Some of the cruise lines are famous for telling passengers one thing one time and then something else later. Usually, the issues where there are inconsistencies are generally minor, but my advise to passengers is: If an issue is important to you, get your answer in writing from the cruise line employee or crew member.
First, I should point out that most cruise lines maintain extremely high and consistent levels of service. They provide their ship board employees with extensive and ongoing training. We’ve always found crew members to extremely courteous and willing to go the extra mile for passengers. However, the land based customer service reps may not receive such intensive training. This disparity in training seems to be one of the reasons for inconsistent information being give to customers from the land based representatives and what passengers actually experience during the cruise. Employee turnover also adds to the problem. Crew members change ships or move from one position to another. Cruise Directors and their activity staff constantly move around. Despite a lines efforts to maintain consistent policies, the constant shifting of people sometimes leads to misinformation or omissions. Also, sometimes the ships being at sea provides for somewhat of a disconnect from the corporate offices that set policies. Despite all this flux, the crew members still manage to provide a level of service that would surpass nearly any land based vacation you may choose. Still sometimes crew members get things confused.
For example, on my recent Celebrity Mercury cruise I was handling the tipping, utilizing the auto tipping for our cabin service and dining room service. I was a little surprised to see that the forms indicated full price for the kids since I knew I had read that they would be 1/2 price and we had paid 1/2 price for their tips on our previous cruise. When I went down to the pursers desk to ask about the full price tipping verses the 1/2 price tipping, the customer service person told me that it was full price and had always been full price. It wasn’t a very big deal, so I just went with the stated the policy, however, when I got home I did a sanity check. I found that I had indeed paid 1/2 price tipping for the kids on a previous Celebrity cruise. I also found literature still online on the Celebrity UK website that sill showed the 1/2 price rate for children’s tipping. The issue here was that the employee truly believed that this was the policy that had always been in place. Had this been a huge deal to me, (believe me it wasn’t), and had I had literature in hand stating the 1/2 price policy, I perhaps could have convinced the service rep to adjust the charge to half price.
In another minor incident, I went up to the spa to book a massage, fully expecting to pay full price. When I made the reservation the representative of the spa told me since the next day was a port day, I would receive a discount on the massage. After the massage, I was charged full price. The representative said that only the “In Port Special”, a facial, was discounted. A regular massage was not discounted. Again, not a big deal since I was going to book a full price massage anyway. However, since the employee had given me the misinformation that it would be discounted, it was a bit of a disappointment that I did not receive the discount. Again if the discount had been a big deal to me, I should have gotten the employee to give me a written quote for the discounted price when I booked the massage.
However, there was an issue that was very important to me. I like to bring a few special wines from home when I cruise to enjoy either in my room or in the dining room with a corkage fee. Before my cruise to Mexico in 2006, Celebrity changed their literature to say no alcohol what so ever could be brought on board for consumption. At the same time, they also raised the corkage fee in the dining room from $15 to $25. My thoughts were “well, how can they raise the fee if it is not allowed in the first place.” So I decided to get the exact policy in writing from some one in authority from Celebrity. I contacted upper management, pointed out to them the inconsistencies in their published and online literature and got clarification in writing as to the true policy. It seems that Celebrity would be allowing passengers to bring two bottles of fine wine on board for in room consumption or consumption in the dining room with the new $25 corkage fee. I printed this e-mail from the Celebrity representative and tucked it into my suitcase just in case there was any issue with my boarding the ship with the wine. It turned out that I wasn’t even questioned about bringing aboard the wine, but I had my policy in writing just in case.
Who knows what issues will come up and be important to you, but on any issue that will either make or break your cruise, make sure that you get your answer in writing. That way you’ll have something to back up your word. Most likely you will never need it, as was my case with my “wine note”, however, it never hurts to have backup. Happy Cruising.