I seriously believe that Royal Caribbean put all its passengers aboard the Enchantment of the Seas at danger. On Tuesday 9/5 when it was announced that the ship would be heading back to the Port of Miami and not making it to Coco Cay and Key West due to Hurricane Irma, I along with many other passengers went into panic calling our family at home as well as the airlines in which we had our flights booked. We were told later that the ship would be staying in Nassau, Bahamas until 4p Wednesday afternoon. This was not necessary, when a category 5 hurricane was approaching. If Royal Caribbean really had the best interest of its passengers at hand, it would have had the Enchantment of the Seas return to the Port of Miami as soon as possible instead of wasting the actual day. At this point, the cruise was no longer fun and this was no longer a vacation, but a complete nightmare. We were unable to enjoy our dinners or drinks because we were constantly trying to come up with the best plan to stay safe once we could exit the ship. Like mostly everyone else on the ship in a panic, we tried to get on the line to Guest Services. This line was wrapped all the way around the ship with only 3 staff members available at the desks to help. We had inquired about what our options were since the ship was docking in Miami on Thursday afternoon and our flight was not until Friday night. At this time, a staff member informed us that we would be able to stay on the ship at our own discretion Thursday night. On Wednesday 9/6 at 10pm, I was notified while on the phone with Jet Blue that our flight for Friday night had been canceled and all the Florida airports would be closing. We waited on line again at Guest Services to see what our options would be once we arrived in Miami, being that we were from New York and no longer had a flight home. As we were waiting, a staff member approached us and asked if he could help us. I said I was really scared because we were watching the news and they were talking about traffic and gas shortages throughout Florida. I asked him how bad the conditions were on land in Florida and he told me he had no idea. I then asked him what the safest option was for us once the ship docked in Miami. He asked me again where we were from and when I responded “New York”, he replied with a “Pssshhhhh” and a shrug of the shoulder. Fuming and in a panic – I asked him if that was the best answer he had and all he did was say he was sorry. My life was in extreme danger, and all this Royal Caribbean staff member could do was offer me an apology? When I asked him where he was going after the ship dumped all its passengers off – he told me they would go out to sea somewhere safe and far away from the storm. I asked if passengers would be able to travel with them wherever they went and he said “Crew only”. When we finally got to the front desk, I told the woman we were from New York and our flight had been cancelled and we were scared that we would be left stranded in Miami. I told her we had reserved a rental car but we were worried because of all the traffic and gas shortages we heard about on the television in the room. I asked about the conditions on land and if there were any shelters where we could stay to be safe in case we were unable to evacuate Florida. Her response to me was “Let me Google it and see what I find.” Let me break this down for you:
• A category 5 hurricane is approaching the Caribbean and Florida
• I am stuck on a cruise ship in the Bahamas in a state of panic
• My flight has just been canceled out of Florida
• Florida is being evacuated
• Once again in case you need to be reminded: I am stuck on a cruise ship (a major cruise line might I add!)
• I am speaking with Guest services – my only hope at this point of getting to safety
• I inquire about safety options
• I am told “LET ME GOOGLE IT!!!!!!”
Let that sink in…Royal Caribbean, a major Cruise Line did not have a plan in place for any of its thousands of passengers aboard the Enchantment of the Seas in preparation of a category 5 hurricane. The only plan they had was to open phone lines in the cabins and grant each customer a half hour of internet access (which didn’t work because everyone was trying to access the network at the same time). In the end, Royal Caribbean would dock in the Port of Miami a day early and let all of their passengers fend for themselves during the fast approaching natural disaster.
This is not all. It gets better (or worse – however you choose to look at this). For those of us who were choosing to exit the ship and not return, we were asked to meet at a specified deck at 3:20pm on Thursday 9/7. My boyfriend and I arrived on the appropriate deck at 2:45pm and it was total chaos. People standing everywhere with no organization. Two young women appeared around 3p to tell everyone to get in line and then quickly disappeared. Around 3:45p a man appeared and began handing out stickers with no explanation. Elderly people were left standing with heavy luggage for over an hour’s time. No staff members came to give updates or offer beverages to the passengers standing in a tight crowded space for a decent length of time. Once the line began to move, we had to walk down 2 flights of steps with all our luggage. At this point, we could see staff members scattered throughout the crowd. Elderly people were struggling with luggage and were not offered any help by these staff members. When my boyfriend pointed out to one of the Royal Caribbean staff members that there was an elderly couple behind us that needed help, he insisted that that was not his job. My boyfriend said, “you are standing there doing nothing.” The staff member then said “This is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.” DISGUSTING!!!!
It is truly disgraceful the way Royal Caribbean passengers were treated after the announcement was made Tuesday evening that the hurricane was approaching. Passengers did not receive any support or guidance on what to do and where to go during this crisis. I would think that a major cruise line like Royal Caribbean would be more prepared for circumstances such as this considering natural disasters and other unexpected emergencies can occur at any time while out at sea. After a full day of knowing that Hurricane Irma was approaching and that the state of Florida was evacuating and experiencing gas shortages, I would have thought that Royal Caribbean would have obtained a list of shelters or emergency phone numbers to provide to its passengers who were left stranded in Miami with no way out due to cancelled flights and unforeseen travel plans. I would have expected that there would have been more staff members available at guest services and that there would have been actual answers to questions considering this was an International cruise and there were people on board who were not only unfamiliar with Miami or Florida but the United States in general. Royal Caribbean kept claiming they had the passengers’ safety and best interest at hand, but I cannot believe this statement to be true, when the ship stayed docked in Nassau for an extra day. I do believe Royal Caribbean was only worried about preparing the island of Coco Cay and not having to refund any money back to all its passengers on board the Enchantment of the Seas. I was able to obtain a letter that people on board a Norwegian cruise received on September 5th, stating that they would also be changing their itinerary and returning back to the Port of Miami a day early. The letter stated that each passenger would be refunded the prorated amount of the days they lost on the cruise and they would offer a 25% off voucher to put towards a future cruise. In addition, they also stated that they would reimburse each person up to $300 for any travel plans that needed to be adjusted due to this inconvenience. When I called Royal Caribbean Customer Service, I was told they are not offering anything to their passengers because we had the option to stay on board until Friday instead of choosing to leave late Thursday afternoon. So, in other words, Royal Caribbean, who was so concerned with the safety of its passengers expected everyone to stay on board an additional day while conditions in Florida would only be getting worse by the minute. Royal Caribbean should reevaluate the situation here and take notes from the way their top competitor handled the situation. I never felt safe or reassured at any point after we were told that the hurricane was affecting our travel plans. I was unable to enjoy any activities on board and mainly focused on making my way back home to New York in the smartest safest way possible with absolutely no help from Royal Caribbean. This was not a vacation to me, but a very expensive nightmare.
We never made it here and Royal Caribbean isn't doing anything to compensate for it.
We never made it here and Royal Caribbean isn't doing anything to compensate for it.