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Got a call from Azamara Shore Excursions

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I wish Az shore excursions department would ring me. It might help me get my finger out and book tours for our next cruise, rather than procrastinate the way I’ve been doing.

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They work hard at selling extras for your cruise. We did not get calls. We got lots of emails trying to entice us to prebook before the cruise. We did book shore excursions. Sadly the excursions were a mixed bag. Some good. Some bad. After the cruise I wrote to Azamara explaining how disappointed we were in the poor quality of 2 excursions.  One was a bus of 49 guests with a broken air conditioner,  broken escape hatch, arrogant bus driver guide, and no ship escort. The other one was after a late arrival into port because the ship missed the dock by 6 feet.  By the time we arrived at the adorable village, it was closed.  I got a prompt email return stating that Azamara takes guests comments seriously and that the comments would be reviewed. That was in July.  Never heard anything. Guess that they don’t call after the cruise.  

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Did you say something whilst you were on the ship?  From what you say I would want some money back, never mind anything else. 

 

I've done many Azamara excursions. Some have been excellent, some not so good, but I've never experienced one as poor as you describe. 

 

Phil 

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Recent experience saying something on ship produces no reaction other than the usual oh you’re the first we heard that from when you know you are not.

 

Including comments on end of cruise surveys produces no reactions (mind that applies to all comments not just land discoveries)

 

Emails produces the standard we will investigate nothing else 

 

What really infuriated me last Autumn was after we and several others raised issues about one tour the response was inconsistent, some got part refunds, some got token gestures some got nothing. It should be consistent one amount for all on the buses affected. 

 

I only really use land discoveries when I have got OBC but on my next cruise even with a load of OBC I have nothing booked because the selection is so poor and if I am called I will ask the caller what other options they can offer (I know the answer but it will clip their selling speech wings temporarily) 

 

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That's too bad you have had that experience. I've had occasion to complain before and did get some money back, albeit a token gesture. I guess my point is if you do have an issue with a tour then the first stop has to be on the ship. Otherwise you'll likely get no recompense or follow up when home.  Whether that happens when on the ship of course, one can only try. 

 

Phil 

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22 minutes ago, excitedofharpenden said:

That's too bad you have had that experience. I've had occasion to complain before and did get some money back, albeit a token gesture. I guess my point is if you do have an issue with a tour then the first stop has to be on the ship. Otherwise you'll likely get no recompense or follow up when home.  Whether that happens when on the ship of course, one can only try. 

 

Phil 

Yes agree and the three options I mentioned I see as escalation stages not either/ors. 

 

I continue to struggle with why the delivery is so poor when other premium lines and river cruises around the world can get it so right. They do need to change some of the onboard personnel who are not appropriate for the Azamara way. That might help. Guest Relations have shown with some hard work they now have excellent listening skills and can show empathy. Many working onboard  in land discoveries lack this 

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On 9/19/2019 at 2:27 PM, hiccups said:


People have different opinions on many matters.  I could not care less about what kind of tonic water is carried onboard, yet there's a thread that's been going on about it for two years.  You've been free to pass on by this topic, yet have felt the need to chastise me multiple times.  Your judgment has been duly noted.

 

Please feel free in the future to continue to tell people when their threads are unnecessary based on your standards--I'm sure we'll all appreciate your diligent board monitoring so we can save ourselves time reading "trifling" threads. 

I’ll continue to give my opinion on posts here (which included the tonicgate thread).  I’ll comment about the subject, but not make it personal.  There is a big difference.

 

Phil

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13 hours ago, Redtravel said:

  One was a bus of 49 guests with a broken air conditioner,  broken escape hatch, arrogant bus driver guide, and no ship escort. The other one was after a late arrival into port because the ship missed the dock by 6 feet.  By the time we arrived at the adorable village, it was closed.  I got a prompt email return stating that Azamara takes guests comments seriously and that the comments would be reviewed. That was in July.  Never heard anything. Guess that they don’t call after the cruise.  

Your experiences re. Azamara shore excursions sound grim, Redtravel.

May I ask, which ship and cruise were you on when you experienced both missing the dock, and the bus with 49 fellow cruisers?

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2 hours ago, Ithikan said:

Your experiences re. Azamara shore excursions sound grim, Redtravel.

May I ask, which ship and cruise were you on when you experienced both missing the dock, and the bus with 49 fellow cruisers?

I am wondering as well. Was this a recent cruise RedTravel? If so, perhaps I can ask someone to call you.

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1 hour ago, Ithikan said:

Your experiences re. Azamara shore excursions sound grim, Redtravel.

May I ask, which ship and cruise were you on when you experienced both missing the dock, and the bus with 49 fellow cruisers?

We were on the Quest in July.

The bus with broken AC and 49 unhappy guests was in Juneau. 

The ship docked late in Nanaimo after announcing that it had missed the dock. It was also a new port for Azamara.  Nanaimo has nothing worth seeing. It was a waste of time and money.  

In retrospect I probably should have done more research before the cruise and booked private tours.  Having taken great shore excursions from cruise lines, it seemed to make sense booking the ship’s excursions.  With the frequent emails from Azamara describing good reasons to book, I  took the lazy way out and booked excursions before sailing. 

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28 minutes ago, Redtravel said:

With the frequent emails from Azamara describing good reasons to book, I  took the lazy way out and booked excursions before sailing. 

I think many of us do that so it's disappointing  this should happen. I'm a great believer in taking it up with the ship before I get off because it goes into a pit somewhere never to be heard of again, but if you come up against what uktog describes then it makes it difficult to sort the issue.

 

I've had some truly great tours through the ship and some not so good, but they have always been of a higher standard than you describe. Azamara really need to expend energy here and not just give the standard answer and say they take all feedback seriously.  They failed with your tour. 

 

Phil 

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13 hours ago, excitedofharpenden said:

That's too bad you have had that experience. I've had occasion to complain before and did get some money back, albeit a token gesture. I guess my point is if you do have an issue with a tour then the first stop has to be on the ship. Otherwise you'll likely get no recompense or follow up when home.  Whether that happens when on the ship of course, one can only try. 

 

Phil 

 

The topic has strayed away from phone calls soliciting sales and I apologise (a little) for continuing the altered thread of contact after experiencing less than satisfactory tours.

 

In the past, we have had some monetary recompense for really dreadful tours.

 

My biggest disappointment was in March this year . . .

Described under Highlights :

Visit the Barra Lighthouse with its incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Learn about the important role that African culture and religion plays in Salvador's heritage at
the Orixás sculptures.

And in the description :

"Dique do Tororó to see the Orixás sculptures. These
sculptures represent the deities of the African-Brazilian religion."

 

This was to be the highlight of the tour for me, but we drove past the area on the far side of the road and I was seated on the far side of the bus. When I went to Shore Excursions after the tour all I got was a shrug of the shoulders. Not the sort of response I have received in the past. 🤔

Ah well that is now in the past and I am looking forward to boarding again in Monaco in a little over a week. 😊

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One of the issues appears to be a complete disconnect between the advertised itinerary of a tour and the actual tour.  On our Cassis tour the tour guide was completely unaware of what the tour description said.  She provided what had been agreed between her company and Azamara which was different to the tour description that we booked.  It was not her fault.  Shore Excursion staff onboard seem to have limited knowledge and that may well be because Azamara Head Office have never communicated detailed information to them.  It must be frustrating for them but they do not seem involved enough to have done any homework themselves about the tours.  What is the process if there is a complaint one wonders.

On our recent cruise, admittedly on the new Saga ship, there was always an accompanying member of staff onboard in addition to the tour guide.  The ship had over 900 people onboard and most passengers were taking tours.

They had a "we are here to help"  attitude as well as reporting back to the ship function.

 

On our Azamara Cassis tour there was unusually  a member of staff onboard but apparently that has not improved the Cassis offerings.

Our recent Scenic River cruise offered exceptional shore excursions that I could not fault. Planning and local knowledge apparent at all levels.

Destination Immersion only works if it is backed up by a well informed and knowledgable shore excursion staff on land and onboard. 

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1 hour ago, Mrs Miggins said:

One of the issues appears to be a complete disconnect between the advertised itinerary of a tour and the actual tour.  On our Cassis tour the tour guide was completely unaware of what the tour description said.  She provided what had been agreed between her company and Azamara which was different to the tour description that we booked.  It was not her fault.  Shore Excursion staff onboard seem to have limited knowledge and that may well be because Azamara Head Office have never communicated detailed information to them.  It must be frustrating for them but they do not seem involved enough to have done any homework themselves about the tours.  What is the process if there is a complaint one wonders.

On our recent cruise, admittedly on the new Saga ship, there was always an accompanying member of staff onboard in addition to the tour guide.  The ship had over 900 people onboard and most passengers were taking tours.

They had a "we are here to help"  attitude as well as reporting back to the ship function.

 

On our Azamara Cassis tour there was unusually  a member of staff onboard but apparently that has not improved the Cassis offerings.

Our recent Scenic River cruise offered exceptional shore excursions that I could not fault. Planning and local knowledge apparent at all levels.

Destination Immersion only works if it is backed up by a well informed and knowledgable shore excursion staff on land and onboard. 

Regrettably the Cassis trip has not improved.

There was a nice person from the ship on it, the photographer but their focus was on counting heads on the way home plus taking photos when they were there.  The escorts have no idea what the excursion should contain and do not act as representatives of the cruise line when on the trip.  Only once in all the times we have used excursions, when a very nice lady who was the bridge instructor was escorting, did they challenge what was happening.

Your post highlights it is not rocket science to improve the guest experience and it can be done with relative ease. 

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The accompanying crew member on each coach on Saga varied from entertainment ,restaurant and security crew members.  Interaction was great plus handing around sweets, wet cloths and hand sanitizer onboard the coach.  Also good for getting everyone back on the coach in a timely manner.   I think the crew member had a good time too, and had the opportunity to see some wonderful places.  A win win situation for everyone.

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It was always like that on Azamara too. All my experiences had crew aboard the tours, so it's not just a Saga thing. Some tours were obviously more attractive than others in having crew sign up for them. I just think spaces are tighter now and they will fill them with paying guests if they can. 

 

Phil 

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Now they have removed the casino staff and reduced the shop staff that has also reduced the number available to send.  I did seven ships tours in September and had an escort only on three, the photographer each time but their focus was to capture photos to put onto the CD that was being sold (to be fair they were good photos) - and twice they were the last person back to the bus.  I know they did not know the structure of the trips and in fact did not even know where they were going or what they were going to see when they boarded the bus.

I think it would also help if the ship included information of what the role of the escort is somewhere in the land discoveries information so that those on a tour what is reasonable or unreasonable to expect from the escort.

 

 

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We talked to a member of Shorex staff who accompanied an excursion we were on from Safaga a couple of years ago. At that time she said she had been sent on the excursion so she knew more about it so she could advise passengers better.  Doesn’t sound as if that happens now!

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, Host Grandma Cruising said:

We talked to a member of Shorex staff who accompanied an excursion we were on from Safaga a couple of years ago. At that time she said she had been sent on the excursion so she knew more about it so she could advise passengers better.  Doesn’t sound as if that happens now!

I think the problem in that situation is that the next time the ship is in the port in question, the individual is not onboard to advise guests.  That said, if they had a way of better documenting and sharing information from one time they visit a port to the next that would help.

I asked Land Discoveries about docking arrangements in Sete and got absolute garbage information from the gentleman - luckily the Restaurant manager had the right information and shared it with us the night before.  In this day of technology having shared information should be so easy.

Edited by uktog

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Posted (edited)
32 minutes ago, excitedofharpenden said:

It was always like that on Azamara too. All my experiences had crew aboard the tours, so it's not just a Saga thing. Some tours were obviously more attractive than others in having crew sign up for them. I just think spaces are tighter now and they will fill them with paying guests if they can. 

 

Phil 

 

 

In  my option this this is yet another illustration that all Azamara now seem to care about is cutting costs and increasing profit, regardless of the effect on the quality of the product.

Edited by Bloodaxe

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3 minutes ago, uktog said:

I think the problem in that situation is that the next time the ship is in the port in question, the individual is not onboard to advise guests.  That said, if they had a way of better documenting and sharing information from one time they visit a port to the next that would help.

I asked Land Discoveries about docking arrangements in Sete and got absolute garbage information from the gentleman - luckily the Restaurant manager had the right information and shared it with us the night before.  In this day of technology having shared information should be so easy.

You’re right, but it needs someone with the will to set up a system for collecting & sharing information - and for it to be seen as important so it will be done.

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Just now, Host Grandma Cruising said:

You’re right, but it needs someone with the will to set up a system for collecting & sharing information - and for it to be seen as important so it will be done.

Indeed and until they tackle these delivery issues and share information land discoveries will continue to be their onboard achilles heel.  Blood axe is right there is a small cost but its so short sighted not to see the bigger picture of the benefits.  On our next 16 day cruise despite having a load of OBC not one land discovery has been booked.

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Generally I am loathe to comment on the business side of cruising, since that area is far away from any expertise I have.

 

But some thoughts about land excursions, starting with two issues over which I think Azamara has little control:

 

1/ The volume of cruisers now descending on certain traditional sites keeps expanding. Yesterday, we were at Our Lady of the Rock outside Kotor, interesting church but it took our group at least 30 minutes to enter. That wait period may not reflect the value of what you have chosen to see and may have an impact on the timing of the rest of the excursion We were supposed to view another site from our boat, but that was not possible because two others were already at the viewing spot. In Corfu today, groups of 30+ from a Viking Ship crowded an Orthodox Church I wished to see.

 

2/ We have found that the locally licensed guides often stick to a rather predictable script. They focus on answering “who, what, where, and when” questions, but not the usually more important “why” and “should”. I can understand this as the “why” and “should” are often more contentious but that is what makes them interesting. For example, yesterday our guide in Kotor did not deal with any of the issues that surround the post war regime of Tito in Yugoslavia. The four former questions are great for trivia, but not so useful for understanding a nation or its history.

 

To deal with these issues I humbly suggest several possible solutions which Azamara can implement:

 

1/ This one is obvious. As many have pointed out, creating smaller groups would be ideal. They provide greater manoeuvrability when the throngs arrive at sites and greater contact with the guide to ask those “why” and “should” questions.

 

2/ Since Azamara prides itself on longer stays in port, in some cases of highly popular ports it might be ideal to arrive even earlier than is regular practice. I would gladly give up a port in exchange for an earlier arrival in Dubrovnik for example, with excursions on its walls and streets completed before passengers from other ships arrive. We arrived in Venice after noon and, despite the fact there were no other ships in port, we choose never to go to St. Mark’s Square in the afternoon.

 

Based upon our experience, it will generally take certain circumstances rather than OBC to attract us to Land Excursions. Distance from port is the main one. 
 

In conclusion, I also have to admit that advancing age makes me less tolerant of crowds and that certainly colours my feelings about Land Excursions in general.

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Mrs Miggins said:

The accompanying crew member on each coach on Saga varied from entertainment ,restaurant and security crew members.  Interaction was great plus handing around sweets, wet cloths and hand sanitizer onboard the coach.  Also good for getting everyone back on the coach in a timely manner.   I think the crew member had a good time too, and had the opportunity to see some wonderful places.  A win win situation for everyone.

Unfortunately on our one Saga excursion that was not so. Our ‘crew’ member was an ageing military man who was onboard to deliver very boring lectures. He had no interaction. Didn’t offer us wet cloths and when we had to utilise the nasty coach toilets (viewpoint toilets were closed) he managed to pour sanitising liquid all over the floor and my jeans. Neither did he intercept when we went to the wrong place and missed the museum we had booked the tour in order to see. Saga excursion people eventually gave us back £15.00 pp off a £69.00 tour but only after 3 days of complaints by us. 

Azamara are not the only line getting it wrong. 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Mrs Miggins said:

Destination Immersion only works if it is backed up by a well informed and knowledgable shore excursion staff on land and onboard. 

 

This.

It’s the major disconnect between how the brand is marketed, and the product that it actually delivers through so many of its excursions that fall short of reasonable expectations.

Edited by snowglobe

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