Top ten cruise complaints

Cruise vacations consistently rank high in guest satisfaction. Most cruise lines really have their act together in creating a total package that can make for a fabulous experience. Still, we get comments and complaints from readers in response to articles here at Gadling. Those complaints/hate mails also come from those who have actually been on a cruise and experienced less that a wonderful time.

While most are stories of readers own personal experiences, our top ten cruise complaints include some recurring themes.

  1. “Cruising is not really “traveling”– This comes from backpackers, mountain climbers, campers, world-travelers of all sorts and a lot of people who have never been on a cruise. That last group probably makes up the bulk of those who think this. Once they actually do take a cruise (like someone fooled them into it) they like it. Grappling with a craggy cliff may still be the love of their lives but they give a nod to cruising as at least worthy of consideration. By some. Not them. Someone else.
  2. “I was double-charged on my bill for…” On-board charge account errors have been an ongoing challenge for guests. A good deal of the time guests are confused about how it all works and they really were not charged double. Debit card users know all about “holds” cruise lines put on their account throughout the voyage to be sure there is money there at the end of the cruise to pay them. Your best bet: check your shipboard account and be sure it is accurate before leaving the ship.
  3. “You took away my past-guest benefits” Royal Caribbean is the poster-child for this hit on the list and still gets heat for not letting guests stack discounts anymore. In the olden days, guests could get on-board credit or a discount for being a Royal Caribbean shareholder, booking during a special sale, booking certain category staterooms or asking on a Tuesday afternoon during a thunderstorm. Pretty much anything worked and the cruise lines gave guests whatever they wanted. Now it’s “one deal per booking” all the way and there are still some sore feelings about it. Shining light: Princess Cruises on-board credit for military members stacked on top of anything else. Nice touch.
  4. “Your drink prices are way too high” / “I don’t call it smuggling, you do” (tie) We would like to believe that there is a relationship between the price of drinks on a cruise and booze smuggling. Like lots of people are smuggling booze on the ship, robbing the cruise line of high-profit drink sales. Recently, though, it appears that cruise lines are cracking down on booze smuggling but drink prices don’t seem to be dropping. The cracking down part is fair, not something to advertise but fair. Your vodka in a Evian bottle might be someone elses liquid dynamite and I’d prefer that not be allowed on the ship.
  5. “Solo cruisers should not have to pay double!” Cruise lines base the world on double-occupancy and solo cruisers just don’t fit the mold. Sorry. They don’t. Well they do on Norwegian Cruise Lines with their solo accommodations but that’s about it. Singles: Look on the bright side. You also don’t have to share your photo-booth size bathroom, pay for an extra airline ticket, or listen to anyone other than yourself complain about lines.
  6. Why does my Internet connection suck so bad?” OK, I get it, the ship moves and we have to constantly be looking for a satellite connection to grab. But once we have that signal though shouldn’t we be able to have a good time on the Internet? It’s not like the ship is racing through the ocean at warp speed. There are many who simply turn off their cell phones and never use the Internet on a cruise. They don’t care about this. People who do care use those devices and would like a nice connection
  7. “You have really yucky toilet paper” It’s one of those things that guests don’t talk about around the dinner table in the main dining room but everyone knows: this is not Charmin, White Cloud or any other brand you might find at the grocery store or a truck stop. There actually is a reason for it; regular toilet paper clogs up the airline-style vacuum toilet and plumbing. Bring your own anyway
  8. “Stop “nickel and diming me” This comes from guests who believe a little too much in the “all-inclusive” illusion of a cruise vacation. The major cruise lines never told us it was all-inclusive, we just like to believe that. As the industry has evolved, guests wanted more choices. The industry gave us choices but slipped in an extra charge along the way. The idea is that it should seem fair to pay $20 extra for a meal you might pay $100 for on land. Well sure, give me that deal on land and I will be happy. Drive your cruise ship right into downtown Denver and I’ll brag all over the place about how wonderful you are. Oh. You can’t.
  9. “What’s with the wacky pricing?” Cruise lines never advertise the total price. There are always at least taxes to be paid. If you are/were good at playing Truth or Dare, you will do well finding the “select sailings” that great offer is good for. Surprising frequent comment: “Stop with the “free upgrades” promotion unless that means from an inside to an ocean view or an ocean view to a balcony.” In-category upgrades are meaningless.
  10. “It’s over. Now I have to go back to the real world” By far, the biggest complaint about cruise vacations is that they end too quickly, regardless of how long they are. Those who buy into the whole on-board program are often left either refreshed and looking forward to returning to their real life or sadly disappointed that their real life is a shambles compared to their cruise vacation. Those in the later group, seek professional help immediately. The cruise lines really don’t aim to put you into a depression tailspin.

Flickr photo by Kabacchi

Bad cruise spawns web site, call for travel agents

Norwegian 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,, 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