So your cruise didn't go exactly as planned. It happens. But before you start firing off emails or complaining all over social media, increase your chances of receiving a refund or some sort of compensation with an old-fashioned, snail mail complaint letter. Read through the following tips I learned during my time doing customer service for a vacation operator, then check out this sample letter where we put all these tips to use (or download a word doc to use as a template here):
Tip: You should note that this process is just for post-travel complaints. If you haven't gone on your trip yet, phone or email will provide better and more timely results to address a problem.
1. Don't Go Digital
Send a "snail mail" letter to the cruise line's customer relations department. If you booked through a travel agent, CC them.
2. Don't Forget
Always include the following: Your Name, address, phone number, email address, reservation number, ship name, dates of travel, and cabin number.
3. Don't Neglect The Important Details
Describe the specific problem, concern or issue that prompted to you to write in. Include details like the date and time of the issue, names of crew members who were involved, and if you complained onboard, who you spoke to and what was done to address your concern (if anything). If you have photos, receipts or other documentation related to your problem, enclose copies of them with the letter, but keep the originals.
4. Don't Wander
Avoid a "laundry list" of petty complaints. You'll have better results if you address only the most serious or most impactful problem(s). If you "pile on" you present yourself as a dissatisfied complainer. With that said if you do have more than one issue, address each of them in a separate paragraph.
5. Don't Ask For Too Much
State what you'd like done to resolve the problem, but be realistic. If you were overcharged on your onboard account, for example, state the amount of credit you think you are due. If the problem caused you to enjoy your cruise less than you would have, ask for some form of compensation. But keep in mind that if your stateroom steward forgot to leave clean towels one day, the cruise line isn't likely to give you full refund or a free cruise. Ask for a small discount or shipboard credit on your next cruise, instead.
6. Don't Threaten Legal Action
The customer relations department will likely need to forward your letter to the company attorney if you do so, and that will delay a response and likely close off an amicable resolution.
7. Don't Be a Jerk
Remember the old idiom "you get more flies with honey than with vinegar" -- the cruise lines want you to be satisfied and will do what they can to "make it right" so you sail with them again. But if you're rude, boorish or threatening, they're going to be less inclined to assist you.
8. While You Wait
Avoid disputing credit card charges before writing to and/or while waiting for a response from the cruise line, especially if your complaint relates to a service issue. If you're truly seeking a prompt and amicable resolution to your problem, avoid blasting the cruise line publicly on social media or calling the local TV station's "consumer watchdog." If you still don't have a satisfactory resolution after sending two letters, then you might consider these options.
9. If You Don't Hear Back
If you don't receive a reply within about 30 days, or if you don't feel the response from the cruise line rectified your problem, write a new letter to the executive office of the cruise line, to the attention of the President, CEO, or COO. In your new letter, explain the reason for the escalation of your dispute (no reply, dissatisfied with answer, etc.) and enclose copies of the prior correspondence. Again, state what you'd like done to resolve the problem or why the proposed resolution is not satisfactory.