CruiseMates newsletter


What is a Broken Ship?

A disappointing cruise on relatively new ship shows us how critical it is to maintain good management procedures. When a ship's
staff is not vigilant about their procedures the passenger experience can start to deteriorate rapidly.

CruiseMates has published user written cruise reviews since 1999. One thing we noticed is that when someone really did not like a ship they recently sailed, the list of complaints in their review is almost humorously predictable:

  1. The ship had a bad smell
  2. The toilets had a foul odor
  3. There were body hairs all over the bathroom that never got cleaned up
  4. The food was bad
  5. Service in the dining room was late
  6. Room service was late or never arrived
  7. Something promised was never delivered
  8. The staff failed to resolve a problem or gave bad information
  9. They have written follow up letters to the company with no results

We admit, we were amused that so many unique letters have the same litany of complaints, until it happend to us. Imagine my "surprise" when a cruise I recently took led to me writing the same list. I just returned from a cruise with 12 family members for an important anniversary, and I have never been on a ship where so much went wrong.

Making matters even worse, our advice to our readers at CruiseMates is to always try to resolve matters when they happen. Well, I learned that sometimes you cannot resolve things when they happen even if you try, because the staff is incompetent, or even worse, they seemingly can't "hear" your problem.

What is happening? I refer to this as a "broken" ship, where the many departments on board; restaurant, bar services, Internet, photography, videographers, etc. are simply not communicating with the other departments. The staff is likely overworked and under-supported because management is not doing enough prodedural planning and inter-department communication.

On a broken ship, the staff will try to cover up or dismiss problems rather than make them right, in the hopes the complainer will just go away. The reason is they really don't know the answer to the problem because it is in another department and they don't feel comfortable going there.

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What kind of problems did we have?

For our wine service, we ordered a Riesling; a white wine made from frozen grapes which should always be chilled and served in an ice bucket. The bottle was room temperature and sat on our table unopened for 15 minutes while we ate. The waiter, on the second pour, filled some glasses but skipped other people and walked away from the table with the bottle, which still had wine in it. The problem? We had an assistant waiter trying to perform like a trained sommelier, a job for which he obviously was not qualified.

Is this a big deal? Yes, wine on a ship is expensive, at least $7 for a very small glass. Our waiter wasted about three glasses, plus the bottle wasn't served properly. I discussed this with our headwaiter who was standing at our table when A $7.00 dessert Keoki Coffee was delivered to my wife after the rest of our family had already finished eating and left the table, 25 minutes after she ordered it. There he stood while she signed her bill. He could have made it "on the house" but he didn't.

As I pointed out the obvious he promised "I will do something tomorrow to make all of this right." Mind you, this was our final night on board. So, I checked my final bill the next day to see what he had done. Nothing. I found him in the dining room at breakfast and asked how he had resolved our problems. He said, "I talked to my staff, and I guarantee you nothing like this will ever happen to another passenger."

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Excuse me? Am I here for the benefit of the cruise line's future passengers? Then why did I pay thousands of dollars?

Our aunt and uncle, 70th anniversary, were promised a video of the stage show they performed in for the ship. It required five separate queries before we received it. Some of those queries resulted in plain wrong information that would have left us with nothing had we not persisted.

As our list shows, these were just two of many problems. As a professional cruise reviewer, plus having worked on cruise ships in my past, I know my way around pretty well. In the end I was able to solve most problems, but I did spend a half hour at the passenger services desk on the morning of disembarkation waiting for that DVD. Sadly, I doubt the less experienced cruiser would have been successful. They would have left disappointed.

What should you do if you find yourself on a broken ship? Looking back, I would take my problems to a higher source the moment I realize I am not getting a solution. I would go directly to the Maitre D' and skipped the headwaiter. I would ask for guest services management rather than put five different people on a quest to solve my DVD problem.

Bottom line, management needs to know what is wrong so problems will stop happening. The staff is only doing their job, and they cannot do anything that is not within the procedure they are given. If procedure is "broken" that is a management problem.

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