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

Cruise lines head back to Alaska

After turning a cold shoulder to an Alaska that seemed determined to tax cruise ships out of the market, many lines are heading to the land of the midnight sun with more ships, sailings and capacity. Today’s announcement by Norwegian Cruise Lines to position Norwegian Jewel on an inside passage itinerary from Seattle is the latest in a string of “Can’t we all just get along?” moves.

Joining Norwegian Pearl sailing to Glacier Bay from Seattle, Norwegian Jewel will sail Alaska’s inside passage replacing Norwegian Star that will sail to Bermuda for the first time from her new home in New York City.

Earlier this year the Alaska legislature, on the heels of a low-capacity season, voted to lower the prevously raised head tax on cruise passengers. Later in the year, Princess Cruises announced a fourth ship to be added to it’s popular Voyage of the Glaciers run after two years of running a reduced capacity.

“We are particularly appreciative of the efforts of Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska state legislature that have resulted in meaningful progress toward resolving the challenges facing Alaska’s recovery as a cruise destination,” said Princess President and CEO Alan Bucklew.

As some cruise lines head back to Alaska, others who have never been there before are joining in too.

Disney Cruise Line is sailing North with Disney Wonder as the line doubles its size by adding Disney Dream debuting in January and Disney Fantasy in 2012. Another first-timer, Oceania Cruises will send their Regatta on a series of departures from San Francisco, Vancouver or Anchorage.

It’s good to see the cruise lines and politicians play nice.

Flickr photo by brh_images