Rose T
Run! Run for your dear life and make sure they don’t take your 7,020.00 euros (roughly $10,000 Australian dollars). It was a nightmare from the moment I stepped on board. The cruise director, Jan Pedersen, had a hissy fit because 70 passengers did not turn up from USA. They were on the runway and the co-pilot didn’t show up so they couldn’t come. That’s when he had a melt down about his financial loses for a cruise ship that was supposed to have 150 people. I seem to become the sad target as I wasn’t told it was meant to be group bookings only and not individual travellers. On day 1 I approach him with my English printed excursion sheet and he says to me it’s all in German and the tour guides will be speaking in German and he can’t just change it for just me. I never even asked him to change it. I have a masters in international communication and I have worked as an employment and discrimination lawyer as well. I have never had a problem being surrounded by people who want to speak in their own language. I even gave him an example where a good friend (a city councillor in Australia) of Chinese descent invited me to his victory party (I was his campaign manager) and all his friends and family were Chinese and spoke Chinese. He asked if I would be offended or uncomfortable if they all spoke in Chinese. I had no problems. I enjoyed conversing in English with them and watching their culture and listening to their language. I thought this example would reassure Jan and it did make him come around. I even said I studied and came first in German in high school (many years ago) and he gave me his German excursion sheet. I used google to translate and the English sheet to compare and pick what I wanted. However, before he agreed, he said to me (like it was my fault) “do you know you’re the only individual on this group and from Tour Radar? Everyone else is in a group. You’re supposed to be in a group.” I soon realised how nasty it was becoming because I wasn’t part of a group. I also am not someone from a high socioeconomic background to please the cruise director. He said to me at one stage “where am I going to fit you? You’re not German, you’re not American bank group and you’re not from Israeli group.” I wanted to say I’m a human being and a paying customer, isn’t that enough? However I remained calm and civil. On my first excursion I got put with a German family and one couple who only spoke English and French. Before getting on the bus they had decided for Guide to speak in English instead of German and he said it was requested by the couple. I had no problems and he spoke in both German and English. I was upset though when I realised that, because I had emailed and complained to Tour Radar, the Guide was saying things familiar to my complaints that I had mentioned privately in my email to Tour Radar. A Tour Radar agent confirmed she had forwarded my email to the cruise director. I was upset but understood she did it to resolve the matter and with the begs intentions however Jan (cruise director) was stupid enough to tell the Guide and all of a sudden it was horrifying public knowledge instead of the matter being resolved privately and without bringing it to the attention of other guests. The cruise director, for some weird reason, got the tour guide involved and the tour guide said “don’t blame me, Jan got me to say it.” This was after I got angry that the tour guide was saying there was no segregation or racism if the customers were grouped according to languages. I said I’ve done my masters in international communication and languages have everything to do with culture and race. The worst part was when someone in the group said “maybe next time we’ll be able to have the tour in German.” I thought I never objected. I never requested it to be in English and the comment was underhanded but not surprising given the governing mentality of the cruise ship and the corporate culture highly influenced by a particular language (German) and as a result tied in to a cultural group, which makes others not welcomed (unless money plays a part and you’re from the “Old Second National Bank” or “Home State Bank” and then Jan and Leuftner is willing to turn a blind eye. As the saying goes “money, money always honey in a rich man’s world” (ABBA song). I had a second horrible experience where I could not freely sit wherever I wanted to - all the other groups had reserved tables (numbered tables) and so the segregation proceeded (the ones from the banking groups are all American, the Bishvils are all Jewish and some Germans are participating but they’re being called “the German group.” My first night I was told I’d feel more comfortable with the Americans. I said to the waiter I don’t mind if I sit with Germans. I don’t have a problem. They made a German family sit with me. Then the next morning at breakfast another waiter is forcing me to sit with the same German family. I thought what if I want to sit alone and I can’t be this woman hanging around a poor German family 24/7. What if they want family time. I said this to the waiter. This was my complaint to Tour Radar in the email that was advertised by Jan to the guide on the excursion. I return from the excursion and the head Hungarian hotel manager says he needs to speak to me about sitting arrangement. At this point I thought I’m going to go crazy as I haven’t enjoyed a single moment and every person keeps bringing it up. I let him speak and said to him I don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Please just resolve it and move on. He said I could sit wherever I like and any person I wanted to sit and have dinner with me, whether it be him or the captain or anybody else, would be happy to. However the nightmare didn’t end here. I went to dinner and one particular Hungarian waiter forced me to sit at a table with Americans. I didn’t have a problem at that point as I thought maybe he hasn’t been told yet. However try having dinner or eating with four to five new people each time asking you about your life. Sometimes sitting alone is nice and welcomed. Or choosing where you want to sit at all. Another meal time (I think it was lunch and before the Hungarian Hotel Manager spoke to me) I got told by three other waiters tell me I’d feel comfortable sitting at another table with Americans because I speak the same language. I’ve never felt offended in my life. I asked “you’re telling me I should sit with Americans just because I speak English?” The reply was a simple “yes.” They didn’t know (or cared) that I am Armenian by nationality, born in Lebanon and my mother speaks in broken English (which I always tell her she speaks in perfect English to me). The icing on the cake was when at another lunch time I saw two sets of plate as I tried to sit there (feeling very uncomfortable about the whole table reservations based on language and culture) I was told two people had requested to sit alone. I thought how very accomodating for them. Is it because they’re German or become they have money? At one time I had an argument with Jan about how it’s not my fault if Tour Radar booked me for this trip if it’s meant to be a group trip. He said it’s Tour Radar’s fault because Tour Radar would have been told by Leuftner that they only accept group bookings. He tried to blame solely Tour Radar and I said to him that it really was Leuftner’s fault for taking my money and forcing me on a trip from hell. I said if it is Leuftner’s policy that there can’t be any individual travellers and only group bookings then Leuftner should have stood by its policy and morals and told Tour Radar “No sorry you have to go back and tell this individual we only accept group bookings” and not have taken my money. I said “either Lueftner should have stood by it’s principles and company policy or chosen to make money (profit).” It obviously chose to make money and didn’t care that an individual like myself would be faced with such distress and discomfort and have an extremely bad trip as long as the other “groups” are happy with their experiences. There is so much more I could tell you. I’ve been forced to sit potatoe chips and chocolate in my cabin so I don’t have to deal with the whole dinner situation and the seating. Yesterday I cancelled got on the D-Day trip with the “American group” and the “Israeli Group” as Jan calls them because of the bad experience of having to listen about stones and walls and being the only person on the tour. D-Day was important as a small amount of Australians were part of the British Navy/Army and also flew across the skies in the efforts to save their fellow American Army/Navy friends. A great day robbed because of a cruise director, ship and company policy that “languages” (in essence cultures) must be grouped. I have chronic pain and because I didn’t go on that bus trip I was forced to walk over an hour to the next town (tourist information said it was an easy 40minutes walk) to see Victor Hugo’s museum and then back an hour to the boat. If I was even told by the ship personnel that there is absolutely nothing to do in Caudebec en Caux and they don’t open cafes or restaurants (very little) until 3pm I wouldn’t have gone out. However if I had that comfortable bus trip to Normandy Beach and the other areas I wouldn’t have come to the ship and put heat pack, with huge blister underneath my feet and unbearable pain throughout the evening and then only to be brought to tears by a heartless cruise director. He changes his mind the way sails change in the wind. My final complaint yesterday was when I received a late brochure about today’s events. I was shocked that it was different from what the initial tour brochure stated, which was that guests we didn’t want to go on any excursion could get off at Les Andeleys and then get off at Vernon. The daily program (brochure) that was brought to me last night stated that if you don’t go on an excursion you cannot leave the boat. I was upset. When I phoned the front desk one cruise personnel told me a ridiculous reason. He said those tourists who aren’t on an excursion cannot leave the ship because the Mayor of Les Andeleys doesn’t allow it. Imagine telling a lawyer who has also worked alongside criminals such a ridiculous lie. I went along with it and then I phoned back and asked if I could speak to Jan but he said Jan was busy after I heated him speaking to someone. You see, one thing I discovered about Jan’s character is that he loves the sound of his voice. One evening he hurried the guests upstairs of where we were late to hear him speak. I looked at one waiter (as one intelligent American observed they are all Romanians because they’re cheap labour) with all these dishes he was picking up and I said can I have tea as it hadn’t been served (part of the supposedly free and available 24 hours as part of the package). He says yes you can go upstairs and have it there or here. I said I’ll go up as I felt sorry for him and then I ask for tea upstairs and I get hit with a bill of 2,50 euros. I was shocked! Nevertheless back to last night, so I was speaking to Jan and I asked him about daily brochure and if guests could not get off was this because the ship was going to go to Vernon to pick up the other guests on the excursion and he says yes. I replied to him that this was not what the initial brochure said, which would constitute false advertising by Tour Radar and Leuftner, and that I wanted to go complain to Lueftner management and I wanted an email. Jan says I can email him. I knew if I email him that email wouldn’t see the light of day and a very intelligent and switched on American tourist said the same thing to me before I brought it to his attention. Luckily there are highly intelligent guests on this ship. I tell Jan I don’t want to email him and I want to email Leuftner management and in an arrogant and angry voice he says “I am the cruise director and I am a the highest one here on the cruise ship.” What an arrogant person I thought! The highest one on the ship in terms of rank and management is the ship’s captain. Tonight we’re having a farewell dinner with the Captain but, again, I won’t be attending and I’ll be starving in my room with potato chips and chocolate. Jan then tells me to email Tour Radar and I said Tour Radar is only the sales agent and not the one responsible for this cruise or the experiences I’ve had to endure. I then said I need to get off this ship. I’ll go on the cruise and he says “no, you wrote a letter saying you don’t want to do the tour anymore. You can’t change your mind. You’re not going.” I was shocked and distressed given that he first tried to persuade me to go and because I said I was going to complain he then refused for me to go on the excursion. He has tried to talk to me several times today and I have not wanted to have anything to do with him. I have written to Tour Radar but not received a response. I’m literally on this ship and I can’t wait to get to Paris and go home. DO NOT BOOK THIS CRUISE OR BOOK ANY OF LEUFTNER OR AMADEUS. However, that being sad my heart goes out to the staff and crew who are so generous, hard working and have tried to been so supportive of me and my ordeal on this ship. As the American guest said, Jan only spoke in German when he was drawing the raffle tickets and on the day the majority of guests returned from Normandy Beach for the remembrance of D-Day. he didn’t realise that most of the guests were on the other side of where the gun was being pointed: down at the beach towards Americans (obviously the rest were Jewish who’s ancestors survived the holocaust. I’ve never come across such a toxic environment where guests are “grouped” and solo travellers are caused distress and money matters so much to a cruise director and to Lueftner obviously. I told Jan this morning he only cares about money and little does he know I have the admiration and respect of several Australian politicians and former Australian Prime Ministers. I said I don’t have money but I have their admiration and respect.
4 months ago
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