Fled moldy cabin before sailing

This is subscriber only post.
Get one year of online-only access — only $15!
Below is a sample of the article.
Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
Q:

Dear Steve, my husband and I were to sail on a 30-day South Pacific cruise with (a major ship line) on January 22nd. We arrived at the port on time and healthy.

We were aboard the ship for all of four hours, two of which were spent having lunch and touring the ship. When we got to our stateroom, it reeked of mold. I am extremely allergic to mold. My eyes became itchy and watery and my throat began to close up on me.

I have had this reaction previously to mold. In fact, in the past I had injections two times a week for seven years. I have avoided all contact with things that bother me: ragweed, dust, animal dander and MOLD. There was no avoiding it this time.

I saw no doctor on board but talked with the nurse, who suggested we use an air purifier or maybe think about leaving the ship. We had no trip-cancellation insurance; we had purchased emergency medical evacuation insurance.

We got no help from anyone on the ship. In fact, the woman at Guest Relations said that we had best make up our minds fast, as the ship was preparing to sail (this was about 4 p.m.). We chose to leave. We had not gotten our luggage as yet and had to wait until they found it and unloaded it. We took a taxi to a hotel and flew home the next day.

I have since contacted the EPA, where a man congratulated us on our decision. He said I would have been really sick had we stayed.

We paid quite a bit of money for this cruise. We have sent a fax to the cruise line and the credit card company; the cruise was fully paid in October 2006 on our credit card. Is there anything else we can do? I know in the future not to book any OLD ships. — Mrs. PAUL THEISSEN, Covington, KY

A:

Dear Mrs. Paul, yes, there is one thing that might help, but before I discuss it let me say that I truly feel sorry about what happened to you. It’s a shame your vacation was totally destroyed.

Unfortunately, you made some mistakes, some of which you’ve already acknowledged, but for the benefit of my readers I’d like to point them out. Also, as will become apparent, for purposes of this article it is not necessary to reveal the name of the ship.

First, my guess is that you didn’t use a travel agent. An agent might have helped you avoid some of the problems you encountered and on your return might have been a great advocate for your present problem, because an agent often will have more influence with a vendor than an individual will.

Second, you knew you were subject to allergies, so why didn’t you buy trip-cancellation insurance? In this case, you had two choices. You could have bought the ship’s plan, which would have allowed you to cancel for any reason up to 24 hours before departure and still get up to a 90% refund. Of course, in this instance it would have been wasted since you didn’t know you wanted to cancel until only minutes before sailing.

Or you could have purchased coverage from an insurance company that would have protected your investment if you had to cancel due to an accident or health reasons. And health reasons may have included your preexisting conditions, provided you purchased the product within (usually) seven to 14 days of your initial deposit, depending upon the insurance company’s policy.

A third error was waiting so long to visit your cabin. When I board a ship, the first thing I do is go straight to my cabin. I can then unload my carry-ons, assess the cabin, unpack my luggage, which is usually delivered to my cabin before I arrive, freshen up or even rest up, check my dining assignment and review the evening’s events from the ship’s newsletter or welcome letter. Only after I’ve done these things do I start acquainting myself with the rest of the ship.

Enough about possible errors. What I don’t understand is the cold lack of help from anyone on the ship other than possibly the nurse. This company is considered a “premium-quality cruise line” with an excellent reputation, and the ship is rated by independent people or concerns that do that sort of thing as a 4-star vessel (out five stars). It was built in 1994, so it’s not brand-new, but it’s not exactly decrepit either.

I went online to see just how prevalent mold is on ships. There were a few reports of some mold on many ships, but, from what I found in a Google search, the ship you were on does not appear to have any special problems in this regard. Of course, mold is not confined just to ships but can also be found in hotels, homes, workplaces or probably any place that is not dried.

The Centers for Disease Control do ship-sanitation inspections, and you can find a summary of these reports on a fairly new website, www. cruisebruise.com. It lists the ship you were on among the most sanitary of cruise ships.

From my experience, cruise lines bend over backward to please their passengers, and, between you and me, a large cruise ship such as yours, which has 633 cabins, always keeps a few cabins in their back pocket for emergency relocations of passengers at sailing time, even when quoting “sold out.” It may mean a temporary cabin downgrade until the problem is fixed, but, again, I can’t understand why, apparently, this offer was not made, unless of course that alternative was no longer a possible option.

Again, you’ve suffered a terrible disappointment, let alone a significant loss of money. I know you’ve already faxed the ship line, but I believe working with them is your best course.

Do not wait for a response to what you’ve already done. Call the regular reservations department immediately and request the phone number of their customer relations department. Then call them and discuss the matter in a rational fashion with a live body.

Again, from my experience, I suggest that you do not threaten them, lest they become guarded and hide behind the shield of the black-and-white rules in their brochure, which states that cancellations within 15 days of sailing are 100% nonrefundable. If you explain what happened and why, as you did in your letter to me, they may accept some of the responsibility and go out of their way to keep you happy. Good luck!

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
Q:

Dear Steve, my husband and I were to sail on a 30-day South Pacific cruise with (a major ship line) on January 22nd. We arrived at the port on time and healthy.

We were aboard the ship for all of four hours, two of which were spent having lunch and touring the ship. When we got to our stateroom, it reeked of mold. I am extremely allergic to mold. My eyes became itchy and watery and my throat began to close up on me.

I have had this reaction previously to mold. In fact, in the past I had injections two times a week for seven years. I have avoided all contact with things that bother me: ragweed, dust, animal dander and MOLD. There was no avoiding it this time.

I saw no doctor on board but talked with the nurse, who suggested we use an air purifier or maybe think about leaving the ship. We had no trip-cancellation insurance; we had purchased emergency medical evacuation insurance.

We got no help from anyone on the ship. In fact, the woman at Guest Relations said that we had best make up our minds fast, as the ship was preparing to sail (this was about 4 p.m.). We chose to leave. We had not gotten our luggage as yet and had to wait until they found it and unloaded it. We took a taxi to a hotel and flew home the next day.

I have since contacted the EPA, where a man congratulated us on our decision. He said I would have been really sick had we stayed.

We paid quite a bit of money for this cruise. We have sent a fax to the cruise line and the credit card company; the cruise was fully paid in October 2006 on our credit card. Is there anything else we can do? I know in the future not to book any OLD ships. — Mrs. PAUL THEISSEN, Covington, KY

A:

Dear Mrs. Paul, yes, there is one thing that might help, but before I discuss it let me say that I truly feel sorry about what happened to you. It’s a shame your vacation was totally destroyed.

Unfortunately, you made some mistakes, some of which you’ve already acknowledged, but for the benefit of my readers I’d like to point them out. Also, as will become apparent, for purposes of this article it is not necessary to reveal the name of the ship.

First, my guess is that you didn’t use a travel agent. An agent might have helped you avoid some of the problems you encountered and on your return might have been a great advocate for your present problem, because an agent often will have more influence with a vendor than an individual will.

Second, you knew you were subject to allergies, so why didn’t you buy trip-cancellation insurance? In this case, you had two choices. You could have bought the ship’s plan, which would have allowed you to cancel for any reason up to 24 hours before departure and still get up to a 90% refund. Of course, in this instance it would have been wasted since you didn’t know you wanted to cancel until only minutes before sailing.

Or you could have purchased coverage from an insurance company that would have protected your investment if you had to cancel due to an accident or health reasons. And health reasons may have included your preexisting conditions, provided you purchased the product within (usually) seven to 14 days of your initial deposit, depending upon the insurance company’s policy.

A third error was waiting so long to visit your cabin. When I board a ship, the first thing I do is go straight to my cabin. I can then unload my carry-ons, assess the cabin, unpack my luggage, which is usually delivered to my cabin before I arrive, freshen up or even rest up, check my dining assignment and review the evening’s events from the ship’s newsletter or welcome letter. Only after I’ve done these things do I start acquainting myself with the rest of the ship.

Enough about possible errors. What I don’t understand is the cold lack of help from anyone on the ship other than possibly the nurse. This company is considered a “premium-quality cruise line” with an excellent reputation, and the ship is rated by independent people or concerns that do that sort of thing as a 4-star vessel (out five stars). It was built in 1994, so it’s not brand-new, but it’s not exactly decrepit either.

I went online to see just how prevalent mold is on ships. There were a few reports of some mold on many ships, but, from what I found in a Google search, the ship you were on does not appear to have any special problems in this regard. Of course, mold is not confined just to ships but can also be found in hotels, homes, workplaces or probably any place that is not dried.

The Centers for Disease Control do ship-sanitation inspections, and you can find a summary of these reports on a fairly new website, www. cruisebruise.com. It lists the ship you were on among the most sanitary of cruise ships.

From my experience, cruise lines bend over backward to please their passengers, and, between you and me, a large cruise ship such as yours, which has 633 cabins, always keeps a few cabins in their back pocket for emergency relocations of passengers at sailing time, even when quoting “sold out.” It may mean a temporary cabin downgrade until the problem is fixed, but, again, I can’t understand why, apparently, this offer was not made, unless of course that alternative was no longer a possible option.

Again, you’ve suffered a terrible disappointment, let alone a significant loss of money. I know you’ve already faxed the ship line, but I believe working with them is your best course.

Do not wait for a response to what you’ve already done. Call the regular reservations department immediately and request the phone number of their customer relations department. Then call them and discuss the matter in a rational fashion with a live body.

Again, from my experience, I suggest that you do not threaten them, lest they become guarded and hide behind the shield of the black-and-white rules in their brochure, which states that cancellations within 15 days of sailing are 100% nonrefundable. If you explain what happened and why, as you did in your letter to me, they may accept some of the responsibility and go out of their way to keep you happy. Good luck!