The inaugural voyage of GTS Summit ended Friday, after an 11-day voyage that started on October 1, 2001. Making their usual inaugural appearance (as passengers) were members of the Wilhelmsen family, the family that apparently holds 55% ownership of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises. It seems that this family has abandoned RCI inaugural voyages in favor of Celebrity’s. Isn’t that interesting!
The Wilhelmsens and many of their friends occupied one of the Penthouse Suites, as well as many of the other suites. They had around 15 young children with them, mostly in strollers...and when they were not strapped down into their strollers the tots would use the hallways on Deck 6 aft as a sort-of playground. The youngsters were always running up and down the hallways. Screaming. Pounding on walls. The "stroller parking lot" at the entrance to the Penthouse Suite reminded me of a shopping mall stroller storage area. Naturally, the staff could not tell the parents that this was inappropriate behavior...after all, these were the owners of the company. Apparently, this noise continued day and night.
The Wilhelmsen Penthouse Suite was used as a make-shift day care center for the group of 15 children...with several nannies in supervision. I had heard from one of the maintenance workers that these children apparently managed to chisel and mark into the fine wood-paneled walls. They scratched the glass tabletops. And the suite, apparently, was plagued with the foul stench of diapers (about 15 children's worth).
A paying passenger occupied the other Penthouse Suite. I can only imagine how annoyed he was with this interim playground in the next-door suite. And when the children were put into their respective beds at night…the Wilhelmsen room became a party-center for their guests…with loud music…more unreasonable demands on the poor staff…and little regard for the other passengers (who happen to be the bread-and-butter of Celebrity).
Despite the Summit's strict adherence to meal-times, the owners insisted that their children be fed promptly at 5pm...whereby the Summit's butlers and restaurant staff were summoned and obliged to feed the young group. In many cases, they demanded foods that were not readily available...and had to be prepared especially for the tots...without advance notice. The net result of this was that the Summit's butlers were not able to properly avail themselves to other suite passengers...and the restaurant staff was forced to work through their breaks and under much pressure. I can remember a time when former owner Michael Chandris waited for the rest of the ship to be fed...before making any special demands of the staff.
The Wilhelmsens seemed to make a habit out of not following the Celebrity rules. Summit's strict 8:45 cut-off time for second seating dining was rarely honored. The group normally arrived between 9:15 and 9:30. Always ordering off-the-menu (a big Celebrity no-no). And, while it is not my intention to criticize the table etiquette of this high-profile family, it looked rather odd to see stylishly-dressed damsels from Oslo ordering mile-high, frozen margaritas to accompany their filet-mignon...or bloody marys with a fine rack of lamb. The table wine was from the least expensive, cheap onboard collection...unless, of course, someone else was paying for it.
My heart goes out to the absolutely incredible staff of SUMMIT. They held themselves very well, despite having to serve the Wilhelmsen's cavalcade of demands.
But, as a public company, the other 45% shareholders should know how this family abused such a lovely ship...and had come to expect more than was possible. The owners should set an example by following company rules...rather than calling themselves "Royalty" to whom the rules do not apply. They need to realize that with paying passengers onboard, the Celebrity customers are the most-important guests on board. I feel that the mere presence of the Wilhelmsens on a ship will assure these other passengers that they will not get the usual level of attention that they are entitled to. And that’s just bad business.
Shame on the Wilhelmens family! This kind of behavior should not be tolerated by RCI-Celebrity, no matter how many shares of the co these people own. Paying passangers who were subjected to this rudeness should be compensated.
After reading both posts above, I have to ask "what rudeness???" Strollers? If in fact they do own half the company, so what? I guess if I owned a cruise line, I would ask to have my meals at a time I preferred, and yes, maybe even park a few strollers in the hallway. Were you the person in the suite on the same deck? It sounds like envy to me.
Believe me, Baker is not exagerating. We were staying just two doors down from the penthouse. The kids played in hall all the time making noise. People in other suites complained to the parents and they just ignored them. I truly felt sorry for the staff. They looked very tired but still strived to give good service. You should have seen the messes they had to clean up each day. Courtesy was not in the Wilhelmsens vocabulary. We too are stock holder and do not expect extra service. In fact we feel it is better to serve the customers the best so that they have a good experience and will come back. There was no excuse for the way the Wilhelmsens acted.
My mother always told me "You CAN'T BUY CLASS"! Just because someone has tons of money or owns a company and shows disregard for other people, it shows how rude and classless they are. Celebrity was my favorite cruise line until I heard this story. Glad I booked a later Summit sailing. And Paul, I am in no way envious of their being in the Penthouse Suite. Who cares??
I would expect the owners of any company to lead by example. How unfortunate for the employees on the ship, who strive to maintain such a high quality product, to be the recipients of that behavior. I would certainly appauld the staff if they were able to maintain quality with adverse conditions I do not agree that it is an entitlement to abuse services.
It is difficult to believe that the true author of of above post is the Wilhelmsens', that level of ignorance would be a surprise. However, if it is true, the only power we "peasants" have is where to spend our vacation dollar and I certainly can adjust accordingly.
There are no Wilhelmsens posting on this board, and in fact it seems the "Wilhelmsen" post has been deleted, which is probably the appropriate response. The poster used two different "voices" in his/her writing, one snobbish as an imitation of what they imagined the Wilhelmsen's response might be to complaints, and the other equally snobbish but in reverse, taking the tack that those with extreme wealth and influence are inherently bad and push "the little guys" around. The post has apparently disappeared, which makes my post directly below it somewhat incoherent, but it's probably just as well.
I do hope that hotel staff and crew of the Summit, as well as Celebrity's upper management, keep track of these boards and realize they have a problem that extends beyond a PR fiasco if the facts are as reported above (and it would seem at present they are). My sympathies are with staff and crew who probably felt they had no choice but to fall in line, but upper management and, eventually the Wilhelsen's must realize that we, the "regular" customers have - and will use - the ability to hurt them financially by choosing to cruise with other lines if we feel that certain privilieged people can get away with bad behavior that has a debilitating effect on the overall cruise quality experienced by the other passengers. It's as simple as that.
There isn't a cruise line in existence that, at this moment, doesn't want our business just as badly as Celebrity does. I personally have no intention of boycotting Celebrity at this point, but I can entirely understand that those who shared this experience would be reluctant to cruise Celebrity again. (I still love Celebrity, and figure, hey, how many cruises can the owners take?)
Suppose the Wilhemsen's gave a cruise... and nobody came?
My daughter works with a man who is a member of one of America's wealthiest families. They own a huge multi national electronics firm whose name is a household word. I'm not mentioning the family since they want total privacy. Several times a year the entire family works at a soup kitchen to remind their kids that the only difference between people is luck and that everybody deserves to be treated with respect. Now that's class, IMHO.
Well, I am delighted to see that other passengers had many of the same observations as I had onboard SUMMIT. And, thank you, Ken, for pointing out that the ownership of RCI/Celebrity is around 26% and not 55% like I had been lead to believe.
I did neglect to make some positive observations about this inaugural cruise of the SUMMIT. As far as the cruise itself, I could not have had a better cruise experience. I would call just about everything close to perfect.
Also, I should have mentioned that I did not know exactly which Wilhelmsens were onboard. This is apparently a large family business. Arne Wilhelmsen is the CEO, and was NOT onboard. I think it was his daughter or daughter-in-law and her family that made all the fuss that I was speaking of (she christened the ship). Also, much of this entourage seemed to be friends of the Wilhelmsen family. So, it is likely that many of the nusances that I spoke of were perpetrated by friends of the family, or even other relatives. This is somewhat akin to having bad houseguests at home upset your neighbours.
But my point was that whether you are the main representatives of the company or their guests, there is a certain amount of expected etiquette and consideration of the other passengers.
I think that it would be prudent in this thread to avoid bashing the Wilhelmsens with insults, and simply acknowledge the fact that they need to consider making some changes in how they and their friends behave next time.
Aaron... I think it also might have been prudent for you to have checked all the details before putting up the original post. The current post seems much more balanced and factual. This does not excuse the rude behavior of those on board, but puts it in some perspective. That some of them were "not to the manor born" is quite clear!
This is the first time I've had a chance to voice my thoughts on this subject and it may be of great interest to all as I was also on the Summit October 01. I occupied a Royal Suite a few doors away from the penthouse 6147 and it was exactly as Aaron mentioned. The noise and disturbance was so bad I called guest relations to ask if they would mention to them to stop running, banging on doors and using the "high rent" district as their childrens' personal playground. Apparently, they did not listen and the noise continued.
Not only did they disturb the corridors, they would not show up to dinner till 9:00 or 9:30pm and throw the waiters, busboys, maitre de and everyone else into a tailspin! Our service did not suffer much as the restaurant staff was, by far, the most professional group of people that I have seen in a long time.
Aaron's comments about the strollers was right on the money. EVERYWHERE you went there were stroller! Did I book a cruise or 11 nights at the mall! I have done over 60 cruises and have never seen anything like this. They had absolutely no regard for everyone else onboard.
The one thing that gets me is that this whole group was on for free (or so I was told) and I paid thousands for my suite. You would think "non-revenue" guests would try to behave!
In the end however, they were the talk of the ship and no one had a nice thing to say about them. In fact, on the last formal night, after the "Parade of the Baked Alaska" they asked to "give a big hand to the Godmother of the Summit, Mrs. Wilhelmsen" and if I heard 20-30 guests clapping,..I would be surprised.
Too bad they don't have planks on ships no more,these social outcasts and snobs should have been shown to and made to walk the plank or thrown overboard starting with the parents first and then the children. I know people with money and
they don''t act this way. Some people with money who did not earn it the hard way are disgusting,dispicable people and should stay home or better yet,rent their own yacht where they can do as they please.
I know for a fact that the Guest Relations Manager from Millennium (back in January) regularly reads this board. He told me so himself. And I believe he takes what he reads very seriously. I was so impressed to learn that.
1) Those guests were not the top shelf in anything.
2) The service staff has been fire tested on their first cruise.
3) The odd's are those free guests will not be back.
4) Any future cruisers on the Summit get the best staff on the seas.