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How 2,500 hairy (and lairy) bikers ruined family's 4,000 Caribbean cruise by staging belly-flopping contests and having sex in hot tubsGail Empson and her family were 'disgusted' by antics of gang on cruiseBikers were staging annual 'High Seas Rally' aboard Royal Caribbean shipReports of fighting, wearing sexually explicit clothing and heavy drinkingMrs Empson said family was not warned about the biker event beforehand
22:05 GMT, 28 December 2012
A cruise around the Caribbean aboard one of the world’s largest passenger ships carries connotations of glamour, elegance and sophistication.
Unfortunately for Gail Empson and her family, the 2,500-strong gang of raucous, heavy-drinking, leather-clad bikers and their partners who were sharing their voyage had rather different ideas.
From the moment the bikers stepped on board the Freedom of the Seas ship, which carries 3,600 passengers, the trip to celebrate Mrs Empson’s 50th birthday was a disaster.
Heavy impact: The Empson family's cruise aboard the Freedom of the Seas was ruined by a 2,500-strong biker gang. One of the bikers is pictured taking part in the rowdy 'belly smacker' competition
Swan dive: The gang was aboard the cruise as part of their annual 'High Seas Rally' and members were accused of wearing sexually explicit t-shirts and even having sex in the hot tub
The gang, who were on their annual ‘High Seas Rally’, could not have been much further removed from the usual cruise’s sedate complement of families and retired couples.
They monopolised the swimming pool areas on board, holding rowdy competitions such as ‘belly smacker’ diving and a contest in which women judged topless men’s bodies by rubbing baby oil on them while blindfolded.
One passenger complained of bikers wearing sexually explicit T-shirts, fighting, and even having sex in hot tubs, despite there being youngsters on board.
Even on shore stops there was no escape. A visit to the beach in Haiti was spoiled when hundreds of the bikers turned up.
‘They were very loud and sitting so close they could have held my hand,’ said Mrs Empson. ‘I went back to the ship because I couldn’t stand it.’
On another stop the ship was over two hours late leaving port because hundreds of the bikers failed to return on time.
Disgust: Gail Empson from Bristol and her two children Holly and Austin went on the cruise with Mrs Epson's husband John and four other relatives. Their week-long cruise was ruined by the rowdy bikers also on board
Rubbed up: A contest in which women judged topless men's bodies by rubbing baby oil on them while blindfolded
Oily: Cruise firm Royal Caribbean had given no warning to other families that the voyage would be largely made up of those from the biker event
Cruise firm Royal Caribbean had given no warning to other families that the voyage would be mostly taken up by the bikers’ event.
Mrs Empson, a school administrator, and her auditor husband John, 42, from Bristol, went with children Holly, 12, and Austin, 13, as well as four other relatives, including Mrs Empson’s sisters.
The total cost for the group of eight was around 4,000, not including flights. The week-long cruise started from Port Canaveral in Florida at the end of October and included stops at several Caribbean islands.
Initially the sea was choppy, due to the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy, and the family went straight to their cabin. But the next morning they discovered that it wasn’t only the seas that were a little on the rough side.
Sturdy: Members of the gang line up for a best beard competition in which female members judged them by smelling and touching the facial hair
Sniff: A woman judging one of the biker's beards by smelling it
Fancy dress: Women take part in the High Seas Rally 'Treasured Chest' contest
Mrs Empson said of the bikers: ‘We went to sit around the pool and they quickly took over the whole area. I was very upset and just thought, “Oh my God, this is horrendous”.
They were drinking heavily all day and it was just very inappropriate for children.’ Some areas of the ship were cordoned off for the bikers, who even had their own shows in the evening.
Mrs Empson had been looking forward to dressing formally for ‘fine dining’ in the restaurant and had bought several outfits. But on the first night they walked in to discover all the other diners in jeans, T-shirts and leathers.
One biker said to her: ‘I think you are in the wrong dining room, ma’am.’
‘We didn’t dress up at all after that,’ she recalled.
Excuse: The Empson family was initially told by the cruise operator that they had not been warned due to data protection and were offered 150 in credits for a future trip
Rowdy: Punters hold their bingo cards in the air during 'Biker Pirate Bingo'
‘I was absolutely disgusted by the whole thing,’ said Mrs Empson. ‘When we complained about not being warned, we were given some ridiculous excuse blaming it on data protection.
'All they offered us was 150 in credits for a future trip.’
After the Daily Mail contacted Royal Caribbean, it increased its offer to a credit for the full value of the cruise for Mr and Mrs Empson and their children, to be used for a future booking.
A spokesman said: ‘We welcome all groups who choose to sail with us and we are not prejudiced against any guests.
‘On this particular sailing, the majority of customers had a great holiday.’