Recently, I wrote about the swine flu and its potential impact to the cruise industry. Reading over the news of this past week or so, it looks like the swine flu effect continues.
Passengers aboard the Carnival Splendor met bitter disappointment after departing Long Beach for Mexico on Sunday, April 26. Only one day later, health officials issued a travel advisory suggesting people cancel all nonessential trips to Mexico. Carnival cruise lines heeded that advice, and abruptly cancelled all ports of call in Mexico, even for those cruises already en route. According to a May 10th article in the online version of The Los Angeles Times, writer David Lazarus contends that Carnival’s cancellation of Mexican ports of call was poorly handled.
Tuesday, April 28, the Splendor suddenly dropped anchor off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. Passengers were disturbed to learn that the ship would be turning around and returning to San Francisco, with a quick stop in Long Beach for anyone who wished to leave the ship early. It was also announced that Carnival would not be honoring its “Vacation Guarantee,” which, according to Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz, “in this highly unusual situation . . . would not have applied.”
The swine flu is bad enough, but adding poor customer service to an already dismal situation does not help. Cruising to San Francisco, where it was cold and wet, in place of Puerto Vallarta, where it is warm and sunny, hardly seems a suitable substitute. When you consider that passengers of the next Carnival cruise scheduled to leave Long Beach following the same itinerary to Mexico as that of the derailed Splendor received different treatment, you can see why Splendor passengers were disgruntled. People cruising with Carnival after April 28 were given their choice of $100 credit to be used on the ship if they chose to sail, or a chance to rebook their cruise by the end of 2010. Where is the equal treatment of passengers in this scenario?
I applaud Carnival’s attempt to avoid high-risk ports of call. However, could they not have chosen to be a bit more reasonable in their handling of the situation as it developed? Let us be honest here. The passengers caught on the aborted cruise to Mexico had no choice. They were already on the boat and had no say in whether they rescheduled their cruise before disembarking Long Beach. I feel Carnival could have maintained a higher level of customer satisfaction by offering the disgruntled passengers something for their headache and heartache.
Clearly, the effect of the swine flu goes beyond just the health of cruise line passengers. What responsibility do you feel Carnival has to its cruisers in this situation? Let me know what you think.