So we’ve received the following letter from Uniworld regarding the complaints we had about our recent trip on the SS Catherine, and I thought I’d step through each response; or non-response as the case may be; and add some notes (in red) of my own:
Dear Mr Greatorex,
Thank you for taking the time to write to us in relation to your recent ‘Burgundy & Provence’ holiday with Uniworld. Firstly, may we apologise for our untimely response; we are dedicated to thoroughly investigating our guests’ concerns and we believe that each correspondence deserves a personal response, which often causes delays.
OK, great, well yes it has been nearly 8 weeks since we contacted you, and we had kind of given up any hope of receiving a response, but I can live with that if it means you’ve thoroughly investigated each complaint and you are prepared to address each one with the fullness it deserves.
We were very sorry to hear that certain aspects of your Cruise fell short of your expectations and we appreciate you providing us with the details of your experience, giving us the opportunity to address your concerns accordingly.
With regards to the lack of air conditioning available whilst sailing on the S.S. Catherine, unfortunately due to unusually high temperatures in France during that particular week, the air conditioning struggled. As you mentioned, we did place two fans at the back of our Van Gogh Lounge and the restaurant in an effort to ensure a more comfortable experience, however, we apologise that these were not sufficient enough. We hope you can appreciate that the remarkably hot temperatures were out of our control and we did our best to resolve this issue promptly.
So we’re just going to ignore the fact that on the Catherine’s sister ship, the SS. Joie de Vivre, during a week of even hotter temperatures, the air conditioning worked exceptionally well, according to several of our fellow travelers who had been on that cruise? As for “we did our best”, well, no actually, what you did was make a token gesture. Your “best” would have been to send a crew member into one of the cities along the way to buy some industrial sized fans that were capable of moving air around the large public areas. What you did instead was plug in a couple of fans that were only ever designed for personal use in a small space. So what you’re really saying here is “Sorry, not sorry”.
Moreover, it was most concerning to hear that you may have felt a shuddering whilst on the ship and we would like to take this opportunity to assure you that our ships are built with quality craftsmanship. Additionally, if our guests ever feel that there may be issues regarding the mechanisms of the ship or experience discomfort in their room, our Cruise Directors should always be available to assist wherever they can in order to enhance your stay on board.
Our Mazda MX5 is built with quality craftsmanship too. That doesn’t mean that if I hit something and knocked the wheels out of alignment that it wouldn’t start to shudder. At the time I didn’t feel that the shuddering was enough to worry about, and in isolation I still don’t believe that it would have been enough to spoil the trip, it was just an observation that several of us made that the SS Catherine was definitely a lot shakier than previous ships we’d been on. Including the aforementioned SS. Joie de Vivre, which we were reliably informed didn’t shake anywhere near as much. Again, sorry, not sorry.
Turning now to your comments relating to your dining experiences on board. Generally, we do require our crew to eat first in order for them to return to service as quickly as possible. With this in mind, it was with regret to learn that you experienced slow service on a few occasions. We can certainly empathise with your frustrations on this and we would like to apologise for any inconveniences this may have caused. We have passed your feedback on to our Operations Team who will be addressing this in order to make improvements wherever possible.
If the reason the crew eat first is so that they are able to return to service as quickly as possible, why is it that they were all still at their tables when we finished ours – having been waiting for over 3 hours to do so on some occasions? In fact, every night we were among the last guests to leave, and I’d be confident in saying that every night the senior crew members were still at their table.
But at least in this case it sounds like you’re actually saying sorry. Maybe a little bit.
Further to your observations regarding our included excursions it may be helpful to know that our itineraries have some inclusions, which are designed to provide an insight into the authentic culture, sights, activities and cuisine of the places you’ll visit. In addition to this, if our guests would prefer a more in-depth experience, our Masterpiece Collection offers a curated selection of optional excursions, available for an additional charge. This information can be discussed with your Agent at the time of booking and can also be found on our website.
So basically, when we say “all-inclusive”, we mean that we generally offer some very basic tours, and every now and then we offer a “Connoisseur Collection” cruise (the one you picked) where we offer a few more tours (ones which our competitors APT and Scenic offer as regular inclusions), but we’ll charge you extra if you actually want to go on them. Except, on our website, we’ll put them under the tab “All Inclusive” so you think they’re included in the price. But they’re not actually. Sorry, not sorry.
Oh, and just because you looked at our website and thought “all inclusive” means everything is included, it doesn’t, and it’s your fault for not checking that before you paid for your trip. You should have asked your travel agent to explain to you what our version of “all inclusive” means, because it doesn’t actually mean “all inclusive”, even though it actually does say “all inclusive” in the brochure. What it ACTUALLY means is that everything we list in our brochure is included in the price, except for those things that aren’t. Sorry, not sorry.
In addition, it was with regret to learn that you were unhappy with the choice of beverages that were included on your cruise. We do note in our Cruise Companion that all beverages are included, (excluding premium wines and premium spirits). However, we understand your disappointment and we will reiterate to the relevant teams the importance of making this information transparent to our guests prior to bookings being made.
Again, remember when we said that you should have asked what all inclusive means? Well, even though under the “All Inclusive” tab on our website we do say “Unlimited beverages onboard, including fine wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks, specialty coffee and tea, and mineral water”, what we actually mean by “fine wine” is any wine that you’d pick up at Dan Murphy’s for less than a tenner. Anything beyond that (such as a Penfolds Koonunga Hill for instance, that you’d have to shell out a whole $13.99 for at Dan’s) we consider to be a PREMIUM wine. And therefore not included in the “all inclusive” price. Sorry, not sorry.
To conclude, we would like to thank you once again for your valued constructive feedback. May we reassure you that your comments have been sent to the appropriate departments in order for future improvements to be made. Although we acknowledge your reluctance to travel with us again, we hope that there is a possibility that you may change your mind on this as we would relish the opportunity to make your next experience a positive one.
Wow Uniworld, after such a full and comprehensive response, I’d LOVE to travel with you again, and by LOVE what I actually mean is “I wouldn’t do it if you paid me, even if my life depended on it”.
Or in other words, Yeah, Nah. Thanks, but no thanks. Sorry, not sorry.
Now, where did I put that number for APT?