The Power of a Complaint on a Cruise Ship – Think Before You Speak!

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Let’s face it. Things aren’t always going to be the way you planned or hoped. Pipes will burst, flights will get delayed, that rental car may not be available, and you better believe that steak won’t be medium rare as ordered.

Cruise ships are no exception.

Crew members will, in most cases, do their best to accommodate and solve any issues you may encounter while on board. But just like with any human interaction, the right idea, or feeling, may not come across the right way, leading you to feel unhappy with the results. Our natural reaction will be to lodge a complaint, which may or may not lead us to the outcome we hoped for… but wait. There’s more to it than you might think.

It’s no secret that cruise line employees will go above and beyond to assist, in my honest opinion, more so than in most hotels. However, when you don’t hear what you want, you may feel the need to shoot the messenger.

It is one thing to complain about certain terms and conditions involved in your cruise you may disagree with (i.e. beverage package inclusions, excursion cancellation policies …), and another is complaining about the crew member in particular.

The main idea of this article is to have you take a moment before doing something you don’t mean to do, by letting you in on what happens as a consequence.

Being held to a high standard of service also means strict, even severe, consequences when complaints about a crew member arise. And no, they are not always justified. Let’s take a moment to look at the situations from the worker’s perspective.

In our line of work, guests will sometimes complain about us. It may be due to an error from our side, our attitude (yes, some of us have one), or it can even be due to the guest’s desire to justify not tipping (also known as PURE EVIL).

When complaints happen, higher management will take it VERY seriously. It might affect the crew member’s evaluation, hence hinder any possible promotions. It will definitely lead to some very unpleasant conversations with their Supervisor, and cause an overall feeling of discouragement and disappointment. All of this, in most cases, for free.

A few years ago, I welcomed a couple on embarkation day, along with the rest of guests embarking that day. Nothing special about our interaction, just pleasant and friendly as with anyone else. I ran into them 2 times throughout that week, and greeted them, always asking if there was anything I could do for them.

Come debark morning, I was informed by my manager that they had just passed by the Guest Service Desk to complain that I had been unfriendly to them on embarkation day, clearly, in an effort to skip tipping. My manager, not quite a fan of me, used this situation to change my upcoming evaluation, as I was going on vacation shortly after that. Luckily, I was not on the lookout for a promotion, but this would have definitely made it harder to reach.

Surprisingly, I have encountered guests who had more than justified reasons to complain about someone on board, and chose not to, as they somehow knew what that would mean for the crew member.

Bottom line – before giving in to the bitterness of an unpleasant situation, think of the consequences to your actions, and choose to live by one of life’s most important rules: Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you! – ThatGuy

Frequent Floaters has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. FrequentFloaters and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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That Guy
That Guy
That Guy works for one of the major cruise lines and has for most of his carrier. He shares his unique insights from an insiders perspective and gives you a view few cruisers ever see or even think about.


  1. Maybe they were expecting something more on embarkation day than “nothing special?” If you only ran into them two more times, maybe they looked for you several times and couldn’t find you? Maybe your supervisor had a reason (that you refuse to see) to not care for you much? Why assume the issue was entirely with the customers who paid your salary, and they were trying to get out of paying gratuities? And then you try to generalize that into an advice article? Introspect.

    • @Babblespeak – Well, if they were expecting much more than a friendly greeting and an instant invitation to take care of their initial needs, as dinner and show reservations, while we had to welcome more than 200 people within a period of about 4 hours, this was a case of wrong expectations. Besides, the reason I know nothing went wrong during our interaction was the way we said goodbye at the time, always encouraging them to reach out should they need anything at all. Guests left the desk thankful and smiling. Guests of course had my handy phone number, so any assistance they required was literally a phone call away. If they made a complaint about me because they couldn’t find me at a certain time, it’s not any more of a justified reason. Crew members are entitled to rest times, so not being to find me, even though desk hours are clearly provided, should not have ended up in a complaint. There was no assumption in this situation. Guests’ complaint was unfounded, and cases like these happen all too often. The most important part of this issue was that guests’ complained about it AT THE END of the cruise, hence leaving no possibility to resolve things, as this was not the purpose of their complaint.

      The purpose of the article was never to skip taking responsibility for any wrong-doing, just to open people’s eyes as to what happens when a complaint about a crew member is made. And a lot more so, if the reason is not fully justified, or the complaint is not aimed at resolving a situation.

  2. I was on a cruise on a vry small boat. We asked at the guest desk a few times about where certain stores were or things to see at the ports. They did not seem to know anything about the ports(the staff did 6-8 weeks at these ports-weekly)and were totally not helpful at all..we did not complain but thought this was very odd as staff were so clueless!!

    • This is more of what I was trying to target in the article. It would be easy, and a natural reaction, to complain about the people a the Guest Service desk for not knowing, and this could result in a negative evaluation for them individually. However, when we stop to think that the staff at the desk are not necessarily trained to know about businesses outside of Norwegian, due to liability, unless there are contracts involved. Ultimately, it would grant a complaint about the company not briefing their staff properly, not against the individual people for not knowing.


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