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Trip Report Holland America: The Enron of Cruise Lines

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What would you do if your cruise line lost your bag between their transit bus from the airport to the ship? If it`s Holland America, get used to disposable underwear, borrowed shorts and a complimentary overnight kit. If you`re missing medicine, know that it`s your responsibility to keep it on your person. To be safe, with Holland America, you may want to keep your bags with you on the bus and move them to your stateroom yourself. That will at least assure that you have clothes for the voyage.

But Holland America will get the lost bag to you right? Well, no. They said that they couldn`t find a courier to deliver the bag. I asked about one of their employees flying it down, someone flying up and back, having the airline fly the bag.......nothing was possible. Besides, Holland America employees had holidays and weren`t available. I wondered why my holidays were so less important.

Once it was clear that Holland America wouldn`t deliver my bag to Casablanca, I asked guest relations to please give me a list of round trip flights and costs from Casablanca to Amsterdam. I know that travel sites list over 100 opportunities and that it takes two to three minutes to get the information. I was told that wasn`t possible; all travel information must come from the Seattle office. Six hours later I was informed that there was a flight to Amsterdam. But, I said, I was looking for a round trip and costs. The next morning, now 18 hours after my request, I was told that there was a round trip with a two hour layover in Amsterdam which would return to Casablanca a couple of hours before the ship departed. They only had one way cost data, however.

Given my blood pressure readings and a glaucoma concern, I thought that I might fly up and back...it looked like it would cost me about $600. But wait, Holland America said that most of my layover would be consumed by my trip to and from Rotterdam where the bag was left by their staff. I suspect that the cab ride would cost another $300 or so, but it might be at the expense of making the flight. So, to me, what was a pressing health issue was to them not important enough to deliver the bag to the airport.

I decided not to go on what looked like a long shot. My wife requested that the medical office write prescriptions for the missing medicines so that we could look for them in Casablanca. I waited by my phone at the prescribed time. I never heard back.

Sometime after leaving Casablanca I asked (again) to speak to the guest relations manager. It still wasn`t possible, but her assistant was available. That turned out to be fortunate. She listened and understood the alternatives and an employee flew the bag to Madeira.....sdomething that was impossible for the previous five days.

As a final stroke, we asked our "new friend" to see if she could get us a flight change from the Canary Islands to Madrid to better match our post cruise itinerary. She dutifully contacted the Seattle office and told us that the four of us could fly for $2700. Because of our difficulty in getting information from the service desk, we had arranged internet access. We found the same flights for about $1400. Even after our experience, why did we feel more like profit centers than customers? But, it is what Enron would have done.

We`ve been on 10-12 cruises and know what to expect and what constitutes customer care. Holland America has lots of employees who smile, are friendly, and can serve meals and clean rooms. But, when it comes to problem solving, they either dropped the ball or chose the low cost approach.....it`s hard to know which. I would bet that an 8th grade class, if presented with a few basic facts such as 182 flight options on a given day or a 28 hour drive or 106 scheduled airlines, 21 freight operators, and 150 logistic service providers, could suggest 5-6 ways to get a bag from Amsterdam to Casablanca in 4 days. On the other hand, if asked how to prevent me from getting my medicine, I wouldn`t be surprised if they would say.......tell him it can`t be done; nothing is possible. Then if he wants to fly and get his own bag, don`t deliver it to the airport. Finally, if he wants a prescription, don`t give it to him.

When I sent a "trip report" to my travel agent and Holland America, HA responded that they had tried and couldn`t find a courier; basically nothing was possible. Because I seemed less than satisfied with how the situation was handled, they offerred a $600 credit on the next cruise. For comparative purposes, that`s 5 per cent of our vacation cost; 2/3 of what it would have cost to retrieve the bag myself; and less than half of the "surcharge" on tickets from the Canary Islands to Madrid.

If you are elderly, have a medical issue or are concerned about a special problem, you should think twice about Holland America. My stateroom had a perk of "preferential baggage handling." Think of what could happen to you if you don`t have that.

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