Hundreds of travellers, whose dream trips to the Dominican Republic were turned into 'holidays from hell' are suing tour giant First Choice…
Over 400 holidaymakers, including honeymooners, claim they were struck down by acute gastroenteritis due to poor hygiene standards at the four-star Bahia Principe Hotel in San Juan in 2007.
Despite allegations of 'appalling' conditions at the all-inclusive hotel, the tour operator is still denying liability for problems faced by customers who were staying at the resort during a sickness outbreak which saw fleets of ambulances ferrying guests to and from hospital.
The legal firm representing the claimants has urged First Choice to 'face up to its responsibilities' particularly as rival tour firms Thomas Cook and My Travel reached a settlement a year ago for £3.5 million awarded to their 500 customers affected by the same outbreak.
A writ issued by the High Court includes allegations that piles of vomit in the restaurant were not cleared up properly, faeces was fished out of the swimming pool which was then left untreated and water bottles were refilled with tap water.
Other complaints also included cockroaches and ants in the bedrooms and indifferent staff who were unwilling to record complaints.
Honeymooners Aonghus Morrison, 35, and his wife Karen, 29, from Darklands in Glasgow had been hoping to spend two weeks enjoying their luxury Caribbean surroundings, but were struck down with the sickness within days of their arrival.
Karen said: "The state of the hotel was really awful – we were told we were booking a four-star resort, however the hotel room didn't even look like it had been properly cleaned.
"The dining area was very off-putting as there were always birds flying around and landing on tables. The food on the buffet was left uncovered for long periods of time, exposing it to the insects that were constantly flying around and we often saw plates covered in flies."
After the honeymoon couple both fell ill, Aonghus went to visit the hotel doctor – only to find that there was a huge queue of people also waiting to be seen and who were complaining of the same symptoms.
"Aonghus had to wait for several hours before he was seen. Eventually he was given two different types of antibiotics and pain killers for his stomach and was told to drink Electrolytes. He had to bring my dose back to the hotel room for me as by that point I was too weak to move anywhere," she added.
But, two-and-a-half years after the incident, during which a returning plane was even quarantined at Gatwick, the holidaymakers are no closer to receiving compensation.
Clive Garner, head of travel law at representing legal firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "The huge catalogue of complaints our clients have encountered shows just how appalling the conditions were.
"That was why Thomas Cook and My Travel, to their credit, held up their hands quickly, admitted they were in the wrong, worked with us to agree the right level of compensation for each of our clients and allowed their customers to move on with their lives.
"It's nothing short of ludicrous for First Choice to continue to deny it was at fault. Its customers were there at the same hotel at the same time suffering from the same illnesses. At the very least they deserve the same treatment as Thomas Cook afforded its customers."
Problems at the Bahia Principe Hotel began in early 2007 and continued throughout most of the year as more guests arrived from the UK and fell ill.
In August that year, Dominican Republic Minister for Public Health, Bautista Rojas, confirmed that the tourists had become ill due to contaminated foodstuffs at the hotel. In total more than 1,000 British visitors were struck down.
A spokesperson for First Choice said: "The health and well being of our customers is of paramount importance to First Choice. We are concerned to learn of any alleged illness in any of our properties. However, as the matter in question is currently subject to a legal process, it would be inappropriate of us to comment any further at this time so as not to prejudice future court proceedings.
"Bahia Principe San Juan in the Dominican Republic is and continues to be a very popular resort. We are very confident that guests due to travel there in the future will have a wonderful holiday, experiencing the excellent levels of quality and standards they expect from a First Choice property."