Can this trip be saved? “Eep! There’s a toenail in my bed!”

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By Christopher Elliott

A lot can go wrong on a cruise, but Vanessa Williams’ Bahamas vacation on NCL’s Norwegian Sky had more than its fair share of problems.

They include finding a large, red stain in their stateroom carpet, the discovery of a “filthy” air duct, stained sheets, problems with their food, and several issues with the overall state of the ship.

But the complaint that got my attention — and yours too, probably — was the subject line of her email to me: “Eep! There’s a toenail in my bed!”

Sailing through disappointment

Should I try to negotiate some compensation for this cruise gone wrong?

I’m not going to replay the entire email, but let’s just hit a few excerpts to give you a sense of what happened.

As you know, this was my first cruise on the Norwegian Sky to the Bahamas. Cruising in general, very much appeals to me. I love the ocean and I love the fact that you’re traveling without having to do anything.

I specifically picked Norwegian for two reasons

1. That I was told it was traditionally a nicer cruise line.

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2. It lacked party atmosphere.

Unfortunately neither of these in our case proved to be true.

In other words, NCL failed to deliver the cruise product it had promoted.

Let’s skip the red stain and the filthy air duct and go straight to the clipping.

That night we went to get in bed to find the sheets stained. No problem – I called the front desk for a new one. Since it was late, I started stripping the sheets for them. Imagine my disgust and dismay to find several foreign hairs and a toenail in our bed!

I then called the front desk again demanding a new room and to speak with a manager. It was explained to me that the cruise was completely booked and they could not move me but a manager would be sent down. He arrived and I expressed my disgust and showed him the toenail and asked to be moved again – hoping I would get another answer.

He apologized, but shockingly did not react much to the site of the nail, indicating to me that this is not an unusual circumstance. He indicated he would handle the problem, get a vacuum and get back to me. Several minutes passed until a housekeeper arrived with sheets and no vacuum. I stopped him before he put the new sheets on the bed – he had received no word concerning the toenail.

I called the front desk again asking what the heck was going on. At which point the manager arrived with another housekeeper and a vacuum.

The next morning, NCL sent her a bottle of wine and promised to monitor the quality of her cruise closer. But they didn’t monitor it close enough. At the ship’s restaurant, her”medium well” steak was served with the consistency of a hockey puck. They were forced to mingle with families near the adults-only pool, which, in her opinion, defeated the purpose of having an adults-only pool. The mood onboard was too much like a frat house, she also says.

In short, it was a bad cruise. This isn’t the first complaint we’ve received about NCL.

NCL’s response

Williams contacted her travel agent, who got in touch with NCL. It sent her a lengthy response. I’ll excerpt from it:

Thank you for your recent correspondence on behalf of your clients. We appreciate that your clients chose Norwegian Cruise Line for their vacation at sea. After delivering cruises for over 40 years, our goal remains the same: to offer a fantastic cruise experience to all our guests from beginning to end.

We are truly sorry to learn that we fell short of your clients’ expectations, and apologize for any disappointment they may have experienced.

We havc noted with particular concern your client’s comments about the problems with their stateroom and room steward, It is unacceptable if a stateroom is not as clean as it should be and not serviced properly. There is no excuse for poor standards of houskeeping. We can understand how such a situation could have a negative impact on a cruise vacation. Our goal is always to rectify any stateroom problems immediately, so our guests can relax and enjoy their voyage.

NCL goes on to explain that it tried to address each of Williams’ complaints, according to its records. For example, it replaced her bed pad and sheets and changed the air conditioning exhaust, as she requested. It also sent her a bottle of wine to make up for the problems.

The cruise line offered her an apology and a $150 cruise credit. But Williams says she’ll never take another NCL cruise, so the voucher is meaningless.

Should I take this case and see if NCL can do better? I don’t know.

I’m certain that Williams had a disappointing cruise. I try to caution travelers against sending lengthy “laundry list” complaints to cruise lines that complain about every aspect of their sailing, because it tends to dilute the impact of their grievance. But Williams clearly had a few things that didn’t go right on her Bahamas vacation. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Still, a bottle of wine and a $150 credit seem like a genuine effort to make things right. And NCL didn’t just slap together its apology letter. It took some time to research her grievance, and the letter is written in the English language, not cut and pasted by someone in the boiler room of the Norwegian Sky.

Should my advocacy team and I mediate this case? Survey says …

We had almost 700 responses, even though the site was down for a good part of the morning. Wow. 86 percent say “no.”

(Photo: djbloc 99/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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