It was supposed to be the best vacation ever; prefaced by three incredible sails enjoyed with Celebrity Cruise Line the summers before it on their other Solstice Class vessels, the Baltic Sea adventure we were about to embark on was understandably met with high hopes, expectations, and excitement. This was our once-a-year family getaway; our annual hiatus from reality that we so look forward to, and our way of enjoying time together before our lives and responsibilities bring us apart for another 365 days. Let it be known that we never ask to be treated like kings and queens, we don’t need red carpets, and we have always been pretty capable of making our own beds; in terms of hospitality, the bare minimum requirement for contentment really comes down, quite simply, to respect. And very sadly, the guest relations team aboard the Celebrity Eclipse was neither willing nor able to deliver.
This being our fourth family cruise with Celebrity, my mother thought it time to explore and upgrade. In doing so, she booked a room for my father and herself with the Aqua Class—one of the ship’s higher level classes. Amnesties include a balcony room on the 11th floor, a sequestered, quite area in the spa all their own, and dining at the high-end Aqua Restaurant, among other things. But of all of these, the only perk my mother was interested in was the dining option, and so in booking, she was sure to not only ask her travel agent if it would be permissible to also eat with her children in the Aqua restaurant, despite the fact that we were not Aqua class, but she was also sure to ask Celebrity at the 1-800 number. Both parties told her it was not an issue, and rightfully so, she believed them.
However, when we arrived to the restaurant our first night aboard the ship, we were told otherwise. With quite the attitude, the hostess informed us that there is a very strict policy aboard the ship disallowing any party not of the Aqua Class to eat in the Aqua Restaurant. My mother explained that she was told otherwise, and the hostess told her it was not her call to make and that she must follow up with guest relations.
I worked in customer service for a very long time. As a matter of fact, I was even a front desk agent at a hotel, and the only cardinal rule I was to follow was always the customer is always right. That being said, I expected nothing but warm hospitality from the Guest Relations desk when we went there the next morning to address the issue, but this expectation was greatly rebuffed. Not only did the Assistant Guest Relations Manager elude a disinterest in my mother’s stress, he also seemed to have no intention to rectify the situation. As opposed to apologizing for the confusion and offering words of comfort, the way customer service agents usually do, he was fixated on where they blame should be placed and who it was that told my mother she would be allowed to dine with her children in the Aqua restaurant. But it was when my mother gave him the name of the agent she spoke with upon booking that things really took a turn for the worse.
It was two days later and my mother and sister were enjoying the Captain’s Cocktail Hour in the ship’s Skylounge. My mother had spent the past two days letting the situation go; it was just money and all she really was asking for was compensation in the form of, maybe, 1 or 2 dinners. She never thought it would trouble the ship so, and thought it a perfectly reasonable request in lieu of the extra $500 she spent for amenities that had proved idle.
But this was when she was approached by the Assistant Guest Relations Manager, who carried himself with a smug demeanor as he informed her that, not only did they listen to each and every phone call she had ever made with the cruise line prior to booking, but that there also is nobody by the name Nastasia, the name she had given him.
Now both infuriated with his accusation of virtually calling her and liar, and confused as to how someone in his position could be so pompous, she placed a call to the 1-800 number, hanging on to the hope that somebody on land would help her rectify this incredibly overdrawn situation. Stressed, angry, and embarrassed my mother told the whole story to the woman on the other line, and the woman on the other line reassured her as my mother hoped she would, “I am so sorry Mrs. Aroshas. I will do everything I can to make sure this problem is solved and you can enjoy the rest of your cruise.” My mother was grateful, but still very upset. And as any human would she uttered the turn of phrase to describe her frustration, “He was so smug, I could shoot him.”
And about 20 minutes later she was called back down to Guest Relations by the manager this time, who notified her security would like to speak with her. But more than just speak with her, they followed her. And so for the remainder of the day, for those silly words she said, despite the fact that they knew well enough she didn’t mean it, had no weapons, or intentions of shooting anything or anyone, my mother was followed around like a criminal; forget rights, or basic common decency. This is planet Celebrity Cruise Line, and apparently, they do what they want.
But the best was yet to come. Later that night, head of security offered my mother an apology on behalf of Celebrity, saying it was all a misunderstanding and that she would not be followed anymore. However, the very next morning she was summoned back to Guest Relations where she was sat down and told a bunch of this and that, the whole time worried that she was about to get kicked off the ship, before they finally got to the chase and let her know that this was all on her permanent record that anything else she did would be watched and that there was nothing they could do regarding her $500 per person because she took it too far.
Needless to say, my mother, who is the kindest, most full of life woman I have ever known spent the remainder of the trip on edge, anxious, scared, and stressed. Haunted by traumatic situations of the past, she was not able to take this easy, and although we, as a family, tried to sway her from the sorrow, it was clear this trip was doomed, and the vacation we had so looked forward to would remain tainted and somber.
So I ask you, Guest Relations team aboard the Eclipse, was that your intention? To take a simple request and make it so impossible to settle so that it pushed my mother to anger, bring us to tears, have us feel uncomfortable and deceived so strongly enough so that it ruined our vacation. Because I’m pretty sure your job is to ensure the happiness of all guest on board. But if it is the former then I am happy to tell you, you surely succeeded.