We risked our lives for you and you screwed us. No, really, I mean that. Last Friday morning, Jason, Brett, and I, three Cornell Hotelies, embarked on a 4-turned-9-hour journey from Ithaca to Long Island in Arctic Blast Volume III: Have a Great Spring Break and Good Luck Getting Out of the Tri-State Area. The only thing keeping us going through such a treacherous drive was the thought of our next-day Miami departure on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. ROADS WERE CLOSING BEHIND US, yet we pressed on. We didn’t die.
So then we arrived in Long Island, spent the night at Jason’s parents’ home, and at 4:45 am Saturday when we arrived at La Guardia to catch our flight to Miami, what were we greeted with?
Yeah, canceled. Pretty much all of them. Add to that a mob of angry New Yorkers and you’ve pretty much put me straight into my personal heaven on earth. We’d even tried to skip the line by getting Jason to act all giddy and excited as he posed next to me for pictures with my sweatshirt hood up and my giant sunglasses on (I’m supposed to be a celebrity– get it?) By 8:30 (ALMOST FOUR HOURS LATER), we’d reached the front of the line expecting to be re-routed to Florida. How hard can it be to get from New York to Miami, honestly? According to US Airways, the carrier YOU booked us through, Royal Caribbean, such a journey can’t be made until Sunday evening. I was quickly stripped of my celebrity status and deemed the official suitcase supervisor since my friends were convinced that being physically surrounded by 50-pound barriers would keep me from punching the ticket agent in the face. According to said ticket agent, there was no way to get to the state of Florida through US Air or any other airline out of JFK, Islip, LGA, or even Syracuse for that matter. GOOD ONE. With our ship leaving at 5:00 that evening, we picked up the phone to call you, Royal Caribbean, because we knew that since we purchased the airfare-cruise package, you’d help us out as you promised.
But no. Because you’re you, and why would you help out a bunch of 20-21 year olds? After a total of roughly 3 hours on hold throughout the morning, we heard LUST FOR LIFE, your early-90′s-rock theme song, no less than 600 times and as a result we were entirely robbed of anything resembling a lust for life. Finally, after telling us to deal with US Airways ourselves, you came up with an awesome solution: “we’ll fly you to Jamaica, four days into your seven day cruise, and then you can drive two hours once you get there to meet the ship on the other side of Jamaica. Until then, enjoy the Miami Airport Marriott. If you ever get there. Oh, no meals for you. Or transportation. Or refund for the part of the cruise you missed. Oh, and the hotel is a bit loud and surrounded by construction.” YEAH, THANKS. We called back. And back. And again. Each time, we’d be redirected and subjected to 15 minutes of LUST FOR LIFE in our cute little dying-to-be-tanned ears. Why not just cancel the cruise and spend the week in NYC, you ask? Because you, RCCL, wouldn’t refund our money and assured us that the credit card company wouldn’t either.
It was now 11 am. We’d found out that a ship with the exact same itinerary AND a ship identical to ours with an itinerary in a different part of the Caribbean were both leaving Sunday from Miami. After talking to several different people and being spoken to like we were children who had never set foot outside of mommy and daddy’s house, we demanded to talk to a supervisor. An hour later we landed at Ellen, extension 4337.
Ellen said we could not get on any RCCL ships ever. Why? THE MANIFEST. A manifest does not interest me at all and from what I understand, it’s some list of names that needs to be submitted somewhere since we’d be in international waters, but whatever. Ellen got irritated with my constant “but why can’t you just move our reservations? We already paid for a cruise. A stateroom is a perishable good and if the ship is going to sail away with empty rooms, wouldn’t you rather have customers in those rooms buying cocktails and shore excursions?” Thank you Cornell Hotel School. What Ellen did not know was that one of the previous 15ish rude people we’d spoken to over at RCCL Corporate that day had slipped and told us that the MANIFEST was not closed until 2:00 pm the day prior to the cruise. It was now noon. While she did not seem to comprehend that I understood she was a dirty liar, Ellen finally brought me to tears with her firm “you CANNOT ARGUE WITH THE US GOVERNMENT, MA’AM. THE MANIFEST IS ALREADY IN AND TO PUT YOU ON THIS SHIP WOULD BE A VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW. There is nothing we can do for you here.” No compensation. Nothing.
Things you might wonder: did we buy cruise care insurance? No. We’re poor college students, but we thought we were all set because we’d bought the airfare through RCCL. Would it have mattered in our situation? Ellen, extension 4337, said that it did not. This insurance only covers a death in the immediate family or a serious injury prior to the cruise, she explained. Did we tell them we’re all Hotel School Students with ties to RCCL, all 3 repeat customers, and know we were being screwed? Yes. Believe me.
SUDDENLY, when we were speaking to yet ANOTHER person at corporate, we mentioned booking a WHOLE NEW CRUISE on a Sunday ship, dropping an extra $3000… “oh,” they said cheerfully, “we can book you on that ship, of course!” THE MANIFEST NO LONGER MATTERED! Imagine that.
And that’s what we did. We bought an ENTIRELY NEW cruise that was leaving Sunday, literally ran into the Islip airport in Long Island, dropped an extra several hundred dollars to book a ticket through Southwest Airlines, and took the last 3 seats on a plane from Islip to West Palm Beach that night while US Airways stood there with there thumbs up their you-know-whats. Before boarding the plane, we double, triple, quadruple checked that US Airways kept our reservations for our Sunday return from Miami to New York after we got off the ship and the agent even showed us where they’d put a “runk” in the system. You, RCCL, did NOTHING TO HELP US EVEN THOUGH YOU BOOKED THESE FLIGHTS FOR US AND ASSURED US YOU WOULD DO EVERYTHING YOU COULD TO GET US TO MIAMI. We stayed overnight in a Palm Beach Garden Inn, got a car service to drive us to Miami, neither of which was paid for by RCCL, and got on Explorer of the Seas on Sunday. We alerted you of our situation and you told us to enjoy our cruise, assuring us that all would be ok on our return flights.
And we had an INCREDIBLE, amazing time on the cruise and forgot alllll about it. The staff & crew on board RCCL ships are absolutely perfect; friendly, wonderful individuals who pay great attention to detail.
But why stop there, RCCL?
Now we’ve gotten off the ship in the Miami airport, 7 days later. What do you know? Even though we begged and PLEADED that US Airways and you, RCCL, double and triple checked that we had flights home booked for this day and time (which, again, we booked through YOU, Royal Caribbean), we showed up at the airport 6 hours early and alas the reservation was simply canceled. Gone. We didn’t show up for that first cruise, so you, RCCL and US Airways, went ahead and canceled our return flights. You just had to seal it with a kiss, didn’t you? Apparently our “runk” did not help us much. Apparently, as we found out that afternoon, “runk” is simply the magic code word that US Airways uses to get the stupid 20-year-olds away from the agents’ desks. What did US Airways say to us regarding this flub? “Sorry. There’s nothing we can do.” No explanation. Nothing. We were on our own for transportation and accomodations now, as US Airways would take no blame for the whole thing nor would Royal Caribbean.
And the absolute earliest they could get us to the New York area was Monday night (“hopefully,” they added), putting us into Ithaca on Tuesday afternoon after the whole driving back from Long Island thing.
Defeated and stranded in Miami after hanging out on the bottom of a standby list for 3 flights, we sat in the terminal when we ran into our guardian angel, a US Airways supervisor named Stash. We told him our story and he was the first person that gave it to us straight. He explained the incredible mess US Airways has been for the last few weeks because of the merger or whatever is going on with America West. He admitted that it was US Air’s fault, put us in hotel (I use the term “hotel” loosely here) on US Air’s dollar, and gave us some food vouchers for the airport. He booked us on some flights through Philly for the next day, guaranteed, double, triple, quadruple checked. On our way out the door, I asked for our luggage (which US Air had taken from us 8 hours ago since we were on standby for some flights that day) and I literally thought my heart shut down when he said “oh, um, we don’t know where your bags are. They were put on the first plane this morning. They could be in Philly, they could be in Islip… but they’re not here.” Oh, ok. No makeup, clothes, deoderant, ANYTHING.
That night, we went to South Beach and drowned our sorrows in $15 Long Island Iced Teas at The Delano.
As luck would have it, the next morning (Monday), we woke up and arrived at Miami airport to find.. get ready… WE HAD NO RESERVATION and all the flights were full. Hilarious. Finally, someone at US Airways realized what we’d been through and had enough sympathy to book us out of Ft. Lauderdale airport, put us in a cab, and thanked their lucky stars that we were only 20-year-old wide-eyed college students who would not threaten them with law suits or weapons or whatever. We spent the night in Long Island and drove back 5.5 hours to Ithaca this morning.
So, now it’s Tuesday and we’ve just arrived home.
Thank you, Royal Caribbean and US Airways. We are now out $3000 for a cruise we did not even go on and flights that never happened, several hundred for hotel and transportation when we were stranded, and our spirits and tans have faded considerably.
The first thing we learned in the Hotel School was that when guests have a good experience, they tell 1 or 2 people. When they have a bad one, they tell 20. In my case, I will make it my personal mission to tell 20,000. Starting now.
No matter how many phone calls and letters we have to send your way, I assure you, we will get that money back from you, Royal Caribbean. You picked the wrong group of college students to mess with.
Jenna ’08, Brett ’08, and Jason ’07