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 YOLO 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 (You Only Live Once), Weiss contacted the company and asked if they would be in the same cabin. A representative assured the friends that they would be roommates. Unfortunately, when they arrived at the ship, the host informed the two friends that they would be in separate rooms with strangers.

And Chelsea Hudson was assigned to a room with two males.

A YOLO cruise with coed cabins?

You’re probably re-reading that, just to be sure that it says what you thought it said. Yes, it does. On her YOLO cruise, 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.

Unsanitary conditions

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. Never once was I 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.

More problems with this YOLO cruise

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.

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.

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Missing islands

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

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.

YOLO cruise = party cruise?

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:

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 no 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?

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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.

The company’s response

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.

No reported problems on this YOLO cruise?

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.”

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 YOLO cruise, so I guess it’s possible that this actually is “the standard.”

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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

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.

YOLO cruise negative reviews

Hudson says she posted negative reviews about her unpleasant YOLO cruise, 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.

No real resolution

For obvious reasons, Hudson refused the offer.  She continues to request a full refund but would consider a 50 percent refund of the cruise fare, plus full reimbursement of their Santorini expenses.

As of this writing, Sail in Greece has offered no refund or reimbursement. But we can be certain of one thing: There is no chance that you will find these friends on another YOLO cruise — ever.

Should these friends receive a full refund for this unpleasant YOLO cruise?

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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. Read more of Michelle Bell's articles here.

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