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Warning! Before You Book a Windstar Shore Excursion, Understand That...

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Windstar is charging you 160% or more of the retail price you could book the excursion for yourself, and it has entered into a contract with the excursion vendor which precludes the vendor from booking the excursion directly with you at any price once you've identified yourself (where shall we pick you up?) as a Windstar passenger. That's right!

 

We've booked a Windstar cruise and are making independent arrangements for possible shore excursions. It turns out one of those excursions is being marketed directly by Windstar on its web site through its booked passenger portal. When we contacted the vendor directly, he/she told us he/she can't take our business because Windstar forced him/her to enter into a written contract which prevents him/her from selling the excursion directly to any passenger aboard a Windstar ship. However, if we can show up the day before or after the Windstar ship has arrived/left port, the vendor is happy to take our booking (well of course that doesn't work for us).

 

And how does the pricing compare? It turns out Windstar's price is nearly 160% of the excursion vendor's retail, otherwise commissionable price. Strike 1!

 

I am sure few of us object to a travel professional earning a commission on a travel related product or service he/she books on our behalf. But how do we feel about paying a nearly 60% surcharge in addition to the commission? And how do we feel about the "professional" forcing a predator type contract upon the vendor which prevents the vendor from making passenger-direct bookings? How long do we think a business practice like this would be tolerated in the U.S?

 

But this "incident" raises a more bothersome concern. I always have been a big supporter of Windstar. But now I am forced to take a step back and re-evaluate. And here's why.

 

In prior posts I have shared that cruise passengers can generally purchase far less restrictive air fare on our own, on the very same airlines Windstar uses, for a lot less than the air fare bundled in the all inclusive cruise price Windstar offers. And when we do, Windstar cannot compel the airlines to NOT make direct bookings with any of its passengers.

 

In a prior post I have called Windstar's 5% discount on future booked cruises for repeat "Yacht Club" Members a joke because in the real world the repeat passenger only gets the discount if he/she pays an inflated fare which is at least 5% or more greater than what the cruise costs to any passenger. Although I qualified for the discount, it was denied by Windstar (even though I asked). Strike 2!

 

In a prior post I have criticized Windstar's "so called" promotion whereby if a booking is made prior to a certain date, the passenger gets an extra $X.00 of free on board credits based upon the length of his/her cruise. Although I qualified for the free on board credits, they were denied by Windstar (even though I asked). Strike 3, you're out!

 

How about "so called" 50% discounted pricing? We all know this is an outright misstatement but it is not unique to Windstar. Nevertheless, this post is talking about ethics.

 

So when any of you ask this Board for advice insofar as whether you can or should book any element of a Windstar cruise on your own for less, you might want to think back to this post.

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Posted (edited)

This isn't surprising to hear. Have you cruised on other lines? This practice is common with other lines as well and even with tour providers on US soil (Key West). I've talked to tour providers that were disappointed when their contract wasn't renewed with a cruise line.

 

 

 

I'm not saying its ok as we also look to book our own tours where possible. Its only happened a few times to us, but bummed when we had to book a particular tour through the cruise line at a higher price. Just want to point out that this isn't inherent to Windstar.

Edited by minidonuts85
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Thanks minidonuts85:

 

Never knew of this before. So is it supposed to be excused just like misrepresentations of 50% off or two for the price of one are to be excused because everyone's doing it? Horrible IMO.

 

And it's really a disservice to the excursion operator because now he/she is going to lose out on several sales he/she otherwise would have benefited from because he/she is forced to honor this onerous provision in its contract with W/S. What should have occurred, IMO, is that W/S should have charged its passengers the retail, commissionable price, and then made the regular commission off the sale. Or maybe W/S should have earned more than the commission by paying the excursion operator less, because arguably it is providing more sales to the operator than your typical agent. This way W/S is charging its passengers more than the retail price because arguably it is providing more sales to the operator. Or W/S could have charged its passengers more than the retail price and then given them the 60% surcharge in OCs.

 

Which opens up a new question. When you the passenger are paid in OC rather than currency (such as for a "discount"), what is the real value of that OC? Since it can only be used for on board purchases, including excursions such as these, the cost to the cruise line can be and in this instance is considerably less because it is being paid in OC. And since you either use or lose OCs, subliminally, you really end up spending it on what are already over priced excursions.

 

No we're not fans of your typical cruise lines for a variety of other reasons. But we did take a cruise on Oceania, received OC credit from our agent, did not use all the credit during the cruise, and were surprisingly given a cash "refund" for the amount of unused credit at the end of the cruise. This wouldn't have made up for what has happened here, but since W/S won't give us the OC they represented they would (which might have made up for what has happened here), it really makes no difference.

 

Let's just say we won't be dining with the captain on our next W/S cruise. And we don't expect to receive our represented complimentary "Yacht Club" member cabin upgrade upon arrival either. Thanks W/S.

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As stated, most of your complaints are standard practice in the industry for shore excursions. Complaining won’t change anything. The small outfits on shore are probably much happy to have a shot at a well populated excursion from a ship than the off chance someone will find them on TripAdvisor.

 

I don’t know anyone who uses the airfare through a cruise line unless they pay a deviation charge. Again, no surprise.

 

I don’t understand your complaint about fares. We always get the return discount, and quite a few times we have lowered our price by following price cuts and updating our booking. Although a few times we might have saved with a very last minute booking, out time off is precious and inflexible and we like to choose our cabin. We prefer to book well ahead and don’t take those last minute deals

 

We like Windstar and their policies. If you don’t, there are many other cruise lines offering all kinds of pricing options. I hope you can find one that works better for you.

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For comparison, a few years ago we did a cruise on another cruise line, terminating in Sydney. We found a cooking school that we could attend a day after disembarkation, and we made reservations on line. It seemed pricey at about $100 per person, but we decided to splurge. On the ship, they announced that they were able to offer that same cooking school experience as an excursion for only $430 per person! The cooking school was great, definitely worth $100

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I’m not surprised. We just returned from the Windstar cruise from Southern Italy and the Adriatic. We arranged our own tours and didn’t take any of WS’s. We did a 7-hour private tour of Mt. Etna and Zafferena with a really nice wine tasting. It was just the two of us and our guide. That kind of tour with the ship would’ve cost us over $500. We paid $275. In Hvar, Croatia, the tours were $100+ to be on a group tour. Again, my husband and I took a private bicycle tour with a wine tasting that lasted 4 hours and we paid $250 for an exclusive ride.

 

I did this with Royal Caribbean years ago when we chose to take a private tour through St. Petersburg for 2 days rather than getting stuck on a bus with 40 other people. It cost a bit more, but we had a private guide and driver, and was able to see a lot more in a short amount of time due to having flexibility. Worth every penny.

 

I think if you’re adventurous and able to go off the beaten path, you can find a lot of great adventures without depending on the cruise line.

 

 

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Windstar is charging you 160% or more of the retail price you could book the excursion for yourself, and it has entered into a contract with the excursion vendor which precludes the vendor from booking the excursion directly with you at any price once you've identified yourself (where shall we pick you up?) as a Windstar passenger. That's right!

 

We've booked a Windstar cruise and are making independent arrangements for possible shore excursions. It turns out one of those excursions is being marketed directly by Windstar on its web site through its booked passenger portal. When we contacted the vendor directly, he/she told us he/she can't take our business because Windstar forced him/her to enter into a written contract which prevents him/her from selling the excursion directly to any passenger aboard a Windstar ship. However, if we can show up the day before or after the Windstar ship has arrived/left port, the vendor is happy to take our booking (well of course that doesn't work for us).

 

And how does the pricing compare? It turns out Windstar's price is nearly 160% of the excursion vendor's retail, otherwise commissionable price. Strike 1!

 

I am sure few of us object to a travel professional earning a commission on a travel related product or service he/she books on our behalf. But how do we feel about paying a nearly 60% surcharge in addition to the commission? And how do we feel about the "professional" forcing a predator type contract upon the vendor which prevents the vendor from making passenger-direct bookings? How long do we think a business practice like this would be tolerated in the U.S?

 

But this "incident" raises a more bothersome concern. I always have been a big supporter of Windstar. But now I am forced to take a step back and re-evaluate. And here's why.

 

In prior posts I have shared that cruise passengers can generally purchase far less restrictive air fare on our own, on the very same airlines Windstar uses, for a lot less than the air fare bundled in the all inclusive cruise price Windstar offers. And when we do, Windstar cannot compel the airlines to NOT make direct bookings with any of its passengers.

 

In a prior post I have called Windstar's 5% discount on future booked cruises for repeat "Yacht Club" Members a joke because in the real world the repeat passenger only gets the discount if he/she pays an inflated fare which is at least 5% or more greater than what the cruise costs to any passenger. Although I qualified for the discount, it was denied by Windstar (even though I asked). Strike 2!

 

In a prior post I have criticized Windstar's "so called" promotion whereby if a booking is made prior to a certain date, the passenger gets an extra $X.00 of free on board credits based upon the length of his/her cruise. Although I qualified for the free on board credits, they were denied by Windstar (even though I asked). Strike 3, you're out!

 

How about "so called" 50% discounted pricing? We all know this is an outright misstatement but it is not unique to Windstar. Nevertheless, this post is talking about ethics.

 

So when any of you ask this Board for advice insofar as whether you can or should book any element of a Windstar cruise on your own for less, you might want to think back to this post.

Honestly? It sounds like you have never read the fine print.

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I like WS as you all know I watch prices but to get business class with miles to Europe I reserve 332 days out. Therefore I reserve early. I have no airline status. I reserve WS watch the rates and balance it out with my OBC from AMEX, if the math works fine if not I keep my original reservation. I have received the 5% early booking, the 5% alumni fare, additional OBC for first time WS cruise friends, never a refussal or questions asked. We like A level on the sailing ships, and since I have been on 22 cruises I am almost always given the option for an “ upgrade” and I always refuse. Life is a balance early flight cheaper, reserve and watch it all balances out in the end. The product is always the same: great ship, great service, great crew, great food, all equal great experience. In Europe I research to death because I love the authentic, the art, the food cilture. I usually get a driver and we go off on our own with our own interests not the interests of many others. I am not wealthy but I do the best I can and so be it if it is a few dollars more every once in a while I would think being that consciious about money that would ruin it. Enjoy the sail we only live once and you can not take it with you. Happy Sailing.

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You can say the same thing about the hotel/airport/ship transfers. You can get a cab for $40 and they charge $150 per person.

 

 

If money isn't an issue, it one stop shopping, if it is, then shop around.

 

 

 

I see nothing wrong with what they are doing- it's business.

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You don't see anything wrong with W/S or any other cruise line making an excursion operator sign a contract which prevents him/her from servicing any of W/S' clients (a tying arrangement) unless they come through W/S? This isn't "business." It's antitrust. You've taken away the ability to "shop around." Now if everyone offered the same excursions so you could shop around, then it wouldn't matter. But when there is only one excursion operator, and he/she is prevented from doing business with you unless you are represented by W/S, IMO it's wrong. Sorry if you still don't see anything wrong.

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Windstar is charging you 160% or more of the retail price you could book the excursion for yourself, and it has entered into a contract with the excursion vendor which precludes the vendor from booking the excursion directly with you at any price once you've identified yourself (where shall we pick you up?) as a Windstar passenger. That's right!

 

We've booked a Windstar cruise and are making independent arrangements for possible shore excursions. It turns out one of those excursions is being marketed directly by Windstar on its web site through its booked passenger portal. When we contacted the vendor directly, he/she told us he/she can't take our business because Windstar forced him/her to enter into a written contract which prevents him/her from selling the excursion directly to any passenger aboard a Windstar ship. However, if we can show up the day before or after the Windstar ship has arrived/left port, the vendor is happy to take our booking (well of course that doesn't work for us).

 

And how does the pricing compare? It turns out Windstar's price is nearly 160% of the excursion vendor's retail, otherwise commissionable price. Strike 1!

 

I am sure few of us object to a travel professional earning a commission on a travel related product or service he/she books on our behalf. But how do we feel about paying a nearly 60% surcharge in addition to the commission? And how do we feel about the "professional" forcing a predator type contract upon the vendor which prevents the vendor from making passenger-direct bookings? How long do we think a business practice like this would be tolerated in the U.S?

 

But this "incident" raises a more bothersome concern. I always have been a big supporter of Windstar. But now I am forced to take a step back and re-evaluate. And here's why.

 

In prior posts I have shared that cruise passengers can generally purchase far less restrictive air fare on our own, on the very same airlines Windstar uses, for a lot less than the air fare bundled in the all inclusive cruise price Windstar offers. And when we do, Windstar cannot compel the airlines to NOT make direct bookings with any of its passengers.

 

In a prior post I have called Windstar's 5% discount on future booked cruises for repeat "Yacht Club" Members a joke because in the real world the repeat passenger only gets the discount if he/she pays an inflated fare which is at least 5% or more greater than what the cruise costs to any passenger. Although I qualified for the discount, it was denied by Windstar (even though I asked). Strike 2!

 

In a prior post I have criticized Windstar's "so called" promotion whereby if a booking is made prior to a certain date, the passenger gets an extra $X.00 of free on board credits based upon the length of his/her cruise. Although I qualified for the free on board credits, they were denied by Windstar (even though I asked). Strike 3, you're out!

 

How about "so called" 50% discounted pricing? We all know this is an outright misstatement but it is not unique to Windstar. Nevertheless, this post is talking about ethics.

 

So when any of you ask this Board for advice insofar as whether you can or should book any element of a Windstar cruise on your own for less, you might want to think back to this post.

 

 

 

We just got back from our first Windstar cruise from Barcelona to Rome. We took Windstar excursions. We found them reasonably priced, and appreciated that there was a Windstar representative with us at all times. They spoke several languages and helped to make each excursion a great experience.

 

 

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Dear Skitrips, Do you mind me asking where this occured? On all the trips with WS I have taken it has never happen to me and as I stated I research to death and I have contacted so many tour agencies. In the Caribbean it is beach time for us so we do not do excursions and we have been so many times. Appreciate the information. In your first posting I thought you were talking about cruise prices more than excursions. Thanks in advance and Happy Sailing. Susanne

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You don't see anything wrong with W/S or any other cruise line making an excursion operator sign a contract which prevents him/her from servicing any of W/S' clients (a tying arrangement) unless they come through W/S? This isn't "business." It's antitrust. You've taken away the ability to "shop around." Now if everyone offered the same excursions so you could shop around, then it wouldn't matter. But when there is only one excursion operator, and he/she is prevented from doing business with you unless you are represented by W/S, IMO it's wrong. Sorry if you still don't see anything wrong.

 

WS is NOT making any tour operator sign a contract which prevents him/her from servicing any of W/S' clients - the tour operators are choosing to sign the contract. WS says we'll contract with you if you do not service WS clients directly, The tour operator can always decline and not sign. No one is forcing anyone to do anything.

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You don't see anything wrong with W/S or any other cruise line making an excursion operator sign a contract which prevents him/her from servicing any of W/S' clients (a tying arrangement) unless they come through W/S? This isn't "business." It's antitrust. You've taken away the ability to "shop around." Now if everyone offered the same excursions so you could shop around, then it wouldn't matter. But when there is only one excursion operator, and he/she is prevented from doing business with you unless you are represented by W/S, IMO it's wrong. Sorry if you still don't see anything wrong.

 

 

They don't "make" them sign that contract. In exchange for all of WS excursion customers the excursion owner agree to forgo, for that day, any other ship passengers that want to book privately. I assume the excursion operator has crunched the numbers and decided that it makes the most business and financial sense. It is business. The owner has a choice and decides which option is best for their business.

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Posted (edited)

No offence intended Alturia and Surmy555, but your responses are disingenuous. "No one makes the excursion operator sign the contract?" Who created the contract? Who drafted the offensive language? Who required the excursion operator to sign the contract (which I am certain guarantees W/S pricing far lower than your one or two off T/A)? Who is it who intended its passengers be prevented from contracting directly with the excursion operator and thus "compete" with W/S? And you don't see a problem?

 

Let's say you want to sign up for DirecTV. DirecTV presents you with a contract and you don't like what it says (like a 2 year commitment). Is the answer "they don't make you sign?" Sure you don't have to sign. But then you don't get the service you're willing to pay for. And then you go to another cable or satellite provider to shop for a similar service. But that's not what we have here. W/S has put the excursion operator in the position of either agreeing to this offensive provision, or {foul language removed} and possibly not being a W/S "preferred provider." It feels its hands are tied.

 

Let's assume W/S attempted to pull this stunt with a major airline so you the client couldn't shop for your own airfare. How far do you think W/S would get? Let's assume W/S attempted to pull this stunt with a major hotel chain so you couldn't shop for your own lodging before/after your cruise? Same result. The only reasons why W/S is able to get away with this unfair business practice is because it happens outside of the U.S., and most mom and pop excursion owners don't have the clout to say no. But that doesn't make it right.

 

And it doesn't make it right when W/S represents that as returning Yacht Club members we will get a discount on our next W/S cruise, and then we don't. And it doesn't make it right when W/S represents that if we book our cruise by a certain date we will get $X.00 of OC, and then we don't. I'm happy none of you who have responded have ever experienced any of these "wrongs," but we have. And that's why I'm sharing my experience so if/when it occurs to you in the future, you will understand this is is what W/S does.

 

At the end of the day we have to decide if we still want to go on our cruise with W/S given we're not getting a repeat passenger discount, or promised OC, or a promised cabin upgrade on a space available basis, or we're being required to pay 160% of retail to go on a particular third party shore excursion or go on no excursion at all. If we felt the loss of these incentives exceeded the value of the cruise, we would choose no. But the fact we have responded yes, doesn't make it right what W/S is doing.

 

And to Strenz, I choose not to share the particulars as to where this has occurred because I fear retaliation on our future W/S cruise. It's my experience that when people in business act as I have described, the word "retaliation" is foremost in their vocabulary. Best to all.

Edited by Host Walt
Delete foul language not permitted by our posting guidelines

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Posted (edited)

Well, yes.

None of this is news, every cruise line does this.

If you are so unhappy, maybe stop cruising.

Edited by 6rugrats

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It is my understanding that the excursions I book through Windstar are “chartered” by Windstar and only persons on my cruise will be on said excursion. I would not be happy at all if “outsiders” or “independents” were on my Windstar excursion.

 

As to the two for one - if I book a single I pay a single supplement equal to double fare minus the second port fees. As I see it all cruise fares are two for one in a double cabin.

 

As far as airlines, it seems Oceania charters flights from LAX - PPT on Air Tahiti Nui and I wo

 

 

 

 

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I book my own excursions independently. But some folks don’t like the stress of not knowing if the ship will wait for them if the independent excursion is hung up. Cruise lines will generally hold the ship in the event one of their own excursions is late back to the ship. Not so with independent. It’s worth the risk to most but many just can’t tolerate it and don’t mind the extra expense.

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Dear Skitrips, You do sound a bit angry. I hope that when you are on WS you become happy. Everything you say you did not get reserving WS we have received time and again. It is too bad you will not mention a name because empirical evidence is important when accusing someone/thing, WS, of poor behavior. Life is to short to be angry and to be able to experience cruises such as WS one ought to be grateful in this world and this life. Happy Sailing to you.

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I don’t understand the reference to not getting the 5% alumni discount. We are due to take our fourth Windstar cruise and have always been given this, even when booking heavily discounted fares. We have also been given the 5% early booking discount, when you book a cruise shortly after returning from one, and the OBC for recommending a friend. This was even though our friends were only due to pay their final payment (when the OBC becomes payable) DURING our cruise. Again, if the price dropped before our final payment, when we asked, our price was reduced.

We have never had a problem with Windstar not honouring what it promised. We have cruised on many other lines, shore excursions are always more expensive when booked with them. In Alaska with Holland America we paid £300 for two of us on some excursions. The fact they are exclusive to Windstar guests is a fair point.

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In my opinion your characterization of Windstar as a “predator” and implying thattheir contractual practices relative to tours are in some way nefarious, improper or ”anti- trust” is unfair.The business of selling group tours to a cruise line or resort hotel is a very different business model from selling individual tours to travelers. So, in my view, they are not competing for the same business.

Suggesting that Windstar may have limited competition, is not founded in fact, since we have no information about how many tour operators may bid for the cruise line contract.Only the parties to the contact are privy to the terms, however it would be foolish to believe that the terms are beneficial to only one of the parties.

 

Although Windstar passengers may pay a premium for the tours offered, should they choose to buy them, my experience has been that they were curated,well organized and interesting/fun. Taking their tours also gave us some peace of mind, since there was always a crew member on the tour (unless it was a tour after disembarkation)and we were assured of making it back to the ship before it’s departure.

 

I don’t understand why Windstar would have denied you any ofthe advertised discounts. Although this winter’scruise will only be our third on Windstar, our experience has been that they were fair and even generous with us. Wereceived the early booking bonus, the alumni discount, price adjustments according to their price assurance policy and even an unsolicited complimentarycabin upgrade that was offered about a month before our last cruise, which was an unexpected and very pleasant surprise.

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Many inexperienced travelers do not understand the liability aspects of a cruise line selling tours. With primarily western passengers, frivolous - and not so frivolous - lawsuits are very common.

 

All the major cruise lines are required by their insurers to have a minimum $1 million liability coverage for every passenger who purchases a tour from them.

 

If that tour happens to be a visit to Florida's Disney World, the risks are minimal, and the premium for that liability insurance is rather low.

But if that tour happens to be with a local company in a third world country, the story is quite different. The local operator likely has no insurance. His equipment may or may not be safe and reliable. The cruise line is completely on the hook for any and all real or perceived damages on any tour they sell you. The cruise line's insurance company is going to assess a hefty liability charge on that tour to cover themselves as well.

Guess who ends up paying for that insurance?

The pax who buys the tour, of course.

 

There are many ports in many countries, where the cruise line does not have a monopoly on local tours. There, if you feel lucky, you can choose to independently buy the cheaper tour with no insurance. Or you can play it safe and buy the more expensive tour (with insurance) through the cruise line.

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Posted (edited)

Just to be sure there is one other aspect that has not been mentioned; that is, what happens if the ship has to bypass a port. On a Windstar cruise we were unable to call at Santorini (Greece) because of seriously high winds and port congestion. The order to bypass was made by the Santorini harbormaster that morning as we were heading toward the island. We sailed around the island and wound up having a "day at sea."

 

All passengers who booked shore excursions in Santorini through Windstar were not charged or were refunded any payments already made. The excursion company lost all of the revenue because of the cancellations and the Windstar customers were all well handled apart from the disappointment of missing a fabulous port.

 

If one arranged private shore activities it would have been a real problem for them to recover whatever they may have paid to their private tour provider. (I don't know if anyone did that but I've been on other cruises (e.g., Princess) where this has occurred.)

 

We've always done comparative "shopping" to determine how much the "markup" was on excursions we've booked and have seen those "markups" to be rather modest.

 

Just one other matter. When we booked an excursion to Olympia, Greece through Windstar on another cruise, the provider arrived with a coach that would have been filled to capacity with the number of passengers booked. The Cruise Director told the operator that they must provide a second coach and host, which they did, which made the excursion even better.

Edited by Host Walt

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As stated, most of your complaints are standard practice in the industry for shore excursions. Complaining won’t change anything. The small outfits on shore are probably much happy to have a shot at a well populated excursion from a ship than the off chance someone will find them on TripAdvisor.

 

I don’t know anyone who uses the airfare through a cruise line unless they pay a deviation charge. Again, no surprise.

 

I don’t understand your complaint about fares. We always get the return discount, and quite a few times we have lowered our price by following price cuts and updating our booking. Although a few times we might have saved with a very last minute booking, out time off is precious and inflexible and we like to choose our cabin. We prefer to book well ahead and don’t take those last minute deals

 

We like Windstar and their policies. If you don’t, there are many other cruise lines offering all kinds of pricing options. I hope you can find one that works better for you.

 

I have often booked air through Princess, it can be great for one way long haul flights. Way cheaper than booking direct with the airline.

And changeable/cancellable.

We have just booked our 2nd cruise with Windstar and we were cheerfully given free laundry and a few per cent off as past passengers and also more percent off for booking within 2 months of our previous Windstar cruise.

And that cruise is now listed as a Special but its now double the price we are locked in at.

Frankly its a 20 day unpopular repositioning cruise, but at $50 a day plus taxes we cant complain. Love being on board Wind Surf.

So at the moment at least we are pretty happy bunnies.

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I, actually, do not have a problem with a non-compete clause by cruise lines for a vendor. It is the vendor's business decision on whether to sign the agreement or not.

 

Here is what can happen (my personal experience) if there is no non-compete clause. Morocco port, Windstar cruise - probably the one and only time I will ever get to visit. Did a lot of research, found a highly rated tour guide and booked him in September for our April cruise. Had another couple (from Australia) who were going to join us. Verified the booking was OK about two weeks prior to cruise.

 

Got off the ship and found the guide with our name on a sign. It was someone different! Was told that our tour guide was requested by Windstar at the last minute and would be doing one of their bus tours. OK - we are go with the flow people, disappointed but did not make a fuss. Morning part of the tour was great - started to fall apart at lunch. He tried to charge us extra for lunch, fortunately we had the emails that clearly stated lunch was included. Then he began parading us through various stores and vendors - again we showed him the emails where we had stated we did not want any shopping. At this point he became angry, threatened to just leave us until we pointed out that our backpacks were in his van. When we asked about the three other places we were supposed to visit, he told us the tour was over.

 

Upon our return home, I emailed the guide we were supposed to be with. It was only then that I found out he had a contract with Windstar and did all their tours! He knew in advance when he took our booking that he would not be our guide since he knew we were on Windstar, but led us to believe he would be conducting our tour. This was extremely deceptive and had I known I might have taken the tour offered by Windstar. We received no refund, only a promise that should we ever come to Morocco again, he would give us a free tour.

 

So, this is the flip-side story of what can happen if a vendor does not have a non-compete agreement with Windstar. I would have been just fine with him saying he could not accept our booking - I would have then tried to find someone else or just do the tour through Windstar.

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One comment: I took a high-demand excursion (Aqua Safari) when we were in Bora-Bora on the Tahiti cruise. (I think that is the excursion where I had this conversation with one of the guides.) The WindStar is there only one day a week; the Paul Gauguin is there another day (sometimes the two ships overlap). When one of the ships is in port, they reserve all their slots for the ship. If one is staying in a hotel on the Island, you can only sign up for the other days of the week. It's possible to sign up for a cheaper tour on the dock, but I'm willing to pay a little bit more to know that the guide/company has a relationship with W/S, and that feedback has tended to be positive. I think it all depends on whether it is more important to you to watch costs or you're willing to pay more for a bit more security. (And some of this changes as one ages!)

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