When Your Ship Changes
By Cindy Bertram
In today's travel world, the unexpected can occur. 2005 was a challenging year for anyone involved in selling cruises, with even the best-executed travel plans disrupted
due to Mother Nature. How do you deal with these unexpected changes when your ship changes course?
Weather related issues are just one part of this scenario. Over the years, cruise cancellations, rescheduling, and repositioning have also resulted from military actions, work stoppages, equipment problems, strikes and of course, 9/11. Although uncontrollable factors like these can crop up unexpectedly, what you can control is your reaction to them. Half the fun of planning and organizing a cruise for your group is the high satisfaction rate, which falls in the 90% range. But the trip isn't over until you and your group returns. This fact, as well as thoughtful pre-planning, is very critical to making sure that the satisfaction level remains high despite any unexpected and unanticipated changes.
The pre-planning stage goes all the way back to researching cruise itineraries, ships and sailing dates for your group members. Although it is second nature to sell the itinerary and destination first, keep in mind that no cruise itinerary is an absolute. Cruise lines have disclaimers, and naturally so, because even they cannot always guarantee they will visit all the ports of call. Oceania Cruises, for instance, had Libya included in a few new itineraries last year, but an unexpected diplomatic disagreement prompted the local officials to deny U.S. citizens entry into Libya.
Related to pre-planning, keeping those notes on other cruises and itineraries you've considered or presented to your group is also very important when making a decision. You might have to go back to those alternatives. After Hurricane Katrina's devastation, Carnival Cruise Lines decided to charter three of their ships to FEMA for government use lasting a for 6- month period. According to Carnival's public relations department, "This was a very unusual situation and Carnival did its best to accommodate as many affected guests as possible. We were forced to cancel and/or rebook thousands of individual and group bookings."
In the case of the advance cancellation or change notice, you should be given some alternatives for your group. Be proactive--if you see something on the news, receive an email or maybe another form of communication, get in touch with the cruise line's group department as soon as possible. Even though cruise lines work with changes on a case-by-case basis, you want to make sure you are on the top of their list to get something rescheduled.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.