CHOICE membership

Overbooking in the Cruise Industry


#1

Recently I booked a short cruise from Melbourne, and shortly before departure received an offer from Princess Cruises looking for volunteers to give up their cabins in exchange for a free cruise. Clearly they had overbooked their ship, and now needed to figure out how to deal with the repercussions of doing so.

I was promised a free cruise anywhere in the world, an offer I accepted. I was advised that they would contact me within 48 hours. That didn’t happen.

So I began researching replacement cruises, found one to Norway and visited my travel Agent to book it. We selected the cruise, the cabin and made arrangements for flights etc pending confirmation from Princess.

I then received an email from Princess, confirming a holiday on a different ship, to a different continent with a price tag 6 times the price of the cruise I had actually booked. So I rang Princess, who had no idea where that account came from, but told me that my replacement cruise was handled by a specialist section called the “Move Over” group.

I asked to be put in touch with the “Move over” group, but was advised that it would be impossible. I asked the operator to ring that group on my behalf. This too was impossible as ringing that section is verboten! However, they told me they would email this elusive section and I could expect a response within 10-15 days.

I advised them that my flights and other peripherals could not be held for that long, and that the cabin we had chosen (which they had no record of) was one of the last available. However, they insisted that nothing could be done to expedite the matter. I asked to speak to a senior person, but none were available. They promised a senior person would return my call that day. They didn’t.

The next day I rang again, and after a struggle managed to speak to a supervisor. She confirmed that the “Move Over” section could not be contacted by telephone - only email. I asked to speak to someone further up the food chain and was advised that she could not do so as they were contactable only by email. I would have to wait 10-15 days, by which time the cabin and flights would be gone.

In disgust, I wrote a lengthy email of complaint to their head office. A reply was swift. I could expect a reply to my complaint, but I would have to wait 10-15 days before it would be dealt with.

If anyone were to go into a travel agent’s office today they could book that cabin immediately. However, because I have done the cruise line a favour and released my original cabin, I cannot do so. Princess lacks the capacity - or should I say willingness - to hold my chosen cabin until the “Move over” crew get around to processing my case.

Apparently Princess cruise lines have evolved to the point where telephones or verbal communication is now being phased out. No longer can a simple telephone call resolve simple queries. Email is the only communication method they will use internally - no exceptions. Princess owes me a cruise, they own the ship and the cabin and they have all the information at their fingertips. Sadly, they do not value their customers enough to pick up a telephone and use those resources. It’s really nothing short of pathetic.

My cabin, my flights and all the peripheral arrangements will no doubt be lost by the time their 15 day limit is reached and I shall have to start all over again. That’s the thanks I get for digging them out of a hole in the first place!!


#2

Thanks for sharing your sad tale with Princess Cruise Lines.

I would suggest that you publish your tale of woe on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/PrincessCruises/) (just cut and paste what you have here).

Usually the responses and resolutions are much faster when the issue is put onto social medial. As they have 2.1M likes, I suspect that they would not want this to linger longer as it would prevent others from giving up their places as you have, or even prevent potential clients from booking.


#3

Good thinking! I am not really a FB user, so that address is useful. I’ll give it a go!


#4

Excellent advice! I did as you suggested, posted it on Facebook and within half an hour received a request from Princess for more details so that they could follow it up!
If only their default position was to do that automatically rather than writing emails and passing the buck to someone else.
Thanks for the very sound and effective advice!


#5

I always try to keep in mind that these are choices the company has made in how they implement the protocol to deal with customers. Someone, somewhere - or possibly a team of ‘customer service gurus’ - can take credit for the protocol of engagement you are experiencing.

It is inconceivable that this ‘move over’ team don’t have telephones, and it is also inconceivable that nobody can bridge the gap between the minions on the (so called) ‘customer service’ team and the (apparently) untouchables on the ‘move over’ team.

I guess it’s a reminder that ‘no good deed goes unpunished …’

Let’s hope :slight_smile:


#6

It turns out that it was their California office that got back to me (our local office staff are possibly still digesting Christmas cake). They have got in touch with our Sydney office who might perhaps realise that customer service isn’t their strong point. As you say, they all have telephones and in fact they all have access to the ships and bookings. It would not be a hard task to flag the cabin I chose because a new customer could book it immediately!
Essentially, it is a ridiculously complicated way of resolving a simple problem. They have my account; they know what I am owed; they know what I want and they have control over everything.


#7

It would seem that they are not into looking after, and keeping, their existing clients. Instead focusing on enticing a stream of new ones through the door.


#8

Well, this has certainly proven the value of Facebook and public shaming. Since that post and suggestion from Meltam, within 2 hours I have received an online response from their American Office, and now a personal call from the Sydney office promising that the issue will be resolved by this time tomorrow! Now that’s the sort of service I expected in the first place!! A very successful strategy … I’m not one who uses social media very often, but I must use Facebook more often ! :open_mouth:


#9

Let us know the final outcome when all the dust settles.

Another question, did they give you the original offer in writing and what did it say if they did?


#10

The original offer was in writing, and enhanced via a telephone conversation. My original cruise was for 5 nights. The email read as follows:-

Special Free Cruise Offer **
Princess is extending a special offer to guests booked on the 17 December 2018 Golden Princess sailing. Move from this cruise to any other Princess voyage up to 7 nights worldwide and receive:

* 100% of your cruise fare back as refundable onboard credit
* Free Princess cruise up to 7 nights
* Complimentary upgrade pending availability

The refundable credit could either be applied to on board costs or taken as a refund or put towards the cost of an extended cruise. We plan to take a 14 day cruise which means we should only pay for half of that, and the money already paid will go towards the remaining 7 days. It’s a good deal, but the service and systems to achieve that goal are pointless. Basic accounting should mean that whoever books the new cruise should have those details at their fingertips and simply adjust the costs accordingly - it’s not complicated, but they make it complicated by having a whole new section to process it which is unconnected to the main booking system. They now tell me they are reviewing the process, but it must have taken an accounting idiot to have come up with such a system in the first place. Of course if they didn’t overbook, the problem would never arise. That’s a pet hate of mine with airlines as well.


#11

I had a similar email when I was booked on a Japan cruise last year. In fact I received several emails over a few days. I was not interested but then my partner had to go to hospital so I tried to accept the offer. The same move over team could not be contacted any way but by email. Princess cruises declined to move my booking over or to refund my money. The bad customer relations process means they have lost me as a customer forever.


#12

After reading these posts, it looks very much like Princess Cruises should be avoided at all costs.


#13

Is this only a Princess Cruise issue or is it a more general travel industry issue?

Does it relate to other cruise operators, airlines, hotels, package tours etc?

The circumstances related here deserve better consideration from any operator of travel services.
Does two examples for Princess Cruisers make them any worse than the other operators?

The air travel industry is littered with like examples of loss of fares and also fare options which are effectively non refundable if you cannot fly for any reason. Critically travel insurance has numerous exclusions that also limit the protection you can purchase.

It’s one more item to consider carefully before booking!


#14

To be fair, I suspect it is an industry wide issue. Increasingly, businesses reduce staff and adopt strategies to maximise earnings for shareholders. All of this comes at the expense of reduced efficiency and lowered customer service.
Their reliance upon emails rather than telephones reduces the time wasted in one-on-one customer interaction, and ever decreasing staff cuts inevitably cuts service.
I have cruised with Princess before and the cruise was excellent - as most cruises are. However, when something out of the ordinary arises, they just don’t have the framework in place to deal with it.
In this case it’s actually an idiotic accounting process to blame - they have forgotten the KISS principle altogether and adopted an unwieldy process totally unsuited to the situation.
On Thursday I was promised a resolution without fail by Friday. Unsurprisingly, nothing happened on Friday.


#15

And then you post on their FB page what they said they would do by a said time and then what really happened. The more bad news it generates for them the more likely they will respond more quickly.


#16

I was thinking of doing that … might give them until tomorrow though, given that it was a weekend. I’m also unfamiliar with Facebook and when I mentioned the post to a friend he couldn’t find it. I had the same problem … it doesn’t seem to feature at all prominently. Perhaps I posted it incorrectly … as I say, not really a Facebook user.


#17

Don’t forget that between Christmas and New Year most companies only have skeleton staff to address crisises which may arise during that period and normal day to day functions tend to cease. To be fair, it may be best to leave it until at least after New Year or possibly after Monday 7 January 2019.


#18

If they promised and didn’t deliver, it needs to be pointed out.

This should have been taken into account when making their commitment. If they didn’t check, it just shows that they haven’t got their systems sorted. If they did check it shows that they are continuing to under-deliver.

Get back onto Facebook and

In this case, it is the squeaky wheel that gets the attention.


#19

On the one hand I agree - but on the other hand no-one is going to be working on the next few days anyway. I think I might hold off until at least someone is working. I’ll keep you informed!


#20

They have 24/7 eyes on their feedback on social media, if not here then somewhere else in the world eg US or UK. Holidays are the time people are more likely to take some of their trips and they want to limit bad feedback or further use good feedback, they aren’t a Govt organisation that has a fixed working week.