A COUPLE who were on the ship held ‘hostage’ during a world cruise have returned home.

Dr Robert Bruce, 57, and wife Jean, 59, of Emley, were among the 460 passengers on the MV Van Gogh, when it was held hostage in Madeira at the end of a three-month “voyage of a lifetime’’.

The vessel arrived back in Falmouth, Cornwall, on Sunday after being detained in the Portuguese island port of Funchal for two days because of result of a legal dispute.

It was allowed to leave for the UK on Thursday after the boat’s owners reached an agreement with administrators.

The Bruces, who had booked the once-in-a-lifetime trip to celebrate the start of their retirement, were among the many passengers who returned home yesterday on a fleet of coaches provided for them.

They arrived back at their home at Rishworth Avenue, weary after the long coach trip.

But the couple, like many of the other passengers on the luxury holiday, said they thoroughly enjoyed the experience- despite the bizarre situation that they found themselves caught up in.

Dr Bruce said: “We were very surprised by all the press coverage. Some reports said we were all held prisoners on the ship, but it was nothing like that. We were able to get on and off the boat as we pleased.

“The staff were wonderful and they gave us free food and drink and took us sightseeing to places we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. The experience was very positive.”

The couple paid £5,000 each for the trip, which toured breathtaking destinations in the Mediterranean, Egypt, the Caribbean, Ecuador, Tahiti, New Zealand, Sydney, Mauritius and Cape Town.

The cruise made headlines at the start and end of its voyage. It was originally booked through Travelscope, but after it went into administration the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) arranged for the Van Gogh trip to go ahead in a one-off arrangement.

The cruise liner then set sale on January 4, but at the end of its voyage a dispute between the administrators of Travelscope and current owners Dutch-owned Club Cruise resulted in a court order detaining the vessel in Funchal.

Receivers had the Van Gogh impounded while trying to claw back £1.5m from the current owners before it was finally allowed to sail.

Dr Bruce said he and his wife still had a fantastic trip. He said: “The whole trip was very exciting.

“It was actually a very good thing for us being held hostage because we got two extra days in Madeira.

“The cruise company provided a free excursion for us up into the mountains, which was fantastic because it enabled us to see other parts of the island that weren’t included on the trip.

“The situation was strange, but we really enjoyed it because it gave us a mini break at the end of our holiday. The majority of passengers said this was a bonus!

“One or two people were a bit concerned that their medication was going to run out, but the majority said they enjoyed the cruise. The staff were also excellent; they couldn’t have treated us better.”

Dr Bruce said that the cruise company has now cancelled the British cruise programme until the end of November.