Posted August 7th, 2018, 10:20 PM
Recently returned from our European vacation and have filed our claim for the Le Havre diversion. What struck us was the lack of preparedness for this event - surely a large cruise line would have contingency plans? I can't believe this is the first time Princess has had a port diversion. A lack of customer service and plethora of misinformation made for a poor end to what had been a relatively enjoyable first-time TA cruise. Having spent most of my career in the transportation sector and in customer service, I know this event could have been handled much better and would give Princess a failing grade on this experience.
Our circumstances were somewhat different than those cited by most others. We were undertaking independent travel in Normandy upon disembarking at Le Havre, and arrangements had been made for a rental car, B&B stay and D-Day tour before then traveling to northern France. After the Captain's announcement, we received our stateroom notice between 2130 - 2200h providing more details. Besides the phone access and 30 minutes internet, the only other assistance was "All guests will be provided with a complimentary transfers (sic) from Southampton. More information...will be available tomorrow morning..."
Realizing we were on our own, and combined with the late hour and with neither of us having previously traveled to the UK nor any pre-planning since this was not part of our travel itinerary, we were scrambling to work out alternative arrangements. We made a decision to scrap the Normandy part of our vacation as there were too many unknowns and we chose to head to the next phase of our itinerary in northern France. After waiting in line for the internet then losing the connection a couple of times, it took us quite some time to cancel our various bookings and make new bookings for travel and accommodations. We made the assumption that since the Princess letter stated they would be flying people home from London, something would be offered in the way of a transfer to London. Back to our stateroom around 0100h after a quick nightcap.
Awake in the early morning for breakfast and then to head to UK immigration, and we find a letter from Princess in our mail slot. During the night Princess had booked us a flight to Paris. Confused, flummoxed, perplexed - you pick. At no point were we made aware this was being undertaken by Princess. Their explanation was "because you chose to make your original travel arrangements with Princess EZAir, we have booked alternative flight reservations on your behalf." It is unfortunate that someone had spent time and energy (and cost to Princess) in making these arrangements when we were not heading to Paris and as we were to find out shortly, many others would have begged to have that flight versus the option they were presented. We headed to Passenger Services to cancel the flight booking. At the same time I asked if there was more information regarding the transfers and if I could purchase British pounds. No on both accounts - he did not have any details re: transfers and pounds no longer available but I could get them in the cruise terminal. We then headed to our assigned disembarkation location - Casino to Club 6 to Casino to Club 6, yes everyone seemed to be confused - and again asked about transfers. While the staff person did not have details, they thought something may be offered since Princess was making transfer connections to Heathrow and Garwick, so it was likely transfers would be going to London. And there is an ATM in the cruise terminal so we could get some money.
Our time was up on the ship and we headed to the Cruise Terminal to pick up our luggage and hear the good news. The agent advised us there were no transfers other than the airport ones and no ATM. She did assist with providing travel options to London (we wish someone on the ship would have done so) and she booked for us the coach to London (which turned out to be a pleasant experience). No shuttle to the bus terminal and we were pointed in the direction of the taxi stand outside the cruise terminal. Outside and with no Princess staff in sight, we headed to the first taxi in the queue and he advised us he does not accept credit cards. I explained we had Euros and $US, would he accept either and what would be the cost to get to the bus terminal (which we found out is less than a 10 minute trip). He stated it would be 50 Euro. Realizing this was outrageous we exchanged a few choice words, and fortunately the next driver in line agreed to take us for 10 Euro. Welcome to the UK and thanks for your help Princess!
Catching up on emails upon our return, we were surprised there was no correspondence from Princess providing a further apology for this event nor offer of compensation. The standard survey was in the in-box but the two-week window had lapsed and we could not provide feedback using that forum.
Our priority was to file the claim for extra expenses we incurred and this has been done. We will correspond with Princess and await their response. If unsatisfactory, we will cancel our next TA trip with them in 2019. We are already researching other cruise options. And based on the experience of others, this may be the best thing to do.
An Update: After submitting our claim to Aon Affinity on May 24 we received notice on July 10 (after our follow-up email) advising they approved our claim other than a private tour we had booked. We exercised the option Princess noted in their apology letter to approach them with any expenses not covered by travel insurance and we sent our application on July 23. And on August 13 we were contacted with the positive message they would cover the tour expense. In summation, we eventually received reimbursement for all out-of-pocket expenses, and have a few stories to share with many friends and family, but unfortunately will have to say good-bye to our Normandy plans. I should also note we did receive a phone call from Princess customer service after providing our written feedback, and we had an opportunity to go over the issues in more detail. Still a bitter taste about the experience but at least financially we were not hurt.