How to Complain to a Cruise Line

According to CLIA’s 2008 Market Research Study, cruising has an overall satisfaction rate of 94.8%–only “visiting friends and relatives” rates higher. But with more than ten million people cruising each year on this very complex “product” (which includes bookings, transportation, luggage, food, accommodations, entertainment, shore excursions, embarkation and debarkation, etc.) it’s not at all surprising that people sometimes have legitimate complaints. Here are some tips about how to complain effectively, along with links to contact information to help you get your complaint heard and reviewed by the right people.

1. Be polite, respectful and reasonable. While customer service reps may have to hear your complaint because that’s their job, how hard they work to resolve it may depend on how much they like you. Find something positive to say about their company, and let them know you that understand that the problem isn’t their fault personally. Demonstrating that you’re a nice, reasonable person will make all of your claims sound more valid.

2. Be organized and succinct. Explain your situation clearly in as few words as possible. Decide in advance which details are important, and focus on these. Don’t waste their time by going off topic. Focus on what’s important to the person you’re trying to convince-i.e., the facts-and try to leave your emotions out of it. When writing, use short sentences and bulleted lists to make your document easy to scan.

3. Threaten without being threatening. It never hurts to mention that you’re a frequent cruiser and are active on online cruise communities, and you always say nice things about the line. Tell them how anxious you are to tell everyone how helpful the line was in solving your problem (they’ll get the message).

4. Get to a level where a person has the authority to help you. It’s usually best to start with the main customer service number (we’ve provided Cruise Line Customer Service contacts here). But if the person you’re talking to can’t help you, ask them who can. If you run out of levels before the problem is solved (i.e., they won’t refer you up the line any further), go straight to the top.

5. Contact the CEO. We’ve assembled a list of CEOs of cruise lines including contact information. A fax or an e-mail to the CEO can work wonders as 1) the CEO (or his or her assistant) has the authority to tell an underling to “fix this” and it will happen, and 2) the cost of giving you what you want is probably so small compared to the numbers the CEO’s office is used to dealing with, that it’s often an easy decision to help you. All of the above advice about being respectful and succinct goes double when writing to a CEO.

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