Passenger Complaint – Costa Cruises Consumer Review April 16, 2009 – “Regarding: Costa Fortuna Cruise Experience. Booking: ** $1072.04 and ** $1072.04 Total Amount: $2144.08. Dear Mr. Arison: my name is Corteza ** and my husband and I were Carnival/Costa Cruise Line customers. I hope you enjoyed your holiday season with your family, friends and co-workers. Below you will find the details of a recent experience with the Costa Fortuna Cruise ship. My husband and I recently made the decision to take my mom on a cruise for her Christmas vacation. My mom had a rough 2008 and we wanted to do something special for her. She recently divorced her husband of twenty years (2nd divorce), she suffers from high blood pressure and she is in the process of losing her home due to a failing daycare business resulting in a financial hardship.
She is also a recent cancer survivor and currently suffering from severe diabetes which is impairing her ability to walk for long distances resulting in the need for her to utilize handicap parking. We also included our son in this vacation as an early high school graduation gift. My husband found a great deal with Costa Cruise lines for the four of us which included my mom and son. We were scheduled for a 7-day cruise from December 21-28, 2008. When we booked our cruise it was booked for four passengers: James **, Corteza **, Lynda **, and Trenton **. For some reason when we received the confirmation information via email; it included the names of all four passengers. However, when we received the boarding documents and luggage tags, it was only for my mom and our son (Lynda Baker and Trenton Succes).
My husband made numerous calls to get the remaining documents. He finally reached someone who agreed to email the remaining documents the week of our trip. We never received the promised documents via email. We contacted your customer service department again on Friday, December 19, 2008 to report the issue and to submit another request for the documents. The agent informed us that it was too late to get the documents. The department, who handles this type of request, did send the documents and they were now closed. The agent stated our names were on the manifest for the cruise and we should be able to board without a problem.
Sunday, December 21, 2008. We live in Chicago; however, knowing the Chicago weather and the reputation for many airport delays. We intentionally booked our flight to leave out of Indianapolis, Indiana. We left our home in Chicago at 4AM on Sunday, December 21st to ensure we arrived on time to catch the flight. Our flight with Southwest Airlines was a connecting flight in Tampa to Fort Lauderdale. However, our flight in Tampa that was scheduled to depart at 1:50PM was delayed due to the weather. Several travelers during this weekend experienced flight delays and cancellations due to the bad weather. My husband and I immediately began calling the customer service numbers for Costa Cruises. One number indicated the customer service center was closed and recommended another number for us to call.
We called the recommended number and the number never connected to an IVR or customer service agent. We made attempts to locate the Miami Port number and the customer service booth in the airport for Costa Cruises. We made numerous calls and attempts to reach someone at your company between the hours of 1:50PM-5PM Florida time. All attempts were unsuccessful. Our flight left Tampa to Fort Lauderdale after 5PM. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale before 7PM and immediately caught a cab to the port. The port police informed us that the Costa ship left early around 5:30PM. He recommended for us to catch up with the ship at the first port of call (Key West).
Our boarding documentation noted the following times: Date of boarding Embarkation time from Final boarding time Departure Time 12/21/08 13:30, 17:30, 19:00. The officer noted they were scheduled to leave at 19:00 hours; however, they left earlier according to two port security booth. As I understand it Carnival Fun Ships frequently receives notifications from passengers who are arriving late due to flight delays. If it impacts a large group of passengers they will often delay the departure time. If this is correct, why doesn’t Costa follow the same practices? We rented an Avis car (rental number: **) for $161.43 and drove overnight to Key West. We arrived in Key West at 1:30AM. We drove to locate the correct port that the Costa Ship was scheduled to dock at. Another port officer checked the morning newspaper to confirm the port for us. We slept overnight in the car near the port.
Monday, December 22, 2008, at 7AM, upon the ship’s arrival to the port, we greeted the Key West Port Police officer. He apologized for the inconvenience and the issue and stated he would contact the ship’s purser to make him/her aware that we were attempting to board the ship due to missing the ship in Fort Lauderdale. We heard the officer contact the ship staff and he provided them with our names and booking numbers. The officer informed us that the ship was experiencing mechanical problems. Once they have the cruise passengers on the shuttles and they resolve the mechanical problems a cruise representative would come down to meet with us.
The officer shared that there was a law (Jones Act) which requires a penalty to be paid if we board the ship. He stated the captain was empowered to make an exception. He shared that exceptions are often made at the captain’s discretion. We agreed to pay the penalty if required. At 8AM, we began calling your customer service center. The voicemail indicated the customer service center doesn’t open until 9AM. At 9:AM, we began calling the customer service center again. The first few agents that we talked to indicated the decision was up to the ship’s captain and he was empowered to make an exception. All shared it was nothing they do to resolve the issue for us. We would have to wait until the captain reviewed the matter to make a decision.
At 11:AM, the ship’s purser arrived and informed us that he was very sorry; however, the master was refusing to allow us to board. He informed us that he didn’t think there would be a problem and in an effort to be proactive he drafted the declaration for us to sign agreeing to pay the $300 penalty. He stated the master had the authority to say yes or no and he didn’t want to take the risk to allow us on board. We begged him to allow us to talk to the master. I was in tears because our scheduled vacation for my mom was ruined. He stated the master did not want to talk to us and it was nothing he could do to help us. He stated the captain called someone in the Miami office who agreed with his decision to not allow us to board the ship.
The Purser informed us that we were not the only passengers who missed the ship due to the airport delays. He showed us a listing of more than 30 passengers who missed the ship in Miami. He noted that we were the only passengers who attempted to catch the ship at the next port; however, he apologized that there was nothing he could do for us. I talked to an agent named Queen ** (954-266-5600). She basically told us it is what it is and they will not refund anything and there was nothing she could do. I asked to speak with a supervisor and was told that none were available to speak with me. I asked to speak with a manager and was told none were available.
I was then transferred to a supervisor named Gloria **. I asked for the name of the director for the customer service center and was provide the name of Adreannia **. I was told that she was out of the office for the holiday and not scheduled to return until after the New Year. Gloria was both rude and unwilling to help us work towards any form of a resolution. She stated there was nothing she could do to help us. She recommended for us to catch a plane to Cayman Islands to catch up with the ship. I shared my concerns with her lack of professionalism and her overall poor customer service. I felt that I was the one searching for resolutions and Gloria did not attempt to identify any resolutions for the matter. She stated it was against the Jones Act law.
Gloria informed me that the only department that could help me would be Guest Relations. She stated that her department only handles issues up to the booking of a cruise and any post cruise issues are handled by Guest Relations. I asked for the Guest Relations department and she informed me that she would transfer me; after a brief wait she informed me that there was only one agent working in the Guest Relations department today. She suggested for me to call back at a later time. I explained that we were in Key West and didn’t know what to do and was hoping that someone would assist us with allowing us to board the ship. She then stated she would tell them to call me back.
I informed her that all of our cell phone batteries were close to running out and I would like to attempt to resolve the matter now. I did request the name of the Vice President of customer service and was given the name of Rubin ** along with the main switchboard number. I was transferred to Shay or Shari ** (Guest Relations). Shari stated it was nothing she could do and the company would not refund our money nor could she require the captain to allow us on board. She stated the decision was up to the captain and he was the highest ranking official within the company who could make a decision to allow us on board. I asked to speak with a manager or supervisor and she initially stated that none was available; however, she provided me with a name of Sandra ** and stated she was out of the office.
I then contacted the office of the V.P of operations Rubin ** and left a voice mail for his assistant. I called the main switchboard again and the receptionist transferred me to Sandra ** (954-266-5625). He stated she was in the office and he would transfer me to her extension. Mrs. ** informed me that she was the General Manager for Costa Cruise Guest Relations department. She stated my only option was to schedule a flight to the Cayman Islands to catch up with the cruise ship. She was unable to provide me with a guarantee that we would be allowed to board the ship in the Cayman Islands. While speaking with Mrs. **, I attempted to ask her a question.
I started with “Hypothetically Speaking,” she interrupted me and stated, “Hypothetically speaking your answer is no?” She then stated it’s a violation of the law and what do I want her to do. She also referenced the Jones Act. I informed her that I never heard of the law and was trying to locating information related to it on our travel documents. She proceeded to be combative and rude throughout our conversation. I asked if 100% of her calls were recorded and she replied no. I asked if she could select an option on her phone to record our call from the beginning and she replied no and what was the purpose. I responded that I am sure that her director or V.P would not be in support of the manner in which she was speaking to a customer.
I shared that I was shocked that any manager would represent their organization in the manner that she was during our interaction. She was interrupting my comments and was both short and abrasive with me during the call. She then proceeded to argue with me that she was not being rude. I had to restate all of her comments for her to recall how she interrupted me and how she responded to my inquiries.
I then shared that I was a Customer Care Director and I was very concerned about her behavior because I consistently maintained a professional demeanor and tone. I was not irate nor did I use any inappropriate language nor was my tone loud or mean. I finally informed her that it would be best for me conduct a conversation with her senior leaders because as a consumer I did not deserve to be treated in that manner if she wish to continue her unprofessional behavior it would be impossible for us to have a productive and effective conversation.
The assistant for Rubin ** did return my call; however, she had spoken to Sandra ** who had previously demonstrated rude and discourteous behavior towards me. The assistant stated it was nothing she could do and the V.P was out of the office in meetings the entire day. My concern with the assistant was that she never allowed me to introduce myself; she did not provide me with an opportunity to explain the nature of the events which started on Sunday. She simply went by whatever information Mrs. ** provided. This conversation was not interactive between two parties, I was only provided with the option to listen to what she had to say and that was the end of it. She informed me that I would need to contact Mr. ** after the holidays perhaps during the week of January 5, 2009.
This was my mother’s very first cruise vacation. She was extremely disappointed and I wanted to do something to turn this situation around for her. After many unsuccessful attempts to resolve this matter with the Costa Cruise employees and management team; I then called Carnival Cruise lines at 12PM, they were unable to address this issue with Costa Cruise and they explained that they are owned by the same company; however, they do business separately. The agent then shared that she was unable to transfer our payment for the other cruise to Carnival cruises. However, she was able to book us for a cruise that was scheduled to leave as we arrived in Miami from Key West around 3PM.
We prayed the entire time with hopes that we would make it in time to catch the Carnival cruise. We paid for another full cruise which was only for four days ($2326.92). I must compliment Kanice ** the Carnival agent (ext:**) who completed our booking. She was very apologetic for our experience. She genuinely demonstrated empathy and compassion for our situation. She provided us with her direct contact information and recommended for us to contact her directly to get any updates on the status of the Carnival cruise prior to our arrival. In addition, she actually called the Carnival port office for us to get an update on the cruise, to determine if there has been any delays due to flight delays or passengers arriving late, and to communicate our arrival for the cruise.
She was absolutely awesome and if she ever decides to relocate to Chicago, I would hire her for my call center. She was the light of sunshine after travelling through a dark tunnel for two days. She demonstrated Customer 1st, professionalism and exceptional customer service during our entire interaction. Between my husband and I, we actually talked to her 6-7 times during our drive from Key West to Miami. Please recognize her for doing an outstanding job. Carnival Cruise Booking Information: Carnival Imagination 12/22/08 Booking NO: ** James & Corteza Total: $1163.46. Booking NO: ** Trenton & Lynda Total: $1163.46. Sailing Duration: 4 Days Category: 6C Complete Total: $2326.92
Tuesday, December 23, 2008, once we were able to get our phones charged, I checked my voicemail and received a message from the General Manager Sandra ** who was rude with us on Monday afternoon. She stated that she was calling on behalf of the Vice President with an offer for us. I immediately contacted the General Manager at 9:40AM and she inquired if we were able to catch a plane to the Cayman Islands. I informed her that after our experience we were worried that we would be turned away again by the captain and didn’t want to incur the expense to make the attempt.
She shared the Vice President wanted to offer us another cruise that was scheduled to sail on Sunday, December 28, 2009. I informed her that we are unable to do it at that time because we were scheduled to return to work and my mother had scheduled medical treatments. I inquired if we could do it at a later time and she stated this was a one time offer from the Vice President. She then stated there was nothing more she could do for us. I inquired if I would be able to find the names of the Board of Directors on the company’s website, she responded no, the information is not available on the website.
I then inquired if her company post their annual reports and the financial report to the Board of Directors and Shareholders on their website and she responded with no and that she could provide me with any information that I would need. As a business professional, I knew that she was then providing inaccurate information. Any consumer today can locate the board of directors and the annual reports for any company who has a website. Note: I was able to easily access this information when I arrived home; which allowed me to get all of the contact information I needed to distribute this letter to share my experience with both the senior leaders of this organization to include the current board of directors.
Friday, December 26, 2008, upon arriving home, we checked our voice messages for our Size: 384 KBhome phone. We received the following voicemail message “This message is for James and my name is Leonora and I am calling with Costa Cruise lines regarding two bookings ** and **. We received word that both bookings passengers did not embark yesterday at Fort Lauderdale. If you could please call me back and advise me if passengers are a true no show or if they will embark at another port. My phone number is **, if passengers are not embarked by the 3rd port of call, they will be canceled with full penalty. Again my name is Leonora and my hours are Monday-Friday 9am-6pm Eastern time. Thank you?.”
This message indicates that we can embark the ship either at the 2nd or the 3rd port of call. She never indicated that we could not embark at the 2nd port of call. Below you find the call detail information: Call Type Duration From Date. Voice Mail 0:48 (954) 266-5600 12/22/2008 01:18 PM Size: 384 KB. In addition, upon returning home, I conducted research into the Jones Act. The act is actually referred to as the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886; however, it is commonly confused or referred to as the Jones Act in error. The Jones Act is related to the safety of Marine Workers. If your passengers are truly impacted by this law, I am curious as to why you do not mention or document it in any of the documentation related to any scheduled cruise bookings.
This information can not be found on your website, nor in the documentation we received prior to the cruise. I recommend for you to educate your customers on any laws which may impact their ability to embark on any of your cruise ships within the United States. In addition, the agent who called us on December 22nd was not familiar with this law because her voicemail indicated we had up to the 3rd port to embark the ship. I would like to speak with a senior leader within your organization to discuss a resolution for this matter. Please feel free to contact me at ** or via email at **.”
Costa Cruises Response: None