bookbinder was diagnosed for the second time in 2008. He hit the headlines when he argued a Chinese vinegar had helped him overcome the illness.
Mr Bookbinder turned to the unorthodox remedy after hearing that nobody at the Shanxi factory where it is made had been diagnosed with cancer in 30 years.
Scientists insist there is no proof the vinegar can fight cancer but Mr Bookbinder – who married his Chinese bride, Yi, in 2009 – has continued to place his faith in the product, which he picks up on visits to China with his wife.