Tall Ships let-down leaves Waverley passengers fuming

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ISLANDERS who travelled from Rothesay on board the paddle steamer Waverley to view the Tall Ships Races last week have hit out at the paddler’s owners for failing to warn them that they faced a long walk to the venue when they got to Greenock.

Several passengers had been expecting the Waverley to sail all the way to the Tall Ships’ berths at the James Watt and Inchgreen docks – and were less than pleased when the paddler’s cruise terminated at her usual Greenock berth at Custom House Quay.

That left her passengers with a walk of three miles to the Tall Ships venue and back – a daunting prospect for older travellers and those with mobility impairments.

A number of passengers who did not feel able to walk the distance asked if they could stay on board the ship for the afternoon – but were told they would have to leave.

One passenger, Tom Muir, of Crichton Road in Rothesay, has already written to the paddler’s operators, Waverley Excursions Ltd, outlining his concerns.

“We thought we were going to be taken all the way to the Tall Ships themselves,” Mr Muir told The Buteman.

“If I’d known we were just going to be dumped a mile and a half away, we would have used our ferry and bus passes and travelled straight to the venue.

“The reaction of the officers was quite surprising too – they seemed taken aback that we were expecting to sail all the way to the Tall Ships venue, and one or two of them reacted in quite an aggressive way.

“On a cruise ship they’re always up front about it if a trip ashore is going to require a difficult walk, but there was no mention of that in the advert I saw in The Buteman.

“It’s almost as if the publicity was worded to get as many people on board as possible without telling them the full story.”

Another local resident on the same cruise, Jean Moffat, said that while she didn’t mind walking to the venue, others had not been so lucky.

“For me it was no problem, but for many others it was,” Mrs Moffat told us.

“I booked my tickets through the Waverley website, but at no time did they explain that a three-mile walk would be required, and nobody said anything when we got on board.

“I was with two people who really shouldn’t have had to walk a mile and a half there and a mile and a half back.

“It was such a shame for such a lot of people – I didn’t mind the walk myself, but I was very annoyed for others. I would say at least half of those on board were not thrilled at all.”

General manager of Waverley Excursions Ltd, Kathleen O’Neill, told us: “I am sorry to hear that two of your readers did not enjoy their day out aboard Waverley. We took 539 passengers to Greenock on this day.

“Waverley’s berth in Greenock is Custom House Quay and this year, unlike in 1999, the Tall Ships event was based in the James Watt Dock.

“Whilst it was a short distance away from the event, we still felt that offering a trip to Greenock to enable people to visit would be popular.

“On board the ship our Purser had maps of the event, passenger information leaflets which detailed travel options and timings including the timings for shuttle buses, trains and walking distance with estimated time.

“We did receive requests from passengers to stay onboard Waverley for the afternoon, and some chose to do so.

“All timing information for this day was issued in March via our National timetable and is available on our website.

“I do not know how Mr Muir booked his trip, I know it wasn’t through our office so we were not able to give him the appropriate information.”