Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oceania Cruises - Learning How to Do It Better: A Success Story.

This is a story of how a cruise line not only can correct it errors, but use the experience to create a "WOW" moment.  Even I, the critical one, am impressed!

A few months ago I was not very happy with Oceania Cruises. I have clients from two countries on the opposite ends of the world booked on the same cruise this December:  Oceania Nautica from Capetown, South Africa to Singapore.  Each client has different requirements for visas (and Africa's nations are notorious for having confusing visa requirements).  Each client is very well traveled and, alas, their travel agent (that would be me) is also very well experienced and is quite familiar with dealing with African visas.

Now the rub:  As is often the case, the cruise line obtains blanket transit visas in many countries, so the guests are either not required to obtain an individual visa or each visa is obtained seamlessly upon arrival (sometimes at an additional cost, sometimes not).  We all posed a simple question:  For which countries must the guests (of two different nationalities) obtain their own visas and which ones will Oceania make arrangements for.

Oceania not only didn't have a clue, it made a right mess of it.  I need not get into the details, other than to say, after it frustrated and then angered the guests and myself, it realized that there actually was a legitimate question in there and that guests from quite a few countries actually had the same questions.   Eventually Oceania advised it would obtain most every visa (at an additional cost - fair enough) for any guest desiring it and breaking out that cost by country.

It was, alas, the right answer, though a bit late. 

Fast Forward:  I have another client interested in booking a similar cruise for December 2011.  While I was prepared for the same ordeal, I found the experience to be almost embarrassingly efficient.  I made the booking and within a couple of hours I received a telephone call from Oceania, followed by an email, advising me of the various visas there were required for my clients along with an offer to add the visas to the booking or offering to allow the guests to obtain the visas on their own.

It was, contrary to the prior ordeal which lasted for quite a few weeks, a model of Oceania Cruises' attention to improving customer satisfaction, doing its job better, and efficiency.  On ordeal of just a few weeks earlier transformed into a downright pleasure.

Bravo!