How to Complain to a Cruise Line and Get Results

| 02.13.12

A poll of our readers finds surprises in the most effective ways to get satisfaction for problems -- including financial compensation.

It wasn't that long ago that the name Brenda Moran became well-known in cruise circles as the lady who complained so much that Royal Caribbean banned her from sailing on its ships.

Many cruise fans were upset with her situation -- not because she got banned, but exactly the opposite. They refused to believe she had any legitimate complaints and were upset that the cruise line had given her any financial compensation in previous cases. These cruise fans are correct; people who whine endlessly, like Brenda Moran, are only abusing the system to the detriment of people with legitimate complaints.

So in the interest of readers who may someday have an honest gripe on a cruise ship, we present the best way to register a legitimate complaint and get results from a cruise line.

This is NOT Complaining for Fun & Profit I recently ran across a web site selling a book entitled "How to Complain for Fun and Profit." The author claimed he had once written to the CEO of Ritz-Carlton about a bad hotel stay and was given a free week in Hawaii in a suite with all expenses and even meals gratis. This is not a lesson on complaining for fun and profit.

I did not object to the author getting compensation for a complaint, but I certainly do object to the title. It is not acceptable to make unfounded complaints to any company simply to finagle free things they might give to you as "compensation."

If you choose to "complain for fun and profit," you could end up like Brenda Moran, getting your name dragged through the mud and your favorite vacation company banning you for life. And you would deserve it.

Our goal is to show you what our readers showed us -- that cruise lines do listen to real complaints. And if they see you as a valuable customer, they can be surprisingly generous in compensating you for your troubles.

This IS About Registering Legitimate Complaints Here is the message board where readers shared their cruise compensation experiences with us. (link is Making Legitimate Complaints.). It's important to understand that the cruise lines do recognize and care about something that is truly not right for you. At least a dozen people told us stories about how they found something wrong on a cruise, registered a complaint, and were eventually compensated.

The rate of success for these readers in getting compensation was astonishing. We expected to see perhaps a fifty-fifty split between resolved and unresolved complaints, but almost every story we read showed us they had received compensation. And they all followed almost exactly the same procedure.

Step One -- Be Specific We get a fair number of complaint letters here, and one thing we notice with incredible predictability is how they always include a laundry list of every little thing they could think of to complain about.

These lists are almost funny in their predictability. You can always count on:

  • A smell that permeated the hallways
  • A random hair in the bathroom not belonging to the current occupants
  • A rug stain
  • Inedible food served in the buffet area (not all of it, just certain items)
  • Noise from somewhere they didn't want to hear
  • A rude staff member who, upon hearing about the horrible cruise these people were having, did absolutely nothing to help them except apologize.

There are always plenty of little things to complain about, but an effective complaint (i.e., one that will get results) is not a laundry list of everything that went wrong. It is OK to make a list of the real complaints, but do not go beyond turning in the list and then dropping those complaints. Certainly do not demand compensation for every little thing. To complain effectively means specifying which problem demands attention, and to address only that issue as something deserving of compensation.

Continue Article >> Step One -- Be Specific (Part 2)

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