(Review by SueBee0 and husband, ldome)
Have you ever savored the vision and taste of a delicacy, like a special dessert, only to take a bite and find out the cook accidentally used a rotten egg in the recipe? That is the memory I will always have of this, my 5th cruise on Celebrity. Oh yes, the cruise looked fantastic, nice renovated ship, wonderful itinerary, favorable discounted price, friendly staff, but the "rotten egg" taste of how the senior officers and executive management handled the cancellation of this cruise after only 28 hours borders on an exercise in "how not to win friends and negatively influence people".
After the notice of cancellation due to damaged rudders, I was able to contact my travel agent for help, and his initial reaction was that this event was 100% the responsibility of Celebrity, and he advised to sit tight until they offered their help. I soon learned that no help was coming. The senior officers of the ship disappeared and were not seen again, no updates, etc. and only the lower level staff, like dancers, and retail clerks were left to handle the irate passengers. Their mantra was "have patience" and everything will work out. But you could tell they were marching to the orders of the Miami headquarters executives and attorneys, to offload the guests at minimal cost. Then get the ship to Marseille as quickly as possible, so the rudders can be repaired and no more money will be lost by not having to cancel the next trans-Atlantic cruise scheduled to leave Barcelona to Miami on Oct. 25th.
They refused to assist in changing airline reservations if you didn't purchase your air through Celebrity. The only "option" offered was to be put on a bus for 10 hours back to Barcelona, and to pay for one night in a hotel, but we needed 9 nights to use our existing return reservation on Oct. 25th. You would think that they could at least given guests a list of hotels with phone numbers that they recommend in Barcelona, and use their corporate discount to obtain favorable room rates. Although Celebrity said they would pay the $250p/p change fee for our tickets, they initially said they would not pay for the increase in airfare charge of $736p/p/. Also, since Continental Airlines was sold out of seats on Sat.-Mon., we still had to pay for two extra nights in a hotel and meals, until we could take our return flight on Tues., and Celebrity said they were not responsible for these costs. They didn't even offer one free drink at any of their bars on board, and did not provide for water on the bus ride-the driver was selling water for 1 Euro a bottle! The person on the dock at Nice who was supposed to know what hotel they had made a reservation at for you, had 10 pages of staterooms numbers, but also was writing in the margins names of people like me who had no reservations. We boarded the bus thinking we would be staying at some hotel near the airport (supposedly they said for convenience of getting your return flight) but then we were dropped off at the Melia ME Hotel, about 2 miles east of central Barcelona, and about 20 miles west of the airport. The real disappointment came with the meager 25% future cruise discount, not based on the price of the future cruise, but on the deeply discounted price that most guests paid for this cruise. So, a voucher for about $250 was sent out, but for a cruise next year that matches the itinerary of this cruise (except for one port replacing Split, Croatia), the price in 2011 is over $2000p/p.
They apparently had no "disaster recovery plan" on how to help passengers get back home, and being dumped in France, where labor strikes were blocking the ports and the trains were not running, was not my idea of "exceeding my cruising expectations". Since this event, the Carnival Splendor suffered an engine room fire that disabled the ship and the cruise had to be cancelled. The President and CEO of Carnival publicly apologized and said they would do everything possible to assist their guests, including full refunds for cruise and air, and a FREE future cruise up to the amount that was paid for this cruise. He even met the ship as it was towed back into San Diego harbor to welcome the passengers back. Now that far exceeds what Celebrity did for us. These are things you need to consider the next time you choose a cruise line to trust with your time and money, I know I will.