Displeased with aspects of ACCL cruise

We took the 11-night “Belize/Barrier Reef/Guatemala” cruise on American Canadian Caribbean Line’s Grande Caribe, Jan. 24-Feb. 4, ’05. We had cabin 44A, and the cost for the two of us was $5,151.

We chose this trip for snorkel experiences on various cays along the barrier reef off the coast of Belize. The Caribe remained in port one extra day while waiting for U.S. East Coast passengers delayed by winter weather, resulting in less time for cay visits. All total, we had two full days of snorkeling, five half-days of snorkeling, only one half-day glass-bottom boat float for nonswimmers to view fish and three full days of land-related or water-travel days.

The food was good, but the cabins were minimal (no door on the bathroom).

The captain, chef, cabin stewards and dining servers all were courteous, pleasant and good at their jobs. However, in our opinion the tour director, Lindsay Sears, was short with the paying passengers, often pointing her finger at them while making a statement. We felt she was rigid and uncompromising with any requests and gave inadequate or unclear directions.

Although we had been informed by ACCL that we could leave valuables in the ship’s safe (there are no safes in the cabins), Ms. Sears did not want to be bothered retrieving our valuables when necessary.

The cabins numbered in the 40s on the “B” side of the ship are located over the engines. Cabins 43, 44 and 45 on the “A” side are over the very loud generators. The generators are used at night and made sleeping difficult.

Would I go again with ACCL? Probably not.

I answered the ACCL critique, mailing it to their home office and stating basically the same as the above.

Loudon, TN

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to the American Canadian Caribbean Line and received the following reply.

Thank you for your letter regarding a letter of complaint you received from Mrs. Jenny White of Loudon, Tennessee, who sailed with us on the Belize/Barrier Reef/Guatemala itinerary aboard the Grande Caribe. This situation seems to be the exception and not the norm, based on all comment sheets from the trip and our research.

At ACCL we pride ourselves with being able to offer personal service since we are a small, family-operated company. All letters of concern are addressed individually. I note Mrs. White has not corresponded with us directly regarding her concerns. We are in receipt of her comment sheet that did not post any questions for reply.

We suspect that since Mrs. White was a first-time cruiser, she is simply not a good fit for our line. For example, I noted from her comment sheet that they were not fond of our BYOB policy, which in fact is celebrated by our numerous repeat passengers since there is never a charge for beverages on board. They state it does not work. It has worked for over 40 years.

We also were surprised that she felt our line was not cost effective, since we are proud to offer some of the lowest per diems in all the niche cruise industry. Perhaps she is comparing our rates to the mass markets, which is not balanced.

To assist my analysis of the situation, I addressed some of Mrs. White’s concerns, as follows:

Regarding the schedule change: As you may recall, the weekend of Jan. 22, ’05, was one of the worst blizzards the Northeast had seen since the Blizzard of ’78. Many of our guests had trouble arriving. I trust if the Whites had experienced a delay, they would not be displeased with our flexibility in schedule.

We pride ourselves in being a friendly, personal line, and since there were unusual circumstances that affected many, the Captain chose to alter the itinerary. The guests on board were consulted and kept abreast of this at the time, and if the Whites had a problem, it should have been discussed with the Captain at the time and we could have accommodated their concerns.

Regarding no door on bathroom: The guest failed to state that there are heavy vinyl curtains that act as both the shower curtain and as a “door” of the bathroom, which is enclosed in its own space with a proper door opening separated by the curtain. Because the cabins have an economy of scale, this system allows more space in each cabin.

Regarding displeasure with Cruise Director Lindsay: Sample comment sheets from the same trip praise Lindsay. All crew members review all comments, and any negative comments received are noted in the employees’ files for review by the Human Resource department. Service is one of our strongest attributes, and we take any constructive crew concerns seriously.

Regarding noise/engine vibration: We can appreciate that some guests are more sensitive than others to noise. It is our policy that all guests are comfortable, and concerns with comfort and sleeping are solved on board. For example, the cruise director may offer guests a cabin change, if available.

I also note that displeasure with cabin 44A is not a common complaint. There is indeed some mechanical equipment situated below cabins in the aft of the main deck as with any motorized vessel.

Every effort has been made to make ACCL vessels operationally quiet, including the installation of a sound-insulation deck between the engine room and Main Deck and a low-resolution vibration mount system on the engine.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to communicate with you.

MARIA CARLA PREZIOSO, Marketing Director, American Canadian Caribbean Line, Inc., 461 Water St., Warren, RI 02885