I’m a lucky guy: been making up for lost time by traveling to some great locations. My travel agent’s got me accustomed to cruising on small ships which, while more costly, offer dynamite service, great food, small crowds, etc.
Recently, my companion and I booked a Greek Isles cruise which was outstanding. We ended up traveling on a cruise line we had not been with before, Azamara. Our accommodation was fine (although the bathroom is small, certainly when compared to other cruise lines I’ve sailed with: Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Viking). Food was very nice, the staff were terrific and the entertainment was awesome.
But on the less than enthusiastic side, paying for the internet is an annoying, nickel-dime process they need to abandon. Also, their website needs work: before leaving, we devoted an afternoon to reviewing shore excursions. We booked several and had those bookings confirmed, However, two days later, we revisited the website to discover no bookings were listed. We literally had to start all over again on the ship. Also, in attempting to book in online, we were told not to do this until May 15: kind of strange when our tour began on May 13th!!
But here is where Azamara really fell down. One of the excursions we booked for the island of Santorini offered free time at a beach. This appealed to us greatly and is why we booked that tour. The brochure boasted about: “…briefly stopping at the Agios Nektarios Church before enjoying some leisure time at the black-sand beach Kamari is now famous for.” In fact, this was accelerated by Azamara’s The Insider report: “Black sand beaches, crystal clear waters… make the island of Santorini a wonder to behold.” But imagine our surprise when it came time to visit this beach, it turns out it wasn’t even on the tour agenda! The tour guide announced the last stop as a winery visit, one which was never even mentioned in the tour descriptor. The guide was totally taken aback when I asked her about the beach: “The beach?” she said. “We don’t have any stop at a beach.” “But the tour description clearly said that there is to be a stop at the beach where we will have free time,” I explained. “It also says nothing about a winery.” “No beach on this tour,” she replied, as though it was me who had the facts wrong. It’s as though she was leading a totally different tour.
We were not amused. We had bought this excursion strictly because of the beach. In fact, we had worn swim suits under our clothes, expecting to swim in the sea, which we love doing.
Returning to the ship, we decided to visit the customer reception desk. Here, we calmly
explained what had occurred and requested the charge for this excursion be removed from my bill. But the lady there said she couldn’t do that: I’d have to talk to the Excursions Department to accomplish this. Now, I didn’t think I should have had to talk to anyone else about this. But apparently I had no choice. So I waited until that desk opened up, later at 5pm, and met with a gentleman there (Mathew). I explained, for the second time, what the issue was. After a lot of back and forth (and I should explain, I never lost my cool: I’m always polite in any kind of situation) during which time he looked at the descriptor of the tour which clearly mentions the beach stop with free time, and does not list any winery visit. At this, he explained they’d have to call the people who ran the tour and request a subtraction from the bill from them. “We’ll have to get back to you after we talk with them,” he said. “We’ll let you know.”
Now, this left me asking a question: does Azamara even care about their customers? Because this attitude certainly reflected the opposite point of view. I mean seriously: if you care about customers, you don’t treat them this way. You apologize profusely, remove the charge form the bill, and then if you need to work this out with some sub-supplier, great, you do so on your time. But you don’t involve me. I didn’t hire Azamara’s suppliers, they did. It’s not my battle. It’s theirs!
To make matters worse, having said they’d get back to me soon, 2 days later, I’d heard nothing. So I went back to the Excursions desk and asked what was going on. “We have not heard back from the tour operator,” was all Mathew could offer. (Perhaps someone might have contacted me and said this!?)
Anyway, 5 days later, the day before the end of the cruise, we received a message saying they would reduce our bill by $17.80 each. Well, I gotta tell you: that is an insult! It’s truly offensive. So I suggested to Azamara that they could keep that seventeen bucks times two: it’s obviously more important to them than it is to us!
Oh, one other matter: my travel agent received written confirmation of free wifi and the upgraded drinks package being provided to us during this cruise. But surprise! After boarding the ship, we discovered neither was being offered to us! Nor was there any interest in fixing this situation.
Overall, the trip to the Greek Isles was wonderful. But I don’t expect I’ll travel with Azamara again: they clearly have no understanding of customer service.