BBC presenter slammed for dubbing vessels docked in Doha ‘prison ships’

The cruise industry has expressed its “disappointment” after BBC presenter Rachel Burden called cruise vessels docked in Doha “prison ships” live on air.

Burden’s comment, which were made during BBC Breakfast on Saturday hours before the Fifa World Cup kicked off in Qatar, were dismissed as “biased” and “damaging”.

She made the remark after a segment with interviews with unhappy football fans from around the world discussing their accommodation in Qatar.

MSC Cruises ships – MSC Opera, MSC Poesia and recently-launched MSC World Europa – have been deployed in Qatar for the duration of the World Cup as ‘floating hotels’ providing accommodation for fans.

More: Trade hails new MSC ship as ‘glamorous’ and ‘sophisticated’

Following Burden’s comments, travel agents, journalists, influencers, and Clia UK & Ireland managing director Andy Harmer expressed their “disappointment” on Twitter.

Harmer posted: “You would expect people in such an influential position to understand the impact that their clearly biased and uninformed comments can have on our industry. Incredibly disappointing.”

Travel Counsellor Debbie King tweeted: “I watched and cringed. In her defence, the shot didn’t do the ships justice, it was a ‘grey’ and dreary shot.

“I assume that someone has pointed out to (the usually great) Rachel how damaging that kind of statement can be to the cruise and travel industry.”

Wirral-based travel agency The Cruise Room called Burden’s comments “astonishing”.

Addressing Burden directly, the agency tweeted: “We’re sure that MSC Cruises or Clia UK would be more than happy to have you on board in future so that you can actually experience and understand what ships are really like and how your inaccurate, uneducated comments are.”

Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley posted: “Just caught Rachel Burden on BBC Breakfast calling the cruise ships that are accommodating football fans in Doha during the #FIFAWorldCup as ‘prison ships’. She added that she wouldn’t want to be ‘trapped’ on a cruise ship with loads of sweaty football fans for two weeks’.”

Cruise and travel blogger Steph wrote: “Prison ships? Prison ships! Crime clearly pays if this is what prison is like.”

Earlier this month MSC Cruises UK and Ireland managing director, Antonio Paradiso, said the line had seen “a huge number of bookings” from emerging markets such as the US amid media reports about MSC World Europa’s deployment in Doha.

“The American bookings are a nice surprise,” he said. “In the UK, MSC World Europa is the second most popular ship after MSC Virtuosa and we’re seeing similar trends from the USA.

“We expect a lot of coverage of MSC World Europa. It’s the largest floating hotel in Qatar.”

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