Last year I published a series of articles about how cruise lines mishandle customer complaints and ruin their reputations in the process.

Part I of "And the Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem" series focused on the ways that Carnival and Royal Caribbean managed to botch customer problems and tarnish their images.  

Part II took a look at Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), which usually avoids the pitfalls of its larger competitors.  But in this case, NCL refused to refund the cruise fare of a passenger whose brother died and the funeral was on the same day as the cruise.  The guest notified NCL, asking for a credit on a future cruise.  NCL said no.  He asked for their cruise to be donated to charity (Make-A-Wish) so a child Cruise Wedding Disasterwith cancer could enjoy a once in a lifetime cruise.  NCL said no.

Then NCL re-sold the cabin to another couple. NCL got a double profit due to the death of a guest.  Ugh.

Most of the time the right thing for your corporate image is exactly the right thing to do for your customer.  But some cruise lines can’t seem to get it right, which brings us to part III of the series.

Last week the Connecticut Watchdog newspaper published an article "Stranded By Princess Cruise Line."  The story involves a newlywed couple from Connecticut, Diana Benne and Adam Gompper.  Both seems like hard working conscientious types.  Diana owns a popular hair salon and Adam is a police dispatcher. 

They purchased a Caribbean honeymoon cruise with Princess Cruises.  Things started out just fine with the couple enjoying the cruise and a stopover in San Juan (photo below).  But it seems like Princess Cruises didn’t inform them of a last minute itinerary change resulting in the Caribbean Princess cruise ship leaving St. Thomas early.  Even though the cruise ship was still tied to the dock, the captain would not let the couple aboard and abandoned them in St. Thomas.  It must be a sick feeling to stand on the dock with only the clothes on your back and watch your cruise ship heading out to sea.  What a way to start your marriage. 

When the couple tried to discuss a resolution to the problem, Princess blew them off.

When I read about problems like this, I think of how easy a happy resolution would be.  Refund the couple their money or give them a free cruise.  In return, you will have dedicated fans of Princess Cruises for the rest of their lives.  The proverbial "win-win" situation.  But ignore or engage in a petty quarrel with a honeymoon couple you left in a port outside of the continental U.S.?  You have earned an enemy for life.

Princess Cruises left the couple in St. Thomas of all places.  St. Thomas has one of the highest murder rates in the world.  You can read about the sad story of a 14 year old girl who was killed last year during a cruise stop-over in St. Thomas here.  

Princess Cruise Honeymoon DisasterPrincess Cruises spends tens of millions of dollars a year marketing itself as the ultimate in romantic cruise getaways.  It is known for its wedding packages and the famous "wedding cams" which you can watch online.  It is, after all, best known for the "Love Boat" television series.  

But when things go wrong on the Love Boat, issues like this are not resolved by the smiling faces in the marketing department.  They are shuffled down to the customer relations and risk management departments whose job is to deny, delay and defend.

Last week, I emailed Princess and asked for its side of the story.  I hoped that I would hear good news, like it decided to reimburse the honeymoon couple their cruise fare.  Then I could write a story with a happy ending.  Instead, I have heard nothing, which seems to be the problem in the first place.

July 16, 2011 Update:

Princess Cruises is receiving alot of bad press about situations like this.  Read: "Eunice Gayle Needed a Blood Transfusion, So Why Wouldn’t Princess Cruise Lines Let Her Off the Boat?

Here are a couple other articles about Princess Cruises’ approach to dealing with customer complaints:

Is a Nuclear Radiation Leak a Valid Basis to Cancel a Cruise? Not According to Princess Cruises.

British Passenger Stuck In Mexican Hospital Following Heart Attack on Princess Cruise Ship


Photo credit: Courtesy of Diana Beene

  • Jason

    Don’t feel bad that Princess didn’t email you back…I’m Elite with Princess and they won’t talk via email with me either. I tell everyone that Princess is “stuck in the Love Boat days” – I think Princess is amazed that they can serve food and make the boat move in the water at the same time.

    Regarding email…I’m sure Princess feels that this is just a phase the world is going through and these computer thingy s will go away and we will get back to the good ole days putting a stamp on a letter and mailing it…this corporate attitude has Princess floundering.

    Princess’s new Facebook presence is also a one way only marketing tool and I wouldn’t be surprised that Carnival told them they had to do it, or maybe Carnival Corp is doing it for Princess.

    Without a serious corporate attitude change, Princess will die off with it’s passengers and I’ll have to find another cruise line.

  • Sharon Gompper

    I am the Mother of the Groom in this story. I would like everyone to know the occupations of these Honeymooners. My new Daughter-in-law is the owner of a prestigous Hair Salon in North Western Ct, and My Son is a Member of the Law Enforcement Community. Thier Friend base is very large, and, regarding the way they were treated, word is quickly spreading. The Cruise lines depend on word of mouth business. When was the last time You didn’t talk to Your Stylist?

  • Gabs

    When I was a crew member (not in Princess, but the same goes for all cruse lines) I used to spend 6 months at a time onboard. If you’re late at the pier, whether guest or crew, you get left behind. That’s how it goes. Even if they missed an announcement the day before (like they say they did on the article you linked) and the stateroom attendant “forgot” to give them the updated newsletter (just them out of a ship full of guests). There are multiple announcements in public areas and staterooms (specially if there has been an itinerary change) on the morning while people are getting ready to leave. And on top of it all, there is a sign at the end of the gangway with the CORRECT departure time. If they were the only ones left behind, it seems to me that they should only blame themselves and learn a lesson from this.

  • Gabs

    Hi Jim. I’m sure they are intelligent, responsible people, that’s not my point. But sometimes you just don’t pay attention to some things. It happens to the best of us. Most times the consequence is insignificant but other times, like on this occasion, it results in a very bad experience. I don’t think Princess set out to abandon its guests. More likely than not, out of the several means to communicate the change in schedule, on of these means was not kept (the newsletter) but that’s why there are redundant communication channels (announcements, gangway sign, etc.). Several times I have left the ship and forgot to check the departure time. I just looked for fellow crew members and asked for the time. If I didn’t find any crew, I’d just go back at a reasonably early time to be on the safe side. Could Princess BE more understanding? Of course! Should it be EXPECTED to be? Not really.

  • Adam G

    To Gabs-I read your comments on our story as well as your comment regarding your wife’s situation. My question is why would you even question that we weren’t paying attention or attempt to defend the cruise line when the cruise industry did that to your wife? If cruise ships are willing to put their own staff in harms way what makes you think that they wouldn’t do that to their passengers?

    Adam G

  • Gabs

    Apples and oranges Adam. I have a big dislike for cruise lines, and I mean BIG, but it doesn’t blind me to the facts. Whether you oversleep while taking a nap at the beach or you get mugged and are laying half conscious in an alley (I’ve heard of both scenarios involving crew), if you’re not at the pier on time, they will leave you, crew or guest. And if there’s a schedule change, they’ll deploy their standard communication means (like I said, newsletter, multiple announcements, gangway sign). If there had been a few stranded guests, I’d be behind you 100%. And it is a FACT that there will be a sign at the end of the gangway with the CORRECT time and you passed by it on your way out. That’s true to HAL, RCL, Celebrity, Carnival, NCL, PCL, MSC and Costa (these I know for a fact). And I believe it’s standard practice to the rest of the cruise lines as well.

  • Adam G

    It sounds like you have a huge dislike for cruise lines….If the cruise line solely relied on a sign posted at the end of a gangway to notify guests of schedule change, then why do they send out letters to the staterooms?

    Let me say this again, we did not get a letter to our stateroom about the change to the schedule. If we did then I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you or anyone else.

    That sign is not big enough, you’re herded out of the boat and it was on the opposite side of the gangway we exited on. Richard Harry, Hotel Manager, on this boat said to us, “We should have a big flashing sign there.” “There are people that didn’t even know we had a gym.”

    When re-boarding our cruise I stood there and watched the mass people being rushed out, not a single person, not ONE person looked at that sign. They swiped there pre-paid crecdit/i.d.’s cards looked straight out to the exciting port they are going to and down to the ground to make sure they didn’t trip. Are you not reading that we were the only two who did not get the letter?

    Richard Harry confirmed, the ONE announcement was made when we were off the boat in San Juan. P.R.

    Lastly, the notification in the patter is a joke. There is nothing bolded or would make you think there is a change. The back on board time was in with everything else, like pottery and zumba. Why would I read the activities occurring at 1 p.m. when I’m not on the boat? Why not put it on the front back in big letters and/or colors?

    So, yes in this case Princess Cruises did not do all it could to notify me and my wife. I don’t care if it was 2 or 200 hundred people. 2 human beings were left. We were on the pier and it was tied to the dock for a good 10 minutes before they dropped the lines.

    We are nothing but money to them and they showed it. Funny they were late to a port and they refunded everyone on the boat 50 dollars. Roughly, 150,000 dollars…you know why? Cause it’s easier to blow off just 2 people than over 3,000 people.

  • Gabs

    I’ll agree totally with you in that you are nothing but money to them and we are nothing but cheap labor to them.

    This is going in circles though. You were the ONLY ones not on board during the “one announcement”? I don’t get that. And you’re right about the gangway signs not being flashy enough. But they’re there nonetheless. I admit I rarely looked at them, since usually I knew the departure time from the many announcements. Maybe it’s not so on Princess but the cruise line I worked with saturated the air-waves with their departure time announcements every 5-15 minutes in the morning while people were disembarking – complete torture after a long night at work.

    If you’re telling me that there are things that could improve in the cruise industry, you’re preaching to the choir, but regarding this subject I stand by what I said, so lets just agree to disagree. After all, whatever a stranger says from the other side of the world will not affect what you do.

  • gompper

    KARMA for the married couple!!! What goes around comes around. This is the least of what they deserve. lol!

  • toniann

    hey gompper, for lack of a better word…YOU ARE A MORON! Keep your idiotic opinions to yourself. Better yet, since clearly you are not an educated person..stay off this website all together.

  • Jack