“We feel we need a vacation from this vacation”

By | August 2nd, 2012

One of the most memorable trips of my life was seeing Denali National Park years ago when I edited the Alaska section for Travel Weekly.

But for Charles and Cindy LeCroy, it was a different kind of memorable. Their Denali tour was part of a Princess Alaska cruise, and in retrospect, they should have probably stayed on the ship.

Everything that could go wrong went wrong, from power outages to missed connections. Worse, their cruise line offered a $100 voucher for the trouble, which means they’ll have to take another Princess cruise to benefit from it. They think the company can do better.

Let’s hit the highlights. Their Denali disaster started two weeks before their cruise, when Princess said it had overbooked their train from Whittier to Denali, and asking them to take a bus for part of their journey.

Here’s what happened when they arrived at Mt. McKinley. Take it away, Cindy:

It was a long bus ride so my husband and I decided to rest up a bit and make reservations for dinner.

I picked up the phone and it was dead. We then walked all the way to the front desk and reported it.

We ended up reporting it three times and the girl at the front desk finally said, “We’re well aware of it.” The phones were only out in the unit we were staying in.

We walked to the restaurant to make dinner reservations at that point. Later that night we tried to set the alarm clock to NO avail! It didn’t work. Luckily we both woke up in time to leave for our next destination.

When they arrived at the Denali Lodge and checked in, they found two people cleaning their room. So they decided to visit the gift shop. That’s when the power went out in the entire hotel.

We went back to our room and noticed several people trying to unlock their room doors with their cards, to no avail. My husband just pushed our door open because they didn’t shut it all the way.

No lights OR water! We couldn’t even use the toilet!

The electricity was out for an hour.

We then went to check out the restaurants at the lodge and they weren’t letting anybody inside. After the electricity came back on we went to a restaurant and everybody had to wait another 45 minutes for the restaurant to heat the ovens.

My husband and I had to brush our teeth, wash our face and my husband had to shave in the bathtub because the lever on the sink was broken off and the stopper was completely down and wouldn’t come up! Such a mess!

The final insult came when they showed up for the train to begin their journey home. That’s when they discovered they didn’t have seats because Princess had overbooked that leg of the train trip, too. They didn’t have seats.

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We ended up sitting in the lounge area in two swivels chairs for five hours. We then ordered a cold sandwich from the little bar and the lady said they ran out of sandwiches.

The train stopped and picked some people up and the manager had spoken with a Princess employer at that time and brought the man back to where we were sitting and he had a computer with him and he said my husband and I were in the system just not in the train system!

In short, the whole land tour was a “bust,” she says. “We feel we need a vacation from this vacation.”

Princess’ liability for land tours is covered in section 15 of its passage contract, the legal agreement between you and the cruise line. See section F for details.

Carrier makes no warranty, either express or implied, regarding the suitability, safety, insurance or other aspects of any such contractors, transportation, tours, services, products or facilities, and Carrier’s liability for non-performance of any independent contractor providing such facilities or services shall be limited to a refund of the amounts received by Carrier on the Passenger’s behalf, if any.

Princess offered the couple a $100 voucher when they wrote to complain. It wasn’t enough for the LeCroys. I suggested they send a brief, polite appeal, which they did. Here’s the company’s response:

We constantly strive to provide the best customer service possible.

At this time, we have thoroughly reviewed your file. I am truly sorry for your continued disappointment with the circumstances regarding your sailing and for any additional frustration as a result of our correspondence.

I assure you that all of their concerns were taken into consideration in our response to their original letter. I do wish every facet of your time onboard had met the standard we strive to maintain. While I regret your disappointment, I must respectfully deny your request for additional compensation.

Our onboard credit offer of $100 per person was a sincere gesture to encourage you to sail with us again.

Their travel agent called to follow up on the rejection and according to Cindy LeCroy, was not only given a firm “no” but also “spoken to rudely.”

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No doubt, the LeCroys had a terrible time in Alaska. That’s a shame, because it’s one of the most spectacular destinations on the planet.

The $100 credit came with too many strings attached and an unacceptable form apology, but Princess is technically correct. Its own contract, which the couple agreed to when they booked the cruise, is clear about its liability. Or lack thereof.

I’m moving this into my “case dismissed” file, but I’m not happy about it.

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