Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hurtigruten Overbooking

In an earlier post I said I’d report on the cruise line we used for our trip to Antarctica. As promised, here it is. This was the pre-trip experience from Hell.
Let me start by saying that our experience on board the Nordnorge was close to excellent. The cabin was comfortable. The ship was spotless. The food, when served buffet style which was most of the time, was varied, plentiful and excellent. (I was particularly fond of the self-serve ice cream cooler.) The lectures were interesting and entertaining. The shore excursions were wonderful. One thing that could have been improved upon was communication to the passengers. But that aside, all in all, an experience I would normally recommend highly. But the fact is we almost didn’t get to take our trip.

My husband and I expected to be in Santiago, Chile on Wednesday,January 9th 2008, preparing to fly further south to board the Nordnorge for Hurtigruten’s (formerly Norwegian Coastal Voyage) sailing through the Chilean fjords and Antarctica. Instead, as we try to check in for our international flight, on the night of Tuesday, January 8th, we learn that there is a problem with our reservation/tickets.

As JFK LAN personal politely ask us to step aside so that they can help other passengers, my husband and I are in shock. I call Hurtigruten at 7:30 PM, and learn that Hurtigruten purposely created a problem with our outbound air so that we would call them. Why? Our ship had been overbooked and our trip was cancelled!

Shock turns to dismay and anger. WHAT??!! We had reserved this trip a year ago, in January, 2007! We had received our documents two weeks previous. I had been in daily contact with our travel agent and she had not been called. Instead, Hurtigruten leaves us stranded at the JFK LAN counter, baggage in hand and mouths open in shock.

The Hurtigruten rep I was speaking with apologized, of course, stating that this is not the way they normally do business. I didn’t care. Our trip was cancelled and we were going nowhere but home.

We were offered a re-booking on the next (reverse) sailing which would start in Buenos Aires and end in Santiago. Many stressful days passed as we rearranged our post cruise plans to precruise and our travel agency (Sea 4 Sail) negotiated compensation for us for this fiasco.

In the end, it all worked out. While we did not say one word about this experience to any of the Hurtigruten passengers, others were not as reticent. Regarding Hurtigruten’s claim that this is ‘not normally how they do business’, we learned otherwise from other passengers.


Anonymous said...

My experience was to book direct with the Norwegian office & all went well.

diane said...

I'm glad your trip went well. All the people who told us about their problems had booked through a travel agency. Interesting.