We love the Adonia. Who doesn't? After the most horrible don't-get-me-started year we thought we'd have a treat and book a cruise for May 2018. A big glossy P & O brochure arrived at the end of August. Yummy. I don't usually get those, I have to make do with th'interweb. Sits in comfy chair with coffee to read brochure...
Wait. What? There's no Adonia. Flick through brochure again. Shake it. Fetch needle-threading glasses. No Adonia.
I venture on to the P & O Facebook page where I wouldn't normally go because life is too short to spend it with a bunch of sycophantic twits. Fifty people have already asked. The response is along the lines of details/supplementary brochure will be available shortly. All the cruises on the website are going ahead. Hmm... sounds odd because that is one heck of an expensive brochure they just had printed. So... check website. The cruises are there. Get John to ring and try and book it.....
Down the road chez Carnival it's chaos. The booking staff have clearly not been told that the Adonia has gone missing. Lady goes to check with supervisor who goes to check with manager and who knows how many levels of management and the upshot is "It's fine, we're not changing the Adonia, the cruises are available. If it's on the website we'll honour it, no problem."
So, you heard the lady, no problem. He booked it. Yay! I told my Facebook friends. I put it in the scrapbook. No, I don't have a life, that's why I like to go cruising. We get the acknowledgement etc. I start to think about excursions, in fact I was doing that just three days ago and the cruise was on the website.
Today I hear from a journalist friend, with slower journalist friends hot on his heels, that the Adonia has been sold. There will be no cruises after 9 March 2018. Nothing from P & O. No phone call, no email, no refund, nothing. One is expected to get this crucial information from the P & O Facebook page. I'm not sure what happens to the many passengers who don't use Facebook. Do they arrive at the quayside and forlornly gaze at the horizon (OK, look towards the Hythe sewage plant) and wonder where the ship is?
On said Facebook page you get confirmation from P & O that "other ships are available". Yes, we know, we already chose not to go on them. You also get systematic abuse from the "we lurve P & O" morons who have nothing better to do than hang around on there all day even though the cancellation of a cruise they weren't booked on can hardly be their business. The page is an utter shambles and does a disservice to the company. One look - and that's on a good no-news day - and prospective passengers move on. This is a huge mistake for any business to make. If you have a Facebook page you have to run it properly and remove the nasty types. I did send a message to complain but got one of those standard BS replies that didn't address my complaint. However, it was prompt and it did give me a name to add to my formal complaint.
It always amazes me that idiots on Facebook seem to think P & O booking conditions came down to Moses as a binding appendix. Here's the thing:
1) Contracts are not binding if they are unfair. They can be set aside by the courts. You can't just do what you like and the other party has to lump it!
2) Yes, the captain can do what he sees fit under maritime law but that's the ship part. It doesn't mean the booking/customer services/accounts team can do what they like. Yes, they can cancel cruises if they sell the ship but that brings us to 3)
3) Contracts have to be conducted in good faith. You tell me there's a cruise, I book it, I hand over the deposit in good faith. This is the civil law position. There is also a criminal concept of obtaining money by deception.
The directors of P & O/Carnival have known for months that the ship was being sold. It's not the Rover's Return on Coronation street, you don't sell it within a few days. Did someone decide to take money for something they knew they couldn't deliver? I'm betting during the due diligence process lawyers inserted a clause requiring P & O to cancel all cruises in a timely manner. I imagine the credit card companies might have something to say about this too. Is it not against their rules for cards to be charged for something that doesn't exist?
Obviously "the reservations staff didn't know" cuts no ice at all. Your contract is with the company, not with the individual who takes your booking.
5) From an accounting point of view it could be said that the company is overstating its cash flow position. There are hints that we have until 27 October to choose a new cruise or have our money back. Does that mean even more delay? Of course this might be set out in their email but since we haven't had such a thing...
6) Communication from the company has been hopeless. We still haven't had an email to say our cruise has been cancelled. Passengers should not have to put up with abuse on the company's Facebook page in order to find out whether they are going on a cruise or not.
Will we book another P & O cruise in the near future? I doubt it. I fancy a few on the Oriana but gossip about the future ownership of that site that doesn't bode well. We've cruised with P & O for over 20 years. They don't actually value our loyalty, they don't even offer the tiniest incentive to book a replacement cruise, not even a bottle of bubbly or a spa treatment. Nothing. An apology for messing up our cruise plans would be nice. It's "we'll give you your money when we get around to it, now go away, and no you can't speak to anyone about it". Maybe they should just sell the ships to Ryanair and have done with it.
I feel sad. Not just mad and frustrated but actually sad. Oh well, a trip by rail to the Italian Lakes beckons...