How to Complain to a Cruise Line and Get Results

| August 20, 2010

In Part 2 of this two-part series, we'll examine some specific cases where CruiseMates readers have effectively made their complaints heard by the cruise lines.

Registering a Complaint After the Cruise When you register a complaint after the cruise, that department contacts the personnel onboard who were involved in trying to solve your problem. Working as mediators, they will ask the onboard personnel what happened and what action was taken. They will also ask the employee to assess your behavior as a customer. Are you a good customer whose business is worth keeping, or did you complain about every little thing, demand financial compensation instantly and make a constant public spectacle when you didn't get your way?

What you want from the people on board is a good report card. You want them to say you were gracious, patient and understanding, and that they think you fit the ideal customer profile.

When you write you complaint letter after the cruise, first express appreciation for everything that was great about your cruise experience. If you are a repeat customer who has spent a lot of money with their company, tell them how often you recommend the line to your friends.

Not only does this show them how valuable you are as a customer, it also shows that your complaint is in stark contrast to the wonderful experience that you typically enjoy on this cruise line.

Step Five -- Wait and Follow Up In the letter, tell them when and how you prefer to be contacted. Say you understand it takes some time to process these letters, but that you can be reached at (phone number) every weekday from 9:00 to 5:00. Say you expect an acknowledgement they received the letter within 30 days, even if a resolution will take longer. Mention that if you don't hear from them within 30 days, you will write follow-up letters, and imply that you might copy the president of the cruise line, the Better Business Bureau, the Coast Guard, the CDC and your congressman.

Example: Magnolia Blossom Wrote We actually got a free seven-day cruise for two from RCCL.

The stevedores in New Orleans dropped my luggage overboard and it sank, but they did not confess for two days, and RCCL told us our luggage would meet us in Cozumel, then Belize . . . etc. Finally they told us what had happened. During the cruise we got $150 credit in the gift shop.

We were never ugly or rude. Hey, it was a cruise and it got to be a big joke that I was "nekkid on the high seas." People would actually buy me drinks. Life's too short to be ugly unless it's your only option.

When we got home I wrote a very long and humorous letter to RCCL asking the gents in charge to imagine life with a woman in the same clothes for seven days.

I thought they would give us a discount on a future cruise but was amazed when they gave a free cruise for two. We used it for our first sailing on the Adventure of the Seas, and they gave us a fabulous cabin and a bottle of wine! Kudos to RCCL.

Most CruiseMates Readers Do Receive Compensation Most of our readers -- a good 90 percent -- did receive compensation from the cruise line. What should you ask for and what should you expect? You are most likely to get a future cruise credit. It may be half-off a future cruise, a few hundred dollars off, or it may be smaller. Some of our readers say they received an entirely free future cruise. Some said they got vouchers for a $750 future cruise credit. In some cases it was smaller compensation.

If you hear nothing, or do not get the kind of compensation you expected, the next step is up to you. If you still feel strongly about your case you can follow up, but remain honest. Do not make it into a matter of who is right or wrong, and reiterate what you feel is adequate and fair compensation.

If you are not satisfied, you can choose never to sail with that cruise line again, you can escalate your complaint letters, or you can even file a claim in small claims court. But the aim of this article is tell you what has worked for our experienced cruisers.

Kind, low-key, even-handed letters to customer satisfaction departments of cruise lines generally do get results. You will likely get the most compensation if you accept it in the form of a future cruise credit. If this is not satisfactory to you, then you probably will be dropped from the "valued customer list" and will receive substantially less. The ultimate choice is yours.

Final Word Ultimately, enjoying the cruise is your responsibility. Throwing a temper tantrum in the lobby over a stray body hair in your sink or a torn pillowcase is not going to win you any sympathy with the onboard staff. It also certainly will not get you any compensation. So do not ruin your own cruise by sweating the small details. We understand that sometimes a number of small details will add up to a frustrating cruise - but unfortunately that is probably not enough to get you any financial compensation unless you can prove some monetary damages.

If you have a frustrating cruise due to many small things, do not sail that cruise line again. Send us a Reader's Cruise Review CruiseMates Member Reviews and vent all you want. We do publish every letter we get. But we strongly urge you not to get so upset it completely ruins your cruise. It's your vacation - make a commitment to enjoy it no matter what happens.

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