Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cruise ship fire - Princess Star - and my in-laws

This has nothing to do with being a lawyer in Albany, not even close, but it's interesting nonetheless.

My wife's parents went on a cruise a few days ago and my wife read that there was a fire on the ship. The Albany Times Union has a story about it.

The good news, as far as my family is concerned anyway, is that my in-laws were apparently not injured.

The interesting part is the phony effort by Princess to show they care. My wife asked me to see what I could find out online, so I did some searching.

A spokesperson from Princess is quoted in stories saying all the right things. Their website has a very well thought-out (or lawyered-up :-) ) statement expressing their concern.

But that's where we get to the fly in the ointment. At the end of the statement it says "A special number has been set up for inquiries from immediate family of passengers who are currently onboard: 1-800-693-7222."

So I ask my wife if I should call and she says yes. I call. The phone is answered and a pleasant woman's voice begins saying something. Shortly I realize this is a recording. A bit later I realize she's reading a statement. Not just any statement, but the statement I just read on the web. Keep in mind that I found the number to call by reading the statement, so I'm not sure why I needed to hear it again. And when I say the statement, I mean the whole statement. She even read the part about the special number for inquiries --- which I would obviously know since that's the number I called.

But they really care. And I'm not done with the story yet.

After the statement another voice says to hold to speak with someone. So I hold. Pleasant music starts. Another recorded voice then says that all "cruise consultants" are assisting other "customers". I'm not a customer. I'm an immediate family member of a customer, and this is supposed to be a special number set up for us. Apparently the number is special but the service provided is not. And I'm still not done.

After about 5 minutes waiting and listening to elevator music and reassuring female voices saying how important my call is to them, someone finally picks up the phone.

I give her my name and my in-law's names. She got the name wrong and was looking for my first name. Minor glitch, I know. After I correct her she then tells me that my in-laws were in fact passengers on this cruise.

Q: What hotel are they in?
A: We don't have that information.

Q: Were they injured? (I already knew they were not)
A: You would have received a call this morning if they had been injured.

Q: Do you have any information on whether they were injured?
A: I don't have that information.

She did know what cabin they had been in, and that their cabin was not near where the fire was. She said it was possible they were staying in their cabin since it was not near the fire. But she didn't know.

So basically, a special number was set up for inquiries from immediate family, but no special effort was made to prepare to answer those inquiries.

Another example of corporate phoniness. It's nice to know they say they care.
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