Sea ViewsFrom President and COO, Adam Goldstein

Sea Views Blog with Adam Goldstein

How the Volcanic Ash Affects Our Ships

Volcanic ash from Iceland has ascended over Europe and is affecting air travel to, from and within the region just as the new European cruise season is getting underway. This is proof that we had not yet seen “everything.” We are affected by the interaction of a still-erupting volcano and an uncertain wind and weather pattern. These factors are about as far beyond our control as is imaginable. As a result, we are dealing with this challenge on a day to day and even hour to hour basis. Our goal is to enable as many people as possible to board our ships before the ships must depart to maintain all or nearly all of their scheduled itineraries. While our primary focus is on the ships in Europe, there are also ships in the Caribbean and elsewhere that are expecting guests originating from Europe. We are hoping that the situation abates but working intensively on it while it persists.

This situation is obviously about far more than our issues or even the cruise industry’s issues. Besides airlines it has implications for hotels, rental cars, trains, ferries and every other element of travel and leisure. We need to take all of this into account.

As always, we protect our guests who have purchased air transportation through us. For example, guests who purchased air arrangements through Royal Caribbean and who were scheduled to travel on cruises departing on April 18th, and whose travel became impossible due to airport closures, will be provided a refund of their air fare and a Future Cruise Certificate in the amount of the cruise fare paid.

This situation presents much more complexity than what we usually face with downline protection for a limited number of guests. This bizarre set of circumstances is a powerful reminder of the benefits of purchasing travel insurance with trip cancellation protection. It’s impossible to generalize what coverage will be provided in this instance, but having coverage is very likely to be preferable to having no coverage.

While this is a “case of first impression” as the lawyers like to say, our key people know their roles and responsibilities in a situation and assume them seamlessly. Given the time difference between the US and Europe, the first conference call of each morning occurs at 5 a.m. Eastern time. We are obviously monitoring the progress of the cloud of debris as well as any pronouncements from national authorities about the implications of the situation on their airports and air flights. For example, at the moment we know that British Airways has cancelled flights on Monday and UK airspace will not open before at least 7 a.m. UK time. We discuss all of this by email and phone as a management team as each day unfolds and try to agree as quickly as possible on any information to post on our web site or issue in the form of a letter to our guests currently onboard.

Under the present strange circumstances we expect to deal with unforeseeable nuances every day. One issue that is more than a nuance is that our crew are affected as well, either not being able to go home or not being able to get to their ship. I’m sure we are far from alone in this.

If you are affected, please stay tuned to royalcaribbean.com for the latest information.

20 responses to:
“How the Volcanic Ash Affects Our Ships”

  1. Virginia lee

    From what I discern from your blog, your entire operation is effected. It behooves all agents to take stock and be prepared to react to our clients. Let’s all stay cool, calm and collected. Blame can’t be placed anywhere except the weather and concerns for life. Let’s do our best to move through this disaster as smoothly as possible. I agree with Adam, Travel Protection – don’t leave home without it!

  2. Pam appicelli

    aaahhhhhhh……………

  3. Joe

    Looking forward to hearing more from the lawyers on this so a decision can be made. My flight has already been canceled so I can’t make the scheduled departure time.
    In such a case as this, those of us that didn’t book airfare with the cruise lines should be provided with an opportunity on a future cruise as the spirit of booking airfare and the cruise together was to ensure that end-to-end control of getting folks boarded and managing the ships departure time vs rebates for those that could not make it on time. In this case, no one will be making it on time regardless of how they attempt to fly. Only a few crash test dummies will attempt this boarding.
    Sadly, this entire scenario comes down to profitability of airlines and cruise ships making money. Waiting in port for 4 days while a few more folks arrive to cruise a vastly altered agenda and avoid refunds will probably be the decision that will win out. From the traveling publics perspective, why even risk such joining this cluster?

  4. bjorn jakobsen

    hi adam

    well we are still in florida after b/b cruise on
    oasis. we got e new ticket back to oslo next sunday
    so we found a nice hotel,but we are missing our
    nice waiters and the concierge lounge.that lounge
    is the best in the world, and the ship too.
    it willstrage to go back to navigator in the fall
    and liberty back to europe next spring,but we save
    two flights.you never knows when this happen again
    now we have 99 cruises and going for the next 100

    thank you for the best ships in the world.we know!!!

    bjorn & gitte

  5. dARREN

    Mr. Goldstein,

    I just got back from cruising on the liberty of the seas and I felt bad for the people who are now stuck in Miami. Especially the staff as it is not an easy task to do what they do 7 days a week. We meet some amazing people on this trip and we had a good time. I would say it was almost the best customer service I received.

    Darren Smith

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  7. Thomas

    I am disappointed that RCCL has restricted the cruise credit only to those who purchased air through them. Many customers also use frequent flier miles or other credits to pay for their flights and should not be penalized because of this extraordinary situation and extenuating circumstances. This was not a blizzard or hurricane where the customer knows days in advance that they are at risk and have an opportunity to change their plans and get new flights. Almost the entire continent of Europe was shutdown with no notice. Our airline gave us a full credit with no questions asked due to the chaotic situation. Some customers may have followed the advice of European authorities and cancelled for health concerns. The RCCL cruise credit policy as it stands appears to be discriminatory, rewarding only those who had purchased air through the company. In the wake of such a worldly crisis, it would seem that customer satisfaction would be higher in their priorities.

  8. roxanne

    Joe,

    Are you saying that if you book your own air fare but have the cruise insurance that you are not getting a refund. We always get the cruise insurance but decided to book our air fare seperate knowing if something would happen we would loose that but still have at least the cruise refunded or at least a cruise credit. If that is the case – I am confused.

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  10. David lambert

    Re: policy on cancellation refund/credit – lots of spin, obfuscation and whitewash Mr. Goldstein, but you’re basically giving us passengers who’ve made our own flight arrangements the bum’s rush. I’m sure many of us have purchased travel insurance (as you patronizingly suggest) but many will not have, or will be under-insured. Is there any logic to RC’s policy of providing credit for a missed cruise only to those passengers who’ve booked flights with RC? Are you not saying we’re not worthy, that the goodwill should not be extended to us? To anybody knowledgeable in corporate communications and corporate responsibility, your response and RC’s policy is a textbook example of how NOT to build customer loyalty. RC should rethink its policy BEFORE the backlash hits the social web and you REALLY have to do some damage control.

  11. Margaret

    My heart goes out to all of you. My only problem is needing to know when/if my flight from Houston to (ha) Heathrow will be cancelled as I was going on RC’s cruise on May 15th. I am busily making alternative vacation plans, and, thankfully, made all my arrangements through RC. I just hope they let us know as soon as possible. Bless you all, and I hope you get home soon with your money on the horizon.

  12. N. Norris

    Hello,

    We just got back from cruising on the Oasis. What a ship! What a crew! One thing that I found that affected my ability to enjoy my trip was the amount that the staff work. It is just crazy! I couldn’t help but feel for them. I would see waiters at the late dinner in the night and then up the crack of dawn the next morning serving breakfast. Always with a smile on their face, a joke, a trick, a hug. I talked to many crew members who had not had contact with their families, their children, in months. Why, on such an impressive ship, does your crew members not have access to Skype? Or some other kind of free service that allows them to remain connected to family? I think that it would be a great thing for you to do the new show “Undercover Boss”. Amazing people you have working for you. Absolutely amazing. We miss them very much now that we are home.

    I am unsure if we would do another cruise. It was hard to be happy, and enjoy time with our toddler, knowing that crew members didn’t even know what theirs children looked like since they hadn’t seen them in so long. It was heartbreaking.

    Also, why does the children’s pool close so early? 1700 is WAY to early on vacation. Same goes for the play room. There were many times where we could have used that room later than 1700.

    • Adam

      Hi N. Norris. We’re happy to hear you enjoyed the gold anchor service onboard Oasis of the Seas. With regard to our crew members staying in touch with their families while onboard, we make this our highest priority and provide them with ample ways for them to stay in touch with their family members back home.

  13. Adam

    Hi Margaret. Regarding your May 15th cruise we believe air traffic should resume its normal activity by that point, but please continue to check with your airline or travel agent to confirm.

  14. Deb

    Hi. My husband and I cruised on the Serenade of the Seas in March and it was fantastic! I am reading the comments from others and I totally agree that your crews are amazing. They are truly wonderful people and we grow very attached to them during the week we are onboard. I am an enthusiastic Royal Caribbean guest and will come back year after year because the attention to detail on your line is good. We had some bad weather and had arranged our air through RCCL, but next time we will not, because it was a recipe for disaster giving only a one hour time window to connect in Atlanta (we were out of NY LaGuardia) with near hurricane conditions coming. I called and tried to make changes and was told I could do nothing. So I booked another flight on my own to make sure I got to the boat on time and in one piece the day before. However, this is not covered under travel insurance and I was out over $1400 for our flights through the cruise line. So all of this advice about booking through RCCL…I will never do again given what happened to us. But that will not deter me from cruising again with RCCL…you guys are the best. It just would have been nice to not be told by Delta that RCCL were the only ones that could help us and I was met with the same from the operator when I called you. Delta wanted to charge us $1700 to make a change…I got tickets for 1,000 from Jet Blue and the flights were better and more direct by the way.

  15. Ed Vovsi

    What am I missing? If RCI books my air and my cruise as a package and the volcano gets in my way, I get a future cruise credit and a refund for my air. If I book my own air, RCI steps out of that portion of the refund equation, as it should. The air portion of the trip, is and has always been between me and my chosen airline. There are a lot of stupid rules out there, like not being able to upgrade a reservation once it has been made through RCI. Never thought that I’d see Virgin Atlantic walk away from a $1200 upgrade because of its “contractual obligation” with RCI. Does RCI really care what class I fly if I am willing to pay an additional fee. Still, I don’t expect anything from RCI if my financial arrangement for a service is not with them.

  16. MJB

    I am not on a cruise & have not recently been on a cruise, but I am a travel agent who books air, hotel, car and cruises amongst many other things.

    I would also like to state that I have had no cruise customers affected during this period. I am also a shareholder in RCCL.

    I am deeply saddened by your decision to not look after customers who arrange their own air travel. I have spoken to dozens of hotels and many car hire companies who are in the same boat (pardon the pun) as you and all of which have given full refunds due to the volcanic ash despite rates being either prepaid, non refundable or within the cancellation period.

    Your terms and conditions are clear and technically you can refuse refunds to cruise only guests, but it creates a lot of bad will. Giving someone even a 50% credit towards another cruise shows some compassion at a difficult time for everyone.

    To me it seems that you are using this episode to advertise your Fly/Cruise packages & blackmail people to stop booking their own flights. Let’s face it your flights are poor value compared to what is available on the market – one look on expedia will tell anyone that – & more importantly they don’t always fit the customers needs. For example I have clients who live 2 miles from London Gatwick Airport and the last 2 cruises they have been on RCCL were only offering Fly/Cruise packages from Heathrow. 5 minutes in a taxi and £100pp flights or xx amount of time on the motorway in rush hour and £300pp flights (although they do include the coach transfers).

    My clients all have insurance, but as you know, not many cover acts of god.

    Europe is a key market for RCCL and maybe you are unaware of the sheer scale of this event. In our office we have been working from 7am until 8pm every day since last Friday (including the weekend) to get people home. As a business we have been losing money since last Thursday, but we have been strengthening our bond with our clients & we can hold our heads up high that we have done everything in our power to assist.

    You (and most of the cruiselines) should be embarrased by your short sighted reaction designed to make money out of people when they are at their lowest ebb, rather than relaxing your booking conditons briefly & gaining customers for life. No amount of marketing spend can buy you that much goodwill and press coverage no doubt.

  17. Peter Foggo

    We have finally made our way home after a long and arduous journey across Europe as a result of the air travel disruption. The cruise itself, on the Splendour of the Seas, was itself without complaint however the treatment from RCCL from the time we landed in Venice has left a very bad taste in the mouth – effectively we where abandoned in every sense of the word. RCCL have acknowledged that it is their responsibility to re book our flights – 7 days later we still wait to hear anything from RCCL or their partners on what the new flight arrangements will be. If we had not made our own arrangements to get home we would still be stranded abroad, we are considerably out of pocket (despite insurance cover)and a formal letter of complaint is being penned to the CEO et al as I write this message.

  18. Alexander Blastos

    Thanks very much for the inside look into how the volcano in Iceland affects your company. Most interesting to realize the ripple effect.

  19. Stacy

    I am one of many customers who missed out a Mediterranean cruise due to the volcanic ash. I find it reprehensible that Royal Caribbean will not be offering us a credit for a future cruise. Our air travel was booked separately because when we tried to book through RC, they wanted us to make 4 stops, when we could get a non-stop flight out of JFK. The airline gave us a credit, but why won’t RC??? Seriously, I didn’t get on the cruise, so therefore, I didn’t eat their food or use their services. This is a travesty and definitely will make me look at other cruiselines for future travels. Guess what RC, I’ve got a large family and large mouth and will be sure to let all know about this crap. Why would anyone risk booking with you, if they know that this could happen to them?

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