Q: Peter, my girlfriend and I took a cruise with Princess recently from Barcelona to Venice. We were booked into a penthouse suite and paid a total of more than $15,000 for the cruise. Our trip was supposed to be peaceful and romantic, but it was ruined by the constant noise and vibrations resonating from the deck directly above our cabin. Not only was the pool area located on this deck, but so was a restaurant and a passenger smoking area. At all hours of the day and certain hours of the night we were subjected to the sounds of deck chairs being dragged around the deck, the sounds of waiters congregating in the restaurant service area, and the sound of people constantly walking back and forth on the thoroughfare between the pool and restaurant. As a result of all this noise, we had great difficulty sleeping at night and we were prevented from fully utilizing our balcony. Honestly, we just tried to avoid our room for much of the cruise. Though we complained to staff members who did attempt to remedy the situation by cordoning off the deck area for five or six hours during the night, this had very little effect as far as reducing the amount of noise coming from the area. Furthermore, the staff seemed to be aware that previous customers had experienced the same problem. We also asked to be moved to a different room, but no action was taken.
When we got home we complained to Princess and tried to get a partial refund for our ruined trip, but they only offered us a $1,750 discount on a future cruise. I do not consider this adequate compensation for the fact that my vacation was totally disrupted by the noise problem. At over $1000 per night, a passenger should have a reasonable expectation that he or she can quietly enjoy their cabin! Furthermore, I should have been informed in advance of the potential for noise, which would have allowed me to make an informed decision about what room to choose. How can I get at least some of my money back?
–David Jolliffe, Studio City, CA
A: I'm sorry that you had such a bad experience on your cruise after paying so much. Noise is one of those things that can make or break a vacation, and it's sometimes hard to tell in advance what the quietest parts of a ship (or hotel, or train, or airplane) are going to be.
I contacted Princess Cruises on your behalf, to see if they would be willing to offer you some kind of a refund, and to see what kind of noise abatement measures they have in place (or are planning to implement).
Getting an answer from them took weeks, and one of the reasons, I suspect, is that no cruise line ever wants to part with cash in terms of a refund. Most, if not all, will want to just offer you vouchers or credits to be used against a future (and hopefully less noisy) cruise.
After waiting nearly two months for an answer, a representative from the company got back to us with a more or less formal response–that they don't generally receive noise complaints from the 12 penthouse suites aboard Ruby Princess, which they claim are some of the best-located on the ship, being midship and close to various public areas. They said that they were unable to move you to another stateroom because none were available at that time.
Furthermore, Princess said that extra noise-proofing materials are installed between public and private decks on their ships to reduce noise transfer. However, according to your account of the trip, this may not be enough. You stated that the staff did not seem surprised when you complained about the noise emanating into your cabin, which tells me that more than a few others have had the same problem you experienced.
It looks like you and Princess are going to have to agree to disagree on the noise issue. At least at this juncture, and not surprisingly, Princess did not offer a cash refund. As a gesture of "goodwill" they did offer to increase the credit amount by another $1,750 ($875 per person), for a total credit of $3,500.