Back in October 2009, my wife and I saw an advert in the Sunday Mail newspaper, which is circulated in Queensland, for voyages on the Queen Mary 2 from Sydney to Capetown, South Africa. We had only thought that the very wealthy and upper crust clientele, would be the usual market for Cunard, one of the World’s most prestigious shipping lines. So we enquired with our travel agent IF ‘ordinary’ people could do a voyage on the Queen Mary 2. Well, surprisingly enough this was the case, for what we considered a reasonable cost.
Starting to Feel Warm & Fuzzy
We decide this maybe our only chance to do such a prestigious voyage, before we end up with one foot in the grave, the other on a banana skin! So we scrape up the deposit, to secure our place. In no time at all, we see the request for final payment and realise that....this is it, we are definitely going. I guess we will soon be inundated with personalised pre departure documents, shore excursion itineraries etc, in other words all the information we need, as this is our first time trip on a large vessel, make that, a very large vessel :-)
Well, the pre departure documents did not arrive by the first week in December ‘09, as they were meant to. The final payment was made, one month, before. My travel agent followed up and was told, they are coming...yep so is Christmas :-) Over time, nothing came, so I started researching via the Internet, because I need to know where and when the departure locations & times were, it certainly won’t be departing from a bus stop, in George Street, Sydney!
Hurry Up & Wait......
The above says it all :-( After some phone calls/emails by myself and my travel agent to the agent for Cunard in Sydney, to follow up......NOTHING had happened, no documents, nothing, not to mention that our shore excursions booking deadline had passed. Looks like our shore excursion maybe to ask if we can use a lifeboat, to go fishing in. Well Christmas came and went.......
Cunard Ticket Sales & Reservations on Auto Pilot :-(
I have to say at least 1 staff member was awake, she emailed me some generic documents, one of which was 15 months out of date, another that contained the “Guest Protection Program” which when I enquired, was not sold to Australian customers. That’s OK, but no alternative insurance policies or information was offered. Despite promises also made by the office ‘Premium Team Leader’ who shall remain nameless at this time, none of the promises of followup were fulfilled.
I guess the frustration is......when you have tried to get the information that is due, in a timely fashion, being a customer of Cunard, that people in the Cunard agent’s office have failed to provide the expected service & support. Not to mention that my travel agent, who has been in the business for 34 years, has been treated the same as well
The Dreaded Dress Code....
Mmmm......above says it all. Back in early November ‘09 I emailed Cunard about dress code on board, as it appeared to us that it appeared very formal, if you see the brochure that we did end up with. We received a three line reply that was not even signed with a name, it also said do not reply to the individual sender, only the generic Cunard address. Oh yes, it said we could hire formal wear, but again....no further information/prices, NOTHING. Looks like we cannot even dine in our appointed restaurant, without formal wear.....the email did list one other restaurant....thats it...one only:-( Must find out if there is a ship’s dog....guess we could share a plate of food with it, and meet the dress code!
Something to think about......this voyage sector was pitched to the ordinary person in the street, via a state-wide newspaper advertisement. Secondly, its a voyage from one place, to another, not like a cruise where the start port is generally the finish port. Consider that on a voyage, we cannot carry 27 tonnes of luggage, as we need to return via air, unless we can con some Somali Pirates to give us a free ride home, with no luggage restrictions, to Ashmore Reef! Next, we are doing a trip to a country not as developed as ours, where formal wear has very little place..
Help, Where Are the Bilge Pumps?
Help, we are going down.....here it is 2/2/10 and still no pre departure documents, no alternative insurance information, no formal wear hire prices, an expired shore excursions itinerary. Nobody from the Cunard Ticket Sales & Reservations office, cares, not even the manager :-(
In frustration last week, I wrote to Peter Shanks, the Managing Director Cunard, in the U.K. The letter was sent by courier and about now it should be very close to delivery. The buck stops with him, all I wanted was a bit of service as a customer.
You have read this far and wonder just what the ripoff is? Its simply the total lack of service and consideration due, to a customer of Cunard, one of the World’s most prestigious shipping lines
Update 05/02/10 Tickets Arrive From U.K.
Subject says it all! Our travel agent advised us that our tickets have arrived, so I picked them up yesterday, 04/02/10. They came direct from the U.K. office, sent approx 25/01/10.
After many enquiries over past months about missing documents etc, I would have at least thought the Sydney Ticket Sales & Reservations agent would have notified our travel agent that the tickets had been sent from the U.K., if nothing else. Being consistent, the Sydney office is probably still asleep, at the helm!!!! Since we have had problems in the dealings for this voyage, I would imagine there would/should have been a flow of information from the U.K. office, to the Sydney agent, so they should have been aware that the tickets had been sent, but the Sydney agent had not notified our travel agent. Anyway, the tickets have arrived, thanks U.K. office :-)
Problem now is, those tickets make references to our pre departure documents for further information, the documents that the Sydney agent was advised on 6th December ‘09 and again on the 4th January ‘10 had not arrived at our travel agent. The Sydney Cunard agent had advised on the above dates that documents had been sent from the U.K. after the first set failed to arrive. To date they have not arrived and there has been no further advice from the Sydney agent, at all. The silence has been deafening! Sad, but true.....
And so the story goes on......but at least we now have tickets!!!!
Update 17/02/10 MORE Tickets Arrive From U.K.
Here we go again, another set of tickets arrived from U.K. on 15/02/10. The elusive pre-departure documents are still not here, nearly 6 weeks overdue. WHY is this so hard?
My travel agent cannot get any information on what is happening, either.
Mr Peter Shanks has not replied to my letter, I guess he is not interested in a complaining client. In being the Manager of Cunard U.K. Office(or is it Carnival Group, who owns Cunard?) you would think he would take responsibility and at least get the problem resolved. Pretty lousy service from the boss.....
I guess the next step now is....the Chairman, Board of Directors Carnival Group, in Miami U.S.A. maybe they need to know that their company’s earnings could be affected by not treating their customers properly, I am sure their shareholders would not like what is going on, if my situation is any example of what could be happening to others.
You see statements like this on the Carnival Group WEB site.......almost makes me sick :-(
Just read the above and think about it. The staff are aware of the company policies, WHY don’t they simply do their job and abide by them. The company’s reputation is being tarnished.
You know, in all sincerity I really would like to publish a happy ending to this story, but I am almost thinking its not going to happen.
Cunard & Carnival Group, prove me wrong by fixing the problems, so I can publish a happy ending right here, that the problems were solved to make me a happy client....
Last Wednesday 17/02/2010 my travel agent received an email from the Sydney office, that a letter had been sent to me, with information regarding requests about some questions that I had asked back in December 2009, questions that would have probably been answered in the pre-voyage documents that I never received AND still have not received, less than 2 weeks to our embarkation date.
I might also add, the promised letter of last week has not arrived, having been allegedly sent a week, ago. In addition, my travel agent received an email from the U.K. Cunard Documents Manager saying that my pre-voyage documents should arrive early this week......well 2 days to go and its the end of the business week, nothing here, yet!
I was reading an online a Cruise Ship magazine this week, and saw a write-up on Cunard, it looks like the General Manager, Peter Shanks has very recently visited Sydney from the U.K., talking up the future of Cunard business here, and quoting some impressive percentages for future business in Australia. I have to wonder IF he spoke with staff in the Sydney office, about the problems my wife & I have had in getting service, from Cunard. I would say not....based on the continuing lack of action that has been, and still is occurring.
Well.....I will sit and wait for the pre-voyage documents....that are now over 2.5 months late
I finally got the promised letter from Carnival in Sydney, it arrived on Thursday the 25/02/10. However it was dated 16/02/10, the envelope postmarked 22/02/10. The internal mail system at the Carnival Sydney office, must be very slow :-)
Interestingly, the “electronic” copy of the pre voyage document that was mentioned in the letter was for the World voyage, with embarkation in New York....not Sydney. It also has the Guest Insurance Protection Programme, which is Cunard’s travel insurance policy, not able sold to Australian customers,there are also other items not relevent to our voyage, I just wonder IF there are things missing from it that relate to our trip sector, like shore itineraries etc, which I believe we have missed the booking cutoff date..
In addition to this, when I wrote to Peter Shanks about my problems in getting information from the Sydney office, he chose to send my complaint, BACK to the very office I complained about!!! That would be like complaining to Dracula, about theft of blood from Dracula’s Blood bank!!
Whilst the writer of the letter has done their best to try and fix this mess, it has not solved any problems and I still have unanswered questions. As for the pre voyage documents that have never come, I am at a loss.
Mail time from U.K.??????
Last week, my company received a 500 gram parcel from West Yorkshire, U.K. sent via registered Royal Air Mail on 18/02/10, it arrived in my mail on 26/06/10, so why no pre voyage documents from Cunard U.K. for nearly 3 months? Despite last notifying them on 4/01/02 that the initial set that were sent on 6/12/09 were not received?
I am sorry to say that, it looks like we will be boarding the QM2 in 9 days time, with many unanswered questions by 2 first time ship travellers :-(
Well, we finally got our pre-voyage documents on 1/03/10 and the Shore Excursions document 3 days after that. Our long suffering travel agent had a sigh of relief that we finally got our documents.
So, we read through them and got most of the answers we needed, but its made a bit of a scramble for us to finalise some arrangements before we leave in 2 days time.
I sure hope our “ocean” part of our dealings with Cunard are far more pleasant than the dealings we have had from their landlubber “office” staff. While I am at it, still no reply from Peter Shanks, in the U.K. not surprised I must admit.
Finally, I will report back after our voyage hoping it to be a great trip. Back from our holiday on 18th April 2010.
You know something? Understand, that the measure of a company is never the fact that they make mistakes etc, its how those mistakes are rectified
Contact me, Jack Chomley Ph 0428199551 or email: radio at irock dot com dot au
More to come...stay tuned!!!!!