My husband and I were looking forward to a 32-day cruise around South America beginning March 2, 2010. Although we live in Michigan, we had planned to be in Florida until the end of February and arranged through Princess to fly from Miami to Chile. Unfortunately, on the morning of February 27 we learned of the earthquake in Chile. We immediately contacted our travel agent and Princess Cruises to get an update on our cruise. We were reassured by Princess that our cruise was still going as scheduled and that we should proceed to Miami for our scheduled flight on March 1 as planned.
We drove to Miami on February 28 and spent the night. We took a taxi to the LAN airlines terminal but upon arrival were informed that no flights were being allowed into Chile due to the earthquake. We were told the airport in Santiago was damaged and at that time they did not expect any flights would be allowed for four days (after two days LAN was allowed one flight a day into Santiago). We were told to get a hotel room (at our expense) and check back periodically. We contacted our travel agent and Princess and explained our situation only to be told that Princess makes travel arrangements as a courtesy for its passengers but they have no responsibility for making alternate travel arrangements; it was up to us to arrange another flight at our expense. We spent two nights at a Miami airport hotel hoping we would eventually get on a LAN flight. We finally gave up and headed back to Michigan.
Although we had travel insurance, since the cruise was not canceled (we just couldn't get to it!) we learned we would not be reimbursed for the cost of the cruise. We were eligible for a limited reimbursement for trip delay if we eventually caught up with the ship in another port. We contacted Princess again and eventually were told they could arrange for us to fly to Buenos Aires on March 9 to catch up with the ship on March 13. However, the stay in Buenos Aires would be at our expense, as well as the flight from Michigan to Atlanta and back. We were given three hours to make up our mind before the offer was withdrawn. We decided to go ahead.
When we finally caught up with the Star Princess on March 13, we were eventually given keys to the stateroom we had booked for the entire 32 day cruise. However, all of our prebooked excursions had been canceled when we didn't board the ship in Chile. We were successful in booking an all day cruise in Rio de Janeiro on March 16. When we awoke that morning, we found a letter slipped under our door informing us that we had to move to another cabin by 9 a.m. that morning! We had not showered or eaten and we had to meet our excursion at7:30 a.m.! As soon as we were dressed we went to the Service Desk to inquire as to why were were being moved (we took along our travel documents from Princess showing the cabin we had reserved - the one we were currently in. No one could (or would) explain why we were being moved other than telling us that there were other passengers arriving in Rio de Janeiro who were being given our cabin. When we asked why the new passengers could be put in the cabin we were being asked to move to, we were told that we simply had to move!
We explained that we had an excursion booked that left at 7:30 a.m. and asked if it were possible to reschedule our excursion for the next day (we were in Rio two days and both days had the same excursions) and were told no they could not switch us. We originally indicated we would not move but changed our minds since we had valuables in the safe in our cabin and we were afraid we would be moved in our absence. We asked for help moving and asked for a rolling cart to transfer our hanging items. We were told we couldn't use a rolling cart since the cabin we were being moved to was not yet vacant - we would have to repack our suitcases (five of them) and leave them in a storage area to be moved later. We were also told there was no one available to help us move. We were VERY upset by this time and indicated we didn't care who they got to help us but we needed someone. They finally agreed to send someone to our cabin to help us. On the way back to our cabin we went by the cabin we were being moved to only to find it was vacant! We transferred all of our belongings to the vacant cabin and rushed to meet our excursion! Our whole day was spoiled by what had happened and when we returned to the ship late that afternoon we had to unpack a second time and consequently missed several activities we had planned to attend. We did to talk to other passengers who had been told they had to change cabins, but they refused and were not moved.
We always book our cabin in the middle of the ship and as low as possible since my husband has a serious seasickness problem. Unfortunately the new cabin was in the very front of the ship and we bounced up and down all night. My husband had a very bad time. The next day we again went to the service desk and explained our problem. They agreed to move us to another cabin. This time we were moved to the back of ship! When I questioned whether we still would have a problem of motion, we were informed that there would be no problem other than possible noise from the engines. We decided noise was better that motion and moved. Instead of bouncing up and down, we moved side to side AND heard the noise. The next day we again went to the service desk and complained. We had asked to speak with Nicholas both times we visited the service desk but were informed he was busy and could not meet with us. After the second move, we were finally allowed to speak with the assistant purser and she arranged to move us to a cabin in the middle of the ship. In discussing our problems with other passengers who had experienced problems during this cruise, we discovered that they had received cabin upgrades, shipboard credits, meals in specialty restaurants, or a combination of these. We were offered nothing for our inconvenience. We could not understand why we were being treated differently!
We finally were successful in getting a meeting scheduled with Nicholas on the afternoon of March 21. We were in Salvador on March 21. Since it was Sunday, we were told that most things would be closed. We decided not to try to book an excursion but to walk to the local market which was open. Before leaving the ship, we left our jewelry in the safe. However, my husband forgot his gold neck chain that he has worn for 25 years. Two blocks from the ship, with people all around us, my husband had his necklace torn from his neck. Since he is 74 and has artificial knees, there was no way he was going to catch them. There there no police around. Needless to say, we were not in a very good mood when we met with Nicholas.
We explained our frustration and asked why we had moved and why we were being treated differently than others who had had problems on the cruise. Nicholas took time to explain what had been happening onboard as a consequence of the earthquake. He asked for a copy of our Princess documents so he could file a report. He also arranged for us to get $100 shipboard credit and complementary dinners in the specialty restaurants.
We understand that the Chile earthquake was a natural disaster and certainly not the fault of Princess. However, it is obvious that Princess did not have in place a plan to deal with emergency situations. We were frustrated and disappointed in the lack of information, misinformation, confusion, and very unhappy with the way we were treated once we boarded the ship, not to mention the additional cost to us to complete their cruise.
Our trip of a lifetime turned out to be a nightmare!