The Ruffling Feathers Award to a New Zealand tour operator who paid French and Israeli backpackers to entertain cruise passengers by impersonating Maori. The imposters wore feathered robes and painted their faces with fake tattoos. Company director Terina Puriri, herself Maori, said she had no choice because local Maori were lazy. The Tauranga port authority disagreed and banned the company from its property.
The At Least There Was A Bed Award to unfortunate guests who posted these hotel horror stories on Trip Advisor: "Drunk people sleep right outside our room lying in the hallway." "The robber had a key to all the rooms and they somehow knew how to get into the safe." "Flooded by sewage overflow twice in the five days that we were there." "[The lobby clerk]shoved the couch … into my luggage … broke a bottle of alcohol into my bag and ruined my camera." "A male cleaner knocking on my door at 6.30 a. m. to say hello … and ask if he could wash his face in my sink."
The Great Hisscape Award to Anson Wong whose bag burst open on a conveyor belt at Kuala Lumpur airport. Staff alerted police, and the Malaysian man ended up with a six-month jail sentence for attempting to smuggle contraband into Indonesia. It consisted of one matamata turtle, two rhinoceros vipers and 95 boa constrictors.
The No Detail Too Small Award to the Russian city of Omsk, which went out of its way not to offend Dmitry Medvedev during an official visit. Because the country's president is only 5 foot 4, local officials removed posters for a children's theatre show that read: "We await you, merry gnome."
The Groin And Bear It Award to Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Leader and frequent flier. He put an end to discussion of pat-downs by airport security with this conversation stopper: "I have people touching my private parts all day long."
The Fine Kettle Of Fish Award to tourists for causing such havoc at Tokyo's early-morning fish market that it had to be closed to visitors for a month. Traders complained that flashing cameras obscured their hand signals during bidding. Even worse, drunks leaving nightclubs were embracing and kissing the tuna.
The None So Blind As Those Who Cannot See Award to United Airlines flight attendants who forgot about a blind passenger, Jessica Cabot of Courtenay, B.C., after her flight landed in Chicago. As the woman waited patiently to be assisted off the plane, she heard the door seal shut. Luckily, maintenance workers rescued her 10 minutes later. Offering an apology, a United spokeswoman said Ms. Cabot had been overlooked because she was "a tiny girl." "Does that mean," Ms. Cabot asked, "if you're short they're not responsible?"
The Booby Prize Award to model Irene Ferrari, reportedly the bearer of Russia's largest silicon breasts. She sued Swiss International Air Lines for $121,000 (U.S.) in restitution after her left breast hit the seat in front during midair turbulence. According to her lawyer, she earlier won a similar suit against an unnamed airline because one of her breasts exploded on landing.
The Caught With His Pants Down Award to a male employee at the Hyatt hotel in Deerfield, Ill., who made Dayanara Fernandez's stay a drag. The woman walked into her room to discover the man playing dress-up with one of her skirts, a pair of high heels and her underwear. "Me like, me like," he told her. After changing in the bathroom, he left saying, "Don't tell, don't tell." She did. He was arrested and fined. Ms. Fernandez is suing Hyatt Corp.
The You Can't Please Everyone Award to finicky travellers who posted their disappointments on the Australian version of travel.com. One person complained that there weren't enough kangaroos in Sydney, while another bellyached about too few English-speaking people in Europe. One woman was furious when she found the $10 Gucci bag she bought in China was a fake. Most surprisingly, one man griped about his airline seat being so comfortable he fell asleep when he wanted to stay awake.
The Heads You Lose Award to two American men who bought unusual souvenirs while holidaying on the Greek island of Mykonos - six fake skulls, or so they thought. They planned to use them for Halloween. Security agents at Athens airport found their treasures. They called in the coroner who ruled the skulls were real. The tourists were charged with desecrating the dead. They were later released.
The Hell Hath No Fury Award to a woman miffed that her ex-boyfriend was flying from Toronto to Karachi, Pakistan, to get married. According to Swedish news reports, she phoned in a hoax bomb alert that forced his Pakistan International Airlines flight to make an emergency landing in Stockholm. The 273 passengers were delayed for nine hours. The hapless man was arrested briefly, but released once police checked out his story.
The It Never Hurts To Ask Award to companies and associations that bombard Best Western hotels in Britain with strange requests. A pet lovers' group wanted all twin rooms so guests and dogs could have separate beds. On the other hand, a support group for sex addicts demanded only singles, plus a staff member to make sure delegates made it to bed alone. The chain says it tries to fill all orders, but had to turn down the Tall Persons Club of Great Britain because of a shortage of seven-foot beds.
The Bag of Tricks Award to a Transportation Security Administration worker at Philadelphia airport for his warped sense of humour. After college student Rebecca Solomon had passed through a metal detector, the man pulled a plastic bag filled with white powder from her carry-on. "Where did you get it?" he asked. Turns out the substance was creatine powder, not cocaine, and had been placed by the worker as a prank. He said she would have to admit it was funny. She filed a complaint. The worker is no longer with the TSA.
The Lost In Translation Award to an employee at the luxury Vilu Reef Beach and Spa resort in the Maldives. He conducted a marriage renewal ceremony for a Swiss couple, both dressed in white for the occasion. But his words in the local language weren't what the pair thought he was saying. Instead of blessing their union, he declared their marriage illegal and branded them swine and infidels. The video went viral on YouTube. The celebrant was arrested.
The Do You Know Who I Am Award to two Tory cabinet ministers for throwing snit fits at airports. In February, Helena Guergis, then minister of state for the status of women, reportedly arrived at Charlottetown airport at the last minute, berated Air Canada staff, initially refused to remove her boots after they set off a metal detector, complained loudly about being "stuck on this hell hole," proclaimed she was "down here working my ass off for you people," and tried to force open a security door. Days later Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn threw a tantrum at Ottawa airport when he had to surrender a bottle of tequila that exceeded the carry-on limits.
The Cruisin' For A Bruisin' Award to Bethsaida Sandoval, a vacation planner with the Royal Caribbean cruise line in Florida. She lifted clients' addresses from her work database, supposedly so she could send out birthday and Christmas cards. Palm Beach police suspected another motive. They charged the woman and her husband with breaking into 24 homes while the owners were cruising and making off with flat-screen TVs, guns and jewellery.
The Honeymoon Is Over Award to Moses, a Massachusetts basset hound who chewed his master's passport shortly before Eric Mann was to leave on a Cancun honeymoon vacation with his bride Brooke Blew. The local postmaster told him not to apply for a new one as the photo and barcodes were undamaged. Come flight day, both the airline and airport security accepted the tattered document. But Cancun authorities ruled it - and the newlyweds - inadmissible and immediately sent them home. The tour operator initially refused to give a refund. Instead the firm sent a letter wishing them "the joy, funds and time to enjoy multiple honeymoons!"
The Vicious Circle Award to a would-be sailor who set off in his motor cruiser for a voyage along the English coast to Southampton. He brought no navigation equipment and no maritime charts. But he had a road map and figured he couldn't go wrong as long as he kept the shore on his right. Hours later, when he had used up his gas and run aground, he was rescued by the coast guard. Turns out he had never left the Thames estuary and had been going round and round the same small island.
The Sorry Wrong Number Award to the man in Room 119 at a motel in Wenatchee, Wash. Another guest attempted to phone him, but dialled 911 by mistake. Police arrived to see if there was a problem. They arrested the man in 119 on an outstanding warrant and seized heroin and other drugs.
The Blue Streak Award to a 19-year-old Australian man who bet a friend he could travel through Europe naked. All went well until Munich, the 11th city on his tour. Although the temperature was freezing, city police spotted him dressed only in his shoes. They pursued him through the main train station and caught him when he slipped on a wet floor. He was fined €100 ($131). His excuse: "I simply like to be naked."
The Way The Cookie Crumbles Award to a California man who started acting strangely while flying home from a conference in the Dominican Republic. Kinman Chan screamed while in the restroom and came out with his pants down. While being led to his seat he attempted to hit a female flight attendant. Mr. Chan told police, who laid charges, that he has a medical marijuana card. While waiting for his flight he had eaten double his dose of marijuana cookies.
The Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed Award to three British Holiday Inns for launching another new amenity - human bed-warmers. During a January cold snap, guests who paid an extra fee could have a staff member in a one-piece sleeper suit crawl between their sheets to preheat the bed to 20 C. The service is "a bit like having a giant hot water bottle in your bed," chain spokeswoman Jane Bednall said. Guest Evan Jones disagreed. "It's slightly creepy," he said. "I might pay to not have it."
The New Kid In Town Award to Delta Air Lines for its careless handling of unaccompanied minors. When a woman went to Cleveland airport to pick up her granddaughter who was flying in alone, she was presented with a nine-year-old boy. Meanwhile, the boy's grandfather was anticipating the lad's arrival at Boston airport. The carrier had mixed the kids up in Minneapolis-St. Paul and put each on the other's connecting flight. The airline put the blame on "a paperwork swap."
The Please Remain Seated Award to WestJet passenger Barbara Morton for having a mid-flight meltdown. Getting up from her seat, she told a flight attendant, "I need morphine now, I'm on major withdrawal. I'm going to open that [expletive]door, I'm getting off." Passengers and cabin crew restrained her, but not before she had reached for the cabin door, bit a 77-year-old man and kicked a flight attendant in the face. The plane, heading to Halifax from Calgary, made an emergency landing in Winnipeg. The woman was jailed and banned from WestJet for life.
The Take This Job And Shove It Award to JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater. As the flight he was working landed at New York's Kennedy airport, Mr. Slater cursed the passengers over the PA system, helped himself to beer and made his exit down the inflatable emergency chute. A judge ordered him to pay $10,000 (U.S.) in restitution to the airline. But to disgruntled workers everywhere, Mr. Slater became an instant folk hero.
Sources: Associated Press, Athens News Agency, Australian Broadcasting Corp., BBC, Chicago Tribune, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New York Daily News, News.com.au, Philadelphia Daily News, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Press Association, Reuters, The Boston Globe, The Canadian Press, The National Law Journal, The Palm Beach Post, The Scotsman, Tripadvisor.com, Vancouver Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Special to The Globe and Mail