Princess Cruise on a roll

July 19, 2006

If you’re in crisis management and you do drills for things that can go wrong, you often wonder how the media would report your story if things went terribly wrong. Look at the coverage of the Crown Princess incident off the coast of Florida.

Interesting first to see how uninvolved people such as myself get the news. My son called at about 10 pm asking me if his grandparents, my parents, might be on that ship. What ship? The one that almost capsized, he said. No, they were on a cruise ship in Alaska, not headed to the Caribbean. He doesn’t have TV so got his news from a website. That’s how I first found out.

I watched the 11 pm news. They interviewed by phone Seattle area residents who were on the ship, honeymooners who described the horror and a ruined honeymoon.

Then the newspaper reports and other web reports this morning. The AP story shown on newsvine is a great example. First the bare facts. Then several paragraphs of recollections, selected primarily because of their vivid descriptions that describe the horror of their experience. A quotation from the Port Canaveral CEO. Finally, and this is my point, a brief comment from an unidentified spokesperson from Princess Cruises. The obligatory “we’re very sorry, inconvenience, reimbursement, etc., etc.” Nothing wrong with their statement, really. But the company seems strangely in the background. Why are they not out front? Where is the CEO? Why, in the stream of video from frightened passengers is there not at least one senior level executive seen actively dealing with the situation, involved with passengers, talking about addressing their concerns.

One cardinal rule for crisis communicators is to avoid discussing cause. The lawyers make certain of that and no doubt prematurely identifying causes can cause huge problems. But it is one of the first questions reporters ask. Here is a great example. The cause apparently was a steering problem. Oh boy, that raises concerns. I’ve been on a few cruises and now when or if I get on board again I am going to think about their steering systems. Are these ships so poorly designed that some computer glitch or a loose bolt gets caught in a cable and the whole dang ship tips over? Come on. If you want passengers to have some assurance, you better come up with a much better answer than this and in a big hurry.

And the hurry again becomes the point. This story will be off the news by this afternoon. But the impact of the coverage will linger for a long time. Sure, people will continue to take cruises, but with a stronger sense that things can go horribly wrong without any clear explanation. And that if things do go horribly wrong, the Coast Guard, the Port that ship came from will be involved, but the cruise company itself will send out some attractive cruise director-like “spokesperson” to simply say how sorry they are. Fellow communicators, we need to do a lot better than this.


22 Responses to “Princess Cruise on a roll”

  1. Marge Says:

    Yeah….I was on the Crown Princess with my husband, and sister in law and brother in law. We thought we were going down. We were on the starboard side Deck 9 which was tipping and on the balcony – knocked down and could not get up due to gravity pulling me toward the railing. We are all convinced that it was more than a fifteen degree tilt….the water was almost up to the life boats on 8 deck and I heard that there was sea water that came in on 7 deck – Promenade Deck.

    They are saying it was human error…….which is really scary….poorly trained personnel…don’t know if I will ever go on a ship again….all I could think about was if this had happened in the middle of the night…..far away from a port.

  2. Robin Webber Says:

    Scary indeed…also Princess seems to have severe customer service issues. Anyone know how I can get to someone in management to complain? All I can get to is several non-managers that won’t give me names of anyone in managment.

  3. gbaron Says:

    Robin, you may be able to find email addresses on their website. It’s hard for me to believe companies like this don’t make themselves accessible to people who wish to register a complaint or comment. One thing I might suggest is to keep doing what you are doing and comment on blogs or other sites that deal with customer service issues. A lot of companies are doing a better job these days using services such as Google alerts to identify what is being said about them online. And if the communication people for Princess are up to their task, they will report this kind of comment to management.

    Princess–if you are listening, open up an avenue for customer comment,. Looks like you may need that.

  4. Lisa S. Says:

    I did hear staff on a recent Princess cruise (10/06) say their headquarters were in Santa Clarita, CA.

  5. Bob Leski Says:

    Eight of us cruised on Golden Princess in Jan 2007 South American cruise. My overall rating is 7 out of 10. The eat/anytime buffet served excellent food. The entertainment was excellent. The ship was spacious & clean. And there were plenty of activities.
    There were 3 big negatives:
    1) Often the air conditioner was set too high. I left Michigan for warm weather & often had to wear a sweater.
    2) The volume of the entertainment was ear damaging. I stuffed my ear with kleenex & found out other people complained about volume.
    3) I registered several complaints to no avail. It seemed if my concern got to the audio technicians at the performances, they paid no attention.
    I also am disappointed that I cannot find a phone number or email address to conduct someone in authority at Princess.
    Bob Leski

  6. Dave Says:

    Here an e-mail for Princess complaints.

  7. Dave Says:

    Here’s another way to complain to Princess. Good Luck! They probably won’t respond. Princess Cruises, Attn: customer relations, 24844 Ave. Rockefeller, Santa Clarita, CA 91355

  8. Cheryl Rotert Says:

    On Feb.28,07 we cruised on the beautiful Sapphire Princess to Aus/New Zeal. The staff of Princess was excellent, the ship was gorgeous and the cruise was magnificent. We left with one complaint. We feel scammed by the Coke card purchase. The personnel of Princess made it sound as though I would be charged $30 if I purchased a sticker for my passenger ID card. She offered a “souvenier” metal coke can to my husband and me. After reviewing our billing statement, we find a $24 extra charge for the metal “souvenier” cans! This has left us very upset. Your attention to this problem would be greatly appreciated. We are members of the Captains Circle and have been very pleased with your service in the past. Thank You, Cheryl Rotert

  9. gbaron Says:

    Hello Cheryl, I just wanted to make sure you understood that I have no connection to Princess Cruises nor any access to their customer service department. Comments here are related to a blog post I made many months ago. One commenter helpfully provided this information which may help you get in touch with the right people:

    Princess Cruises, Attn: customer relations, 24844 Ave. Rockefeller, Santa Clarita, CA 91355

    Good luck!

  10. Barbara Says:

    I have a group booking on the Star for July. I added new names to the group and the air increased. Found out they negociate air rates(not taxes)in January. This makes the price for a group package increase. This is just one problem with Princess what is the cruise going to be like. I also agree, you can not get to the KING on the hill(CEO or anyone close)I have tried the customer care, sales rep etc and not one returns calls.

  11. karen Says:

    We just finished the Island Princess cruise from Vancouver to Whitter Alaska. We registered two months ago online and confirmed our spa dates, etc. The online form also asks if there are any special occasions being celebrated. ours was our 25th anniversary. We booked a couples’s massage and received a confirmation number for it. We called one hour prior to the spa desk person to confirm our time. She told us to come 1/2 hour later. We did and then she told us, without apology, that there were no open rooms and they couldn’t accomodate us that evening, on our anniversary. She was rude and incompetent and should never have handled such a responsibility which she was not capable of. She told us online reservations are not always adhered to. Great.
    Then our anniversary night came and went and why did they ask about special occasions at all?

    When we tried to phone the Denali Princess lodge from the cruise ship, we were kept on hold for over 20 minutes each time we called. Then we got the phone bill from the reception desk for over $200.00 for these calls. Don’t they have free phone service to their lodges? We asked at the desk if they could book our Denali Lodge day excursions and they said no. So many staff are untrained and new that no one seems to know what to do to help their customers. This really set our whole anniversary celebration off to a bad start and we will not forget it.
    Karen and Timothy Cohen

  12. Margarita A. Says:

    My husband and I had a similar bad experience on Crown Princess (Voyage 3725 from NY). It was also our anniversary trip. We were looking forward to enjoy beautiful Caribbean nature scenery and beaches. A few weeks in advance, we booked an excursion “Best of St. Thomas Island” Tour 100A for Sunday, July 1st, 2007 . 24 hours before the excursion, we received a confirmation letter delivered to our state room stating that due to a printing error the Shore Excursion Team would like us to verify if we booked the right tour, and if not, we could cancel our reservation. The tour description still looked as described on the Princess site. However, on the actual tour date we got unpleasant unexpected “surprise”. To make a long story short, the Crown Princess Shore Excursion staff “forgot” to mention in their confirmation letter (obviously because they did not want to see cancellations) that due to Sunday, the tour itinerary had changed, and instead of taking us first on an island tour and to the beach, they dropped us off for almost 4 hour shopping on a town. After checking St. Thomas’ shops on Main Street for 40 minutes, we went to the meeting place where our driver was supposed to take us to the beach. It was before 10 am, and due to the hot sun, we did not want to wait 3 more hours for a trip to the beach. Since the taxi fare for a 5-10 minute trip was outrageously high, we did not want to add extra expenses related to the charge of $112 ($56 trip price per person x 2) for this disappointing trip.
    We had walked to the ship under the hot sun for about 25-30 minutes. The day was ruined. We filed a complaint the same day. The Crown Princess Shore Excursion manager insisted that they did nothing wrong by not advising potential tour goers on an itinerary change. It took me 20 minutes of arguing with the manager, to receive a credit just for one person. I was not happy with the way customers had been treated by the Princess tour dept (there were more angry folks who got tricked into this tour). I sent a complaint letter to the Princess Cruises Passenger Relations dept., with attached copies of all related correspondence from the Shore Excursion team. In a month, they replied with a letter refusing refunding us $56.00 for the second ticket, however, they mentioned that they would be happy to see us on the Princess ships again. Are you kidding me?! The next on my list is a complaint to BBB, and obviously not booking another Princess cruise. I just do not want other passengers being mistreated by Princess staff, including misrepresentation and total disregard. It is obvious that Princess staff just does not care about their clientele.

  13. israel abramovitch Says:

    i am booked on a cruise on 18 november from laem chabang.
    confirmation (deleted by crisisblogger for privacy concerns). how can i arrange the transfer from
    bankok to laem chbang, and when am i going to get my tickets

  14. Nightmare on Princess Cruise Lines Says:

    I NO LONGER RECOMMEND PRINCESS and/or 1 night repositioning cruises. If you insist upon floating, directionless onboard a PRINCESS ship avoid the Golden as you may never find the missing crew. If you like drunks, don’t mind walking through vomit or watching the crew try to hold up women in heals that can’t stand-up without falling, or if you
    aren’t traveling for pleasure than Princess may work for you. Whatever you do, unless you enjoy a booze cruise, no service, serve yourself, and don’t worry if you end up in the ER avoid Princess… especially because when you do have a problem they look you in the eye and with a silent twinkle tell you to get over it. Or, try the phone route, you’ll never get through, they put you on hold until…. ooops, your call gets dropped. If you prefer service, are hoping to have access to meals, expect to get a bandage when a poorly maintained ship handrail leaves you bleeding, believe that service personnel should listen and respond, have traveled before and loved it and want to invite others who can be influenced to become future cruisers… do not travel Princess Golden. I have NEVER seen a less informed, more poorly executed crew and I’ve been traveling for years. What food we did get was uncooked, over cooked, rotten fruit, the buffet was absent of ship personnel managing a standing room only service area, the passengers left their manners behind, people grabbed as if there would be no food tomorrow… surprisingly they were correct as we were forced to exit the ship more than 2.5-3 hours prior to scheduled exhit and more than 1 hour prior to scheduled pier arrival. The purser staff was inconvenienced by needy passengers and made no effort to correct the problems they created, in fact if they didn’t want to hear what passengers had to say they simply walked away. Not all rooms (out of the eight we booked) were configured as promised. The bus transit for the Vancouver pier included a sealed door (probably for home land security… though a driver “needed a smoke” pulled over had his pleasure then ask someone outside the bus to seal the door again prior to completing the journey through US (16 paying passengers) couldn’t happen because the beeper they provided at 5 pm still hadn’t gone off at 8:30 pm and a follow-up visit to the dining room to say what’s up resulted in a sorry we don’t have room to serve you tonight… Are you kidding me. What happened to go on a cruise, gain a pound overeating great food every day, be pampered until you beg them to stop, enjoy the comforts of luxury in everything you do? Though I’m scheduled for another cruise on Princess in a couple of months that now has a cancellation penalty I’ve just begun the communicate and complain process. So far I’ve seen no evidence that either the travel agency, or the cruise line are very bothered and/or have expedited these complaints to prove their commitment to passenger. Anybody know how to get a refund… better communicate dissatisfaction (when they fail to publish addresses (which would take too long) and telephone numbers)?

  15. tori hannan Says:

    Anyone had a bed bug expierence on these ships??? Dirty sheets, mites? FEED BACK WILL HELP MY SITUATIIONS

  16. cruisestaff Says:

    I used to work for Princess and really enjoyed my time while onboard. I sympathize with you all, it is unfortunate that you had a bad experience.
    I can say that the majority of crew members really do care, and let me tell you, I have worked with some crew that didn’t care, and it would upset me as the ones that do try to make your cruise experiece a wonderful one are often overlooked.
    Although Princess may not tell you, I can certainly say that when complaint is made, (and the crew members name is on the complaint), disaplinary action is taken.
    Alhtough this isn’t an excuse, do keep in mind that crew members are often on the ships for 6 – 8 months, and work 7 days a week. We all have a bad day, we just don’t want that day to be taken out on us. I can say for myself, if Iwans’t having a great day, I tried to put a smile on my face, and certainly excused myself if I needed a few minutes….it’s hard as we are not able to take a day off.
    I hope that you re-consider another cruise with Princess in the future, as i have worked alongside other cruise lines, and will say that besides Royal Caribbean, Princess is a very good cruise line to cruise with.

  17. gbaron Says:

    I very much appreciate this response. It is easy to pile on the criticism on a blog like this (as the host I have just sat back and watched the comments) but it is really important to have people who are working in the industry and for the company participate in the discussion. I can tell you, as a cruiser with about six cruises under my belt, my experiences have almost always been very positive including with Princess.

  18. lisabambolina Says:

    There is one other thing I wanted to mention…unfortunately whatever happens on land, i.e. – airlines, food at a restaurant that you went to isn’t the fault of Princess. Now, if Princess recommended a particular restaurant/store, then give your feedback to them….how many time have you gone to your favourite restaurant, and you’ll go one time, and the service wasn’t up to par. Happens to me occasionally….and I make a comment…otherwise they will lose business….and when they have a cruise line recommending their business, let me tell you, they will fix it if the feedback is given to them and to Princess…they wouldn’t want to lose the business.

    Someone above mentioned that the airline portion of the cruise fare had gone up…how can Princess avoid that. Prices of gas is constantly going up…the airline needs to at least cover their costs as well….I’m confused as to how this is the fault of Princess and any other cruise line as this happens to other cruise lines as well.

    I wanted to also touch on the phone and internet service. Let me remind everyone that Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Carnival, etc. are at sea. Believe it or not, we don’t have wires that connect the ship to land…which means that all phone and internet service is done by satellite. Sometimes the service is great, and sometimes the service is slow…unfortunately there isn’t much they can do about that. Think of all the crew that use those services on a regular basis…

    Now….Bob mentioned some negatives….when dealing with 2500 passengers plus, you can’t please everyone when it comes to the air conditioning… what can I say. I’m going to have to be frank here…some people will find it cold, and some people still complain that they’re still hot. Same goes with the volume of the shows….you may find it too loud, but there are passengers that still complain that they had difficulties hearing it, (maybe they have a problem with their hearing, I don’t know…). I will say however, that I am disappointed that a member of the ship didn’t speak to you about this, and at least explain to you why the volumes are set as they are. I certainly would’ve spent the time to speak with you. You may still dis-agree with me, but at least it would’ve been addressed.

    Well…enough of my ranting…I could really go on and on…but I am more than happy to speak to any questions you may have…:-)

  19. margaret Baron Says:

    Have just read the Princess Cruise Blog for the first time. Very fasinating. We have had 45 cruises. We have had several on Princess as well as Holland America, Celebrity, Queen Mary, RCL, NCL etc. One can always find a problem here and there but our experience has always been positive. One can like one thing about this one and another about that one but over all we love cruising.

  20. Bettie Greber Says:

    Last August I cruised Vancouver to Whittier with my family, inlcuding a 2 year old grandchild. We had glitches in service on board which we rolled with. However, when we arrived in Whittier our bags that had been placed outside the door the night before were broken into, items stolen- inlcuding all our raingear which we planned on using in the remaining week of our vacation- and our granddaughter’s car seat was stolen. We filled out the lost item forms, and per direction of the Princess representative- rented a car seat to drive to the hotel- and bought one to return home with ont he plane and return car from the airport. About 6 weeks after returning home and no refund I wrote Princess. They replied no, no refund- read the back of the ticket- they are not responsible for luggage in their control. I wrote back- your rep told us to file forms and to rent the carseat- they wrote back no refund. SO DON NOT PLACE YOUR LUGGAGE OUTSIDE YOUR DOOR THE NIGHT BEFORE THEY WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE. Perhaps if everyone carries their luggage to the waiting areas they will get the idea they need to be responsible. Their CUSTOMER SERVICE IS NOT EXISTANT. I am going to start a website to warn everyone about their service and how to get reservations, etc. They should have just paid me the $630 I requested. This was a small amount considering the hours we had to drive in AK to get a carseat!

  21. My Fiance & I just returned from the Southern Caribbean. We chose to take our cruise aboard the Emerald Princess.Aside from a few forgettable glitches, we had a wonderful time, and I am so amazed at all the complaints I have read.
    I would especially like to send our most Heartfelt Thank You to Passenger Relations Manager Kris Carl for all of his efforts in making this one of our favorite cruises. He went over and beyond the call of duty to make sure that
    all our needs were met, all in a courteous & amiable way. Princess is still our favorite cruise line, & I will continue to refer them to all my friends & family!
    Elsa E. DeAnda

  22. dave hepper Says:

    pricess cruise lines has provided us with several outstanding experiences in long distance cruising. Top marks to ships officers & crew including the newer eastern europeans newly recruited to the business.
    However, princess p.r. seems incapapable of recognizing that cigarette smoking is a huge source of customer aggravation on cruises, with the pristine balcony air fouled by the weed and the residual stench in the cabins

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