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What is a Legitimate Complaint?

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A few years back I was interviewing a Hotel Manager onboard a Royal Caribbean ship. He recalled the story of passenger complaint, when a passenger came to see him, after the ship had to skip a scheduled port call in Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s “private beach” located on the tip of a peninsula on the island of Haiti, but with no access to the remainder of the island.

As with many ports of call without docking facilities, cruise ships must transport passengers to shore at Labadee using tenders (smaller boats). In those cases the ships are at the mercy of the weather and ocean conditions, and on occasion, if it’s determined the tendering of passengers cannot be done safely, the ships will cancel that port stop, and change their itinerary.-

In the Hotel Manager’s story, due to conditions that precluded safely tendering passengers ashore, the ship cancelled its stop at Labadee.

One passenger came to complain about it. He demanded a full refund of his cruise fare, because, as he explained, the only reason he booked this cruise was that he had an important business meeting scheduled in “downtown Labadee”. There was, of course, no refund given because there is no “downtown Labadee” where the passenger could have an “important business meeting”, it is just a beach and the only facilities there belong to Royal caribbean. The complaint was obviously just an attempt to receive unwarranted compensation; though in that case a particularly ill thought out attempt.

So, with that rather extreme example, what can passengers assume is a legitimate complaint, and what makes a legitimate complaint, and how should complaints be handled?

Except for rare incidents, like the one I described above, and the few types of people who are just looking for anything they can to complain about or those who are simply looking for an easy bid for any perk or compensastion (yes, they exist), every incident that is less than satisfactory to the person it is happening to is a legitimate complaint.

Depending on the severity of the dissatisfaction of the passenger, it’s up to each individual to decide if it warrants following up with the appropriate authority onboard, or sloughing it off as anecdotal. Whether the complaint warrants any form of compensation is another matter.

Once you’ve determined you want to take some action to seek a remedy for your complaint, the first step is to contact the appropriate personnel onboard who can assist; that could be as simple as speaking to your cabin steward or dining room staff; or in more severe cases, the Housekeeping Manager, Dining Room Maître D, Bar Manager, or Hotel Manager. The Hotel Manager is the final authority onboard for anything on the ship related to the hospitality services, which includes pretty much every area of the ship, other than serious ship-wide mechanical breakdowns (which occur very rarely).

If your situation is one that is not easily resolved immediately with the staff you encounter daily, your first step should be heading to the Guest Relations Desk to explain your complaint, calmly and effectively. This is important because Guest Relations is required to log every complaint or incident brought to their attention.

If, for some reason, Guest Relations don’t contact the appropriate staff members to satisfy your complaint in a reasonable amount of time, you should return to Guest Relations and ask to speak to the Hotel Manager. That is as high as you can go. Once you’ve discussed the issue with them, there is nothing further you can do while you are on the ship.

It’s important to note that onboard personnel are going to do their utmost in every situation to find a solution to remedy every complaint, and satisfy the complaining passenger.

If in your mind, the issues of your complaint are unresolved during your cruise, and you feel further action is warranted, or you feel that your issues warrant some form of compensation, you’ll want to have followed the steps I described above.

When you, or your travel agent, make contact with the cruise line to discuss your situation, or seek compensation, be sure to refer the cruise line to the paper trail you had established onboard, which will tell your story for you, as well as tell the person investigating the complaint what action they took onboard to try and remedy your issue.

Be sure to register your complaint to the cruise line in a calm and concise manner, including suggesting a solution that would leave you satisfied. And give them time to investigate your issue thoroughly. Expecting to have everything resolved in a few weeks is only going to lead to disappointment.

The very best way to contact a cruise line about an onboard complaint is through your trained travel agent, who knows better who to contact, and which ladders to climb to help you be satisfied with the remedy.

–  A  View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –

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Comment from Nancy Bradford
Time May 25, 2011 at 11:51 am

good article, but I think you should have mentioned a couple of things that would be a legitimate complaint, such as plumbing trouble or ac trouble.

Comment from trip
Time May 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Kuki…great subject this week..

Over the course of moderating these boards, we have seen countless complaints. Some things that roll off one cruiser’s back, will get under the skin of another. For cruisers, with legitimate complaints, who’s cruise really has been impacted, I sometimes feel sorry for them when they take the time to share with us what went on,and they get responses like. Get over it, at least you were cruising..go with the flow etc.. No, they shouldn’t.

When your air conditioner is broken, if you have sewerage issues, brown water, etc..things like this, that do understandably change the way you enjoy and use your cabin….you have the right to complain. The way you do it,as Kuki states, is so important. That paper trail will be your best friend as you weave your way through the channels, if the complaint was not corrected immediately. BTW…in a complaint letter, if you state, I will never cruise with you again, you lose any strength in your complaint, as far as just told them Hell no..!!

As far as CC..In reading John Heald’s Blog, it boggles my mind how many times the double c’s, name is dropped, like that is going to sway things, to the poster’s side.

Bottom line is, if you stay calm, focused, and state the facts, not embellishing the complaint, have dates and names at hand, you can get things resolved. Not every complaint will get you that free cruise, no matter how loud you whine.

Comment from Dave Beers
Time May 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Good topic. As one who is actively involved in a cruise website, my eyes often glaze over at the ridiculous complaints posted by people. Those who think threatening to start an on-line campaign against the cruise line unless they acquiesce are fooling themselves. As noted by Trip, too many people erroneously think that every cruiser in the world is a member of CC, or CruiseMates, or CruiseReviews. The truth is that number is a distinct minority.

Starting out by “going to the top” is not the best thing to do. Start as Kuki said, with Guest Relations, or your cabin steward, or your waiter, etc. In other words the lowest level. I’ve found that they have often been quite helpful to me

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time May 26, 2011 at 5:04 am

What I do, and this is trite, and serves as a trite, in your face solution to the person complaining TO ME, FG’s S, as if I could do anything about the constant harping and complaining, usually in the buffet line, which I rarely frequent, is a scenario like this:

Passenger: I hate this ship, I used to love this cruise line. I hate the food, and the crew and ,………” I need not elabraote further.

I see man/woman, dressed in white, “naval” looking, whatever the position they hold, with a name placard, with service or officer position, carefully overseeing the food line, or whatever is going on at the moment the passenger is venting to me. I motion to said officer dressed in white, with a very broad smile, and I introduce myself, and then, BAM: I tell said person dressed in white that the person in front of me or next to me, whatever, is complaining, vehemently, and that the person in white should be the one to express the complaints.

Without one minutes waste of time, I leave the line ASAP, and let it go at that. Hopefully, so solace is given to the complainer, since I lead the groundwork for “complaints”.

As for true complaints, yes, they do exisit, plumbing, no wake-up call, A/C issues – and Kuki has outlined how to take care of these as well as others that may/will/do occur even on the best run ships.

Comment from Marie
Time May 28, 2011 at 6:51 am

I am single now and still like to cruise,but I need a room mate,not many ship will help,please try, M.H.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time May 29, 2011 at 4:05 am

Marie – there are “some” select dastes with Oceania that have specially priced singles cabins – not cheap, but less than full price, also, look into Fred Olsen, through Borland Tours or Borland Travel, their US office. And, always ask about free or low priced air.

Comment from Burt Bearden
Time May 31, 2011 at 4:15 am

The only major complaint I ever had was with Carnival. Onboard staff directed me to the wrong location for a ship shore excursion. Ship personel refused to refund the cost of the excursion despite the fact that their mis-direction caused us to miss the excursion. I finally called my PVP and they sent me a letter with a small onboard credit that I was neve able to use. Lesson learned, don’t use ship excursions , they don’t back up their products. No I book my own an have elpe others do the same. I estimate I have cost CCL several thousand dollars in revenue due to their poor service. I will cruise them again, but they will never get another penny from me for shore excursions.

Comment from John Angeloni
Time June 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm

My wife and i just came back on 6/19/2011 from a 7day bahamas cruise on the carnival pride. we recently discovered that carnival pride double charged us for the last night of our cruise. we discovered that the last night of our cruise amount was 1700.00 dollars that was paid by our bank on the 20th of june. And they ran our credit card again thru our bank for the last night of the cruise on the 21st of june . When we spoke to carnival they claim that the bank was holding the $513 .00 at our bank in case. in case of what!!!!!! they received thier payment for the full amount of our expenses on the 20th. This was our first and most certaintly our last cruise with carnival. we have sailed on celebrity and royal caribbean in the past and have never experience anything like this before. Stick to the better cruise lines people!!!!!!!!

Comment from Ben
Time July 10, 2011 at 11:57 am

I have found carnival to be very good in the past. Havnt really ever had any trouble with them.

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