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Dream holiday ruined when passenger on cruise near Shetland evacuated to hospital for ‘sprain’

Medics aboard the ship believed the man had a 'serious infection'.

Lerwick from the sea.
The man was taken to Shetland from his cruise ship. Image: Matthias Graben/Shutterstock.

A cruise passenger has told how his dream holiday was ruined when he was airlifted from a ship against his wishes.

He was then stranded, without his wife, more than 800miles from home on Shetland.

Stephen Cassidy had booked a luxury cruise to Norway as a joint birthday celebration with his wife Carol, but claims it was ruined because of a misdiagnosis by the ship’s doctor.

On the medic’s orders, the 60-year-old was flown by coastguard helicopter – despite protesting that it was unnecessary – to the nearest hospital in Shetland.

And although the on-board doctor had diagnosed him with a severe infection, he was relieved – but not surprised – when the hospital doctors told him he had nothing more serious than a strained muscle.

Helicopter trip from ship to Shetland

However, the unexpected helicopter trip left Mr Cassidy stranded.

The exterior of Gilbert Bain hospital in Lerwick.
Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital in Shetland. Image: DC Thomson.

Not only did he miss his wife’s birthday, he then also had to pay for two flights to travel from Shetland back home to Poole in Dorset.

He is now demanding that the cruise company refund him for his ruined holiday and the cost of his flights home.

He said: “I didn’t feel like I had an infection – I just had a sore leg. The doctor misdiagnosed me and caused so much devastation.

“It was rotten for my wife and myself to be wrenched apart under those circumstances. It ruined our holiday and cost me a fortune to get home again.”

Mr and Mrs Cassidy, who run a music teaching business, paid £3,598 for a two-week cruise on the Sky Princess, sailing out of Southampton to Iceland and the Norwegian fjords.

The holiday was their first since lockdown and was a postponed double celebration for their 60th birthdays and 40th wedding anniversary.

Sky Princess is the newest addition to Princess Cruises’ fleet, with 19 decks and 1,830 cabins. It boasts that its ‘medical staff includes doctors and nurses capable of caring for a broad range of medical conditions’.

After a week afloat, Mr Cassidy – who previously had a hip replacement – went to the ship’s medical centre complaining of a sore leg.

“I asked if it could be sciatica because I had had that before,” he said. “[The ship doctor] said it could be, but he had to treat me for an infection because it could possibly be that.

£2,400 medical insurance bill

“[He] told me I had an infection in my prosthetic hip, which could be really nasty and would need scans and possibly surgery.”

Mr Cassidy was given three days of intravenous antibiotics, racking up a £2,400 medical insurance bill.

On May 24, he was shocked to be told the coastguard had been alerted to airlift him and two other passengers to Lerwick.

Within ten minutes the former Army reservist was on the deck where he was quickly winched into the helicopter as it hovered above the ship.

Coastguard helicopter in the air. The helicopter is red and white.
Mr Cassidy and two other patients were picked up by helicopter. Image: Paul Reid/ DC Thomson

At the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick, the doctors ‘told me it was just muscle strain’.

Mr Cassidy added: ‘I was never in need of any surgery, I didn’t need to see a surgeon and I didn’t need scans which the on-board doctor said I did.’

He claims the other men flown off the boat had also been misdiagnosed and that they were all released without needing any treatment.

Complaint lodged with cruise company

Mr Cassidy is reluctant to make a claim on his travel insurance for fear it will push up his premiums and has instead lodged a complaint with Princess Cruises, which has directed it to its lawyers.

A spokesman for Princess Cruises refused to discuss Mr Cassidy’s case in detail but said the allegations were ‘without merit’.

A spokesman for HM Coastguard said: ‘HM Coastguard carried out a medical evacuation as part of our duty to respond to calls for help at sea.’