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Archive for February, 2011


Beat the post-cruise blues

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On February - 27 - 2011

Sometimes when I return from a cruise vacation, I feel completely burned out.

Don’t feel sorry for me. On those vacations, I’ve I hiked through rain forests, ridden down zip lines, trekked atop a glacier, snorkeled with stingrays and meandered through Egyptian pyramids. But eventually I returned home to stacks of bills, dead houseplants and a cat that had hurled all over the white carpet. Worse yet, I now had to cook, clean and go back to being the family boss. In short, it was no fun to come back to reality after a vacation in Floating Fantasyland. Sometimes it took weeks to shake off the Post-Cruise Blues.

How to deal with the letdown? Here are some tips.

Before the cruise

  • Pad your vacation time. Add a day or two of stay-at-home time to each end of the cruise. You’ll need the time before the cruise to put the house in good order, and you’ll want some time to yourself after the cruise to unpack, unwind and catch up on household tasks.
  • Pay bills before you leave. Electronic payment takes the worry out of this task; just queue the payments, and your bills will be paid automatically while you are away. If you pay bills the old-fashioned way, write out the checks and have them ready to mail upon your return, or have a trusted friend or family member mail them as they come due.
  • Get your house shipshape. Put your house in order before you go. The last thing you need to come home to is a mess. Do the cleaning and laundry, put the mail and newspapers on hold, make arrangements for your pets, and don’t forget to have someone water your plants. For more tips, read my article “When your home is alone.”
  • Figure out what you want from your vacation. If you’ve planned for a week at sea reading best sellers when what you really enjoy is nonstop adventure, you’re setting yourself up for a downer vacation and a good dose of the post-cruise blues. So define what you hope to achieve from your vacation, then arrange to make that happen. If your trip turns out as you hoped, you are more likely to return home satisfied, refreshed and ready to go again.

During your cruise

  • Have fun. This sounds obvious, but some people lead such harried lives that they have trouble switching into vacation mode. Others miss the fun because they don’t plan ahead or because they dwell on the negative. I recently saw some people ruin their day in Rome after learning that the Vatican Museum was closed for a holiday. The closing was clearly noted in our cruise documents – the people just hadn’t seen it, and they couldn’t get past their disappointment. Instead of enjoying a wonderful sunny day in the Eternal City, they spent the entire day complaining. If you find yourself sliding into this kind of funk even before you get home, put yourself in the capable hands of the cruise director, who will help you find some ship and shore activities to enjoy.
  • Be realistic about your schedule. Everyone has high hopes for their cruise vacations, but you should have realistic expectations — and that includes knowing the limits of your schedule. Don’t try to see everything and don’t be disappointed if you don’t see all the sights you had hoped to see. Also be clear about your sightseeing style. If you’re traveling with family members who like to explore every nook and cranny of a place, while you are happy seeing the main attractions, for heaven’s sake split up. If you let them drag you all over the place, you’ll be miserable, so set up your own sightseeing and do it at your own pace.
  • Watch what you eat and drink. Let’s face it, a cruise vacation often means eating or drinking more than usual, but nothing ruins a homecoming like five extra pounds and a hangover. Try to return to your normal diet as your vacation starts winding down; that way you won’t spend your first days home in withdrawal from overindulgence.
  • Get your sleep. Try to get a good night’s sleep every night so you don’t return home sleep-deprived. This isn’t always easy on a cruise. Not only are there late-night activities to enjoy, but your sleeping environment is unfamiliar. I’ve found it helps to bring my own pillow and alarm clock; earplugs and an eye masks can help, too. But my best sleep aid is my sound machine, which blocks out all background noise. Also, try to follow your regular sleep schedule, at least toward the end of the cruise. It will make your re-entry to the work world much easier.
  • Be a tourist. Buy tacky souvenirs and take silly photos. When you look at these mementos later, you’ll find they remind you of the good times and help filter out the bad experiences — or at least make them seem funny.

Back home

  • Ease back into your regular routine. Jumping right back into the rat race can exacerbate the post-cruise blues, so give yourself some space for a few days. Start back in with the routines you enjoy. If you planned your homecoming well, the nastier chores will wait.
  • Treat yourself. Have something to look forward to when you get home. Schedule a massage, plan a night on the town or invite friends over for a get-together. I use food and drink to extend my vacation. My daughters and I just returned from Italy, and we’ve been preparing lots of Italian fare to relive our good times. While we’re eating pasta and pizza, we talk about the trip. After dinner, we look at our photos and laugh at our funny souvenirs.
  • Count your blessings. There are far worse things than post-cruise blues. Be thankful for your family and what you have to come home to. A vacation is a wonderful thing, and an attitude of gratitude certainly helps keep things in perspective.

The truth is, it’s perfectly normal to feel let down after a cruise vacation. After all, everyday life is pretty boring by comparison. But there is one consolation: Now you can start planning your next cruise vacation. So here’s my last hint: Send away for some big, fat cruise brochures before you leave on your trip. They’ll be waiting for you when your return home — right there in that big stack of bills.

By Anita Dunham-Potter (editor@www.expertcruiser.com)

© www.expertcruiser.comYour online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

Filled Under Advice, What's New?

Fogged out and frustrated

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On February - 23 - 2011

This weekend dense fog in the Gulf of Mexico delayed three cruise ships from docking in Galveston, Texas. Of course the delays were frustrating for passengers on board the ships as well as those awaiting to start their cruises. Last April I wrote a column about a very similar situation out of Mobile, Alabama and it gives a lot of insight into what you can do if this happens to you.

Tennessee resident Patty Johnson was looking forward to her 5-day cruise on the Carnival Fantasy sailing from Mobile, Alabama last December. However, when she arrived at the pier there was no ship due to severe fog. According to Johnson the weather wasn’t the only thing that was foggy, but so too was the information they received from Carnival.

Gulf nightmare

December 14 was an extraordinarily rare weather situation as thick fog in the Gulf of Mexico closed ports and delayed cruise ships from Tampa FL all the way to Galveston TX. Carnival Cruise Line’s ships weren’t the only ones affected that day a number of Royal Caribbean vessels had also been delayed by the inclement weather.

Guests arriving at the Mobile pier hoping to sail on the Carnival Fantasy that afternoon quickly discovered there were no ship due to the weather and were instead sent to the city’s civic center to await information from the cruise line. While waiting for news from Carnival terminal officials provided lunches to the stranded passengers and offered advice on sightseeing and shopping in the downtown area.

When the Carnival Fantasy couldn’t return from its four day cruise, the five day cruise set to depart that afternoon for Cozumel would have to wait until the next day. Carnival issued a statement to guests waiting at the civic center stating that it worked with area hotels for discounted room rates and would be providing transportation to and from hotels. According to Patty Johnson that wasn’t the only thing that Carnival stated.

Misinformation

Johnson said the communication between the Carnival staff and the passengers was extremely poor. She stated a Carnival employee announced that since the ship couldn’t get in on schedule the cruise line was changing the sailing from 5 days to 4 days. “He then announced that we could go on the shortened sailing and get a partial refund for the day missed or we could not sail and get a full refund,” said Johnson. With that information Johnson says she was opting to get the full cash refund and drive back home to Tennessee. However, a few minutes later the same Carnival employee came on the speaker and announced that there had been an error and that those canceling would receive a credit towards a future cruise, not a full refund as previously announced.

Patty Johnson was furious. “I paid $556.42 in good faith for a 5-day cruise Carnival could not provide. They were quick enough to take my money. I feel they have an obligation to honor’s their senior representative’s announcement and provide me with a full refund.”

I contacted Carnival to get their side of the story. I spoke with Carnival spokesperson, Vance Gulliksen. Gulliksen acknowledged there had been some misinformation regarding the opportunity to receive refunds that was inadvertently relayed to guests. Gulliksen adds that shortly after this misstatement, a letter outlining embarkation instructions for the modified four-day cruise, as well as the correct information on Carnival’s offer for a future cruise credit, was distributed to all guests. All guests were given the option of sailing and receiving a refund equal to one day of their cruise fare, along with a $20 missed port credit, or canceling and receiving a future cruise credit equal to their cruise fare.

“More than 2,150 guests opted to sail on the modified four-day voyage,” said Gulliksen. Patty Johnson opted to not to sail and received a future cruise credit which is valid for sailings through December 2011.

Fog protection?

Changes in itinerary can be upsetting for some guests since they aren’t getting the exact scheduled vacation they purchased. While I sympathize with Patty Johnson I feel that her stance given Carnival’s admission to be unreasonable. A mistake was made by one employee, but was quickly rectified a few minutes later by the cruise line. Furthermore, the cruise line certainly couldn’t help the extreme fog situation.

In every cruise lines’ passenger contract is a clause stating that the cruise line has the right to change a sailing or skip a port during a cruise for weather or other safety information. Carnival’s Cruise Contract has this very clause located under Section 7, which basically states they can change course and have no liability for any compensation or other damages in such circumstances. Fortunately most major cruise lines like Carnival do compensate passengers in those instances and offer partial refunds, shipboard credits or discounts on a future cruise.

In the rare instance a cruise is canceled, passengers are entitled to a full refund. Still, the majority of ships set sail regardless of weather. Cruise travel is unique in that you will usually have a vacation even with weather issues. Travel insurance coverage would have kicked in for the expenses of a hotel, but most basic travel insurance policies do not cover passengers who cancel or delay a trip merely because the itinerary has changed. There are some insurers and cruise lines that offer a ‘cancel for any reason’ add-on to a regular travel insurance. Depending upon the insurer, cancel-for-any-reason policies provide a cash payout of a portion of a canceled trip’s cost or for a cruise line a voucher for use on a future trip. As for Patty Johnson she’s still not happy with the outcome and still debating whether or not to use her cruise credit.

By Anita Dunham-Potter (editor@www.expertcruiser.com)

© www.expertcruiser.comYour online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

Filled Under Advice, gallery, Ombudsman