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First-rate Cruise Line Practices Third-Rate PR

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For years you’ve been dreaming of a luxury cruise. Exotic locales, balmy sea breezes, tropical drinks with umbrellas in them.

You’ve read about some of the problems with Carnival and other cruise lines, so you opt to go first class. You book a cruise on the Queen Mary 2, a Cunard ship. A top-shelf experience awaits, and for what it costs, you have every right to expect nothing but the best.

But your cruise ship hits the side of a shipping channel in Florida, damaging one of its four propulsion motors. As a result, Cunard cancels three of your planned ports of call. But this is Cunard, an organization that protects its reputation, so you expect you’ll be taken care of. What action might you expect from Cunard, the company that owns the ship that was not damaged by weather or another act of God, but through its own crew’s actions? A full refund and a coupon good for another cruise would do it. The PR value of such a move would far outweigh the cost!

Alas, Cunard is offering only a 50% refund to its customers. Here’s what the company’s spokesman had to say:

Cunard takes the view that they are on board, they’re enjoying all the facilities of the QM2, all the food, the entertainment and so on, so while we very much regret they’re missing the ports, we feel the 50% compensates for that.

Will it compensate Cunard for all the potential customers who will now take their business to competitors? For the hit to its reputation when the passengers of this cruise tell their friends how they had to forgo the stop in Barbados which was the centerpiece of the vacation they’d been planning for five years?

The story has already caused irreparable harm to the venerable cruise line, with items appearing in places like the BBC News website quoting passengers like Alan Berg who said, “We have been lied to and misled…Many guests are on once-in-a-lifetime holidays and I have seen several in tears.”

There was even talk of a passenger mutiny with passengers refusing to leave when the ship arrived at its next port of call. Whoever said there’s no such thing as bad publicity hadn’t read this story.

Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.

First-rate Cruise Line Practices Third-Rate PR
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