10 September 2010

Mayor dismisses impact on passengers; world cruise pax owed more than quarter million

While obviously out-of-touch St. John’s mayor Dennis “Doc” O’Keefe can blithely dismiss the impact of a recent cruise cancellation on the passengers affected, the passengers themselves tell a different story.

Here’s how local radio station VOCM reported O’Keefe’s comments in a story headlined “Cruise ship passengers never stranded”:

The Mayor of St. John's says the people reportedly left "stranded" in the capital city after the Cruise Boat they were traveling on was sold were taken care of by the cruise company. Dennis O'Keefe says given the situation, it all went pretty smoothly. O'Keefe says most passengers on board the ship were due to disembark and fly home. He says three or four passengers were supposed to continue on a world cruise. O'Keefe says these people were either given hotel rooms or sent home by the cruise company.

Evidently, Doc never heard of the Myers, the elderly couple from New Mexico who were already in Doc’s fair city when they found out they would have to pony up for unexpected hotel rooms and airfares to back home. Their efforts to contact the company were apparently fruitless in the first few days after the cruise line shut down.

Then there are the other passengers, scheduled on the circumnavigation.  As the Seattle Times reported:

Tammy Hinshaw, of Michigan, was aboard the ship on a series of cruises around the world. After a three-week break, she and her partner were scheduled for many more weeks of cruising beginning Oct. 3 — for which they paid Cruise West 10 days ago.

"Two other passengers were scheduled to be on board until Feb. 3, and one passenger was scheduled to arrive Oct. 3 and remain on board until Feb. 3," Hinshaw said. "To give you an idea of how much money is at stake, Cruise West owes these five passengers (including myself and my partner) well over a quarter of a million dollars."

Henshaw and her partner are out $50,000 and they’ve received no answers to their e-mails to the company. They paid by cheque based on Cruise West’s guarantee of a two percent discount for people who paid in cash.  As the Times reported:

"In retrospect it was an incredibly dumb thing to do ... but many of the other passengers who are owed substantial amounts of money also paid by check, for the same reason," Hinshaw said. She and her partner did not purchase travel insurance because of its high price, and they didn't know of Cruise West's financial woes.

The Times also reported the cruise company laid off 65 employees this past week.

- srbp -