Like any vacation, cruises can be very relaxing and fun, or turn quickly into a mess unless you pay attention to the details. Here are some things to consider:
DEVIL IN THE DETAILS. There are no official industry policies for addressing passenger grievances so its best to learn your rights before you accept your cruise ticket. This will arm you with information on how to address complaints that could include billing errors, overbooking, poor service, crime on board, port skipping and unannounced itinerary changes. Once you accept your ticket, you accept the terms for that cruise.
ADDRESS THE PROBLEM IMMEDIATELY. If you have a problem, bring it to the attention of the cruise lines guest service desk. Keep in mind that remedies may come in the form of credits for future cruises or on-board credits for drinks or spa treatments. And remember that not all complaints are equal – dont expect a free cruise for bad table service.
TRIP INSURANCE. You may be tempted to take travel insurance to protect your investment of thousands of dollars for a cruise, but being selective and paying attention to the fine print will help you avoid paying for inadequate coverage or empty coverage because of exclusions or coverage you already have under existing policies you may have such as homeowners insurance, health insurance or credit cards. Since policies vary, you need to read the fine print and weigh the cost of travel insurance against the cost of your vacation investment. Some experts say paying more than 10 percent of the vacation cost for insurance is high, depending on the kind of insurance and coverage you get. You are not likely to be covered for a change of mind about the vacation.
NEED TO PURSUE PRIVATE REMEDIES YOURSELF. Cruise lines are regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission, which requires cruise operators to be able to reimburse customers if a trip is canceled. The commission also ensures the cruise operators are able to pay claims that arising from passenger injury or death, if the operator is found liable. The commission does not have the authority to arbitrate your complaint to secure financial settlements for individual consumers. A consumer will have to initiate action on his or her own against the cruise line.
You can address your complaints to the:
Office of Informal Inquiries and Complaints
Federal Maritime Commission
800 North Capitol St., NW, Room 1052
Washington, D.C. 20573-0001
Phone: (202) 523-5807
VESSEL SAFETY. If you have concerns or complaints about safety issues on a cruise ship, contact a regional
Coast Guard Safety Office (MSO):
Miami, FL: (305) 535-8705
Juneau, AK: (907) 63-2450
San Juan, PR: (787) 729-6800
SANITARY CONDITIONS. If you have a complaint about unsanitary conditions on a cruise ship, contact the
U.S. Public Health Service
Chief of Vessel Sanitation Program
National Center for Environmental Health
1850 ller Dr., Suite 101
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Phone: (954) 356-6650