OK Lisa and all, here is the article. Only took me a while to edit. I scanned it at a high resolution, so needless to say it came out as 3.8 Mega Byte. Long download time for those that may have wanted it via e-mail on a dial up connection.
Decided to copy, paste and edit the article of all the nonsense no one wants. Enjoy.
From the LA Times Travel Section
January 16, 2005
Mary Lu Abbott:
Unhappy at sea? Know when, how to complain
Brochures make cruising look like a no-worry paradise, but as on any vacation, things can go wrong. Maybe your cabin air conditioner doesn't work, or you experience bad service in the dining room. Perhaps your three-hour snorkeling excursion ends up being half that long.
Knowing how to handle common problems on a cruise can make the difference between an enjoyable trip and a ruined vacation. Among the suggestions:
Speak up immediately when there's a problem, consumer experts say. Don't wait until the end of the cruise or until you get home to complain and ask the cruise line to do something, says Art Sbarsky, consumer affairs editor for CruiseMates.com, an online cruise guide. Sbarsky, a retired cruise line executive, recently encountered a malfunctioning toilet in his cabin when sailing on a new ship. "I called housekeeping, explained the problem and they sent a plumber to fix it," he says.
How you complain is important. "Be reasonable," says Ed Perkins, a syndicated travel columnist and longtime consumer advocate. "Don't go pounding the desk and saying everyone on the ship is incompetent. That doesn't get you anywhere. Be nice. State what is wrong and say, 'I'd appreciate it if you would fix it.' That will solve a big percentage of cases."
Contact the right person. "It doesn't pay to talk to your waiter about a plumbing problem," Sbarsky says. For cabin problems, talk to your room attendant or call housekeeping and ask for a supervisor. If the issue isn't resolved, go to the purser's desk, sometimes called guest relations and usually found in the main lobby. This department functions like a hotel front desk. Report that you have a problem that hasn't been solved and need assistance. If necessary, ask for the supervisor, the assistant purser or the purser.
The purser's desk also can deal with general problems around the ship. When I've had trouble with Internet service on ships, I've reported it to the purser's desk.
For complaints about any tour you booked with the line, go to the shore excursion desk. If you go on a shark-feeding excursion and there are no sharks, you deserve something back, Sbarsky says. When tours go awry, lines often give a credit to your onboard account, but you need to ask for it.
In the dining room, if your food is cold or your steak isn't cooked as ordered, tell your waiter. If you have a problem with your waiter, address it with the headwaiter, assistant maitre d' or the maitre d'.
It's often difficult to know who is who, though, and not all ships have such a hierarchy. To find a dining manager, Sbarsky advises speaking with the person at the restaurant entrance.
"Wait for a quieter moment, not when the person is really busy, and calmly say, 'I am having a problem with such and such' and 'With whom do I talk to solve it?' " Sbarsky says.
If you don't get satisfaction from other sources, he says, go to the top — the hotel manager, not the captain. As one of the top three officers on a ship, the hotel manager oversees all guest operations. The manager's name is readily available; photographs of top personnel with names and titles often are posted in the lobby.
For the most effective communication, Sbarsky suggests, "Write the problem in a note and put it in an envelope addressed with the name of the hotel manager and marked 'personal and confidential.' Give it to the front desk. That will get his attention."
Sbarsky and Perkins emphasize that passengers need to be realistic in assessing problems and with requests for action.
"If you go nuts over a minor problem, you're not going to get satisfaction," Sbarsky says. "Passengers may have a bad experience in the dining room and demand a giant recompense or threaten legal action, and the world doesn't work that way ashore or on cruise ships."
If a foul odor or plumbing problem in your room isn't fixed, your asking to move to another room is realistic. But if you're complaining because you don't like the size of the room, a move is unlikely, he says.
Complaints about last-minute changes in itineraries may not always be resolved to your satisfaction. A ship may miss a port or change ports because of bad weather or problems at a destination or because of mechanical trouble. If it's a ship problem, the line may give an onboard credit to all passengers. When it's a weather issue or a substitution of ports, there may not be any action, though Sbarsky says that passengers might successfully request a refund of port charges for a missed visit.
If you return home dissatisfied, you can write to the cruise line's customer service/relations department. The lines will take your complaints more seriously if you first tried to resolve the issue while aboard, Sbarsky says.
Limit the letter to one page, attaching supportive information such as a timeline with names of people contacted aboard when necessary. Explain the problem briefly, what you did to try to correct it and what you want from the cruise line now.
"Cruise lines usually will offer something to make up for it [the problem]," Sbarsky says. A future cruise credit is more likely than a refund, he says.
"It's important before you start the complaint process to have in mind what you think is a fair resolution — if you want an apology or your money back or a future cruise," Perkins says. "If they offer credit toward a future cruise, take a hard look at the fine print. I remember an instance of a credit for a new cruise but it expired in six months and they [the consumers] didn't want to take it in six months. Don't be afraid to negotiate. Say, 'No, I want two years.' "
Get your travel agent involved in the complaint process, Perkins suggests, because an agent who does a lot of business with a line will have more clout than an individual passenger. Most major cruise lines are members of the American Society of Travel Agents, which has a consumer affairs department to mediate complaints with its members. For tips, go online to its consumer travel website, http://www.travelsense.org
, and click on "Consumer Info" and then "Travel Complaints."
A cruise passenger's legal rights are minimal, Perkins says. There's no governing body to protect consumers. The fine-print passenger contract you receive with your ticket defines rights. Most cruise lines are foreign-flagged carriers, and taking a line to court may involve traveling to Florida, where many are based, or to a foreign country.
Post Edited (01-17-05 02:22)