Imagine; what started off as a simple article on the problem with all-inclusive holidays, has led to further comment on how much staff are paid on cruise ships to an out-pouring of comment from holidaymaker and holiday representative alike, about the poor conditions and complaints both have to endure! This article is going to illustrate why we think the all-inclusive holiday product on-board cruise ships needs Regulation, particularly in the area of ships sanitation! One holidaymaker we have spoken to was due start on a cruise from a British-based port, only to discover that the departure was delayed, due apparently to delays caused by 500 people on the previous cruise who had suffered with illness. They were scheduled to board at 3pm in the afternoon but did not in fact board until 7pm! The holidaymaker then describes their experience:
- When they boarded, they were all rushed into dinner;
- Following dinner (by which time the ship had set sail), they were then required to take part in the emergency drill (this forms part of the important discussions in Brussels on Ships Safety - drills apparently are now going to take place before departure!);
- 2 days later, the holidaymaker awoke to find that they had had a faecal accident in their bed;
- They called housekeeping for assistance;
- Also in attendance was one of the Ship's nurses;
- The nurse explained that she was on leave but had been recalled because of the large numbers of illness cases on-board the ship;
- The holidaymaker could not leave the cabin initially for 4 days as they needed to be close to the toilet;
- The period of cabin confinement was extended by a further 2 days and they were prescribed with anti-diarrhoeal medicine;
- On the final day of the cruise, day 7, they were 'allowed' out of the cabin;
- The holidaymaker's friend, who was also sharing the same cabin, did not suffer any illness (strange that for a so-called norovirus outbreak);
- The holidaymaker's friend was allowed to wander the ship freely;
- They noted that other holidaymakers on the ship were also ill;
- As they were disembarking, the ship was being stocked up with provisions for the next cruise;
- The holidaymaker was then offered £240.00p in vouchers;
- They were then offered £476.00p in vouchers;
- They were then told by the cruise line company that 'we do not award compensation';
- This holidaymaker is still suffering with illness - doesn't quite match up with the so-called norovirus, does it?
The issues here are simple:
- The cruise company/tour operator were clearly aware that there was a major health issue on-board the ship;
- They did not advise the intending holidaymakers of the problem, nor offer them any rights either pre-departure or post departure;
- They clearly maintained it was a 'norovirus' problem without any proof;
- They 'confined', some would say 'illegally detained' - is it 'false imprisonment (?) - holidaymakers in their cabins;
- They offered paltry sums of money through a voucher system to 'recompense' - perish the thought that these holidaymakers should actually receive compensation!
- There was a clear health issue with the ship that required it to be taken out of service and deep cleaned!
What we have here is a typical holidaymakers experience, that could be applied in a hotel, only this time it was on-board a ship!
The all-inclusive model of selling is all about getting 'bums on seats' at the highest cost to the Consumer but the lowest cost to the company. The problem with that method of selling is that it fails to recognise Consumer Rights, disrespects those delivering the service and above all has no onward sustainability other than that driven by advertising.
If this all-inclusive model in cruises is ever going to work and succeed in the new EU 'blue economy', then the industry and politicians are going to have to:
- Introduce an EU-wide Vessel Sanitation Program (imported by Regulation - the precedent can be found in the US based Vessel Sanitation Program);
- Wake up to the fact that insofar as the cruise industry is concerned, any Regulation on the 'Blue Economy' must be Consumer focussed - it is they who will feed into the receiving ports economies;
- That the tour operators/cruise companies and politicians recognise that better enforcement of the Package Travel Directive/Regulations will lead to higher standards in this model of selling and product delivery.
We have publicly called for action on these issues; issues that have now become major challenges!
In light of these challenges, it will be interesting to see if other holidaymakers come forward with equally horrifying tales before action is taken!