Re shore tours, stockholder perk

I took a cruise on the Maasdam across the North Atlantic from Rotterdam to Boston, Aug. 2-20, ’06. I’m generally not a great fan of cruising on large ships, but this cruise made stops in the Faroe Islands, which I hadn’t seen before, and at places in Iceland and Greenland that I hadn’t been to on previous visits.

One of the stops in Greenland was at Qaqortoq, which is near the site of the first Viking settlement, which had been abandoned under mysterious circumstances. Unfortunately, HAL had not arranged any land tours there, so I asked at the shore excursion desk if they could call the Qaqortoq tourist office to find out what tours might be available.

The clerk told me that they could not communicate with Greenland, so I offered to provide him with a telephone number which is in the Lonely Planet guide. This flummoxed him, so he called his supervisor, who came to the counter to inform me that their role was to sell tickets to land tours, not to provide help to passengers.

On another issue, Holland America Line is a division of Carnival Cruise Lines, in which I own a few shares of stock. After my return from the cruise, I read in the annual report that stockholders are eligible for a discount on shipboard purchases. To the address given in the annual report, I wrote a letter inquiring whether I might be able to receive a credit on my purchases. I received no response for several months.

When I phoned their office in Seattle, I was told that they do not write letters to customers. When I asked what is done when they receive a letter asking for a response, the woman I was talking to said that no one in her office ever wrote letters. So much for customer service!
Boston, MA

    ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Holland America Line, which sent the following reply.

Thank you for forwarding Mr. Ratney’s letter regarding his experience with Holland America Line.
We do not offer shore excursions in Qaqortoq and have published this fact on our website and in our literature. There is very limited infrastructure to accommodate the number of guests a ship the size of the ms Maasdam may bring to this town. When our Europe Product Manager conducted a site inspection of Greenland, she found only three tour buses, for 40 guests each, in the capital city of Nuuk (population 14,500). Qaqortoq is much smaller than Nuuk.

Our Shore Excursions staff are not allowed to call the tourist office number from Lonely Planet, or from any other source, to make arrangements for guests as we have no way to protect Holland America Line for liability should any emergency or accident occur. We only book our guests on tours where the local tour operators have provided evidence of insurability that meets our company standards, and this is not something that is available in Qaqortoq.
We regret if Mr. Ratney’s personal interactions with our staff on board did not meet his expectations; however, he was informed in our Shore Excursions brochure that we do not offer tours in Qaqortoq, and he certainly could have made direct inquiries prior to boarding or even during his voyage via the Internet or telephones on board.
According to our Reservations Administration Department, we are not in receipt of a letter from Mr. Ratney regarding his inquiry for a Carnival Stockholder’s Shipboard Credit. However, this is a standard promotion handled by our Reservations Administration Department, and we simply require proof of 100 shares in order to apply the appropriate onboard credit to an upcoming reservation.

Additionally, according to his correspondence, Mr. Ratney “. . . read in the annual report that stockholders are eligible for a discount. . .” and that he wrote a letter to the address given in the annual report.

The correct address for inquiring about a Holland America Line promotion such as this one is the following: Holland America Line, Attn: Reservations Administration, 300 Elliott Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119.

Carnival Corporation purchased Holland America Line approximately 15 years ago; however, we continue to operate as a separate entity. Our company maintains specialized departments to handle all aspects of a reservation from beginning to end of a cruise. Although we cannot verify Mr. Ratney’s claims regarding the content of his phone conversations, or his letter of inquiry, we certainly apologize for any inconvenience he may have experienced with any of our staff.

The Guest Relations Department responds to all feedback received in our corporate office upon the conclusion of a cruise, and we do not have a letter on file from Mr. Ratney expressing any of his concerns. As such, this has been our first opportunity to address his comments and we thank you for taking the time to forward his letter appropriately.

MARYBETH ROSE, Special Advisor, Office of the President, Holland America Line, Inc., 300 Elliott Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119