Even though having the words “cruise” and “club” in a single sentence are probably enough to make some of you scream “scam!” this one is may be different.
It comes to me by way of Paul Scinto, who feels ripped off by Azamara Club Cruises. Needless to say, this club isn’t one of those scammy attend-our-presentation-and-get-a-free-cruise schemes.
At least, I don’t think so.
Azamara’s ships are smaller and it takes its time with its itineraries. It also caters to a more upscale vacationer who expects more from a cruise than to return with a really bad hangover.
A few months ago, Scinot made a deposit for a September 2013 European cruise. He made the decision based on two criteria: first, he’d taken a previous Azamara cruise and was happy with it; and second, the cruise line had made him an offer that was too good to pass up — a 50 percent discount off land tours.
Then he received a strange notice from Azamara. It had changed his benefits as of spring 2013. Now, instead of a 50 percent discount, it would offer a “free” evening tour.
If we didn’t wish to participate, there would be no refund since it was ‘free’, but if we could not participate for any reason and failed to notify Azamara the night before, they would assess a cancellation fee of $150 or $200 for this ‘free’ tour.
Azamara would not honor the 50 percent discount for his Europe cruise. He didn’t think that was fair; after all, he’d booked his vacation based on a promise of a 50 percent discount off tours.
As you can imagine, this sparked a bourgeois riot. (And I use the term “bourgeois” with affection — I mean, who wouldn’t want to take an Azamara cruise?)
Following this announcement, there was a huge outcry on a web forum devoted to cruising and coincidentally, Mr. Larry Pimentel, President of Azamara, was scheduled to address concerns and questions on this and other issues concerning Azamara the following week.
Mr. Pimentel was confronted with allegations on the forum that his decision to eliminate the discount for those of us who were already booked, ranged from ‘unethical’, ‘bait and switch’, and a ‘public relations nightmare’.
His response was that he didn’t think his decision was unethical and that “things change.” In addition, he pointed out that in the Cruise Contract (in the brochure, on page 109), Azamara reserved the right to make changes. He did announce, however, that he decided to reinstate a discount of either 15 percent or 25 percent to eligible passengers for reserving tours at least 4 months prior to embarkation.
In researching this case, I found that Azamara managed to spin this change in a far different way and has kept the focus on some of the “free” thing it’s offering, as opposed to what it is taking away from its guests.
Scinto wants to know what I think, and I told him, “not much.” If a company offers a 50 percent discount, it should honor its word. Azamara is not honoring its word, even if its cruise contract says it is allowed to change the terms of the deal.