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Banned from Royal Caribbean for complaining too much

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On May - 19 - 2008

 

Brenda Moran speaks to WKYC reporter Mike O'Mara

Brenda Moran speaks to WKYC reporter Mike O’Mara

Cleveland residents Brenda and Gerald Moran are experienced cruisers and big fans of Royal Caribbean. They were so happy with the cruise line they averaged two cruises a year for the past three years. They even bought the company’s stock.

Still, the Morans encountered problems on each cruise — everything from a plumbing problem to being locked out of their cabins — which they itemized and detailed in correspondence to the cruise line. Royal Caribbean worked with the couple to solve problems and offered discounts and onboard credits to keep the couple’s business.

Until it decided it no longer wanted the Moran’s business.

 

Last November, Royal Caribbean abruptly notified the couple that they were no longer welcome on any Royal Caribbean International ship, including the company’s subsidiaries Celebrity and Azamara. Ever.

What on earth did they do to get lifetime ban? They complained, and they complained loudly.

The cruise critics

Feisty Brenda Moran is certainly one not to hold back her opinion. Over the course of three years sailing on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, she documented many problems during her cruises that ran the gamut from her birthday greeting being delivered to the wrong stateroom to her husband being locked out on the balcony for three hours because the door latch jammed.

Last September, during a 14-night Alaska and Northwest sailing onboard Radiance of the Seas, the Moran’s stateroom had a plumbing problem that ended up with sewage all over the bathroom that overflowed onto the room’s carpet. Even with cleaning, the room wasn’t acceptable. The Morans asked repeatedly to be moved to another stateroom, but was told the ship was full.

The couple did the best they could to cope. “We had to keep the balcony door open in 40-degree weather the entire cruise just so we could breathe and not smell the horrible odors,” says Brenda.

Then on the last night the couple received a letter from the ship’s hotel director apologizing for the inconvenience and offered the couple a 20 percent discount on their next cruise. The Morans felt that was fair compensation and went and booked their next cruise with the line.

When Brenda returned home she wrote her usual post-cruise review on Cruise Critic and posted notes on their forums that started vigorous feedback from fellow cruisers.

Two weeks after returning home, the Morans received a phone call from Bill Weeks, an executive assistant in customer service. Weeks apologized for the couple’s treatment and offered an additional $500 to their 20 percent discount, the Morans were very happy with the offer. Again, Brenda posted her experience with Weeks on Cruise Critic’s forums.

Some board members felt the Morans had complained their way to an unfair discount and posted their displeasure. They felt that the Morans were teaching others how to “scam” Royal Caribbean. Some went so far as to contact Royal Caribbean’s president and chief executive, Adam Goldstein to complain about the Morans getting any compensation at all.

A few weeks later the Morans received a phone call from a man named Sebastian who identified himself as Bill Weeks’ boss. Sebastian was unhappy that Brenda had posted a negative review and had shared the compensation information on Cruise Critic’s boards. He asked Brenda to take down her review “at once.” Brenda refused and cited her right to free speech.

The following day the Morans received another phone call from Sebastian stating the couple was banned forever from the cruise line. The Morans were stunned. They didn’t believe it was true until an official letter was delivered citing the ban. It also contained a $500 check — their additional promised cruise credit.

Royal Caribbean speaks

I contacted Michael Sheehan, Royal Caribbean’s associate vice president of corporate communications, to get the cruise line’s side of the story. Sheehan says since 2004, the Morans sailed six voyages with two of the company’s lines. “On all but one of those sailing the Morans felt there were a variety of service failures they experienced,” he said. “In a small number of cases we agreed and compensated them appropriately. In most cases, however, we disagreed. Having concluded that we are unable to meet the expectations of the Morans, we have told them that they would be best served by sailing with another company.”

Cruising the message boards

Royal Caribbean is certainly entitled to ban whomever from their ships. Nevertheless, to ban someone for posting their cruise experience on an Internet message board raises serious questions about the lengths the company is going to keep negative reviews from public consumption. When I asked Sheehan if Royal Caribbean has an official policy on asking negative posts to be removed from Internet forums, he denied there was a policy.

Still, Internet postings are on the mind of Royal Caribbean’s top executives. In an e-mail obtained by Tripso, one Celebrity executive cites Cruise Critic’s message boards. “They love finding fault with Azamara even when things go great,” the executive complains. “How do we get over that?”

It appears that one step the company is taking to “get over that” is to intimidate posters of negative reviews and in some cases even going so far as to contact the publishers. Paul Motter, editor of Cruise Mates, was contacted by a Royal Caribbean staffer last November to have a negative review removed or at least amended.

In the e-mail, the staffer tells him the issue with the customer was resolved and asks if he can “make changes” to the posting. Motter did not take down or amend the review.

I spoke with Laura Sterling, Cruise Critic’s chief board moderator. Sterling says in her 13 years of moderating she’s never been approached by a cruise line to remove a review. She adds, “It is our policy to not entertain requests to remove negative reviews, at the request of cruise lines or anyone else.”

I asked other cruise lines about their rules and most said they have no policy at all towards Internet posts. A Carnival spokesperson, Jennifer de la Cruz, says the line has never banned someone for posting negative reviews. But the company pays attention to online discussions. “As a company we do like to maintain a feel for what’s being discussed online,” she says. “The message boards are a great source of consumer feedback.”

Indeed, Internet feedback is a hot commodity. Last year, Carnival started its own online community with message boards along with cruise director, John Heald’s popular blog. Just two weeks ago, Royal Caribbean launched its own online community called RoyalConnect with message boards for past cruisers of the line.

So, what does all this mean for you? Simply put, when you post a cruise review on a Web site, your post is likely being read by someone at the cruise line. Most cruise lines welcome feedback, even Royal Caribbean.

But if you go too far don’t be surprised if you end up with an e-mail or phone call from the cruise line.

As for the Morans, it appears there was a light at the end of walking Royal Caribbean’s plank. They’ve discovered “Freestyle Cruising” on Norwegian Cruise Line. “They are so much better than Royal Caribbean,” says Brenda.

Filled Under Advice, What's New?

220 Responses to “Banned from Royal Caribbean for complaining too much”

  1. After many holidays and four cruises in the last few years (two with RCCL) it’s all down to having good staff that can handle complaints swiftly and fairly especially with difficult customers.
    Our last cruise with Royal Caribbean the staff were absolutely brilliant and really made our holiday.(can’t complain about that,LOL).

  2. great post.Yes things may go wrong and no life is not going to be perfect however one must remember why they like to cuise and what they want out of it

  3. If they feel RC is so terrible then why cruise with them again and again? Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Seems like RC was justified in severing the relationship.

  4. A friend of mine is literally a chronic complainer- I would have sent the cruise line an anonymous message or anonymous letter so they wouldn’t know it was me making all the complaints.

  5. perde says:

    It sounds like this couple likely complains about everything and complains very loudly.

    If they feel RC is so terrible then why cruise with them again and again? Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Seems like RC was justified in severing the relationship.

  6. Peter says:

    I am a TA that books about 1.5 million in cruises every year. I believe they were banned for discussing DETAILS of the compensation they received. That should be confidential and put out in public so other complainers have a goal to reach. BTW our agency bans clients. We have a nobook list

  7. Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog centered on the same subjects you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would enjoy your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

  8. I’ve always had a great experience with Royal Caribbean.

  9. Carole Parma says:

    We are leaving for our 4th cruise on RCCL & 2 of our daughters w/their husbands are joining us. This is the 1st cruise for our youngest daughter & we wanted her to have a great experience so RCCL is it. We have sailed on several other lines & always come back to RCCL. Little things may be bothersome but if you let someone on the ship know, it is always taken care of. They cannot fix what they do not know about! If there is a complaint, smile, speak softly and ask for help!! You will get a good response! We are looking forward to our cruise in 2 weeks and know that RCCL will go out of the way to help us all have a great experience.

  10. smpsrepair says:

    The only thing I have to say is that it is very justified.

  11. Margaret Martin says:

    Royal Caribbean are the best regardless of what anybody says.

    The absolute best !!!

  12. smps repair says:

    It would be nice if people would spend more time appreciating and sharing the positive rather than dwelling on the negative, particularly in cases where rectification has occurred.

  13. I can say; when the cruise made an offer of compensation and the Morans accepted it, that is the end of the issue so don’t continue to complain. By telling to cruise line you are satisfied with the compensation, you are saying you have no further complaints. Also I will give a company a second chance and that is it. If I am not satisfied after a second trip, I am going to seek another company. so why did they keep going back. All that tells me is they were either getting over on the company or they weren’t that unhappy.

  14. Dr. Van Beveren says:

    OPEN LETTER TO THE BOARD OF ROYAL CARRIBEAN CRUISE LINES
    I asked my travel agent to find out whether the traditional Swiss Red-Cross Utility Knife was considered a “weapon” and whether I should leave it home or take it with me. As a doctor, I aslo carry a 3-1/2″ “tracheotomy knife” everywhere and have had occasion to use it – and saved several lives with it.
    On the other hand it is my firm belief that a utility knife should not be considered a weapon but a useful tool that no modern person should be without. I can only speculate on the multitude of safe & useful situations a pen-knife (less than 4 inches) can help with in emergency situations – especially when the comforts of home utilities are not available.
    To be confronted by security at the dock after 2 hours on the phone with various employees saying over and over again that they talked to security and that less than a 4″ blade “will not be a problem” – and then get stopped by security before boarding the ship – was extremely disappointing, to say the least.
    The word “weapon” is used very loosely by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and can include anything from a very expensive glass dildo to anything that security feels could hurt another passenger.
    Now remember that security allows golf clubs, baseball bats, scissors, razor blades, even enough rope to hang your-self – or someone else on board without any problem! Fortunately the security (robots) have not yet figured out that it is hands (soon to be cut off by security before boarding?) that could so easily push a person overboard.
    Is Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines saying that if premeditated murder was on the agenda that the killer must necessarily use a utility knife? But a passionate murderer with a temper would NOT use one of the 3000 dinner knifes on board? How about a sharp fork in the eye? No?
    The fact that somehow not having a Swiss Army utility-knife on the ship is going to prevent violence or even an accident is such a silly, dumb, naive argument that it makes Royal Caribbean, look like being in the 17th. century – where and when EVERYBODY aboard carried at least a small knife – that just something you do at sea….and especially useful when you reach a new, unknown and tool-less situations.
    It is a hardship to thousands of men and women who don’t necessarily have the courage to speak up for themselves for fear of what happened to me at security. They are the silent majority who just take it at face value to be stripped of their right to have and carry a Swiss Army utility knife that can do a little of everything in a place that does not have the comforts of home. Unless they change their stupid, useless policy about “weapons” – I will never step on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship – ever. And I will do everything to encourage all my considerable rings of family, friends and acquaintances to abandon Royal Caribbean ships as well.
    Dr. Van Beveren

  15. Rod says:

    I would just like to add that these cruise lines must meet expectations of their advertizing If they say they have great food then I expect great food. last cruise was a month ago on the crown princess , the food was cold . They did not advertise that they served cold food, so they should hear my complaint . All they said when I phoned was sorry and if I deemed it necessary find a lawyer. Bad PR for any business.then cruisecritics.com refused my post. all I complained about was the cold food , please tell me whats wrong wqith that?

  16. Khaled says:

    Try calling the “Sandra” staff at Royal Caribbean (Dubai) middle-east office, one of the rudest staff I’ve ever encountered. I wonder if she has a big stake on the regional office that she could just slam at customers or potential customers on the phone. And I’m speaking about a regular customer here — for 7 years! She doesn’t even want to speak to people – no human interaction or conversation, no requests, no complaints entertained, no information at all, go to the website and you’ll find it there! I mean, what?

    For the HQ – Wake up RC!

  17. Jean says:

    My neighbours went with this line and thought the staff were lazy and unhelpful particularly in the buffet area with plates piled up on tables after people had finished and they don’t even wipe the tables most of the time. They are rubbish, they now go with P&O ALL the time!

  18. Jim s says:

    Brenda moron should be ashamed of herself. She most likely exaggerated or outright lied about the issues. If you know anything about her you know she lies.

  19. Nota Moran says:

    The one part of this story that isn’t correct, but might be minor is Royal asking them to remove the post from cruise critic. Both Royal and the Moran’s know this isn’t possible. After 20 minutes all posts are permanent unless removed by a moderator

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