A jobless charity worker racked up an £8,000 bill on a P&O cruise despite only having £200 in his bank account, a court heard.

David Levi embarked on an “extravagant course of spending” buying casino chips, a £900 watch, cameras and clothes during a 36-day Caribbean cruise.

But he escaped jail due to guidelines drawn up by the Sentencing Council.

Levi, 36, lived the high life as the Oriana, above, toured islands including Aruba, St Lucia and Antigua but was shocked to discover police officers waiting for him when the ship returned to Southampton in February 2010.

Prosecuting at Bournemouth Crown Court, Philip Warren said Levi initially deposited £500 in cash to obtain a ship credit card, then lodged a debit card when the cash ran out.

Ship staff realised there was not enough cash in his bank account within days and stopped the ship card but it was reinstated in error and Levi began his spending spree.

Mr Warren said Levi, who has previous offences for fraud, dishonesty, perverting the course of justice and conspiring to supply drugs, spent more than £600 at a time on casino chips and purchases included a Tag Heuer watch, a £500 laptop and more than £200 worth of clothes.

He admitted seven charges of fraud, with a value of £3,368 but Mr Warren said a total of £8,000 was spent, none of which has been paid back to P&O owners Carnival Cruises.

Defending, Christopher Hudson said Levi, who lives in Lytham St Anne’s in Lancashire, thought his uncle had paid money into his bank account.

The court heard Levi blamed P&O for allowing him to overspend.

Sentencing him to a 12-month community order, including 200 hours unpaid work, Judge Samuel Wiggs said: “I would very much have liked to send you to prison. I am, however, bound by the guidelines.”