What to Do if You Have a Complaint on a Cruise
Cruising is a pretty awesome way to travel, and most of the time, service, dining and entertainment will be great. But what do we do when things go wrong and the cruise isn’t meeting our expectations?
In this post, I’ll share some tips on what to do if you have an issue on a cruise. I’ll also share some examples of how to get a complaint resolved on a cruise – what works and what doesn’t (at least most of the time).
How To Get a Complaint Resolved on a Cruise
I love cruising, but in reality, just like anything in life, sometimes things go wrong.
If you’ve cruised before, you’ve probably had times where things just weren’t as perfect as the Instagram photos.
What NOT to do if you have a problem on your cruise
Before you post photos and complaints about your cabin issues in a cruise Facebook group (yes, this happens)… remember that complaints are best dealt with on the cruise ship itself.
In reality, most people in a cruise Facebook group are there to gather information and get excited about their upcoming cruise. On the whole, in my experience, most people aren’t super sympathetic when someone posts their annoyances and rants about their cruise.
Now I’m not suggesting, that a post-cruise review with problems mentioned isn’t helpful for others after the fact. But in the moment, try and hold off from venting to social media.
It might make you feel better in the moment, but it’s just not very effective. Plus, you’ll just get extra agitated.
Usually, while problems can seem difficult at the time, most issues on cruises can be solved fairly easily.
The fact is, no one wants to ruin a perfectly good vacation by getting overly frustrated. Small problems are almost always fixable.
I have a friend who tells me that before she goes on a cruise she makes a choice.
I’m paraphrasing now…
“I’m not going to be bothered by little things, and don’t complain to me” she says. “I work too hard for this cruise all year and I AM going to relax.”
Overall, I think this is a great attitude. She just makes a choice to not get bothered by a meal that isn’t her favorite (she orders another), by a show that isn’t to her liking (there are other shows) or anything else (within reason).
Let’s face it, letting small things bother us on a cruise, can make us feel annoyed and impact our experience.
However, I also know that cruise lines genuinely want your cruise experience to be pretty great. They really want you back!
So bringing a minor issue to that warrants their attention isn’t a bad thing.
Sometimes, the issues are bigger.
Missing cruise ports, major problems with cabins or the ship or overall “bad” service.
We’ll tackle these too.
What NOT TO DO if you have a complaint on a cruise
- Don’t yell and insult
- Don’t tout your loyalty level for all the guests to hear
- Don’t post first on social media
- Don’t start a mob protest* (please!)
*If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, google “Norwegian Cruise passengers start a protest over missed cruise ports”
How to Handle a Complaint on a Cruise and Actually Get Results
1. Let cruise ship staff know that there’s a problem
This might seem obvious, but if the cruise ship doesn’t know there’s a problem, they can’t fix it.
We’ve met people who’ve told us that they were upset that their cabin air conditioning wasn’t cold enough or their tv wasn’t working, but they didn’t inform anyone working on the ship.
Maybe you have a noisy room with a rattling sound in the ceiling, or water that clogs the shower.
So, first things first, if there’s an issue, don’t assume they know. Please tell your cabin attendant or guest relations when something isn’t working.
They will fix it, and you will be happier.
2. Be polite and respectful
No matter the situation, when “complaining”, be polite as you describe the problem and respectful to the person you’re talking to.
This isn’t just being nice, although that’s a good reason, it’s also going to make it more likely that the person you’re speaking to actually wants to help.
Plus, cruise ship staff work really hard and long hours, so try and keep that in mind.
3. Allow the cruise ship staff the opportunity to make it right
One thing we’ve noticed when cruising, is how most of the time anyone working directly with passengers, really wants to do a good job and for you to be happy.
If you have a problem, when possible, bring it up first to the person directly involved, and allow them the opportunity to make it right.
For example, if your cabin steward didn’t leave you fresh towels or didn’t clean the bathroom as well as you’d like (or any other housekeeping issue), try and speak to him or her directly.
You can do this by catching them in the hallway in the morning or evening as they are going between staterooms, or by dialing housekeeping on your cabin phone, which usually has a direct line to your stateroom attendant.
4. Follow the chain of command
If the problem persists or you don’t feel comfortable talking directly to the staff member involved, then speak with a supervisor.
As an example, if your waiter isn’t attentive or is making mistakes and the service just isn’t great, bring this up to the Maitre D. They know which staff members are new and might need some extra training, and those that are getting regular complaints.
Let them fix it, if need be, by moving your table the next day or even by changing up the wait staff.
5. Guest services
Problems that aren’t as easily resolved should be brought up to guest services. They’ll usually hear you out, and if they can’t help you to resolve it right away, and it’s not urgent, they’ll often ask you to write your complaint on a card.
This is pretty much step 1, for any medium-bigger issues.
At this point, you’ll want to write down the details of your complaint.
6. Follow up and escalate if need be
It would be nice, if you heard back every time and things were resolved promptly, but this doesn’t always happen. Do keep in mind that sometimes they are just busy, and it’s not personal.
The following day, head back to guest services and inquire about a resolution.
In many cases, they will either have fixed the problem, or propose a resolution. There are times when you may ask to speak with a supervisor or management.
Be persistent let them know that you would like this resolved as quickly as possible.
7. Ask for what you want
While compensation shouldn’t be expected for every issue, especially ones that are resolved, sometimes cruise passengers feel it’s warranted.
If you feel compensation is fair, be prepared to say it, especially if you’ve asked for this to be escalated to management.
I’ve found that we can’t always always assume that they know what we want or expect.
Do you want them to change your cabin? Are you hoping for monetary compensation like an on board credit?
If it’s a reasonable ask, go ahead.
For example, our friends had a specialty dinner on a cruise, and the main dish had to be sent back more than once. They really weren’t happy with the service and overall experience. It was an off night, to say the least.
They spoke with a supervisor in this case, and along with an apology, were offered a chance to return to the restaurant another night. However since they didn’t enjoy it, they didn’t want to return.
Instead they suggested an alternative specialty restaurant, and the supervisor agreed. They felt that was fair and were happy with that.
8. Harder to solve issues
I’m pretty convinced that 99% of the time, issues and complaints can be resolved on the cruise ship. For this reason I don’t usually suggest waiting until you get home to bring them up.
The exception is the problems that aren’t solved to your satisfaction on the ship. These are usually the bigger issues and are probably out of their hands.
A word of caution – what not to do if you have an issue on a cruise
Beware of petty or too general complaints that ask for an overgenerous compensation, as they won’t be taken seriously.
“All the food was terrible, the kids club staff was rude and entertainment sucked. I want a full refund!” type of thing.
Not going to happen.
9. What happens if you miss a cruise port on your cruise?
Cruise ships missing cruise ports, mostly due to weather related issues happens on occasion unfortunately.
Although it can be disappointing, this is actually one of the “risks” of cruising. If there’s a storm at sea and a cruise ship can prevent going near it, it’s better and safer for everyone.
This is actually something in the fine print, when booking a cruise, and one we all agree to in the cruise contract. There is no guarantee that a cruise ship will be able to stop at very port, and they may change itineraries.
While this doesn’t happen often, itinerary changes can certainly be common during Hurricane season in particular.
Try and be understanding if this happens, and enjoy the positives of the cruise and the ship itself. Remember that the cruise line and Captain are making decisions that keep passengers, crew and the ship out of harm’s way.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the situation that caused a Passenger Protest on a Norwegian Cruise Ship, please see the video below.
10. Contact your travel agent and/or write a letter to a corporate email
If you really believe that there are things that should have been addressed better on board, or you think a form of compensation should have been offered for your troubles and wasn’t, write a letter.
Compensation will be at the discretion of the cruise line, however passengers have reported that there are times when a cruise line will offer compensation in the form of a partial refund, a future cruise credit or a percentage off a future cruise.
Your travel agent will have an email contact to send it to, and alternatively you can call the cruise line for the information.
You’ll want to have documented your complaints and issues while on the ship, which you should include in this letter.
Do remember to include your names, reservation number, sail date and cruise ship.
Recap: How to Handle a Complaint on a Cruise and Actually Get Results
If you have a complaint on a cruise, remember to bring this to the attention of staff and crew while on your cruise ship. Small issues can usually be resolved easily, and even bigger problems have a greater likelihood of being resolved fairly if you escalate in a step by step way.
Have you ever had a complaint on a cruise that was resolved in a way you were happy with, or the opposite experience? Please let me know in the comments below.
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