How do I get my money back for this? (and show others what really happens on these cruises)

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Feb 5, 2018
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#1
Here is a letter which I sent twice to Royal Caribbean cruise line at the address that's available to the public (not the addresses you show here). After much prodding, they responded only to the Nova Scotia bus tour issue for which they take no responsibility. This is only part of the things that went wrong on the trip. Insult was added to injury when there was no response to my calls and letters. I am looking to be reimbursed for this disaster. Thank you for any help you can offer. (And, at the very least, if any of you are thinking of going on this particular cruise, you will know what to expect!)

Here it is in no particular order except for day 1. Let me preface with the fact that this was a trip for senior citizens...

We arrived on board only to be accosted by people selling meal plans, drink plans, tours, etc. It was like a bunch of carnival hucksters. Not what I expected from a luxury cruise.
Later in the day they announced the gathering for the emergency drill. Hundreds of people were gathered in a small area with seats for less than half of us. We could neither see nor hear what was being said. We were there for at least half an hour shoulder to shoulder. The air conditioner seemed to be on low and as a matter of fact, at least one person was overcome and had to be lead out.

When we returned to our room, the steward had not yet been there. We could not operate the safe, the t.v. didn't work and neither did the reading lamp over the bed. We called to report this and went to dinner only to be told that we could not eat or make reservations in some restaurants because of "my plan". We waited in line at another place and finally were seated. The waiter tried to push a $23.00 lobster dinner which we declined. The waiter then became rude and turned away from us. Most of that meal came from a buffet...dried pizza and cold, dry salmon. Luxury?

We returned to our room to find that nothing had been fixed including separating our beds. We wanted to lie down and relax but couldn't watch tv, or read. We were asleep by 8:00 . not a good start to a luxury cruise. The next day it took 5 calls to get the room in shape and 3 days to get our meal plan straightened out.

Breakfast was another experience. The buffets were loaded with mostly good food. We stood in line for coffee and by the time we found a table at which to eat, everything was cold. Walking around with trays of food, trying to find a table. Every 10 mins. or so, an announcement was made to leave the table as soon as you finished eating so that others may be seated. Luxury?
We made reservations for several shows, but when we arrived 15 or 20 mins. early, there were no seats. We stopped trying. I saw 1 comedian, and my travel partner saw none. At every turn, there were never enough seats.

For our tour in Nova Scotia, we chose the hop on, hop off bus. We were told to go on shore to board. when we got there, one bus was waiting for the several hundred people who had reservations. It was quite cold and the line wended in and out of the ship. Then came an announcement that it would be an hour and a half wait for more buses....in the cold. Shouldn't the buses have been there before we were called outside? Who was running these things? We went back on board the ship and never saw Nova Scotia which was the reason we chose this cruise.

The price of drinks in the same venue changed from day to day. why?

Some of the tours we did take were disappointing.

The grand finale was when we left the ship. Once again we were in an area with not enough seats, waiting, waiting, waiting. Yet another announcement saying to sit and relax because we had a wait. Sit where, relax how? One to 2 hours.

Every day was another issue. Our trip was ruined.
 

johnbaker

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Oct 2, 2014
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#2
@mar I'll start with the basics... Who sold you this cruise? I'm not aware of anyone who knows cruising that would call RCCL a luxury line. They're more mass market than anything else. After that, most of what you experienced is fairly normal on a mass market line. So, I guess it comes back to who sold you the cruise and matched your expectations to this cruise / cruise line? That should be the first person to address...
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#3
There certainly seems to be "room for improvement" in several areas. You can use the Company Contacts link at the top of this page to present your case to them.
....
Before you do, be sure to read and follow the instructions at the top of the first page. And remember to include your desired compensation.
 
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Neil Maley

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#4
I have to agree with John - Royal Caribbean is not a luxury line. They are a moderate line - if you want luxury - you look for Azamara, Windstar, Seaborne or one of many others..

Have you cruised before? Everything you describe goes on with all cruise lines. I have to agree with John - this sounds like your first cruise and you weren't told what to expect. You could have gone to breakfast in the main dining rooms if you didn't want to deal with the buffet crowds. They have lovely sit down meals where you can order off a menu and not be rushed.

The selling of meal plans, drink plans, etc. are done on every cruise line. If you get to the muster stations late - you don't get seats, regardless of the cruise line. I've been standing on decks for muster in 100 degree heat. It is 20 minutes out of your cruise and nothing to get upset with. If you want seats - you need to arrive early. The stewards have 50 or more cabins and are delivering luggage when you first arrive and things need to be done on a priority basis. There are instructions in every cabin on how to program the safe - it is usually closing the door, inputting a 4 digit code and then pressing the lock button. You could have pulled the beds apart yourself if the steward didn't get to you right away,

If you had a meal plan, you didn't understand it and that is on your travel agent if they didn't explain it. For shows, you need to arrive at LEAST a half hour to 45 minutes before to get a seat - I am surprised you didn't try that after the first night of not being able to get in.

It sounds like you were not prepared at all for what you expected a cruise to be like and especially a mass market middle of the line cruise line. A true luxury line - Azamara, Regent, Crystal - would have met your expectations.

Unforunately, nothing you described is worthy of a refund - it is simply how cruises work. You can try and use our company contacts and see what they will do but if they tell you that they can't refund anything - thats why.
 

Carol Phillips

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Dec 28, 2014
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#5
My colleagues @Neil Maley and @johnbaker have hit on the first thought that came to my mind: Royal Caribbean is a mass-market cruise line, not a luxury line.

And if you booked with a travel agent, that agent failed in explaining how "life on a cruise ship" works. If you had a meal plan, you should have received precise explanations of how those work. And lastly, you mention that this was a "trip for senior citizens". I suspect this means that a group of you booked a number of cabins to all sail together ... not that the entire ship was chartered for a Seniors Cruise. (If I'm wrong, accept my apology.)

If I may offer a couple of experienced-cruiser tips:

If we choose the buffet for meals and it's crowded, we walk around and find a table. At that point, one of us sits and guards that table . The other person either goes to get their first course and returns to the table to hold it while the first person then gets up and gets their first course. OR one person holds the table while the other gets drinks and some small plates and returns ... placing the food and drinks on the table (and unwrapping the napkins and silverware) so that both may go get their food. Some people even put their open napkins on the back of the chair, or even tilt the chairs toward the table to show it's taken.

Re Shows: most cruise lines have a "no holding seats for friends" policy, supporting the fact that seats fill up EARLY and FAST. It's best to arrive at least 30 minutes before showtime, or earlier if you wish a prime seat. We bring a book or a Kindle to read while waiting.

My opinion is to book with a travel agent, and not an 800# company. Deal with someone who knows what they're doing and who is an experienced cruiser. Ask them how familiar they are with your chosen cruise. Acknowledge you're a new cruiser (if that's the case), read everything you can about the ship/cruise line, and ask the agent to tell you what you don't know. This might help with reasonable expectations when you arrive for your cruise.

I'm sorry your cruise wasn't what you'd hoped it would be. @VoR61 has posted the link to Company Contacts and if you wish to contact them, you may get the ear of someone who can assist.

Please let us know what transpires.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#6
As further research, I contacted RCCL to inquire about "Senior Citizens" and/or "Luxury" cruises. The response was negative to both. You have not stated how the cruise was booked (e.g., a travel agent), but perhaps you were told that by someone else. They did state they their sister cruise line, Azamara, offers "luxury" cruises.

I find the following elements of your experience to be odd/concerning, along with some questions:
  • "Accosted by people selling meal plans, drink plans, tours, etc". That has never happened in the four (4) cruises we have taken. Tables with information - yes. Employees standing ready to hand them out - yes.
  • An emergency drill with seats for less than half of the attendees, standing shoulder to shoulder. On our cruises I have seen people standing but never packed that tightly.
  • The air conditioner seemed to be on low and as a matter of fact, at least one person was overcome and had to be lead out.
  • The TV. didn't work and neither did the reading lamp over the bed. These are maintenance items that, in my opinion, should have been checked/fixed (ideally) prior to boarding.
  • "A waiter tried to push a $23.00 lobster dinner which we declined. The waiter then became rude and turned away from us." Should never happen.
  • "Most of that meal came from a buffet...dried pizza and cold, dry salmon". Did you report either of these to the manager and/or customer experience desk?
  • The inability to make reservations in some restaurants. The only exception given to me is the "Coastal Kitchens" restaurant, which is reserved for "suite" guest.
  • Announcements about "leaving the table". I was advised that this should never happen.
  • The price of drinks in the same venue changed from day to day. I can't imagine why either.
  • We made reservations for several shows, but when we arrived 15 or 20 mins. early, there were no seats. If a show requires "reservations", then these were poorly managed.
  • One bus waiting for the several hundred people who had reservations and being told the wait for another was 90 minutes. The planning for this one was inadequate in my opinion.
Tours are always "at your own risk", but can be researched in advance. This is normal.

The above is simply my reaction to what you've indicated. What is all that worth? You would like a full refund, which I also think is highly unlikely. Some of this will be helpful for RCCL to know so they can address it for future cruises. The best I can envision for you here is a voucher to use toward a future cruise.

Final thought: if you did not at the time, it's always a good idea to pursue these while on the ship. And if/when you cruise again, be prepared to arrive early for all venues. Seating is always a challenge and lines are quite common ...
 

Neil Maley

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#9
One thing to note also about air conditioning - if you have a balcony room and the balcony door is not closed tightly - the air conditioning goes off. Some rooms require your keycard in a slot by the door for electricity to run the a/c. And I don't care what cruise line I am on - I wake up sweating in the middle of the night. But this happens in hotel rooms too. They turn down the air conditioning at night on many lines.

I am also not sure what you mean by a meal plan. I am not aware of a meal plan that RCCL offers. All cruise lines have at least two main dining rooms that are included in your price. There are others on the ship that you will pay for if you don't want to eat in the main dining rooms. And lobster is not a free meal on many ships anymore. If you ate at Chops, the lobster is indeed extra. There many be one formal night that is surf and turf and offers a microscopic lobster tail but many cruise lines charge for lobster. Years ago this wasn't the case but now many lines charge for lobster.

It may not be what you want to hear but you had unrealistic expectations about what happens on a cruise. You were not told what actually happens on a cruise. I can pretty much guarantee if you booked with a true luxury line, you wouldn't see these things happen. But RCCL is not a luxury line.
 
Likes: jsmithw
Jan 6, 2015
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#11
I wouldn't normally share this, but it seems relevant to this thread. We always research the ship layout and schedules in advance, and print them out in a credit-card size layout that will fit in our wallets. That way we can reference the information any time until we become familiar with things. We find this easier than carrying the daily brochures, and can be used to pick a cabin location (near elevators, restaurants, etc.). So here's an example from our last cruise on NCL (we only printed the restaurants included in the package as we knew the others were extra). The A, F, and M are for aft, forward, and mid-ship ...

Deck 6 (F) Room #xxxx, Internet
Library, Stardust (&7)
Deck 5 (F) Guest Services
Deck 11 (F) Spa, Pools/Hot Tubs
Deck 12 (F) Observation Lounge
Eat 7:00 - 10:30 (AM to PM)
11 (A) Garden Café: Buffet
5:30 - 10:30 PM
5 (M) Four Seasons
5:00 - 5:00 (PM to AM)
11 (A) Great Outdoors
 

Neil Maley

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#12
For clarification,the air conditioning issue was in the area where they were conducting the emergency drill.

And this may answer the "meal plan" question. It reflects two options - Flexible and Traditional. With one you can reserve and the other you don't:

http://www.royalcaribbean.com/finda...tegory.do?pagename=onboard_cat_dining_options
That’s not a meal plan, it’s just the dining you opt for - either free style or assigned. I am not sure what this has to do with the lobster charge. But many lines do.

And yes- the air conditioning issue she describes is simply 20 minutes out of your entire cruise you have the deal with the muster drill and it’s the luck of the draw as to where your station is. I’ve been stuck outside in 100 degree heat, squeezed in a corner of casino and once in awhile was lucky enough to get the theatre as a muster station.

This is really simply a case of an inexperienced cruiser and a travel agent (if she booked with one) who didn’t bother to help a first time cruiser know what to expect.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#13
Thank you Neil. I posted that because it speaks to the need (or not) for reservations, not for the lobster charge. Regrading the latter, she was not objecting to the cost, but the rude treatment they received after they "declined" the (pushy) offer ...
 
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Neil Maley

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#14
It could be perspective that they were treated rudely. Our writer has been checking responses but hadn’t commented so hopefully we’ve conveyed that this is the way most mass market cruises work. I’m sorry for her too because if her travel agent had prepared her properly she might have had an enjoyable vacation.

You don’t see these happen on luxury lines.
 
Likes: VoR61
Feb 5, 2018
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#15
Thank you all for the input. I understand and appreciate now that this is simply the way things are sometimes. It appears that unrealistic expectations on my part (maybe watching too many movies with beautiful cruises in them) along with a few mishaps that seemed magnified since I was already unhappy with the "product" made for a miserable experience. In hindsight, it seemed to me that this cruise had too many passengers and not enough staff. And, some of the comments seem to raise genuine questions on why this is "the way it is." Why should someone have to get to a show 45 minutes early when they already have tickets? Why would drink prices change day to day (it was not the daily special...)? Why would we have to wait for hours for tour buses when we all signed up in advance and they knew how many people were coming?

This was my first vacation in a very long time, I had saved up for it and went with very high expectations. It looks like the consensus is that this is a certain type of vacation and maybe it's not for me.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#16
it's really a mix of things. Cruises can be delightful if properly planned and expectations set well. Conditions are never perfect, but the critical elements should be expected to be delivered. Reservations for shows and tours are vital to success for most cruisers I think. Thankfully we have not experienced what you did or we too would have been disappointed.

The one message that I see in all the posts is this: show up early, whether it's for meals, shows, tours, or meetings. That mitigates a lot of bad experiences.

And unfortunately travel has become far too complicated for most of us. There are regulations to know, fees to pay, and conditions to review and track. And cruises have more of those than a lot of other travel venues.

I would certainly recommend that your contact RCCL about your experience. Their response may surprise you.

And I urge you not to give up on cruising. Check out the ships and reviews before booking. Call them and ask a lot of questions. Adjust to the small things, and address the larger ones as they arise. We have four (4) cruises under our belt and have enjoyed each one.
 
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Neil Maley

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#17
I have to agree with VoR. But it might simply be that the ship was too big and might have been the wrong ship for you. I am assuming your were on one of the larger ships- perhaps on the Oasis series because you said you had tickets.

When there are 4,000 people on a ship going to a show in a theater that holds 500 they issue tickets. Ticket holders need to arrive early for seats and then usually 20 minutes or so before, they allow non ticket holders to fill in the rest of the seats. It’s just how it needs to be done on mega ships.

A smaller ship or a different cruise line might be a better fit. But a lot of this is on your travel agent. We have a first time cruisers guide we give first timers that explain these type of things. The agent should have taken some time to explain to newbies what a cruise is like.

Besides those hiccups- did you enjoy the rest of the experience and being able to visit several cities in a week?

I hope you will give it another try and perhaps be qualified better and book a more appropriate cruise line or ship- there are others that might be a good fit. Holland America is a moderately priced line that might be more what you are looking for.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#18
And I agree with Neil as well. I didn't consider the size, so I will share that we ALWAYS look for the smaller ships. For NCL (our preference), we look for the ones that are under 2,500 passengers. Being stuck for 4-14 days with 4,000 people is too crowded for us. Of course, if there were an itinerary we liked ...

And each cruise line can/will have pluses and minuses. Neil mentioned Holland America which is more formal for dining and tends to attract the older crowd (or so I have read). Lots to see and do that can be a lot of fun when we understand what to expect.
 
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Carol Phillips

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#19
Absolutely true that all cruise lines are not alike, nor are all ships. Like @VoR61 , we prefer the smaller ships ... and Holland America is our current favorite. The ships generally hold 1900-2600 passengers, and the cruising experience is more traditional (no ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls, etc.) The ships are full of flowers and art. And the crew is trained at special facilities and offer superb hospitality. Again, just our preference.

I thank you, @mar, for realizing that perhaps you did not have all the information you required before setting sail on this cruise. I suspect you were driven by the itinerary (Canada/New England cruises are just wonderful), but you just didn't receive all the info you needed to have. @Neil Maley is right about that!

Next time speak with a knowledgeable cruise expert ... you'll know what to ask. And I hope there IS a next time !
 
Dec 26, 2014
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#20
I always like to do tons of research before a trip so that I know what to expect which helps ensure a good experience for me whether it is flying an airline I have not flown before for things such as seat selections or connection times at various airports, to what types of restaurants or sites are within walking distance of a hotel. I even search out where gas stations are located near the rental car facility so that my return to the airport is as stress free as I can make it. I have also found through experience that I do not enjoy the huge cruise ships, because there is just too many people and too many activities that I am not interested in doing, let alone the long lines for boarding and embarking at the end of the cruise. I found the online forum Cruise Critic had lots of good info about cruises in general AND cruises to the specific destinations along with the specific ship I will be on to be incredibly helpful. For our family, we have found that using NCL was a good fit due to the free style dining, prices that all could afford, and we take advantage of special offers before hand such as the beverage packages or restaurant package, etc. It is Not by any stretch of the imagination a luxury cruise, but they have been fun for us as a family of adults traveling together. As others have mentioned the shows on cruises are always an issue with getting there in time enough to get seats where you want AND seats together. Arriving late even if that is 15-20 minutes early will almost always mean having to split up to single available seats spread out all over the venue.