A RETIRED detective’s £6,500 cruise was ‘ruined’ after he was quizzed by the American Embassy and New York cops over a travel document error that branded him a ‘terrorist’.
John McGarry, of Sale, has spoken of his ‘humiliating’ ordeal after returning from a 26-day winter cruise to New York and the Caribbean.
John had booked the holiday through Cresta World Travel, in Altrincham, and the travel agency agreed to fill out an Electronic System for Travel Authorization, a security application required by US Department of Homeland Security, on his behalf.
After enquiring on numerous occasions about status of the travel document, John said he was told that an agent had mistakenly ticked ‘yes’ to the security question: ‘Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?’
Due to the gravity of the error, John was unable to travel until he had visited the American Embassy to be questioned and fingerprinted. After making the trip to the embassy offices, which was paid for by Cresta World Travel, John had been issued with a VISA.
“I was put through going to London at 6’o’clock in the morning, getting fingerprinted, interviewed numerous times,” said John, who was an officer with Greater Manchester Police for 30 years.
“That’s when they put the questions to me and said, ‘you shouldn’t be here, you have had a raw deal, but don’t blame us’.
“It’s nothing to do with them, they are doing their job. I was a cop and if I saw something in front of me, I had to do my job. The embassy acted on it information from Cresta.”
However, John’s ordeal did not stop there. John set sail for America on the Queen Mary on December 15 and landed in New York a week later. On arrival, he presented his VISA at security but was quickly escorted away in front of his fellow passengers and out of the terminal by US police officers.
John said that a stamp on his VISA had alerted officers to his previous visit to the American Embassy. The officers questioned him and finally let him go after speaking to the embassy – but John said he was humiliated further by being marched back to the cruise ship by officers.
He said the friends he made on the cruise ostracized him because of his dealings with the authorities and he was isolated for the remaining 19 days of his cruise.
“The cruise was ruined for me – no-one would come near me, it was like I had the plague,” said John, who travelled solo.
“I had to go down to the American Embassy like a criminal and then I had 19 days of hell – it wasn’t necessary, all they had to do was tick the right box. It has caused a lot of trouble and ill-feeling.”
On his return, John contacted Cresta World Travel to make a complaint.
“They sent me a £150 voucher off another holiday with them,” he said.
“I sent it right back – I don’t want anything to do with them.”
Cresta World Travel told the Messenger that they have advised Mr McGarry to contact Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) should he wish to make a formal complaint. They did not wish to make further comment.