Paid for business class to/from cruise

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My wife and I took Oceania Cruise Lines’ 16-day “Rio de Janeiro to Manaus” trip, Feb. 14-March 1, ’05.
We boarded the Insignia in Rio and sailed up the coast of Brazil, with a stop at Vitória, then a day at sea, then stops at Salvador and Recife, then four days at sea (two of them continuing up the coast and the other two on the Amazon). We then made calls at Santarem and Parintins, with another day on the Amazon before reaching Manaus.

On the positive side, we had a most pleasant stateroom with a verandah. The ship itself was also very nice, and the “working” members of the crew were extremely pleasant. The ports were interesting. The two ship-arranged port tours that we took, in Recife and Manaus, were also quite good.

Unfortunately, there were more negatives than positives associated with our Oceania experience. On the cruise, itself, one of the most frustrating situations was the “Destination Services” group’s lack of knowledge regarding the ports at which we stopped. They pushed the shore excursions and were of little help in providing guidance for independent touring.

At some of the ports, they had arranged for local tourist bureau representatives to board the ship after docking and provide guidance for independent sightseeing, which was better than nothing. However, there were a number of passengers who wanted such information, and valuable time in port was taken by waiting for and querying these representatives.

The excessive amount of time and space devoted to the ship’s art auctions was extremely annoying. This auction seemed to take place for several hours every afternoon during the days we were at sea (almost half of the cruise). It took up valuable space that could have been used for other activities that would have appealed to a much larger passenger universe.

We felt our air arrangements provided by Oceania were abysmal. On flights of the lengths involved with this trip, we make it a practice to fly business class. In November, Oceania had provided our travel agent a flight schedule that showed the outbound portion of the trip on Continental from Phoenix to Rio de Janeiro, with a change of airplanes in Houston; this flight left Phoenix in late afternoon. The return was from Manaus to Phoenix via Miami and Houston.

Our agent was able to secure seat assignments for us on all portions of the flights, which indicated that Oceania had indeed booked us on these flights. These arrangements were verified by another itinerary sent by Oceania in early January.

However, when Oceania sent the final itinerary in late January, we found that our flights had been radically changed. Oceania had now booked us on a mid-morning flight on United from Phoenix to Washington/Dulles in tourist class and from Dulles to Rio de Janeiro in business class. The return flight from Manaus to Miami had us in business class, but on the Miami-to-Phoenix portion we were now in tourist class.

Oceania had added some seven hours to our flying time between Phoenix and Rio de Janeiro. Consequently, the air arrangements for which we had paid a business-class upgrade now were almost half tourist class.

Our travel agent and the booking company with whom she was working attempted to contact Oceania concerning the air arrangement changes. Most of their calls were not returned. On one of the few times that our agent was able to speak with an Oceania representative, she was advised that Oceania had terminated its flight arrangements with Continental. However, when we were on the cruise, we spoke with several passengers who had flown Continental.

Upon our return, I wrote to Oceania addressing their changes to our original air travel bookings and requesting a partial refund of our business-class upgrade expense. About a month afterward I received a response.

Among other explanations, the representative wrote, “Oceania does in fact still utilize Continental Airlines as one of our carriers; however, our contract is for Coach class seating only and does not include Business class. Therefore, when you elected to upgrade to Restricted Business Class, it was necessary to make arrangements on another carrier with which we did have a contract for this class of service.”

She also wrote, “Please bear in mind that special Business class upgrade fares are restricted by nature, and, as such, it is not always possible to confirm the domestic portions of guests’ travel in Business/First Class, as under these discounted fares only the transoceanic segments can be guaranteed. This is why we state in our brochure that upgrades may not apply to all segments of guests’ air itineraries.”

Regarding other guests’ having flights on Continental Airlines, she wrote, “. . . this would most likely have been in Coach class.”

This response attempted to provide Oceania’s rationale for the air schedule changes, but I found it to contain several inconsistencies. I wrote back to Oceania in late April. Subsequently, I received a response that contained the following comments:

“. . . our Air/Sea Department was, in fact, tentatively holding seats for you in Business class on Continental Airlines. These seats were held with the assumption that we would be successful in our negotiations to secure a contract with Continental for Business class seats to South America. As was noted on your invoice. . . the schedule you initially received was preliminary in nature, and subject to change until ticketed by Oceania. As the actual ticketing of air flights does not occur until approximately 30 days prior to departure, we did not anticipate this becoming a problem for any of our guests.

“Unfortunately, as we are now aware, our efforts to reach an agreement with Continental were unsuccessful and it became necessary to confirm flights for you on another carrier.”

We paid $14,408 for the two of us for this cruise, a pre-cruise extension in Rio de Janeiro and the upgrade to business-class flights (an extra $2,400 each).

While the ship was nice and the ports were interesting, we have been left with an extremely bad impression of their headquarters’ staff and upper management.

JOHN N. SAMPSON
Grand Rapids, MN

    ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Oceania Cruises (8120 NW 53rd St., Ste. 100, Miami, FL 33166). A representative called and asked for more info to be faxed, promising a reply, but no reply was sent.
Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My wife and I took Oceania Cruise Lines’ 16-day “Rio de Janeiro to Manaus” trip, Feb. 14-March 1, ’05.
We boarded the Insignia in Rio and sailed up the coast of Brazil, with a stop at Vitória, then a day at sea, then stops at Salvador and Recife, then four days at sea (two of them continuing up the coast and the other two on the Amazon). We then made calls at Santarem and Parintins, with another day on the Amazon before reaching Manaus.

On the positive side, we had a most pleasant stateroom with a verandah. The ship itself was also very nice, and the “working” members of the crew were extremely pleasant. The ports were interesting. The two ship-arranged port tours that we took, in Recife and Manaus, were also quite good.

Unfortunately, there were more negatives than positives associated with our Oceania experience. On the cruise, itself, one of the most frustrating situations was the “Destination Services” group’s lack of knowledge regarding the ports at which we stopped. They pushed the shore excursions and were of little help in providing guidance for independent touring.

At some of the ports, they had arranged for local tourist bureau representatives to board the ship after docking and provide guidance for independent sightseeing, which was better than nothing. However, there were a number of passengers who wanted such information, and valuable time in port was taken by waiting for and querying these representatives.

The excessive amount of time and space devoted to the ship’s art auctions was extremely annoying. This auction seemed to take place for several hours every afternoon during the days we were at sea (almost half of the cruise). It took up valuable space that could have been used for other activities that would have appealed to a much larger passenger universe.

We felt our air arrangements provided by Oceania were abysmal. On flights of the lengths involved with this trip, we make it a practice to fly business class. In November, Oceania had provided our travel agent a flight schedule that showed the outbound portion of the trip on Continental from Phoenix to Rio de Janeiro, with a change of airplanes in Houston; this flight left Phoenix in late afternoon. The return was from Manaus to Phoenix via Miami and Houston.

Our agent was able to secure seat assignments for us on all portions of the flights, which indicated that Oceania had indeed booked us on these flights. These arrangements were verified by another itinerary sent by Oceania in early January.

However, when Oceania sent the final itinerary in late January, we found that our flights had been radically changed. Oceania had now booked us on a mid-morning flight on United from Phoenix to Washington/Dulles in tourist class and from Dulles to Rio de Janeiro in business class. The return flight from Manaus to Miami had us in business class, but on the Miami-to-Phoenix portion we were now in tourist class.

Oceania had added some seven hours to our flying time between Phoenix and Rio de Janeiro. Consequently, the air arrangements for which we had paid a business-class upgrade now were almost half tourist class.

Our travel agent and the booking company with whom she was working attempted to contact Oceania concerning the air arrangement changes. Most of their calls were not returned. On one of the few times that our agent was able to speak with an Oceania representative, she was advised that Oceania had terminated its flight arrangements with Continental. However, when we were on the cruise, we spoke with several passengers who had flown Continental.

Upon our return, I wrote to Oceania addressing their changes to our original air travel bookings and requesting a partial refund of our business-class upgrade expense. About a month afterward I received a response.

Among other explanations, the representative wrote, “Oceania does in fact still utilize Continental Airlines as one of our carriers; however, our contract is for Coach class seating only and does not include Business class. Therefore, when you elected to upgrade to Restricted Business Class, it was necessary to make arrangements on another carrier with which we did have a contract for this class of service.”

She also wrote, “Please bear in mind that special Business class upgrade fares are restricted by nature, and, as such, it is not always possible to confirm the domestic portions of guests’ travel in Business/First Class, as under these discounted fares only the transoceanic segments can be guaranteed. This is why we state in our brochure that upgrades may not apply to all segments of guests’ air itineraries.”

Regarding other guests’ having flights on Continental Airlines, she wrote, “. . . this would most likely have been in Coach class.”

This response attempted to provide Oceania’s rationale for the air schedule changes, but I found it to contain several inconsistencies. I wrote back to Oceania in late April. Subsequently, I received a response that contained the following comments:

“. . . our Air/Sea Department was, in fact, tentatively holding seats for you in Business class on Continental Airlines. These seats were held with the assumption that we would be successful in our negotiations to secure a contract with Continental for Business class seats to South America. As was noted on your invoice. . . the schedule you initially received was preliminary in nature, and subject to change until ticketed by Oceania. As the actual ticketing of air flights does not occur until approximately 30 days prior to departure, we did not anticipate this becoming a problem for any of our guests.

“Unfortunately, as we are now aware, our efforts to reach an agreement with Continental were unsuccessful and it became necessary to confirm flights for you on another carrier.”

We paid $14,408 for the two of us for this cruise, a pre-cruise extension in Rio de Janeiro and the upgrade to business-class flights (an extra $2,400 each).

While the ship was nice and the ports were interesting, we have been left with an extremely bad impression of their headquarters’ staff and upper management.

JOHN N. SAMPSON
Grand Rapids, MN

    ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Oceania Cruises (8120 NW 53rd St., Ste. 100, Miami, FL 33166). A representative called and asked for more info to be faxed, promising a reply, but no reply was sent.