A COUPLE whose “holiday of a lifetime”

on a luxury Southampton-based liner turned into a nightmare have had their £22,000 damages award against Cunard reduced to £12,000.

Terence and Cynthia Milner paid just over £59,000 for the 15-week maiden world cruise of the Queen Victoria.

But when the ship left Southampton in January 2008 and hit heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay, the metal floor of their cabin began to flex loudly.

From then on they were moved between cabins and the couple, who are in their late 60s, suffered illness and finally left the liner in Hawaii, returning home on the Queen Elizabeth 2.

In May 2009, the couple were awarded the compensation by a county court judge but Cunard went to the Court of Appeal in a bid to reduce the award.

Cunard’s counsel Christopher Lundie said that the award – which included £2,000 for Mrs Milner’s wasted expenditure on her wardrobe of formal dining gowns – was “manifestly excessive”.

He told Lord Justice Ward, Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Goldring in London that it was likely to encourage speculative court action and the correct figure was between £2,000 to £3,000.

Lord Justice Ward ruled that the original award was “excessive and disproportionate”.

He said: “I am satisfied that a total award of £12,000 is fair and just compensation for the failure of Cunard to meet their guests’ legitimate expectations.”

The court heard that the Milners, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, had been refunded £48,240 of the £59,052 they paid for the cruise.

They had been moved to an inside cabin fitted for the disabled which suffered from constant engine noise but their luggage remained in the cabin they booked, and they had to move between the two to dress and sleep.

Later they were moved to another suite but that was temporary as it was booked by other passengers joining the cruise at another port so they were returned to their original cabin where the noise continued as before.

After the voyage, Mr Milner had described himself as “in a terrible state” and husband and wife were both “exhausted and inconsolable”.

Their voyage lasted 28 days before they voluntarily disembarked in Hawaii, missing 78 days of the cruise.

Their return on the QE2 after six “aimless” weeks in Honolulu at their own expense cost them a further £13,440.

Mr Milner was awarded £4,000 and Mrs Milner £4,500 for inconvenience and distress plus £3,500 for diminution in value.

Neither of the Milners were in court for yesterday’s ruling.