Royal Caribbean struggles with responses to consumer complaints

I wrote on Monday that Royal Caribbean had opened their Summer 2019 week-long Caribbean cruise schedule. I booked a cruise later that night at a refundable rate, and I wrote on Tuesday that I was disappointed that Royal Caribbean would not honor that deal and would only recognize it as a non-refundable rate. I decided that the best way to process the complaint would be to file it with the Better Business Bureau. Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean customer service remains sorely lacking. My purpose in this post is two-fold: I write to describe what Royal Caribbean’s policy is describing non-refundable deposits, and I write because I think it important to challenge them regarding significant customer service failings.

Let’s start with that second point– the customer service failings. I book Royal Caribbean because their ships are amazing, their rates are reasonable, and the service on board tends to be very good. The challenge I have is that dealing with their central customer service office is consistently a problem. For example, I wrote in June that they couldn’t make my balance display correctly in my online account for my previous cruise. Happily, that cruise eventually worked out just fine– hence why I was interested in booking another one.

We are booking with two other families for Summer 2019. We were waiting for the schedule to open, because we really wanted to get one of the Villa Suites (formerly the presidential family suite) on the Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston. I was nervous about two things. First, we intend to take exactly this cruise on exactly this week. However, a year and a half is a lot of time, and having a refundable option would be nice in case things change. Second, the casino regularly offers me discounts. They can’t see that far into the future, however, in terms of what offers I am eligible for. I wanted a refundable rate so I could change to a more heavily discounted rate if an offer came up in the future.

When I called, I explicitly asked about whether the rate was refundable. My understanding was that Royal Caribbean had moved to a system of more non-refundable rates since I previously cruised. I was assured that, yes, the deposit would be fully refundable at exactly the same price as the non-refundable rate. That was great, I consulted with one of the other families, and 10 people booked the Villa Suite. We also contacted the other family who was travelling, and they are making arrangements to book their own room.

The next morning, I looked at my invoice and saw it was non-refundable. I called Casino Royale (with whom I had originally booked) to inquire, and the agent verified that the code used was a refundable rate. However, he spoke with a supervisor who verified that it was actually a non-refundable rate. The “remedy” they offered was to refund it immediately since it was still within 24 hours. However, that was unacceptable for several reasons. First, we do actually plan to take this cruise on this week. Second, I believe that companies should honor the deals they make. Royal Caribbean demonstrably had not. Finally, I wasn’t the only decision maker on this trip. I had two other families who had already taken action based on what the company told me, so we were now locked in.

I assumed, wrongly, that I simply needed to get the attention of someone at Royal Caribbean who would acknowledge the mistake on their part and reinstate the deal we originally made. I decided that the most effective way to do this would be to complain to the Better Business Bureau. So I did. I asked that they instate the original deal or listen to a copy of the tape they made of the call to verify that what I was saying was accurate. This morning, I received this response. I publish it here full and unedited save for the fact that I have removed my personally identifying information:

Thank you for forwarding a copy of the complaint filed with your agency. We appreciate this opportunity to respond.

Mr. Dinedrinktravel spoke with a supervisor within 24 hours of bookings being created and clarified that the deposit is non-refundable on suites. This is true for all price programs available on concierge level suites. He was offered the ability to cancel without a penalty but chose to keep the reservations active. 

Not all of our calls are recorded, only a select number are recorded for quality control purposes. Our recordings of calls are proprietary, and will not be provided to outside parties unless they present a signed court order. As such, we must deny both his request to make his deposit refundable, and his request for a copy of the call.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We have thoroughly and completely addressed all of the concerns in our responses and consider this matter to be resolved.

Sincerely,

Guest Experience Management

Soooooo…. that didn’t even attempt to deal with my core complaint that they gave me wrong information in the first place, and it feels like more of a legal response to a problem that needs to go away rather than a customer service response to a customer who spends a lot of money on big suites. I am dissatisfied, and nobody at Royal Caribbean seems interested in talking in anything other than the most demeaning way, so I have decided to write in this forum. I hope I will achieve something, at the very least in letting other knows what to look out for. That was the second original point of this post- regardless of what the Royal Caribbean agent on the phone says, find independent verification that you really have a refundable rate. Apparently, all rates for suites are always non-refundable.

So here is what I am going to do. I am going to reach out to Royal Caribbean and invite them to respond to this post. Their response so far doesn’t leave me with a lot of hope they will take me up on that, but I am committed to fairness. Fairness demands giving them an opportunity to explain this issue from their perspective, and I will publish their full and unedited response in the comment section so long as it does not personally identify me. I see this company as an odd combination of a great onboard product with a horrible central office, and I would love to get their take on things.

UPDATE ON NOVEMBER 22, 2017- See the further response from Royal Caribbean through the Better Business Bureau on this new post.

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