Having been on cruise in past on Royal Carribean the thought that P & O were bringing a "MEGA" to NZ was exciting so we booked not long after the cruise itinerary came out in 2009 for Jan 11 cruise. We booked top suite on top deck.
The build up to our first ever Pacific cruise was huge and we counted the days after a long unpleasant 2010 year to board the ship on Jan 9th 2011 to sail away to paradise.
Pleasantly surprised by our suite and even more so by the room steward we had Jheffery (yes that is how it is spelt) settled in for ten nights of bliss!.
The weather for first few days was ok but surely hot enough and good for sunbathing on the deck, sipping cocktails, swimming etc . Day three was the hottest by far and so simply melted all day on the top deck.
We were advised that day that our first stop at Mystery Island was cancelled as a tropical depression over Vanuatu had turned to cyclone and therefore unsafe for us to make land there.
Then HELL broke loose , woken in middle of night in massive (confirmed up to ten metre) seas, cupboards slamming, fell out of bed, things falling from shelves, kids very frightened after realising that the ride was not going to stop and there was nowhere to go even if you could try and walk around.
The ship pounded into the huge seas and slamming down into the bow and completely shuddering all night long....... we are boat people but honestly felt extremely helpless waiting for the call to muster stations which thank god didn't eventuate.
The ship the next morning was of course like a ghost ship, sick bags everywhere, restaurants empty and so fourth.. the weather continued to to be foul and rough.
We limped into Port Vila which itself was trashed from the cyclone, there we sat.
The damage to the ship was evident, large gashes bow and stern, photo's of this saw you marched off by security smartly!
Captain announced that the itinerary was cancelled and we would be heading four days at sea home to get there for the correct arrival time to begin the next cruise.
Saturday morning after requesting to know what the weather was expected to do we find out that people have been leaving the ship to fly home the day before and several were sitting awaiting to leave with their suitcases as we enquired at reception.
Despite demanding to talk to someone who actually knew about what was happening they refused to do that in reception instead promised to call us in our suite - obviously the topic was delicate for them.
They called us within the hour to advise the trip back was expected to be the same possibly worse... the receptionist then joked "can I come with you when you leave"... interesting comment?
Anyway straight away we booked flights to leave the ship the cost of which had shot through the roof over night due to heavy demand for people wanting to leave the ship.
Leaving the ship was awful, we passed families, mothers, older people, many of whom were in tears as they couldn't afford the flights out and therefore had to stay on the ship for the unknown journey home.
Our kids were relieved as were we to get out of the hell situation.. by this stage the ships pools were not functioning, the entertainment schedule had run out of steam and shrunk to a couple of things per days rather than the full schedule we were used to , the captain had all but stopped communications with passengers and generally staff on board had lost all interest, were tired and in need of good rest!
WE understand P & O cant help the weather and accept that BUT what we cant accept is the complete lack of communication from the bridge so we set out to ask P & O the following:
- could the captain perhaps have even asked if all passengers were okay the next day, made effort to provide some sort of goodwill like free doctor check for those in need, free internet to keep in touch with loved ones who were worried, free drinks, cabin credits or such like?
- not a single mention was made to all passengers of the expected weather on the trip home, we only found out because we demanded to know,
- NO mention was made of the further two cyclones headed down the Pacific to NZ, these hit NZ on the Tuesday 18th at midnight just when the ship was expecting to round Cape Reinga for the leg home - WHY.. simply put they needed to be back for the next cruise to depart on Wednesday.
- no efforts was made to inform anyone to allay rumours or talk which was rampant on facebook, text and mobile about reports on the cyclone in New Zealand,
- the mobile network on the ship was not working for anyone we spoke to , only when we got to Vila did it work hence the panic by relatives at home who couldn't get hold of anyone after hearing about the weather conditions.
- not a single apology or contact from P & O on our arrival home to talk about what happened, any offer in relation to the cancellation of the itinerary - instead of a ten days cruise to different places we got a ten days taxi ride to nowhere.
- not a mention of the earthquake off the coast of Lifou which we got rung and told about.. this was supposed to be our next stop, when asked at reception they knew nothing of it.. strange?
- since contacting P & O we find they aren't that committed to NZ, instead have front ed with a BIG ship, lots of hype and sales activity but if you want any help you must go to Australia who don't give a damn!
Port Vila was a shocker! Passengers were basically fed to the wolves (taxi drivers) when you got off the ship, the yelled at you, pulled at your clothes and basically just wanted to rip you off... older couples were prime targets waiting to happen and P & O made not a single show of effort to ensure that people were protected from this shocking display at the port next to the ship .. absolute anarchy to say the least!
We are reasonable people, would rather discuss issues and sort out, but if someone puts our kids through hell like this without a single apology or recognition of the fact that they need to look after their customers and communicate then they shouldn't be in the business of tourism.
Royal Carribean are coming to the Pacific now, they will have our lifelong business from now on, they have courted us on their ship "Rhapsody of the Seas" that was in Auckland couple of weeks ago and they know how to run a business like this... customers matter!
We don't care about the money, we don't want money all we want is recognition and discussion about what happened.. instead we are left completely ripped off to the tune of $12,000 (cruise cost), no holiday and a letter from P & O stating take your problem legal if you wish to pursue.
Our request to talk with Anne Sherry the CEO of Carnival Australia has been declined.
Travel with them at your own risk, maintenance doesn't appear priority (clearly since the large atrium chandelier fell several stories to the floor some three weeks - clearly weakened by our trip one would imagine.. fortunately no poor sole killed) YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!