I was struck by a news item which tells of a major cruise company becoming quite vexed about the 'reservation' of deck-chairs onboard their cruise ships. So concerned are they that they are carrying out a pilot process whereby if it is suspected that a chair has been 'reserved' and is not used, your personal 'reservation' items will be removed and can be collected from storage later! The cruise director advised that they had been discussing the problem 'over and over again' and once they have test bedded the practice, they will roll it out over to the fleet! I don't know about you but I would have thought that there were more important things for the cruise industry to think about than fretting about deck-chairs, for example, crime on-board cruise ships, mass out breaks of illness, safety drills, safety procedures, but to name a few!
Yesterday I told the story of one holidaymaker caught in a fire emergency, however, it is important to set out the nature and range of the other complaints that concern Consumer Campaigners.
We frequently hear from holidaymakers who suffer with illness on-board cruise ships and boats; they are often told that the illness is 'norovirus' and many are confined to their cabins, often for the whole cruise. We have questioned such practises as the complaints that accompany illness often talk of poor hygiene, cold food, poor quality standards on-board the ships. For quite a few years we have called for the creation of an EU Vessel Sanitation Program similar to the US Vessel Sanitation Program operated by the Centre for Disease Control, because we believe that the issue of large outbreaks of illness on-board cruise ships, is a social and public health issue. In recognising the extent of the issue, like the hotel illness scenario, travel companies do not pay back the monies expended by taxpayers on health services or Consumer contributions to travel insurance for the consequences of their failures - they get off scott-free!
If you think that holiday illness does not cost much then you should read our estimates on returning holiday illness costs!
One area which has massive consequences is the issue of crime. It is now well catalogued that people disappear overboard, such as the case of Rebecca Coriam. We principally hear from other kinds of victims, young people who are harassed or sexually harassed. We also hear from people who have been sexually assaulted or have items stolen from their cabins. If you were in any doubt about how crime is dealt with then understand that these are 'cities' on the sea and they have no police service, no investigation processes, no investigation kits and because most of them are flagged, any (rare) report is made to the flagged state, often to a police office that is under resourced and under staffed. It will not surprise you to hear that we have campaigned on this issue with other campaigners to create an EU Regulation to enforce a strict and clear process on the investigation of crime. There are those that would prefer matters progressed through the International Maritime Organisation, but as we understand it, creating legislation could take up to 20 years; victims do not have that long to wait!
So, for two days I have highlighted deficiencies in the cruise product and I can only hope that the cruise industry along with politicians will discuss the problems 'over and over again' so that real issues affecting real people will be offered solutions to this important source of holiday complaints!