Should cruise lines take a hard line on late customers?

By | March 26th, 2016

Don’t miss the boat.

If you do, you could end up on this site, your story discussed and dissected in front of tens of thousands of readers.

Like Lowell Bower, who missed his Alaska cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas because of a late flight and an allegedly unhelpful cruise line, which had booked his airfare. More on Bower, and the lively discussion that his story sparked, in just a minute.

“Missed the boat” stories are the worst. And, if you’re running a website, they’re also the best.

People love to read about other people who miss their cruise. It’s part Schadenfreude — glad it’s you — not me; and part opportunity to lecture anyone who will listen about what not to do when you cruise.

I love it.

A recent wave of “missed the boat” cases has me wondering if cruise lines are going overboard with the way they treat late passengers.

Bower’s case was problematic on several levels. First, it shouldn’t have happened. He’d booked an air-inclusive cruise through Royal Caribbean, but it failed to get him to reach the ship on time, as promised.

Second, the case made no sense on several levels. The cruise line invoked the Jones Act as an excuse for not helping him, but the law doesn’t apply to domestic travel. There’s little explanation for why his connecting flight was delayed — indeed, no Royal Caribbean side of the story. That’s because the cruise line refused to discuss the matter with our advocacy team.

Finally, the discussion in the Comments section was upsetting. Lots of cruise line apologists and Monday morning quarterbacks coming in with “I-told-you-so” comments about insurance and using a qualified travel agent. As if it could never happen to them.

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But let me tell you something: It can happen to you. And when it does, you’ll be happy this site is here to help, or at least try. We take hard-luck cases that no one else would attempt, and we do our best to assist. Yes, even when you don’t deserve the help. Who are we to judge?

MIssed-boat cases are legendary on this site. (By the way, I know that the correct term is “ship,” but no one ever says, “He missed the ship.”)

Tyrone Knight’s case from earlier this year comes to mind. His ship sailed into the sunset after the bags with his passports went missing. If he’d only carried them with him, that wouldn’t have happened. Still, a horrible event, and not easily resolved.

What’s worse than missing a cruise? Missing a honeymoon cruise. That’s what happened to Lori and Jim Claus after their inbound flight was delayed. Royal Caribbean’s solution? An unexpected four-day “vacation” in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

What do all of these stories have in common — I mean, other than the fact that the name “Royal Caribbean” comes up a lot? It’s that cruise lines appear to be taking a harder line on delayed guests, and that intervention by our advocacy team is of little or no use. Miss the boat? That’s your problem. Thanks for the money, by the way.

I feel even worse for the passengers who bought insurance or air-inclusive packages but were still turned away or had to forfeit huge chunks of their vacation. That’s not right.

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But don’t worry. Missed-boat stories are so irresistible, we’ll just have to keep writing them. And at some point, the cruise lines who tell their tardy customers to get lost will have to pay attention. They won’t have a choice.

Should cruise lines take a hard line on late customers?

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