Number of Cruises: 1 (
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Adventure of the Seas
Sailing Date: September 26th, 2004
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
This is a slightly edited copy of a letter that I am sending to Jack Williams, the President and COO of Royal Caribbean International:
I would very much like to be writing a different review. In fact, I was prepared to write a very different review. For the first time in three years, I was able to enjoy a vacation from work. It is the one and only week of vacation that I will receive in 2004. After great deliberation, we decided that we would take a cruise. After weighing the many cruise lines available to us, we decided that we would give our business and hard earned dollars to Royal Caribbean International. We booked our cruise aboard the Adventure of the Seas, departing 26 September 2004 from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The review that I wanted to write would describe the wonderful time we had. I would go at great lengths to laud the friendly, polite, and clearly dedicated crewmembers on board the Adventure of the Seas. Most especially, I would sing the praises of Adrian and Vladimir – our waiter and assistant waiter – during dinner. They epitomize what every company hopes for from their employees. We enjoyed their service and their personalities so much that we were sorry to depart the ship. From port-of-call destinations and excursions to on-board entertainment, dining, and shopping options, we enjoyed a wonderful week. The Advenute is a remarkable vessel - with just about every feature you can imagine. I could spend a month on the Advenute and not run out of things to do.
Dockworkers at the Pan American Pier announced that they were striking when we docked on Sunday, 3 October 2004. We learned that the dockworkers had blockaded the port – no taxis or buses could enter the port area and there was no one to unload the luggage from the vessel. At the time, we were under the impression that the dockworkers were protesting all three cruise lines that dock at the Pan American Pier. We later learned that their grievance was solely levied against Royal Caribbean International and the Tourism Board. The other vessel docked in port was able to unload their passengers and luggage in a timely manner that enabled them to depart as scheduled.
We were informed by an ill-prepared young man who worked for the cruise line that Royal Caribbean International representatives were in negotiations with the dockworkers and we would be kept abreast of the situation. By ten o’clock in the morning, the young man announced that a settlement had been reached with the dockworkers and the disembarkation process would commence in approximately forty-five minutes. At that time, a movie was started in the Lyric Theater and the few Royal Caribbean crewmembers that we had seen disappeared. No crewmembers were available for questions. I was disheartened that we never saw or heard from Michael Hunnerup, our Cruise Director for the week. Despite having seen and heard from Mr. Hunnerup all week, he apparently did not deem this situation important enough to make his presence known. At no time did he make an appearance nor did we ever hear his voice on public address. Instead, this poor, ill-prepared young man was sent in proxy. He was clearly unable to provide us with any answers, guidance, or support. Therefore, he too disappeared from the stage of the Lyric Theater.
What followed was an exercise in utter futility. It showed extreme disorganization, a clear lack of emergency preparedness, and complete failure to comprehend and handle the situation. The crew began making announcements via the public address system, rather than appearing in person. I can only assume that this is because the crew feared hostility from the passengers. To this point, the passengers remained calm and patient. The first announcement, made well after ten o’clock in the morning, was that anyone with a flight leaving before ten o’clock could begin to disembark. This seemed odd since those persons had already missed their flight. Might it not have been more logical to allow those with an opportunity to still make their flights disembark before those passengers who had already missed theirs?
Finally, at approximately noon, an announcement was made for anyone with a flight leaving before two thirty in the afternoon to begin disembarkation. What we discovered upon leaving the Lyric Theater can only be described as a mob scene. We were to disembark from the port side of the vessel but first had to stand in line with the countless other passengers who were also attempting to leave. We found ourselves standing in an unmoving line on the starboard side of the vessel, waiting to progress forward. At this point, we knew that we still had to disembark, proceed through Customs, retrieve our baggage, find a cab, make it to San Juan International Airport, complete the U.S. Agriculture inspection, obtain our boarding passes, and make it to the appropriate departure terminal. As our flight was scheduled for 2:10 p.m., we knew that we had little chance to make our flight on time.
The ill-prepared young man who seemed to be the only remaining spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, did reappear as we finally approached the port side of the vessel, telling us that the airlines had been informed of the situation and were working frantically to reroute flights. We were also told that a Royal Caribbean representative would be at the airport to help us get home. This, we later learned, was a bold faced lie. According to American Airlines representatives – representatives for the largest airline in the United States, where a great number of Royal Caribbean passengers were booked – no one from Royal Caribbean had ever contacted them regarding the situation. It should come as no surprise that no one from Royal Caribbean was able to help us at the airport either. The only Royal Caribbean employees we found at the airport were busy making excuses to new passengers of the Adventure of the Seas for why they could not be transported to the vessel.
As we finally neared the exit, with hoards of passengers in front and behind us, an announcement was made for anyone with a flight eight-thirty p.m. or earlier should disembark. Those of us who had flights from ten a.m. until four-thirty p.m. were still trying to get off the ship, so this announcement infuriated us. Passengers had reached the boiling point; starting to push, shove, yell, and it became increasingly clear that violence could break out very quickly. I was close enough to the ill-prepared young man to tell him that he needed to get Ship Security to the area quickly. He assured me, dismissively, that they already had security. Unfortunately, he was wrong. No Royal Caribbean Security personnel were in the area. They may have been viewing the situation via CCTV, but none were in the vicinity. In fact, the only Ship Security member we saw all day was leaning lazily against a railing on the exterior of the port side of the vessel. He did little to calm the crowd or inspire confidence for our safety. I spoke to the representative again and told him that I knew he was doing the best job that he could, but he was failing. I told him that the situation was growing increasingly volatile and could easily grow violent if he did not have security called immediately.
As a Security Director, my job is to handle unruly crowds, be prepared for any eventuality, and most importantly, to have an emergency preparedness plan. There was no evidence of such preparation onboard Adventure of the Seas. No security personnel were present to keep the disembarkation line orderly. Areas were left exposed to allow passengers to shove their way into line and the amount of people gathered in such a small space, without order or instruction, made for a very terrifying fire hazard. I was able to note a multitude of security vulnerabilities during the time that I waited to leave the ship. I wonder how prepared the crew would be for an emergency at sea.
Like approximately 3000 other passengers, Wendy and I missed our flight, scheduled for 2:10 p.m. from San Juan to Philadelphia. We were unable to obtain another flight out of San Juan on Sunday. We had to pay for two new airline tickets, pay for a hotel room, pay for dinner and breakfast, along with two cab rides to and from our hotel. The delay, caused by Royal Caribbean International’s inability to properly handle a difficult situation forced Wendy and I, and so many other passengers, to cancel appointments, call out from work, make hasty arrangements for babysitters, house sitters, and cat sitters, and spend a fortune in additional costs for plane tickets, hotel accommodations, and food. It was an unnecessary and unfortunate inconvenience and ruined what was otherwise a restful, relaxing, and wonderful vacation.
After a week of every Royal Caribbean International crewmember going to great lengths to make us happy and comfortable, after hearing speech after speech from our Cruise Director telling us how much he wanted us to enjoy a vacation of a lifetime, after spending a fortune to do just that, we were ultimately let down by Royal Caribbean. Instead of returning home well rested, I returned stressed and anxious. While an apology from Royal Caribbean would not begin to make up for the extreme inconvenience, we did not receive even that.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I was on my first vacation in three years. We planned every step of the vacation carefully and selected Royal Caribbean because of your company’s reputation for being the premier cruise line. I completed a glowing review on the final evening of the cruise and even decided to enroll in the Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society – so sure that I wanted all of my future vacations to be onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Instead of coming home with positive memories, the performance of the Adventure of the Seas staff on that final day has left me disenchanted, disappointed, and disgusted. We do not know how we are going to recoup our unnecessary expenditures after being stranded for an extra day in Puerto Rico.
I have high hopes to cruise again but I feel that I will have to choose one of Royal Caribbean’s competitors. It is a shame that after a week of working hard to impress the passengers of the Adventure of the Seas, we encountered nothing but apathetic, unsympathetic, and discourteous crewmembers, when we could find a crewmember at all. It seemed that after 8:00 a.m. that morning, we were no longer considered Royal Caribbean’s problem. We weren’t even off the ship before we were discounted and disposed! I am angry about the treatment we received and hope that Royal Caribbean will take the necessary and appropriate steps to rectify the deep disappointment that we, the Royal Caribbean Castaways faced on Sunday, 5 October 2004 and ensure that no future passengers have to face the panic, anxiety, and stress that comes with being stranded in a foreign land.
All-in-all, we enjoyed every moment of our week until arriving back in San Juan. I would recommend cruising but would be very cautious when selecting your cruise line.