Friday, September 4, 2009

A matter of honour

Well, we're still here and still pushing for recognition from Costa that they wrecked many people's legitimate holiday expectations and have still failed to appropriately recompense their customers.

It's probably worth bringing ourselves up to date with a few developments, none of which do anything to improve Costa's dismal reputation amongst those of us treated with such disdain following the disastrous February 'Jewels of the Indian Ocean' cruise. This was when engine failure slowed the Costa Europa so disastrously that ten days on shore and four days at sea became ten days at sea and four days ashore.

Whilst still at sea we were initially offered EITHER €300 off our on-board accounts OR €600 off a future Costa cruise, valid until the end of 2010 and applicable to any Costa cruise. This inadequate offer caused such uproar during the seemingly interminable sea days between Mombasa and RĂ©union that a virtual mutiny was only calmed by the offer being immediately amended to include both the €300 now and the €600 later. We were then rushed off the ship in Mauritius at dawn.

In May, one of our shipmates decided, having been ignored in his demands for further compensation, to 'bite the bullet' and book another Costa cruise in order to use up the €600 vouchers. His travel agent spoke to Costa and accepted the vouchers. Costa subsequently got back in touch with the agent and said that they would not now accept them because the cruise he had booked was a promotional deal.

When we were given these vouchers we were told that they could be used against any Costa cruise up to the end of 2010 - there were no provisos at all. Worse was to come - our shipmate was incensed and said that he'd cancel his booking, only to be threatened with a £300 cancellation fee. You just couldn't make it up, could you?

This was just one of a number of instances of Costa seemingly attempting to claw back the €600 by ensuring that it could only be redeemed against full price cruises, thus making the vouchers effectively valueless since you could book their cruises elsewhere with discounts greater than €600.

During the summer one shipmate after another started to take Costa through the Small Claims process. It might be no coincidence that rumours have since started to circulate that Costa has now started to accept their own €600 vouchers in certain cases, even against discounted cruises and even to offer further financial compensation. It would therefore seem that it's worth continuing to challenge Costa legally in order to get more appropriate recognition of their dreadful management of that cruise, or at worst just get them to honour their own promises.

My wife and I still can't agree on whether to trust Costa ever again, even to use their vouchers. Her view is that a combined €1200 could buy us a nice little cruise on which we'd spend little of our own cash - we'd then never ever sail with them again. My view is that having been treated disgracefully by Costa once leaves me determined not to allow them the opportunity to blithely do it again.

Shipmate Terry, who'd himself worked on cruise ships long ago, said over dinner on only the second night of the cruise on the Europa and having observed the staff at work around us that 'This is not a happy ship'. How does that come about you might ask. Having just come back from a very successful cruise I now have some insight into this, I believe.

The captain of Azamara Quest was reall quite young for so senior an officer - he can only have been around 40, perhaps less. In his daily tannoy updates to the passengers he displayed earnest enthusiasm, good humour and a determination to make sure that we had the best possible cruise. He and his senior officers were often seen on deck, meeting passengers and joining us for the post-dinner entertainments.

He also displayed a clear understanding of what all of his staff did on board, to the extent that I'm certain that when the passengers were ashore he was making behind-the-scenes tours to check standards and to keep up morale. I certainly have never before seen such permanently cheerful crew on a cruise, right across the job spectrum, and I'm convinced that this was largely down to his very effective leadership.

So, Costa selling off the Europa is a good thing in that another cruise company will give it the overhaul it so desperately needs and squeeze some more fruitful years from it. However, its disaffected staff will be scattered throughout the fleet. And what about its captain, who spoke hotly of 'honour' when cornered? Desk job in Genoa, one would imagine.

1 comment:

  1. We went on the Costa Europa sailing from Dubai on 3rd December 2009 and guess what, in the Gulf of Aden uncomfortly close to Somalia (pirates!!) all engines were stopped in the evening after dark for about 2 hours and we sat there like a ripe prize ready for picking. The security guards were out on the darkened decks with bullet proof vests and binoculars and the fire hozes were laid out on the decks ready to repell boarders.........we heard later unofficially that there had been a serious fuel leak in the engine room which made it unsafe to keep the engines running. We were told that officially there was a 'navigational problem' I suppose there was if there was no propulsion.