To our friends, shipmates and fellow survivors: Friday, September 23, 2005
We have had overwhelming Email response from our shipmates, none yet from Royal Caribbean. According to one of our shipmates, an attorney, we should get a response to our letter next week. Working together and sharing information we can and will make a difference, We will get the refunds we deserve. We can protect future travelers. We may even be able to help other travelers who may have mysteriously suffered this exact same “unforeseen circumstance”
We do know more than we did. We did not go to Nassau for repairs. That statement by the captain was simply untrue. People who specifically decided to watch repairs being made are certain that absolutely nothing was done to the ship in Nassau. The “temporary repairs” made in Key West were the only repairs made to this ship. If the ship left Ft. Lauderdale on time, it left port again with out being repaired. We really need to work together on this: Royal Caribbean is clearly working very hard to cover-up this one and with good reasons. Based on answers given to passengers who asked the obvious question “ Why does the ship shake so badly “ We think the crew, even the waiters, may have been coached in advance as to what to say and what not say when this ship goes into convulsions.
Because the owners of the ship neglected to maintain critical components and because they neglected to perform critical preventative maintenance, there was a huge thud in the middle of the first night at sea. It woke most of us from a sound sleep. The ship lost the use of one propeller and 50% of its power. Not only was the ship broken, so was our promised trip to Mexico.
Mechanical devices break for one of three reasons
1. They were not manufactured correctly in the first place [This ship first set sail 6/25/1990]. A manufacturing defect is not the reason things broke.
2. Something hits them. This ship was in deep calm water, no hint we hit Atlantis or anything else.
3. They were not properly maintained. Neglected maintenance is the reason and the only reason we never made Mexico. Had this ship been adequately maintained there never would have been what the company likes to call an “unforeseen circumstance”
After divers in Key West examined the damage and captain, John Harestad, acknowledged that the problem was “bolts that had come loose and or had bent”. If you forget to tighten bolts you are negligent. What happens next is not an “unforeseen circumstance or an unforeseen event ”. If you neglect to tighten bolts on your ship it is no different than failing to tighten the bolts that hold on the wheels of your car. You do not need to be a mechanic or a genius to foresee big bad consequences.
The reason we were all told that this was an “unforeseen circumstance” or an “unforeseen event” at least sixteen times is that these are the specific words used in the fine print of the contract as an excuse. RoyalCaribbean was negligent! Just how negligent is something we are still working on.
“Temporary repairs” were made in Key West. We were told the ship would be fixed at our next stop, Nassau, and that the Mexico trip was off. We were told about four or five more times that they were sorry but this [failure to maintain their ship] was an unforeseen event and that they were not responsible [for their negligence] but as a gesture of goodwill they had give passengers a $150 onboard credit.
By the time we reached Nassau it was already clear, at least to me, that instead of accepting responsibility, the management of RoyalCaribbean had already chosen to be irresponsible.
The first line of defense was the “Guest Services Desk” The lines were long but their response was short.
1. They were sorry but this [failure to maintain their ship] was an unforeseen even,
2. The management reserved the right to change the itinerary and they were not required to refund anything. [$150 was more than generous.]
Passengers who demanded it were allowed to turn their onboard credit into cash. Passengers who were still dissatisfied were sent to even longer lines where representatives of the home office Sara Hecker and/or Amelia Gomez (Supervisors, Corporate Guest Relations) were available.
These young women took down the name and cabin number and they somewhat listened to the story. [They did not write down the story] They had two answers.
· We were told once again that management was sorry but this was an “unforeseen circumstance” and that maintaining the ship was somehow something out of their control. Amelia Gomez suggested she had legal training and that all of this was very clear in the contract.
· Management was sorry but according to the contract they were not required to really do much of anything. The company, under the terms of the contract, was clearly allowed to promise a trip to Mexico, collect your money for that trip but change the itinerary to a much cheaper trip and not owe us a dime. “We should be thankful for the onboard credit”.
· My wife felt these women were not very sympathetic, even a bit rude. So did some other guests.
Special note to the Executive Officers and to the Board of Directors of Royal Caribbean and Counsel,
At least one of the guests who got this message from your corporate representatives was a lawyer who had read the contract. He suggested to me that the corporate position that the company is not responsible for maintenance is a significant stretch, very difficult to sell to a court. He also didn’t think the courts will allow you to charge people for a trip to Mexico and then take them to a much cheaper destination and NOT refund the difference.
Another very very unhappy guest just happens to be a judge. I suggest only that this judge felt your position was both inappropriate and inadequate. I recommend you use caution when suggesting you are not responsible for maintenance, or can charge customers for an expensive trip and then deliver a much cheaper trip without consequences. My guess is that you may not be told that you are responding to a judge.
When we left the interview my wife had tears in here eyes. She was far from the only person devastated that the company so clearly intended to do little or nothing. I was so astounded that Royal Caribbean really seemed so intent on cheating its guests that it was several minutes before I gathered my wits and started taking down names and Email addresses.
There are numerous really tragic stories. A daughter that missed her fathers 80th birthday party and reunion in Mexico. A grandmother who had over a period of years saved enough out of a Social Security disability pension to take her granddaughter scuba diving in Mexico. There are a lot of stories. I think some of the stories, well told, might attract mainstream media. These are wonderful individuals, some devastated by an easily avoidable maintenance problem.
Other Related Interesting Information
I am in correspondence with people who seem to have credible information that the ships owners have known about propeller and shaft problems since the ship was refurbished. There may be credible evidence the propeller shaft itself is bent. They believe the owners know it is bent and that future problems are inevitable. They feel management is unwilling to take the ship out of service, because they don’t want to loose the revenue or pay the costs necessary to make real repairs. This way they can repair their ship on our time and at our expense. I have been told the diver who examined the damage said this was broken before it left Ft. Lauderdale and should have been repaired there.
Another gentleman who says there were early warnings of serious hydraulic problems that may or not be related to a bent shaft approached me.
So far I can find no one that observed any repairs being made in Nassau. Have any of you?
EVERY ONE OF US FELT THE SHIP SHUTTER FOR A FULL TWO MINUTES DURING THE FIRST SEATING. (THIS WAS A BIG DEAL SHAKE THAT RATTLED THE WINDOWS AND DISHES. SO LOUD WE COULD NOT BE HEARD ABOVE THE DIN. ) The water was calm. The shuttering stopped only after the ship was slowed down considerably. This was the second time the ship shuttered. Please note this happened after the ship was supposedly fixed at Nassau.
As far as I know the Empress of the Sea is already back at sea. Again, it carries the hopes and dreams of another 1600 guests and the promise of exotic destinations . All of us know or at least suspect this is a promise that is very likely to be broken again. In my opinion, this ship is not fixed.
I am a spokesperson. I am one of those [ not the only one ] that took the time to take down names and email addresses I feel comfortable to say of the following on behalf of all 1,600 passengers.
All of the passengers paid to go to Mexico. None of us chose your cheaper trip to Nassau. It is your fault, not ours that we didn’t make it to Mexico. Maintenance really is your responsibility. You should fix your ship on your time and at your expense, not on our time and at our expense.
THEREFORE WE SUGGEST
In addition to your onboard credit you owe each of us, every single passenger all 1,600 of us the difference in fare between a Mexico and a Nassau cruise. None of us should get less than $400 per person, those in upgraded cabins or suites should get no less than $500 per person
All of the guests that took the time to complain should, at a minimum, be offered their choice of a free 5 day cruise to Mexico or a 100% refund.
If this ship is broken or in need of repair, please fix it immediately and adequately. If it isn’t broken we, the traveling public and their agents deserve a real explanation of why it did brake down, why it sometimes shakes so badly and why it can’t seem to sustain its cruise speed.
There are at instances where I think you would be wise to give 100% refunds and an upgraded trip to Mexico
THESE ARE THE REASONS I FEEL YOU SHOULD CONSIDER OUR SUGGESTIONS
1. You promised us a trip to Mexico. You need to deliver on that promise
2. It is the right thing to do.
3. Please read the attached “Anchored in Excellence” It comes from you. It is yours.
4. It will probably save you money. [ Breaking promises to your customers can get very expensive very quickly ] Specifically:
a. If the courts decide negligence isn’t unavoidable. They often do that.
b. When travel agents become even slightly concerned and feel obliged to warn customers that you might not be completely trustworthy.
c. If the media even hints you have a credibility problem or mistreated your passengers or are running a ship that is less than seaworthy.
d. When your repeat customers start using other cruise lines.
5. Convincing the world that you are somehow not responsible for maintaining your own ships is going to be a very tough sell.
6. Your suggestion that, “an unexpected event” is the term we should all be using to describe the results of “negligent maintenance” will not be widely accepted.