Bad cruise spawns web site, call for travel agents

Bad cruise web siteNorwegian Cruise Line passengers, really mad about a December cruise on the Norwegian Sun, have launched a new web site. It’s just one of a number of ways cruise passengers are going beyond checking “below expectations” on a cruise vacation survey to sound off.

The new site, MyBadCruise.com, is simple and the message is clear. It tells of mechanical problems that ruined a cruise, what you can do to help, asks for “your stories” and has a place to check back for updates. Here’s what they say it is all about:

“On December 4, 2010, a large group of travelers took off on one of Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) 6-night luxury cruises out of Port Canaveral, FL – having paid for a vacation to the beautiful islands of St. Maarten and St. Thomas, among other stops. According to the NCL website, passengers were assured that the Norwegian Sun cruise ship would provide everything they need to have their “perfect cruise vacation.”

OK first thought: define “perfect”.

Sure, that’s an advertising line like “You’re free to do…whatever!” the widely-used Norwegian Cruise Line slogan, but the ship did break down. It was no fault of the passengers who did not receive what is accepted as the normal and customary cruise experience. This sailing was no where near “perfect”. The ship lost power in one engine, bypassing St Thomas and St Maarten, the two main ports of call on the voyage, then slowly sailed back to Florida on a modified itinerary.

The cruise line issued $100 onboard credit per cabin along with a future cruise credit equal to 30% of the price of the cruise. Passengers say that’s not enough and want a full refund.
Odds are they probably won’t all get a full refund. They did go on a cruise. The cruise line always has a right to modify itineraries (it’s in the passenger contract no one reads). As foreign-flagged ships, cruise lines are not governed by consumer protection laws in place for US businesses.

But that does not have to be the end of the story for these people. Those who booked using a travel agent probably have a better chance of receiving more than the cruise line is offering.

Douglas Ward, author of “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2011,” told the Associated Press that you’re more likely to get help with a cruise problem if you booked through a travel agency and ask your agent to plead your case. “If you book your cruise online, it may be difficult to get compensation when things go wrong,” he added.

Indeed, a good Expert-Agent would have given potential cruise buyers options. Those options would include lines other than Norwegian, pointed out the difference in lines, itineraries and ships noting that Norwegian Sun is an older ship along with their personal experience with the line.

In other words, it’s pretty common knowledge in the travel agent community that Norwegian Sun is not exactly the crown jewel of the Norwegian fleet and clients frequently come back saying “I’ll never sail that line again” or “That was the worst cruise ever”. Any agent worth having would have suggested alternatives.

But it sure is cheap. $449 per person +tax will get you a ride on the November 5, 2011 sailing. Consumers are often blinded by low prices in a cruise world that is seeing prices on the rise.

Still, there is always some wiggle room in negotiations for a fair settlement when a cruise goes bad. A good Expert-Agent would have your back here.

Flickr photo by Suomi Star