Tuesday, September 14, 2010

You Asked For It: Why Not to Book a Seabourn Cruise in the United Kingdom

I am, frankly, tired of cleaning up messes and responding to emails about the problems British and other guests who book Seabourn and many other lines in the United Kingdom, so let me just put it out here.

THE RULES ARE DIFFERENT!!!!  I have mentioned many times that if you book in the United Kingdom, or with a United Kingdom travel agent, you are going to be subject to different terms and conditions than you will be if you book with an agent in, say, the United States.  It is, in most instances, black and white.  Period.  End of Sentence.

If you book with, say, Goldring Travel, there is no change or cancellation fee charged...ever.  If, however, you are within the penalty period (which generally starts 90 days prior to sailing) you will be subject to the cruise line's penalty charges (which range from the amount of your deposit up to the full amount of your cruise dependent on how close to the sail date you cancel).

Now, if you book with a United Kingdom travel agent, or even if you book directly with Seabourn (including onboard), you generally have ten (10) days to change or cancel your cruise...no matter how far in advance you book...or you will be hit with a minimum of a 10% change/cancellation fee.  Your final payment is probably not going to be due until 57 days prior to departure.

A word of caution for those of you in the UK who book onboard directly with Seabourn, if you wish to have your onboard booking direct with Seabourn transferred to Goldring Travel or some other US agency you will be hit with that 10% fee if it isn't done immediately.  While it may well be that I can absorb that cost, the better (required?) practice is to assign that booking to a US travel agency (preferably Goldring Travel) when you book onboard; not later. 

There is virtually no downside.  No downside?  Nope.  None. 

How can I say that?  Well, assuming price is not the issue (read my post from the other day on that subject) there are no fees, charges or penalties for changing your mind.  You want to change the cruise?  Absolutely fine.  You want to cancel the cruise?  Your choice.  You want to give the cruise to a UK agent?  Go ahead and rebook with a UK agent (the bookings cannot be transferred between countries...even if booked directly with Seabourn) and cancel the US booking without penalty.

By now you are asking, "Why can't I assign my onboard booking to whichever travel agent I want whenever I want at no cost to me?"  The answer is:  I dunno.  I don't have a clue.

But what I do know is that if you are dealing with Seabourn UK, you are not dealing with the same folks I deal with in Miami.  I do not claim to be perfect or to have the magic wand at all times, but what I do know is that I consistently hear of Seabourn UK being unresponsive and I am, frankly, troubled by that.

Anyone who deals with me knows I respond quickly...sometimes crazy quickly.  (I had a UK client email me on Saturday while I was at the US Open...an annual outing with my wife.  I emailed him right back, during the match.  He commented to me yesterday it was remarkable.  I also did the same with an Italian client of mine, but since he didn't mention he was watching the Open I didn't mention it to him.) 

One of the things that makes me look so good is that Seabourn's main office, in Miami, is just "That Good!" For example, today I had a request by a Canadian client to have an onboard booking discount applied to her new booking.  At 10:34 a.m. I made the request and at 12:49 p.m. I had the revised confirmation sitting in my Inbox. 
 
Another issue that seems to pop up is the quality of the travel agents that UK folks are dealing with.  As you may know I was one of literally only a handful of US travel agents flown over to London for the Inauguration of the Seabourn Sojourn (and, to be sure, I remained onboard for the black tie charity event and the Maiden Voyage, which you can read about on my blog).  The focus was to have as many UK travel agents as possible inspect the Seabourn Sojourn and see, at least to a small degree, what The Yachts of Seabourn is all about. While there are some excellent UK travel agents, the fact is that there are only a couple of significant sellers of Seabourn and, alas, that is where the breakdown comes. 

Today I read on Cruise Critic (because I was directed there by a client of mine) about a first time UK Seabourn guest who complained his suite was down some corridors and suffered from the sound of anchors, waves, etc.  He, obviously, had purchased one of the least expensive suites far forward but was not cautioned that for but a few pounds/dollars more he could have avoided the issues he complained of.  I can conjecture as to why, but the fact these things came as a shock to him makes it pretty clear to me.  And, to be sure, the story is not shocking to me, for I hear of UK-based letdowns time and time again. 

As a final note for now, back in May 2010 I wrote a piece entitled:  So You Think There is a Better Deal Out There? Think Twice If You Think "Currency" where I discuss the issues surrounding the purchase of your cruise based upon currency differences.. As hopefully you see, there is far more to the purchase of a cruise than the price in dollars vs. pounds...like fees, service and expertise.

Have any questions?  Drop me an email or give me a call.  You can even Skype me.