Message for a cruise passenger

My friends, Mike and Molly Gallant of Hallowell, Maine, went on a Caribbean cruise aboard Princess Cruises’ Dawn Princess in March ’05. For a special treat, they took Mike’s elderly aunt with them. This was to be her first-ever cruise, and the lady very much needed a break since her husband had gone into a long-term-care center and she was exhausted.

On the fifth day of the cruise, Molly went up on deck to call home and report on the great time she and Mike and the aunt were having. Instead, she got the very distressing news that the uncle had had a fall and wasn’t expected to live long.

The three decided to leave the cruise as soon as they could get flights home, and at 2:45 in the afternoon they went to the purser’s office for help in booking their flights. They were told that the person who could help them was in a meeting. They went repeatedly for the next few hours and were told she was still in a meeting. Finally, at 7:45, they were told that her meeting had let out but that she was off duty until the next morning. No one could help them until the next day.

Adding insult to injury, they had been told that they needed to make their decision to go or stay by 7 a.m. the next morning because of an immigration issue. It was suggested they make their own flight and transfer arrangements on the Internet. So much for helpful and compassionate personnel at the purser’s desk.

The uncle passed away that evening, but our friends were not allowed to find out about it. Mike’s son repeatedly called the cruise line, trying to get the message to our friends, but the representative adamantly refused, saying, “Princess does not give out bad news.” Finally, the son begged them to at least knock on Mike and Molly’s door with the message that they should check their e-mail right away. Princess didn’t do that either.

Mike and Molly wrote to Princess Cruises when they got home, detailing the treatment they had received. They didn’t ask for anything; they only wanted someone to know how poorly their situation was handled so maybe it wouldn’t happen to anyone else. They received a form letter saying that Princess was investigating the case and would get back to them in six to eight weeks. Princess did reply, expressing regret and apologizing.

When people take a cruise, they forfeit a certain connectedness to their world back home, but they assume that if anything goes wrong at home, their neighbors/family/friends will let the cruise line know and the cruise line will pass on the messages. Why else would the cruise line provide a list of ways to get in touch with cruisers?

I hope that this article forewarns cruise passengers to find out how messages from home are passed to cruisers, no matter what cruise line is used, so that trust is not misplaced.

Readfield, ME

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Princess Cruises (24305 Town Center Dr., Santa Clarita, CA 91355) and received no reply.