by Dr. James Marta
December 4, 2005
Celebrity Cruise Line enjoys a very good reputation, and this cruise was not our first with the line. The service is always excellent, and the food is outstanding as well. The Ports of Call are just so-so-- the Panama Canal is the cruise's primary attraction on this trip (as was Cape Horn on the January trip we took earlier this year). Be prepared for hot humid weather, though, no matter which season you travel Central America.
In spite of Celebrity's excellent reputation, this cruise was a cruise from "Hell" for my wife and me. We arrived three days early in Fort Lauderdale to explore Miami and the area. On our departure day, we personally hand-delivered our four bags of luggage to the cruise terminal for security check-in (with subsequent delivery to the stateroom) with the porters who stacked the bags on a "tram" for delivery to the ship. There is a "no tipping required" sign above the baggage delivery area, but each porter said, "I'm your porter and a tip would be appreciated". Each one had a shirt that said "Celebrity" on the breast/pocket area. Just to make sure all would be well with our luggage, we tipped the porter and proceded away from the baggage and into the terminal for personal and security check-in. Later that night, starting after dinner, we received three pieces of luggage, separately, and at hourly intervals. My wife's large, locked large Pierre Cardin suitcase never was delivered to us! And, it remains lost/stolen to this day, December 26, 2005.
The early discussions and questions with "Guest Relations" were not taken seriously, and we were continually told the bag would soon be delivered. It never was. After three days of repeatedly seeking assistance, we variously spoke to Guest Relations, the Concierge, and, finally, the Head Concierge. Each was quite nice (Marcella), and appeared concerned, but no action was taken that resulted in the bag's arrival. After an additional four days, I was able to meet with the Captain of "Hotel Services" (Mr. Elias). I think he did his best to find the bag, but to no avail. A ship's search, and queries of other ships in port and of the Terminal yielded no success either.
The ship did upgrtade our room (we had no hot water in the first room), and offered a $200 ship's credit for my wife. At the end of the cruise, and because I insisted, we were also given a letter with which to file a police report with the Sheriff's Department in Fort Lauderdale, and a 10% reduction with our next Celebrity Cruise. That was IT! Never once was there an offer for complimentary laundry service for my wife's 2 pair of underpants,1 bra, 2 pair of cropped pants, and 2 T-shirts. Instead, she washed her garments out each evening in the bathroom sink and dried them in the shower. Appalling.
Men can go shopping for one day and replace most things taken; but, a woman plans for three formal days, three or more informal days, and the casual days of a fourteen day trip, and takes clothes and accessories for each planned day. My wife's bag had over $4,000 of inventory (as seasoned travelers, each of us prepares an exact list of what we have packed)!
I had a tuxedo for the formal days and took a "beach girl" to dinner, as we were only able to buy vacation stuff in Aruba. She had the jeans, two T shirts and a couple of jackets (worn in the cold weather and on the airplane), and virtually no underwear or body shapers. She went from tears to anger to resentment and to acceptance. She had an OK cruise in spite of the loss. I had offered to fly us home from Aruba; but, ever the optimist, she thought her clothing might catch up with us.
In reading the cruise contract we discovered Celebrity limits their exposure to just a couple hundred dollars! And, we didn't even get that! We both think Celebrity could have offered quite a bit more than they did, and that does not speak well of that Cruise Line. AFter trying to find that we were somehow to blame for the loss, and ultimately admitting their own negligence, one would think they would have been more fortghcoming with a "gift." I think you readers would agree. On returning home to Seattle my wife went to a yacht club's women's lunchon with 125 women there, almost all of whom cruise, and she was repeatedly asked, "How was your cruise, Barbara." And then, "What did Celebrity do?" Need I say more?
What has surprised people was not necessary the loss of the luggage, but instead the cavalier manner in which this loss was treated by Celebrity. There was always an excuse. The cruise line defiinitely needs 1) better security, 2) certainly a check-in with receipt policy for guests' luggage, and 3) delivery of the luggage INSIDE of staterooms, rather than being left in the hall. These seem most rudimentary.
In the future, we will divide our clothing between bags, planning for the worst. And, there's little worse than a 14-day cruise with no clothing. We have now had eight cruises; and, unforunately, this one may have been our last.
Dr. James M. Marta
Mercer Island, Washington