This Greek YOLO cruise might make you glad that you only live once

Among the promises made by Sail In Greece Adventures is that the cruise will be “an unforgettable memory that will be kept forever.” But the memories that international travelers Chelsea Hudson and Samantha Weiss took away from the cruise are nothing like the ones in the company’s promotional video.

When Hudson and Weiss received the confirmation packets for their Mykonos-to-Santorini “YOLO Cruise,” Weiss contacted the company and asked if they would be in the same cabin, and she was told that they would. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case when they arrived at the ship in Mykonos. As Hudson described to us, “When we arrived in Mykonos (and much to our dismay), [the] employee/host, Nate Pintabona, gave us our room assignments at which point we were informed we’d be in separate rooms with strangers. Chelsea Hudson was assigned to a room with two males.”

You’re probably re-reading that, just to be sure that it says what you thought it said. Yes, it does: Hudson was assigned to a room with two males she had never met. As a former cruise professional the idea of requiring a female to share a cabin with two men she doesn’t know for seven nights is incomprehensible.

The women immediately complained to Pintabona but he said there was nothing he could do because no one wanted to change rooms with her. A few days later there was a problem with another female passenger and Hudson was told that three friends of Hudson’s new roommates would also now be sharing the bathroom in her cabin.

There’s no way I can adequately summarize what happened over the seven days and nights that Hudson was forced to share the cabin and bathroom with five men so I’ll let her tell the story:

The situation only got worse when these male roommates left dirty, used condoms on the beds and floors of the room we were all sharing. I was never once able to sleep overnight in my room, as these males would bring in female sex partners in the bed every night both from and outside of the Sail in Greece tour group.

I slept outside on the front or back deck of the boat every night because I would be unable to enter the room when they had “guests” in the room. I was basically kicked out of the room for most of the trip. When attempting to nap in my bunk on Wednesday, July 5th, I woke up to one of the male roommates having sex with another passenger.

They also continuously stole my blankets, pillows and sheets to use for themselves. They even went as far as to use my personal towel, which as you can imagine is highly unsanitary. When we asked the host, Nate, multiple times if I could switch rooms, he could not find people willing to relocate and therefore offered no solutions.

The roommate issue was not the only thing that ruined this cruise for Hudson and Weiss. Although they were aware that the WiFi would likely not be available when sailing, it apparently wasn’t available at all. The promised air conditioning was rarely turned on, resulting in many passengers sleeping on deck — Hudson was already sleeping on deck because of the presence of her roommates and their guests, but now Weiss was also sleeping on deck because her cabin was sweltering.

Related story:   I was expecting a $500 refund. Instead, Airbnb sent me a bill.

Hudson was also not the only person on board with issues in her bathroom. The toilets in many cabins were unusable, and the crew blamed the problems on guests who were flushing toilet paper. The crew also controlled the electricity and running water, and according to Hudson and Weiss, only turned the utilities on when pressured to do so by guests wishing to shower or get ready to go ashore.

Finally, the ship not only skipped several islands that were listed in the itinerary, it didn’t sail all the way to Santorini, which was where guests were to disembark the ship. Pintabona informed guests that the port authority was restricting travel to the island due to weather conditions. According to Hudson, he also told passengers that hostel accommodations and ferry tickets would be provided to passengers scheduled to disembark there. This information was also posted on board and on the company’s Facebook page.

Later in the day another host, Ben Trupiano, claimed that Pintabona was incorrect and that the company would not cover ferry or accommodation costs on Santorini. After confirming that no accommodations had been booked for them, Hudson and Weiss booked their own in order to ensure they were able to make their scheduled flights home.

The final insult from Sail In Greece came as the two women were preparing to board their ferry to Santorini: In the face of continued complaints, the hosts on board the ship agreed to pay for the transportation and accommodations for the few remaining guests on board. Hudson and Weiss approached the two hosts and complained, and they were assured that they would be reimbursed.

Immediately after returning home, Hudson wrote to the company requesting not only reimbursement of the additional expenses on Santorini, but also a refund of the cruise price. Neither was forthcoming, in spite of the fact that Hudson sent a complaint letter and the receipts, and even quoted the company’s own terms in her letter.

Let’s start with the few items that I don’t think Hudson and Weiss can use to claim a refund. Cruise itineraries are never “set in stone.” Weather can alter a cruise, delaying or preventing a ship from reaching previously scheduled ports. The decision can be made by the captain, whose primary responsibility is the safety of the ship, the crew, and the passengers on board, or it can be made by the port authority. Several places on its website, including in its terms and conditions, the company includes information on the possibility of itinerary changes.

Even on the most modern ships, WiFi is not always available. While I do believe the company could be more clear that WiFi is not guaranteed, I also believe complaining about it is a distraction from their legitimate problems.

Guests were allowed to bring their own alcohol on board and both the promotional text and the videos for the cruise clearly indicate that this was clearly a “party cruise” for people under 35. It’s no shock that guests were “hooking up” during the trip, but the issue of a female being forced to room with male guests previously unknown to her is inexcusable. In fact, in its FAQ under the question, “I am traveling SOLO, is there any single supplement?” the company clearly states:

Related story:   Almost lost my eye in Mykonos

As we say here, SOLO goes YOLO. There is no need for single supplement and that is the idea of our cruises. Independent people come alone, travel with like-minded people and at the end become friends. You will share the cabin with other fellow travelers of the same gender.

Let me restate that last sentence, just so there’s not confusion: “You will share the cabin with other fellow travelers of the same gender.” So the company seems to acknowledge the importance of housing people in same-gender cabins. Does the company think that since Hudson wasn’t traveling alone that gave it the right to place her in a cabin that wasn’t same gender?

Related to that same issue is that Hudson wasn’t actually able to sleep in her cabin for even a single night. Due to the air conditioning problem, Weiss wasn’t able to sleep in her cabin for four of the seven nights.

The other concern I have is the sanitary conditions of the ship. Toilets that don’t flush and cabins that don’t seem to have been cleaned are breeding grounds for many health issues, including the infamous norovirus, which can put a ship completely out of service. If what Hudson and Weiss describe is even partially accurate, I hope the company takes a very hard look at their policies, procedures, and equipment before a group of passengers gets sick.

In response to the letter that Hudson wrote to the company, which included attachments with the company’s own terms, the response was not what the women had hoped. The company claimed that it “[tries its] best to separate males and females” but that there are cruises where the gender allocation makes this impossible. In those cases the company only promises that traveling companions will be placed on the same boat.

However, in its terms and conditions the company specifies a behavior clause which states:

We expect all travelers to act in a polite and moderate manner towards others. If we consider that you or any member of your group behaves in such a way as to cause or be likely to upset, cause danger, or distress to any third party or damage to property, we are authorized, without prior notice, to terminate the travel arrangements of the person(s) concerned. In this situation, the person(s) concerned will be required to leave the vessel or other service concerned. We will have no further responsibility toward such person(s) including any return travel arrangements. No refunds will be made and we will not pay any expenses or costs incurred as a result of the termination.

With repeated complaints from both Hudson and Weiss (and apparently from other passengers), it seems that the company should have removed the offensive group of male passengers.

The company further claimed that the crew reported no problems with any equipment on the ship, in spite of the fact that Hudson included the ports and days when workers from the ports were brought on board the ship to service the various systems that were malfunctioning. Incredibly, the company specifically stated “All our boats offer ensuite cabins with private air condition, facilities that are way above the standard industry.”

Related story:   It's the end of loyalty programs as we know it (and I feel fine)

Personally, I’ve been on three cruises in Greece, including one on a four-masted schooner, and what I’ve experienced is far above the experience described by Hudson and advertised on the company’s website. In all fairness, I’ve never been on a week-long party cruise in Greece, so I guess it’s possible that this actually is “the standard.”

Incredibly, the company claimed that ferries and accommodations were provided in Santorini for guests who were on board, and claimed no responsibility for guests who decided to leave the tour and seek their own ferries or who wanted to follow their own itinerary.

The problem with this claim is that Hudson and Weiss were told that accommodations and transportation would not be provided and they were concerned that they would miss their flights home. By the time the company’s representatives decided to abide by the terms and conditions and offered to pay for the arrangements, most guests had either left the ship or paid for their own arrangements. Hudson and Weiss think this was by design — keeping the company’s expenses at a minimum — and I tend to agree.

Hudson says she posted negative reviews of the company online, but the company has a policy on this too:

Sail in Greece Adventures strives to offer the highest possible standards at the time being and working with an excellent selection of professional and inspired local suppliers. However for any complaints or dissatisfaction with the service given, we ask that you inform our tour leader immediately. Your tour leader will then take any necessary steps to rectify the situation. If you remain unsatisfied please email us within 20 days of your return to your home country giving us all the necessary details.

Hudson did both of these things, but the company still refused her refund. The company goes on to say that they will take action against anyone who posts negative reviews:

… false accusations against our vessels that contradict our weekly check reports (technical and hygiene reports), will be dealt with in the same manner. While booking you agree that any action from your side that attempts to falsely blame publicly the name of our company and as an attempt to receive refunds from us, is an offense under the UK laws.

I understand that some people post negative reviews in order to extort cash from companies, but Hudson provided proof of her allegations and renewed her request for a refund. None was forthcoming.

Hudson and Weiss reached out to us for assistance in reaching an agreement with Sail In Greece, and our advocate reached out to the company. Its representative was apparently unhappy with our intervention and refused to discuss the case, saying any correspondence would be directed to the passengers. Perhaps coincidentally, Hudson received an email from the company shortly after our initial contact, and received an offer of 50 percent off a future cruise.

For obvious reasons, Hudson refused the offer and restated the request for a full refund, but stated that she would settle for a 50 percent refund of the cruise fare, plus full reimbursement of their Santorini expenses, which the company originally should have paid.

As of this writing no refund or reimbursement has been made to Hudson and Weiss but we’ll keep you posted.

Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans.

  • finance_tony

    She should get refunded solely for the male roommate experience. The rest of the complaints sound basically like par for the course for what sounds – to me – like the least enjoyable cruise on the planet. I mean, the FAQs say things like

    “As we use to say here, we are like a hostel in the water”

    And they don’t even agree you and your friends can be in the same BOAT!

    “At the time of booking please specify who are your friends and even if
    we will try to make the necessary arrangements to put you on the same
    boat, we can not guarantee that.”

  • SirWIred

    Many years ago, my wife and I took a cheap-ity cheap cruise in Greece ($60/nt for two people) and it was a wonderful experience. (We did get our own room and bathroom, and the A/C did work.)

    (Of course, the line, EasyCruise, went under a year later, so perhaps the $60 was a little too cheap!)

  • AJPeabody

    Credit card chargeback? Product not delivered as advertised.

  • Steve Rabin

    Toilets that don’t work because of flushed toilet paper? Come on, that’s just plain ridiculous.

  • Lloyd Johnston

    Yeah. So um, what are you supposed to with with the, er, used waste removable product. Isn’t that stuff supposed to be designed to go down the toilet. I can understand being told not to flush tampons down the toilet, but toilet paper is designed to be flushable.

  • Lloyd Johnston

    Since when should travelling companions be forced to travel in different rooms for other than space considerations A group of 10 is not going to fit in one room, but 2 people together, especially in this case where they are the same gender, should be in the same room, even if they have roommates who were previously strangers.

  • jamieleeeeee

    there are many marine heads that cannot handle anything that is not human waste. You put your used toilet paper in a bag/trash. However, this is from experience on very basic boats for day trips only. Not overnight. I don’t know if yachts and cruise ships have better accommodations.

  • Dutchess

    Have you never traveled outside of the US? There are many countries where you can’t flush toilet paper. There’s bins next to the toilet where you deposit used paper. It’s very common in South America and other parts of the world. Not everyone is as privileged as we are to have plumbing that accommodates waste paper.

  • sam

    This (I just experienced this in Peru this summer). But in those countries (or on those ships) they are VERY clear in hotels and touristy areas that you can’t flush paper, with signs everywhere. And on my recent trip, my tour manager also reiterated this during our orientation.

    So entirely plausible that the ship can’t accomodate flushing paper. But given how they managed everything else, I also wouldn’t be entirely surprised if the ship crew didn’t explain this to people, and then only after the fact blamed everyone for the problems.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Okay, I am not even halfway done with this yet, but I literally had to go look at the calendar to see if it’s April 1st.

    It’s not. WTH??? Okay, back to reading….

  • LeeAnneClark

    Finished reading, and I’m still…just…like…wow. This can’t be real.

    The only thing I can say about this story is that this will inevitably go down in history as the official WORST CRUISE IN THE HISTORY OF CRUISING. I can’t imagine we will ever hear of any cruise experience worse than this one.

    We’re going to be referring to this for years! Every article about a bad cruise experience is going to be filled with comments like “Hey, at least it wasn’t as bad as THAT CRUISE TO SANTORINI!”

    So there’s that. ;-)

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I agree with you but this cruise operator doesn’t operate like this and it is disclosed in their terms that your roommate(s) can’t be guaranteed. The OP should have selected a cruise operator where roommates can be guaranteed.

  • Carrie Livingston

    Very true!

    Here’s the description of the ship from the website. So power is only available when docked in a port with power supply and ac only available for 4 hours per day. This is definitely not a cruise I would ever take. And the hostel description seems appropriate. So I’m kind of on the fence on this one. Not saying she should have been with men but wondering if any research was done prior to booking.

    Our en-suite boats are an excellent value for money but at the same time offering en suite cabins with a/c. Please keep in mind that a/c works when our boats are docked at ports and have electricity supply. The maximum usage per day is up to 4 hours. These types of boats operate on our “YOLO cruises” and they are really popular among our young travelers, who want to travel forever and they are on a tight budget! Many times we cruise a big group of friends that want to live the unreal!
    Our boats offer on deck cabins, twin/double, triple and few quads. The cabins in general are normal size and cozy inside so as to help more the bonding while “cruising”! We provide towels for personal use, but they are only for internal use. So please bring your own towel for swimming. Do not forget the sun cream!
    Now the good part starts! Unlikely to what you are used to, with us you are more than welcome to bring your own drinks/alcohol on board! And there will be no charge for it! For that reason our boats do not come with fully stocked bars, but a small variety of drinks supplementing your own if you wish! Do you want to chill out on our upper deck and drink your cocktail with your friends? We have chairs where you can “sprawl” and cushions if you want to sunbath. It sounds like unreal? There are also available board games to bring the spirit together and masks for snorkeling.
    Our boats have tenders if you want to reach the shore and you do not trust your swimming abilities and are equipped with barbecue. The tenders will be used taking into consideration the safety rules and it is solely the captain’s decision. Get ready for the best sailing barbecue of your life at secluded bays!
    Our English speaking crew can be counted as like-minded travelers. Locals, with a genuine love of their country and a natural gentleness, who are willing to show you the BEST of GREECE. We work hard to keep our staff close enough to our core values and create a smooth atmosphere on board.

  • Alan Gore

    Yes, this unintended vacation on the Lust Boat deserves an adjustment.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well. Certainly does not sound like anything I would want to go on…but even with that booze-cruise party-animal description, there are some basic things that one would think should go without saying. Such as…toilets that work! Not sticking a woman in a room with unknown men! And on and on.

    What would have happened if that girl had been sexually assaulted in the middle of the night by one of her unknown male roomies? You would think the owners could have at least considered THAT!

    In all seriousness, I can kinda see where this stripped-down cruise for wild youth would sound like fun for young people traveling on a budget. But there are certain basic expectations that even the most stripped-down cruise should have…and this one missed the mark by miles. This was not just poor service or uncomfortable conditions – this was downright dangerous and unsanitary.

    I hope she gets her money back.

  • Michael__K

    She should also get refunded for the additional expenses to reach the disembarkation point. The FAQs say that going to Santorini is an add-on. Something she paid extra for and was not provided.

  • Chris Johnson

    The cruise industry is one of the most recession sensitive and competitive industries around, and cruise lines supposedly go to unimaginable lengths to prevent anyone from having a terrible experience. Typically, if anyone has a bad experience on a cruise, it was because of weather (beyond the cruise line’s control) or that particular person was just being unreasonable. Seems like this company didn’t get the memo here. Not that I had any plans to take a cruise in Greece anyway, but I’ll axe this company from my list of potential places where I spend my vacation dollars.

  • Chris Johnson

    She probably paid way ahead.

  • Chris Johnson

    EasyCruise was more like a ferry with hotel rooms that went on a continuous loop around the Carribean islands. You had to buy at least two nights but you could board and disembark anywhere on that loop. Anything beyond the room, you paid extra for – meals, room cleaning, fresh towels, etc. The ship did have a small pool and exercise room though. The ship was strictly focused on the destinations, the idea being you slept while the ship moved from one island to the next (if the weather and mechanics cooperated, I guess) and then spent every day on a different destination. If you wanted to eat or drink on the ship, you paid extra for that – or you could eat at the different ports, all your choice. It sure seemed like a good idea, and reflected the typical creative thinking of Stelios Haji-Ioannou (founder of EasyJet and all those other Easy brand companies), but I guess it was a business model that just didn’t work.

  • SirWIred

    When I was on the ship in Greece, it was a fixed-itinerary cruise, but it did retain the “leave at midnight and dock at 8AM” thing, which was cool.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Wow. Just really wow. We’ve thought about a cruise in Greece. Guess we’ll go with a high end cruise line if we ever go.

  • finance_tony

    I meant she should receive a full refund of everything (including the Santorini add-on) solely on account of the roommate situation.

  • finance_tony

    This seems less like a ‘cruise’ and more like a party charter. I hate to say it, but it’s unfair to Carnival to group them together :)

  • James

    One wonders if the cruise line would have recognized some responsibility if the passenger had been sexually assaulted…

  • Annie M

    Why can’t she do a credit card dispute? They went against their own terms. I would certainly try that and send the information to her credit card of the pieces of the contract this company broke.

    I guess you sometimes get what you pay for but this is simply not a safe situation to be in.

    I am betting that perhaps employees might have been posting reviews here – or suddenly everything went south this summer:

  • RightNow9435

    In that case, time for a lawsuit

  • C Schwartz

    This is how they advertise themselves:

    “Join us on Greece’s #1 party cruises and experience Greece like never before. Our 8 days YOLO cruises are ideal for young travelers 18-35s, looking to party!”

  • C Schwartz

    This is completely a “party” charter Here is how they advertise themselves:

    “Join us on Greece’s #1 party cruises and experience Greece like never before. Our 8 days YOLO cruises are ideal for young travelers 18-35s, looking to party!”

  • joycexyz

    Words fail me. This company violated every standard of service and decency! Then they lie, refuse to answer the complaints, and have the gall to imply that public criticisms are considered illegal??? What I don’t understand is why Weiss and Hudson, after learning of the accommodations arrangement, tacitly agreed by staying. And as matters worsened, why they didn’t leave at the next port. I understand the money involved, but by continuing on the cruise from hell, they’ll have difficulty recouping any. As Judge Judy says, “They ate the steak…”

  • Blamona

    It’s a party cruise! While it wouldn’t be my choice, only having electric 4 hours daily when on port, sharing rooms with strangers, I hate to say it but she got what she paid for! Hostals budget hostal back packing thru Europe budget party cruise. Even from ads what did she expect?

  • Chris Johnson

    Really sounds more like a floating youth hostel that randomly rooms people together to me. I think I’ll pass on this type of vacation concept.

    Nothing against youth hostels per se, I stayed in them plenty of times in Europe and Hawaii, but when I did, I either had a private room or I shared with someone I knew and in both cases had my own key and a door that locked. No way in hell would I share a room with strangers that potentially had access to my belongings. I’d sooner go camping than stay in one of those bunk rooms that resemble a prison or homeless shelter. No thank you.

  • Chris Johnson

    I just saw a TripAdvisor thread on this company. There are quite a lot of horror stories on there, and the few positive reviews appear to have been planted by the company (though nobody can say for sure of course). TripAdvisor also removed a number of posts on the thread, I’m guessing for very good reasons I won’t repeat on here.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.