Ever book a dream trip only to have it turn into a nightmare? I have.
It was a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) cruise to “wherever.” The ship left late, one of the engines broke down and we skipped a few ports on the itinerary.
But once at sea, what can you do — swim home?
Cruise lines are easy to pick on. They promise so much and sell you an irresistible “package” that promises once you’re aboard, you’ll be transported to another world where all your cares are gone and nothing but fun awaits. But when you look at last year’s J.D. Power Cruise Line Satisfaction Report, many are just “about average,” including NCL (like so many cruise lines).
When things go wrong, what can you do? As a consumer, you do have options and it really is up to you to get what was promised to you, either on paper or verbally, from a company and its representatives. The key is preparation. When you are interacting with anyone, be sure get:
1) The name of the representative
2) If you can’t email, then the date and time of the call
3) Notes on what was promised
After that, if you can, also make note of the call center they are located in, if that is mentioned; whether it is a recorded line (you can even ask before you hang up just in case there are issues), and a confirmation number of the change.
Beyond that, I often request that an email be sent to me with the promised changes. If you can get an email from the company about just what was changed. This way you have moved from just a verbal commitment to something you can show to provide if needed later as evidence of what was told to you.
Another great tip is not to hang up until you see the correct changes online. In today’s modern digital age you can often times go online and the rep should be patient enough to “hold” while you log on to the company’s website to see if the changes are as verbally promised. There have been many times when I have had to, for example, book a first class ticket but the rep’s rebooking landed me in a coach seat. They are far more likely to fix it right then before you leave the line.
If you’ve done all the above, you should have enough “ammo” to get what was promised. If not, you can now, with information in hand, take it to the next level with the company. For example, requesting to talk to a supervisor or a team leader, or whatever the next person up the food chain is called, who can get done what was promised to you. Eventually, someone will have the power to fix what was promised.
So how did it work out for me and the NCL trip to nowhere?
We floated around the Caribbean on one engine for the entire trip. Each day we ended up wherever the captain took us and we could make it simply limping along at half speed. All our shore excursions bookings were worthless, as we never knew where we would wake up the next day.
Oh, and for even more added excitement, one night there was even a fire onboard. It was a grand cruise to remember (or one we wish we could forget).
A refund was out of the question, as once the ship sails it can just park off shore and they will have fulfilled their contract with you by taking you to sea. However, I did manage, with many phone calls and emails, to get some credit back. But to this day, I have not set foot on a NCL ship, nor will I again — ever.
The bottom line is that with careful notes and keeping a good paper trail, you can often get fixed what has been promised to you or, at least, after the fact get some satisfaction. Ultimately, voting with your wallet and letting the company know why may be the best choice of all.