Is this enough compensation? Raw sewage smell in my room, but no repeat cruise

By | May 17th, 2011

To say that Michael Harr-Trueblood’s 10-day cruise aboard the Disney Wonder was disappointing might be an understatement.

On his first morning on board, he woke up at 5 a.m., “coughing, choking, eyes burning to an overwhelming smell of raw sewage.” And while Disney made efforts to address his complaint during the voyage, the question is: Did it do enough?

Let’s rewind to the morning of the sewage incident. Harr-Trueblood had spent $4,400 on his cabin and then an extra $1,700 to upgrade to a “family deluxe veranda” cabin. These numbers are important, as you’ll see in a minute.

After he and his six-year-old twins were awakened, he opened the veranda door and the cabin door, pulled the children into the hallway and phoned guest services. They promised someone would be in touch around 7 a.m.

I checked the bathrooms and the smell was not coming from there, it was coming out of the ventilation grate in the ceiling.

After a few minutes, the smell dissipated out the veranda door and we returned to the cabin. I left the veranda door open. (Six-year-old curious boys and an open veranda door at night — scary!)

We put the kids in our bed with us and tried to sleep.

For the next seven days, the family asked Disney to be moved to another cabin.

“We complained daily about the stench and demanded repeatedly to speak to management,” he says.

On the eighth day of their cruise, a guest-services representative finally said they could switch cabins, he says.

On the morning of the ninth day, I got to have a my first face-to-face with the manager of guest services, “Gary.”

On behalf of Disney, he refunded the $1,700 upgrade, and gave us a $300 shipboard credit. “Gary” stated that was all he could do onboard ship and he would have “corporate” call us when we arrived back home.

He stated he was recommending to “corporate” a full refund and a repeat cruise, same cabin category or better, 10-day cruise. That calmed me down.

I had no idea what had caused our itchy skin rash, coughs, burning eyes and strangely enough, what had caused the silver jewelry my wife brought along to tarnish. I just knew our cabin and everything in it including all our clothing smelled like, well, sh*t!

Needless to say, no romance, stressed out dad, pissed off mama, sick sons.

It isn’t clear what happened to the Harr-Trueblood’s cabin. I haven’t asked Disney about this yet, because it’s possible that they were offered enough compensation for their hardship. Here’s how Disney addressed the problems, post-cruise:

I received a call from “Executive VP” Joseph Paris from Disney Cruise Lines corporate offices in Florida.

He stated that he had reviewed my “perceived issues” and had decided we had been compensated “more than enough” and, in his opinion, “too much.”

When I stated that he had an obligation to protect the crew, passengers and especially children from H2s and other sewer gasses, he became rude and asked, “Are you a chemist? Did you take air samples? Did you bring them to a lab?”

I replied, “No, I just know what it was like for my family to smell sewage for too many days of a 10-day cruise. He response was, “Well your expectations were too high.”

Harr-Trueblood thinks the original proposed offer of a refund and do-over is fair, given his family’s inconvenience. I think Disney could have responded to his complaints much sooner and that refunding the upgrade and moving the family was appropriate.

But a full refund and a do-over? I’ve never heard of that kind of compensation.

I’m troubled by the phone call between Harr-Trueblood and the Disney executive. It’s very un-Disneylike. But I’m not sure if more compensation is warranted.

What do you think?

(Photo: hubsterd isney/Flickr Creative Commons)

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