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Carnival Responds To “The Deceitful PVP” Blog

Written by: Kuki

Who would have ever thought that within two days of my last Blog about “Deceit in a phone call from my Carnival Personal Vacation Planner” a story about much more nefarious activities; breaking into client’s homes to rob them, by a Royal Caribbean Vacation Planner, would dominate the cruise news.

No doubt most everyone would agree the situation of Royal Caribbean’s Vacation Planner breaking into the homes of customers who she knew would be away, is totally incidental, and not likely to be repeated.

In light of that story, a story about a simple lie being told via phone call by a Carnival Vacation Planner might seem rather trivial. But to Carnival it was not!

The day after I told the story in my blog I was contacted by representatives from Carnival Cruise Line. They wanted to discuss the situation I described, and to discuss Carnival’s official policy in regard to what their Personal Vacation Planners are supposed to, or are allowed to do, in contacting potential customers.

My initial contact was a phone call from Justin French, Carnival’s Managing Director, Sales and Marketing, Canada. As I reside in Canada, I suppose I came under Justin’s auspices.

Justin French explained to me that the actions I described were contrary to all Carnival’s policies and training received by the people hired for the position of Personal Vacation Planner. He expressed what I believed to be a sincere desire to correct the situation, and to offer me a complete description of how, why, and when Carnival PVPs contact potential customers.

He explained; “When someone first visit’s the Carnival web site, and chooses to register there is a spot where they are asked to note if they are working with a Travel Agent. If they note they are working with a Travel Agent they should never be contacted by a PVP.

Frankly, it’s been so long since I registered on the Carnival web site, I can’t recall if I checked that, or not.

At any rate, Justin went on to explain “If one doesn’t note they are using a Travel Agent, after their first visit to the web site, they will not be contacted by a PVP. However, if you visit the web site a second time, it is very likely that you will be contacted directly by a Carnival PVP”.

When and if you are contacted by a PVP, if you tell them you are working with a travel agent, they are fully expected to thank you, and end their conversation with you.

So that’s what is “supposed to happen”. Justin admitted on occasion some overly excited and overly aggressive PVPs overstep and forget their training. When those incidents become known, the PVP is reprimanded, and repeated actions does lead to termination of their employment.

I was told that the PVP who contacted me was relatively new to the position, and as a result of her actions in our exchange she would be receiving “additional coaching”. ( I hope that doesn’t translate to water boarding).

Justin went on to explain that Carnival’s goal in making these direct contacts is “most certainly not to compete with their Travel Agent Partners, but to build incremental business”.

The next day I was contacted by Tim Gallagher of Carnival’s Public Relations Department. I’ve met Tim before and have found him to be warm and personable, and of course because of a more personal relationship, would like to believe him. Tim reiterated much of what Justin had said. And he wanted to assure me that Carnival takes the issue I raised very seriously. He repeated the phrase I heard from Justin French, telling me “my PVP” would be receiving “additional coaching”.

The “cruise enthusiast” in makes me want to believe that these incidents are anecdotal, and not a result of instruction the sales agents receive in their training.

The cynic in me tells me that this is all “corporate speak”, and that though the cruise lines, not just Carnival, don’t “officially” condone such actions by those who are actually hired to sell cruise directly to customers, they quite likely like the aggressive pursuit of direct sales.

With the additional information gathered from comments in response to last week’s Blog, on the Blog, and on the CruiseMates message boards, it seems that incidents such as this aren’t limited to Carnival cruise line; as others reported similar contacts by sales agents from NCL as well as Royal Caribbean.

As someone who ardently recommends the use of professional Cruise Travel Agents as the best means of receiving accurate information about cruises, with the best chance of getting the lowest available price, combined with possible extra perks, I am still somewhat concerned that the less informed cruise shoppers are receiving misinformation from cruise lines staff whose job is to sell their employer’s cruises.

I’d still like to hear from more people about their experiences with the cruise line’s Vacation Planners. Were you told that they can offer pricing Travel Agents don’t have access to? Or, did you find the information supplied to you, simple and direct?

It should be noted that Carnival Cruise Line does allow those who make their initial booking directly through a Carnival PVP to later transfer that booking to a Travel Agent.

At the very least I do recommend cruisers do that. You could very likely save some money on the initial price you booked at, or receive an added amenity from the Travel Agent. And… if something happens to go wrong during your cruise you have a Travel Agent to work for your interests to get satisfactory resolution to your issues, rather than a cruise line employee, who is much more likely to work for the interests of their employer.

- A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising -

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Comments

Comment from Dave Beers
Time June 16, 2010 at 7:20 am

“Coaching” became a popular term in corporate America about 10 years ago since it sounds more helpful and team-like. It replaced “counseling” which sounded more like disciplinary action. In reality nothing really changed and I’d expect the coaching is documented in the employee’s file – if any coaching actually occurred.

People tell me all the time that their PVP is a wonderful human being who has their best interests at heart. I can’t accept it. When the person is employed by the cruise line that is who they are beholding to. I think too many people are too trusting. Then there are those who continue to think if they use a PVP they are getting a cheaper price because they aren’t paying an agent’s commission. I guess they don’t compare things and see there is no difference in the price.

If someone has a good business relationship with their PVP and they are happy with them, well, that’s fine. It’s their money and decision. As for me, I’ll always use an agent who specializes in cruises.

Comment from Manya
Time June 16, 2010 at 8:42 am

Thanks Kuki… you had me hyperventilating after reading your last posting!

2 weeks ago, I was contacted here in the office by a cruiseline and asked if they could speak to Mr & Mrs ____ . WHen I said that I was their travel agent and they must have put my phone # down as their contact #… the PVP then asked for their home phone number…. uhhh no.

I have also had passenger do exactly wht you recommend and booked a cruise with the Carnival PVP and then received a PIN # for me to call in to transfer.

Comment from Trip
Time June 16, 2010 at 9:10 am

I am always suprised when cruisers book via a cruiseline. Given the option of buying something, with a proviso, we will be pro active if, and when, you have any issues, vs, an order taker, that will not support you in the same way, just boggles my mind .

Give me a cruise agency specialist, with a good track record of, pricing and support, and, they get my business cruise after cruise.

Comment from Snoozeman
Time June 16, 2010 at 9:27 am

Yes, the option to book through a PVP then transfer to your TA is very useful. If someone is trying to hold a particular cabin or can’t reach their TA is is very good tool to make a booking. Just be careful with restrictions on some categories.

Comment from Dave Beers
Time June 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Reading Manya’s message it is obvious yet another PVP needs “additional coaching”. How outrageous, to ask an agent for one of their clients home phone number.

Comment from laineypainey
Time June 16, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Kuki, one note I’d like to make about people who book with the cruise line, especially with a line like Carnival, is that if a person does book with them they must realize the rate they get from Carnival is not exclusive to them- the cruise line will give the same rate to every person that calls. Even if it is a past guest rate- that rate isn’t for you only, it’s for all past guests. Agencies, however, can give lower rates. All sales that a cruise line offers are also always available through any agency. Sometimes I think people don’t realize this. I am a travel agent who wroks just in cruises, and in the past year I have experienced more of my clients booking with the cruise line direct because they were told they are getting something special by doing so, when in fact my price was the same if not less.

Comment from Kuki
Time June 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Lainey… I’ve always pointed out to people that they can OFTEN get prices lower than the cruise lines offer directly (with the exception of some of the cruise lines who don’t allow agent’s to discount).

I’ve also written several articles and blog posts railing about those who insist on a flat pricing policy. (BTW I’ve been told by Carnival that they are looking at instituting similar policies).

I’m amazed that more people in the travel agent community haven’t been raising any cane about the cruise lines doing more and more that they can get to encourage people to book directly.

In fact, it’s amazing that as an industry, through their organizations like IATA haven’t started an organized campaign to put an end to the flat pricing policies (that they indeed lobbied for in the first place), and to get the cruise lines out of their business entirely.

Comment from floridascorpio
Time June 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I have to say…we are on our 5th Carnival Cruise (the Dream this Sept)….and I have nothing but high praise for our PVP! He takes care or our every whim…sends emails of last minute specials…and is always there when I call.
What more could you want?

Comment from psmith
Time June 18, 2010 at 10:12 am

i have been on 50some odd cruises—a good travel agent is worth their weight in gold—-unfortunately, there does not seem to be very many good ones out there—-i have dealt with good ones and i have dealt with some who did not know ANYTHING–i purchased a book a number of years ago (i think at the time i had twenty or so cruises under my belt)–the book was entitled “EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CRUISING” or something to that effect—-the first words in it was “get a travel agent who knows more than you do”—i read the first couple of chapters and closed the book——–when you are not a novice, it is extremely hard to find an agent who knows more than you do—–i just booked my 56th cruise on the emerald princess and i swear to everything holy, that agent is the worse i have ever dealt with-it is a good thing i was not in her presence, because i would literally strangle her—–i have been on numerable cruises on carnival and i deal directly with my guy there that i have been dealing with for 10 to 12 years——he is wonderful, i love him to death—–and every time i deal with an agent, i wish over and over again that i could be talking with my guy at carnival——-i wish like hell he could book my every cruise———-he gets me the best price –and, if i see it advertised at a lower rate, i call him and they lower it–no problem–that has only happened 2 or 3 times in all these years———-if anyone out there can tell me the name of an extremely good agent, who knows more than i know, i would love to have a name and a phone number———i really get tired of dealing with idiots

Comment from Kuki
Time June 18, 2010 at 3:53 pm

PS..

I guess I would say that if you’ve dealt with good ones, I’m not sure why you’d switch and keep looking for others.

NO agent is going to have the very best price every time, but if they are giving the best price they possibly can, and are providing great service, then they are worth keeping.

I do think it’s a profession that has gotten watered down with hobbyists, and order takers, so it takes some looking to find the GREAT ones.

I personally like Nancy Bogert, the TA who does all our CruiseMates Group Cruises. She’s been on as many cruises as I have. She knows her business, and is always available 7days a week, and at all sorts of odd hours of the day and night.

No doubt there are many others just as smart and just as dedicated.

Comment from Kathy
Time June 24, 2010 at 5:38 am

One Sunday we were looking at prices for a September 2009 sailing on the Miracle. I wanted to double check the pricing and called Carnival as my TA was not working that day. I was told that they were offering a military discount for this sailing but it was a limited time offer and would need to book today. Said I normally use a TA, PVP said I could transfer booking to my TA. So we booked it (it took $400 off the cabin).

I called my TA Monday, explained everything and gave her the booking number. Sure enough, she was able to take over the booking. Very nice of the PVP to tell me this, but I do still wonder if the “limited time” offer was a gimmick to get us to book that day

Comment from Carole
Time September 7, 2010 at 10:29 am

I am glad I found this – every time I went to Carnival’s website to browse – I received a call from a PVP within hours – all I was doing was checking various cruises and kept going back to compare prices and cruises to other cruise lines. Carnival lost my repeat business because of these annoying and unnecessary phone calls.

Comment from YaYa
Time March 1, 2011 at 9:17 am

I would first like to say that Carnival PVPs are getting a bad rap here on this blog, as I used to be a PVP myself and know FIRST HAND that what you were told by various Carnival representatives was in fact true. I know that clients in any industry are usually skeptical of being sold, but I can honestly say that Carnival PVPs are told and reminded not to step on the toes of travel agents. I believe that the story is in fact the other way around…I found that clients would call me, get all of the information, pricing, etc. for the cruise of their choice, and then take all of my hard work (and my commission) to their personal travel agent. It would be nice if people had the same integrity that they held their PVPs to. PVPs have to eat too. Just because they work for Carnival does not mean that they don’t need to make their own living. The position of PVP is a commission-based position with only a modest salary attached. Therefore, be mindful of this and don’t make a PVP spend all of their efforts helping you find the perfect cruise for you and your family only to not pay them for their efforts in the end (by booking with someone else that did not put in all the work that they did). It’s not right no matter who does it and to whom. Just my two cents….

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