The Travel Adviser: Monkey business on journey to Alaska

Is "$550 in consideration of your delayed luggage" enough of a compensation?

311_cruise ship (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_cruise ship
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I’ve always enjoyed viewing the Marx Brothers’ movies. One of my favorites is Monkey Business, in which the four brothers are stowing away on a ship heading to America.
It’s filled with enough laughs to have me crying.
By contrast, too often when a complaint reaches my desk, there’s nothing to laugh about and I’m unsure whether to cry or scream out in disbelief. Unlike the exaggerations of the film, moreover, here’s one such case which appears to be all true.
Let me present the details – along with some sage advice.
Mr. and Mrs. Guileless (the names have been changed to protect the guilty) purchased a cruise to Alaska, including flight tickets from Tel Aviv and a rental car in Alaska.
They and their travel consultant elected to set sail on the Princess Diamond and the princely sum of $6,816 was exchanged.
Their flights were uneventful and at high noon, at the port of Vancouver, they commenced boarding their cruise ship, leaving their luggage with the ground crew. The ship set sail.
In their own words: “At 2:30 p.m. the luggage started arriving [in passengers’ rooms].
At 3:30 p.m. we notified the crew that our luggage had not arrived and they assured us that the luggage would arrive within half an hour. At that time the rest of the passengers went to have lunch, while we were waiting in our cabin for our luggage. At 4:30 p.m. we approached the crew again and they told us to wait patiently for another hour, but at 6 p.m, the luggage had still not arrived. Of course, during that time we could not eat or enjoy any activity on the ship.”
A quick interjection: Be it a hotel or a resort lodge, be it a deluxe cabin on a cruise ship or a shack on the beach, one need never wait in one’s room to receive one’s luggage. Trust me, management will find a way to put it in your room. But if you need something from your luggage, then yes, there is no choice but to wait patiently for it to arrive.
Back to our soon to be wrathful complainants.
“We then approached the crew again and were told that if the luggage did not arrive within the hour, we would be given $100 to buy some clothes and toiletries, and that the clothes we were wearing and had in our carry-on baggage would be taken to be laundered.
“We were on a ship the travel agent had recommended. We could not enjoy swimming or the Jacuzzi since we did not have our swimming suits; we could not enjoy the gym since we didn’t have our sneakers and sports clothes. We couldn’t even go to dinner without proper clothing. In addition to all of this frustration at what we could not enjoy, we were worried, upset and mainly afraid, since we did not have the medications we use regularly; they were lost with the luggage. I have blood pressure medications and inhalers that I have for my asthma.”
Interjection No. 2: Never put your medications in your checked luggage. Whether it’s a two-hour flight or, in this case, a 20-hour flight, your medicine should remain with you at all times. Having a family member who suffers from asthma, I could only imagine the fear she would have had if she had flown 20 hours knowing she had forgotten to take her inhaler with her. Security requirements permit all medications to be taken on board; simply make sure you have a clear and concise note from your doctor detailing your medicines.
Let’s continue with our passengers’ tale: “At this point we were referred to Sophia from customer service who was very understanding.
She was aware of my distress, which included my crying from fear that I would have an asthma attack without medications brought on by stress. I was referred to the ship’s doctor, but she could only provide some aspirin. She did agree to order the rest of my medication in the now very high likelihood my medication would not arrive. She told me it would only arrive in three days.
“Only at 9:30 p.m. were our clothes collected for washing, and we missed the opening ceremony and the first evening’s dinner and dance. We were promised that our laundered clothes would arrive at 7:30 a.m. the next morning, but to our dismay they didn’t arrive until 10 a.m. and we were obliged to eat a dull breakfast served in our cabin. Thus our second day started with deep feelings of anger about the appalling service and treatment we were receiving, and that day, too, we could not enjoy the different activities offered on board due to our lack of appropriate clothing.”
The nightmare goes on: “That evening at 8:30 p.m. was one of the highlights of the whole cruise – dinner with the ship’s captain.
This was an evening we were eagerly awaiting.
For the event one needs formal attire, so Sophia agreed to provide us with a dress and a tuxedo. Suffice to say that by 7 p.m. the tuxedo hadn’t arrived and we once again had to stay in our cabin and miss this special event.
The third day was spent entirely in our room without clothes (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) but that evening we were informed that our luggage had sailed on another ship that departed Vancouver the very same day with us and that we would get our luggage on the fourth day of the cruise.
“The PR supervisor was very apologetic and we made clear that we expected full compensation for such an unfortunate chain of events and that our entire vacation had been ruined.
We were granted an extra $350 to spend on the ship. We felt this was an insult after all that we had endured but accepted their meager gesture. Finally, on the fourth day of our seven-day cruise, our luggage arrived.
“However, because of this very sloppy handling we are asking for full compensation for the entire amount we paid. We hope very much that we can settle this matter out of court.”
MY INITIAL reaction was to encourage Mr. and Mrs. Guileless to contact Princess Cruise directly. Their correspondence and financial request had been addressed to their travel agent. Their bone of contention was that they had paid the travel consultant and thus she was financially and legally obligated to make a full refund.
To Princess Cruise’s credit it reacted quickly to their plea. It apologized profusely, detailing exactly how the mistake occurred. It added: “Additionally, although I realize that this situation was very unsettling for you, the ship’s staff provided onboard compensation to you for the total amount of $550 in consideration of your delayed luggage and various ship service failures with regard to your laundry and tuxedo requests.”
Unfortunately Princess Cruise tried to pass on its obligation by pointing out that the porters checking the bags for delivery to the ship or ships are not Princess personnel, but rather port personnel who are hired by the pier. It felt that the compensation provided to the couple onboard was fair and equitable, and so stated: “Therefore, we regret we are not able to honor your request for additional compensation. I am sorry for any further disappointment this will cause.”
It must be noted, that Lorri Lanning, the customer relations specialist who penned the response for Princess Cruise, was quite apologetic in both her tone and her content. Yet not one penny more was proffered. The couple remains unmoved. Adamant that their travel consultant is completely responsible they, no doubt, will turn to the courts for satisfaction.
Their case will rest on shaky ground. Most courts strive to avoid paying for emotional damages, and $550 is not an insignificant amount. Still one would have expected an additional offer of compensation from Princess Cruise if simply to placate the wronged couple.
I turn to you dear readers: Put yourself in a judge’s shoes and let me know what you feel is an equitable amount, and who should pay it. Nobody is in favor of this kind of monkey business; the question is how you gauge a price, and where you place responsibility, for the emotional pain and suffering.
The writer is the CEO of Ziontours, Jerusalem. For questions and comments e-mail him at [email protected]