The beautiful earrings that Robin White bought onboard her Caribbean cruise last year are missing. She’s been trying to find the lost gems for nearly a year, but the coronavirus pandemic has thwarted her efforts. Now Starboard Cruise Services claims a third party delivered the jewelry to her home last March.
So shouldn’t the company be able to provide proof of delivery of the $1,600 earrings?
White thinks so, and she wants the Elliott Advocacy team to get that proof, the earrings or her money back.
Can we do it?
Taking a winter cruise and shopping for special jewelry
Last December, many months before the coronavirus shut down the cruise industry, White boarded Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. She looked forward to relaxing by the pool, shopping and exploring for the next seven days.
White says it was always her intention to buy some new jewelry at some point during the cruise. Her wedding was just two months away and she was hoping to find the “something new” to wear on her special day.
“My wedding was in a few weeks,” White recalled. “I thought I could find something unique to wear that would remind me of the cruise.”
That goal seemed like a relatively easy one to reach.
Anyone familiar with cruises knows that a favorite activity for many passengers is shopping for jewelry. The ports in the Caribbean are teeming with jewelry shops. And most of the cruise lines have luxury diamond shops onboard their ships.
The Allure of the Seas is one of those cruise ships: it has tons of shopping opportunities.
Soon after boarding the cruise, White began shopping for the perfect earrings and a necklace for her wedding day.
Make sure to look at that jewelry very carefully before you buy it
I went into the jewelry shop called Regalia onboard the Allure. I bought a lovely tanzanite and diamond set of earrings and a matching necklace. The total cost was $2,400.
Pleased with her purchase, White took the jewelry back to her cruise cabin to admire it. She unwrapped the package and took one look at the earrings and realized something wasn’t right.
One of the earrings had an empty hole where a diamond had been just 30 minutes before. Not sure how this had happened, White headed straight back to Regalia and showed the salesperson the problem.
“The salesperson said that the store could replace the diamond and send the earrings to my home by FedEx,” White remembered. “They assured me that I would have the earrings in time for my wedding. So I agreed.”
White handed over the earrings and assumed that all the salesperson said was true.
That assumption was a big mistake.
White didn’t know it yet, but she definitely wouldn’t be wearing those earrings on her wedding day. In fact, she had just begun what would become a year-long battle to see those gems again.
Wedding day countdown: Where are the earrings I bought on the cruise?
Of course, when you’re about to be married, you likely have many things on your to-do list and a boatload of distractions. That was very true for White. She was so busy that she hadn’t noticed when a full month had passed without any update on the repairs of the earrings she bought on the cruise.
In the first week of February White wrote to Royal Caribbean Guest Experience and asked about the missing earrings.
I had wanted to wear the set at my wedding in three weeks, but that seems impossible now. I have heard nothing from Regalia since I handed over the earrings onboard the ship. The store staff said that they would put in the repair order once the cruise ended. Then they would send the earrings to me at my home address.
Could you please track down my earrings and find a status for them? (White to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line)
Soon Royal Caribbean sent a surprising clarification of its involvement in the jewelry purchase — it didn’t have one.
Royal Caribbean: Starboard Cruise Services handles your onboard shopping
Royal Caribbean responded to White’s email by explaining that RCCL doesn’t control or manage its ships’ shopping experiences. White had reasonably thought that by buying the jewelry on the cruise ship instead of in a port of call, she could count on Royal Caribbean to help if there were any problems. The agent quickly extinguished that thought.
I am sorry to learn that you still have not heard back about your earrings. Our onboard shopping is operated by our service partner, Starboard Cruise Services. You may contact them at: Starboard Cruise Services, Inc. Customer Service Department 9290 NW 112 Avenue, Suite1 Miami, FL. 33178 Phone: 1-800-540-4785
Robin, I appreciate you sharing your experience with us. We hope to have you onboard one of our ships soon. (Royal Caribbean to White)
White had never even heard of Starboard Cruise Services — and no one at the company had ever made themselves known to her either. Yet, now Royal Caribbean Cruise Line was telling her that this fourth party to the jewelry purchase was the key to finding her missing earrings.
White felt abandoned by the giant cruise line.
Can Starboard Cruise Services locate the missing earrings?
Royal Caribbean’s inability to facilitate this process with their vendor and help locate the $1,600 earrings frustrated her. But with no other choice, White composed an email to Starboard Cruise Services and asked their team to find the earrings.
To its credit, the company answered White promptly and promised to find her jewelry. And shortly after that, an agent informed White that her earrings were being delivered from the manufacturer.
But six weeks later — after the coronavirus had shut down the cruise line industry — White received a surprising email from SCS.
A representative of Starboard Cruise Services informed White that it had tracked down her missing earrings. In fact, the agent said that the company had delivered the jewelry to White’s home in the third week of March. The company considered the case resolved.
White was stunned. But even more surprising was that the company had no proof of shipment or delivery and seemed to be implying White should take their word for it.
There wasn’t a chance of that happening.
“Our offices remain closed because of the coronavirus.”
Following Christopher Elliott’s tips in his guide on solving a consumer problem, White escalated her complaint.
A senior customer service agent at Starboard Cruise Services explained that their records indicated that the earrings were shipped directly to White from the manufacturer on March 22. But this agent acknowledged that many of the manufacturers had closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, so she could not verify the delivery.
Currently, we are experiencing delays as some of the manufacturers have closed and others are operating at lower capacity based on CDC and government guidelines. Based on the same policies, our office remains closed since 3/20/20.
We hope you understand and we appreciate your patience as we all work through this unprecedented time.
May you and your family stay safe and healthy. (SCS to White)
Waiting patiently for an update on the MIA jewelry
Realizing that there wasn’t anything further she could do to accelerate the return of her missing earrings during the pandemic, White decided to be patient. She methodically sent an update request to Starboard Cruise Services every six weeks throughout the summer and in to October.
But by late fall, White’s patience was growing thin. And with the announcement that the company had laid off hundreds of workers because of the pandemic — including the dedicated representative with whom she had been working, White decided to contact the Elliott Advocacy team for help.
She had read about many of our cruise fiasco success stories and hoped that we might be able to help her, too.
Can Elliott Advocacy find the missing earrings even in a pandemic?
When White’s request for assistance landed in my inbox, her level of patience amazed me. I also had a lot of sympathy for the situation on a different level.
White bought those earrings and necklace on that cruise to commemorate her last getaway as a single lady. She intended to wear the jewelry as she walked down the aisle in February. All the special memories she planned to associate with this purchase most certainly would always be overshadowed by the nearly year-long battle to find the missing earrings.
I went through the paper trail and I could see that White had given Royal Caribbean, Regalia and Starboard Cruise Services every opportunity to make this right. Of course, the coronavirus had complicated matters after March, but the problem began in December — long before the pandemic.
It was time to escalate White’s plea for assistance to the parent company of Starboard — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Hi there! A Royal Caribbean passenger, Robin White, who bought some jewelry last December during her cruise contacted us. Unfortunately, after she made the purchase (while still on the ship), she noticed that a diamond was missing in one earring. She returned the earrings and they were to be shipped to her home after the repair was completed. In March 2020, an agent of Starboard sent her a notice that the manufacturer was shipping her earrings. Despite much back and forth communication between Ms. White and Starboard, she still doesn’t have her $1,600 earrings. Would someone from your team please let us know if you can assist your customer with tracking down these earrings OR supplying her with a refund? Ms. White has been trying to retrieve her earrings or her refund for almost an entire year now.
Can you help? Thank you! (Michelle to LVMH, parent of SCS)
The fabulous news: Your missing earrings are found!
Things happened very quickly after I reached out to LVMH. I heard back from its representative (in Paris) within hours. White’s experience troubled their team and they were determined to make things right.
Within one day, I received notice that White’s earrings were (probably) on the way.
I hope this email finds you well. I got encouraging feedback from our team at Starboard over the night. They will reach you directly to give you the full explanations, but I understand that Mrs. White will receive her earrings very soon (if not yet).
Kind regards, ***** (LVMH to Michelle).
And White received a tracking alert from FedEx at the same time. Two days later, she had those earrings that she bought on the cruise a year earlier. To say that she was thrilled to put an end to this battle is an understatement.
Now I have the earrings to match the necklace (which I’ve not worn yet). They may have missed the wedding last February, but I’ll have them for our first anniversary!
Thank you for all your help, Robin 🙂 (White to Michelle)
Things to consider before you buy anything on a cruise
The Elliott Advocacy team receives a fair number of complaints each year involving problems with jewelry, art and other items bought on a cruise. Here are some things to keep in mind before you take off on your next maritime adventure.
- Set a budget for souvenirs
It’s best if you preplan your budget for souvenirs before you set off on your cruise. Most of the complaints we receive involve impulse buying while a traveler is in “vacation mode.” If you set yourself a budget for your souvenir purchases — and stick to it — you’ll avoid ending up having terrible post-vacation regret that can ruin any trip.
- Return damaged jewelry ASAP
In this case, White should not have accepted Regalia’s offer to take the earrings back for repair. If you buy any piece of jewelry on a cruise and discover it’s damaged before you even leave the ship, return it. Pick something different or get your money back. You’re under no obligation to allow the company to take your money and the damaged jewelry on a verbal promise you’ll get it back as described. No one needs that headache — let the jeweler deal with their own damaged product.
If you intend to buy jewelry on your next cruise, make sure to research your desired gem before you show up at the jeweler’s counter. Remember, jewelry stores want to get the highest price possible for their baubles. If you’re willing to pay top dollar, they’ll happily take your cash. An educated consumer is a salesman’s enemy — make sure you are familiar with the price range for the type of jewelry you want to buy.
- Prepare yourself for the hard sell
Most consumers who contact us about problematic jewelry purchases on a cruise are elderly passengers who were completely unprepared for the hard sell that happens in their ship’s ports. It’s important to remember that offers of a free bracelet, a cold drink, and other incentives are just the tools of the trade for a salesman. You’ll likely be paying for all those extras in the final cost of your jewelry. Be prepared to be firm and walk out the door if you’re not interested in making the purchase or are unhappy with the “bargain.”
*If you need a cautionary tale about what could happen if you don’t prepare yourself for the hard sell, check out this article: You should not buy jewelry on a cruise. This is why