Monday, September 20, 2010

Cruise Critic and Seabourn: Read What The Posters Write - You Better Be Careful...My Being "Reluctant to Make an Issue"

I received an email this morning about a Cruise Critic poster's idea that Seabourn should spend its money mailing comment cards to guests for their arrival back home, hire a person to be their ombudsman and have focus groups organized by telephone messages to determine when the past guest would like to discuss his/her issues. 

OK, I can see this is a person that wants the opportunity to nitpick at every opportunity and to do it at a time and manner convenient to him/her...and to even have Seabourn pay for someone to press his/her issue so the bother is on someone else.  (Ever met anyone that knows how to ruin a perfectly good party by bringing up a subject that creates unnecessary conflict and then complains that the party wasn't fun...and, "Can you believe that so and so said 'X'"?)

But I digress...

The sentence in the same post that floored me was...Wait for it...Here it comes..."Many CC'ers seem reluctant to 'make an issue' of something, even if it annoys them."  Yes, the folks that are so willing to shout, "I am not going to sail on Seabourn if they do or do not do X" and who wants Seabourn to create opportunities for them to complain longer and with less effort, believe they are "reluctant to 'make an issue'".  That floored me.

Believe it or not there are only about two dozen in total that actually post anything on Cruise Critic and, of those, most cruise once a year or twice on transatlantic crossings (because the fare is the lowest and they book the lowest category of suite).  To be fair, there are a couple of folks that actually do cruise for extended periods of time and, truth be told, they generally are not treated very well by some of the crossing/low fare Cruise Critic folks. (Just want to give a flavor of whose opinion or assertions of fact you just may be relying upon.  You may want to ask, "Do these posters reflect my perspective or concerns?"))

Take the present testing of closing the main dining room on the larger ships when there are port intensive itineraries.  It would seem that each and every one of them are the ones that use The Restaurant for breakfast and lunch...And not necessarily on the larger ships; for many are the same people that complained that the larger ships - Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest - would be the ruination of Seabourn and they would never step foot upon them.

So what is it that they are "reluctant to 'make an issue'" about?   And why when there is an issue (be it the dining venue or formal nights or the size of the ships or whatever) they are not reluctant to threaten that they are going to take their business elsewhere?  Let's leave for the moment that there really is no "elsewhere" for they are going to find other issues - more concerning issues - on the other lines.  ("Oh, the service is terrible"; "What to you mean I can't special order?", "You charge WHAT to dine there?", "No caviar?", "You call this 'cuisine'?", etc.)

And, once you actually understand that these "reluctant to 'make an issue'" folks are anything but "reluctant to 'make an issue'" you need to start looking at the inaccuracy of the "information" that they post.  Just on the dining issue alone, a test on larger ships became trauma on the smaller ships...when it was never in effect and never was going to be in effect on the triplets.  They have limited facilities in the Veranda which, even with The Restaurant open, runs at near capacity.  This misinformation caused over a dozen comments about the triplets...and none of them necessary or, frankly, relevant.

I spend way too much of my time correcting the misinformation on Cruise Critic.  Another example from the "experts" on a thread about Overbooking.  First, the "reluctant to 'make an issue'" folks claim that it is plain unacceptable on a luxury line or that it never happened to him on Silversea.  Then the misinformation about why it happens...and it is not because people cancel 91 days prior.  Geez. 

This is the deal:  There are always last minute cancellations due to illness, family emergencies, work issues, etc.  (That is why people purchase travel insurance!)  Over the years Seabourn (and other lines and airlines, etc.) have been able to establish a pretty good idea of how many folks will cancel within the last 30 days before the cruise so they can resell that same suite/cabin.  However, there are cruises that do not follow the averages.  Hence an oversold situation first becomes known to the public (for obviously the cruise was intentionally oversold to compensate for these cancellations...which is where the concept of Guarantee suites comes from.)

Seabourn usually offers a full refund, assistance with air and a complimentary cruise right out of the box.  Believe it or not, most Seabourn guests don't take up the offer because their cruise,  schedules and desire not to have hassles are more important than the free cruise.  However, I am not aware of a cruise where someone wasn't willing to do this, so they are happy and so is Seabourn.  No problem and no loss of luxury for anyone.  (Yes, it costs Seabourn money, but Seabourn also makes money reselling the suite that someone cancelled at the last minute, so overall Seabourn doesn't do so badly...nor do those who accept the offer.)

I pause for a moment:  Do you know why the Cruise Critic poster commented that this never happens on Silversea to his knowledge?:  A.  Silversea rarely sells out; and/or B.  If it happens and he isn't made the offer, he simply would never know about it.   It is not like the offer is made to every single person on a particular sailing.  But let's move one.

Oceania, for example, also finds itself in oversold situations.  What it does is play "Let's Make a Deal!"  One of my very loyal Oceania clients was offered $750 per person to move off...then $1,250...then $1,750...then $2,500 and then a reduced fare on another similar cruise.   That is a pain for the travel agent and an annoyance to the guest.  That is not luxury.

So just as Aunt Millie always seems to find fault, but tells you what a wonderful house guest she is, keep in mind that those on Cruise Critic who claim to be "reluctant to 'make an issue'" are, in fact, the ones that thrive on stirring the pot:  AT YOUR EXPENSE.

Just my opinion.