On October 13th, six of us embarked on what was supposed to be a 12 night Mediterrean cruise with stops in France, Italy, and Croatia. After just one night, our cruise was abruptly cancelled due to mechanical problems. While shocked that our cruise was to be terminated, we were understanding and had only one simple goal - to preserve whatever we could of our trip. After all, we had just traveled half way around the world to Europe at considerable expense. We expected that Celebrity would make some effort to help passengers in this regard. What transpired was nothing short of a nightmare for so many passengers.
Here's a short list of the issues that we had:
- Poor communications - bad info, contradictory info, inadequate info
- Complete absence of staff with decision making authority - the poor folks who were assigned to manage the customers were way over their heads and there was no sign that anyone of authority was even present on board (the captain made the announcement over the intercom, but to my knowledge was never, ever seen)
- Passengers were initially told that they had less than 24 hours to disembark the ship! That was later extended by another 20 hours, but still left many passengers with insufficient time (see circumstances below) to make new plans
- The cruise line offered "free phone and internet" to all passengers but the phone systems and internet capacity were so limited that making alternative plans from the ship was all but impossible - servers kept crashing and even when operational were horribly slow - no effort was made by the company to put together any kind of on-shore triage area which could have helped complement the ship's limited capacity
- Far too little attention was paid to elderly passengers - many of whom we found in tears or worse - we observed staff telling these passengers bluntly that if they did not voluntarily leave the ship by 5 pm on the second day "you and your luggage will be removed from the ship". Rather than help upset customers, the staff seemed most intent upon imparting the company line that this is all we are obligated to do, so just deal with it
- Many passengers had maxed out their credit lines to take the cruise and were told that refunds would be delayed a minimum of 7-10 days (FYI - we are now at day 14 and no refund has been issued) - this greatly complicated a bad situation for many passengers as they had no credit available to make changes in air reservations, etc.
- The "option" provided by the company was to put passengers and their luggage onto a ten hour bus ride back to Barcelona from Nice, FR. No effort was made by the staff to help the passengers who took this option make modifications to their travel itineraries despite the fact that this would put them into Barcelona 10 days prior to their return flights and with no hotel to accommodate them after the 10 hour bus trip
- When we begged for help in arranging at least one bus to take passengers into Florence, we were stone-walled - we even offered to pay for the transportation, we just needed Celebrity, with all of its resources, to help acquire the bus. Again, this accommodation was outside the company line and we were told that no help whatsoever would be forthcoming
While passengers need to understand that sometimes mechanical problems occur that cause a ship to be disabled, Celebrity should have stepped up to provide more assistance to its passengers. We were shocked at how miserably the company performed under the circumstances and how badly individual passengers were treated. The message was clear - "Too bad. You're out of luck and while we could be more helpful, we have absolutely no direction to do so from the corporate headquarters, so just shut up and take it." Well, we'll take it all right. We'll take our cash and spend it elsewhere in the future.