And the Star Cruise saga continues and hopefully closure.

Well, Star Cruise is one tough nut. Hubby asked what I am looking for. Compensation, of course. Looking into small claims, but we realised that our contract involves Chan Brothers who was our booking agent and the contract was not in my name. Hence I have decided that I shall just do it the social media way. How funny it is that they respond very quickly everytime I posted on their Facebook as compared to emailing to their inapt customer service which is getting on my nerves. Oh well, as calm and defensive as their responses can be, they are facing a highly emotive lady here. So, for those who are interested. Here’s the correspondences between Star Cruise and us.

We sent them an email on 30 November and the contents are as below:

Dear Sir/Madam,
Hope this email finds you well. My family and friends recently went on a holiday onboard of Star Cruise Virgo from 24 November to 27 November 2013. Our company of 11 which included 4 younger children and 2 senior citizens, stayed in cabins 9130, 9132 and 9136. It was our first time on a cruise holiday and at the end of the cruise, we conclude that it was the worst holiday ever.
(1)    The confusion during embarkment at Singapore Cruise Centre was unacceptable. We were seated among a group of passengers whom we realized later was part of a wedding party. There was no clear indication that the passengers would be dispatch row by row for custom clearance. As a result, there were some scuffles between that group of unruly passengers and the ground staff. As we were right in the middle, we did not feel safe at all. Moreover, the whole process we felt was very demeaning as we began to feel like refugees with no form of assurance from anyone as to what to expect. Later on at the custom clearance, our company of 11 was split. What upset us most was the ground staff separated my husband from me and my two young children, aged 4 and 2, assuming that I would be able to handle them all by myself. Another family, with young children, who was traveling with us faced the same issue. We find it extremely insensitive of the staff to make us go through this especially when after our wait was traumatizing due to the scuffle.
(2)   The walk from customs to the cruise was also one that was distressing. We were rushed in by the staff and station by station, almost forced to take photographs, like some circus animals. To make matter worse, we were not even allowed to take pictures of the Hello Kitty mascots using our own camera. This was unacceptable as the cruise was a Hello Kitty themed one and we were deprived of that simple joy of snapping pictures just because Star Cruise has your own photographers and you need to rush passengers onboard. The distress was worsen upon boarding the ship. The welcome cocktail at Deck 7 was a huge disappointment. Being the balcony class passengers, instead of being served, we realized that we had to walk into a cordoned area to get our champagne. Not only that, after getting the drinks, we were rudely shooed off by the 3 lady staff, saying that we could not stay in that cordoned area. This was definitely not the kind of welcome we were expecting in the first 5 minutes onboard. We certainly did not feel very welcomed. After the checking into our room, we went to deck 13 for the so-called ‘Hello Kitty Sail Away Party’, fully expecting to see the mascots again. To our utter disappointment, especially the 4 young children in our company, there was only deafening music and no sign of the mascots. It was only after checking with at least 3 crew members that the so-called ‘Hello Kitty Sail Away Party’ would only be attended by the Hello Kitty Cast members who are just two ladies in sailor outfits. Honestly, we felt very cheated. The programme was clearly not well communicated to the passengers as well as to your service staff. Furthermore, during the entire cruise experience, our children had to be disappointed many times due to the lack of appearance of the Hello Kitty mascots until the very last day. Your crew at the Activity Centre was obviously unclear about which event should be pre-booked or not. We had to make a few trips down to the centre because the programme stated the need to pre-book for the show but your crew member seemed to understand otherwise. As a result, we were left very confused. Despite being a themed cruise, the programme certainly did not revolve a lot around the theme. we certainly felt very short-changed as a result.
(3)  The service rendered at the cabins was also one with many discrepancies. As our group occupied three cabins, we realized that sometimes, one cabin would received complimentary fruits, while the other two cabins would not. Moreover, your housekeeping was not attentive enough to realize that we had finished the toothpaste or fully utilized the toiletries. As a result, we had to contact housekeeping numerous times to get the refills. We certainly did not expect such level of service from ‘the Leading Cruise Line in Asia Pacific’.
(4) The embarkment and disembarkment at Phuket was certainly one that left lasting bad impression of Star Cruise on us. During disembarkment, it was so obvious that there was disorganization and once again, your crew displayed insensitivities to the needs of passengers especially the elderly and families with young children. Queues were not clearly formed and your crew allowed blatant queue cutting. The embarkment at Phuket was worse. There was no obvious attempt by your ground crew to maintain order and as a result, there were a lot of jostling and pushing. Both my husband and I were carrying our sleeping children at that time and I nearly fell off the steps due to the pushing. My mother has some walking difficulties and my sister had a difficult time to ensure her safety. By sheer good luck, nothing happened to us. It was obvious that many elderly passengers as well as young families were struggling with the disorderly crowd. Your staff only reacted after some scuffle happened. Even so, it was just a feeble attempt to create some unobvious queuing line. This embarkment experience made us feel extremely unsafe and once again, we could see obvious lack of organization on the part of Star Cruise. Not forgetting how this episode made us feel like refugees scrambling to board some life-saving ship. This definitely did not feel like a holiday to us.
(5) There is certainly a lot for you to look into the disembarkment process at Singapore. We find it very unacceptable to be ‘chase out’ of our cabins two hours before disembarkment. The two hour wait at the Pavilion was almost excruciating. One of my children was napping and my husband had to carry her during the wait. There was also no attempt by your service crew to make us feel better, not even a glass of water. Once again, we felt like refugees in hiding. We could not comprehend why we cannot disembark by batch and why food and drinks have to be stopped during this wait to disembark. It felt extremely demeaning and we find it totally unnecessary to be out of our cabins and waste our precious time waiting. It was certainly not a pleasant feeling when we saw your crew happily disembark while we continued our wait even when the ship docked.
(6) After we finally got off the cruise, there was no clear signage to help ease bottleneck to go to the customs. Your crew  was busy singing and jumping around. They certainly could be put to good use by directing Singapore citizens in the right direction to avoid that bottleneck. Baggage collection was also a complete nightmare. The group of unruly passengers we met on day one was there and there was no attempt to contain their behaviour. They had made the whole baggage collection extremely distressing. My parent took almost one hour to locate one of their baggage. They had placed two of their baggage together and fully expecting to collect them together. Apparently, your crew has mixed it up with those of the wedding party. Due to this, we almost missed our ride home and had to compensate our driver for the time wasted. The whole baggage collection experience once again showed how disorganized Star Cruise is.
As seen, what we had to go through for this holiday was extremely unacceptable. The poor level of service was certainly not what we expected of ‘the leading Cruise Line in Asia-Pacific’. We are pending a satisfactory written email explanation and/or proposed remedial actions to be provided by Star Cruise.  – all of my legal rights herein are fully reserved herein. This includes, and not limited to, submission of my complaint to CASE Trust and claim(s) submission to the Small Claims Tribunal.
I therefore hope that your esteemed management be able to furnish a prompt and effective response by no later than close of business (5.00 pm) of Tuesday 3rd December 2013
Regards
Yee Tien
After a couple of days, seeing no acknowledgement of any sort, I posted a fb message and almost immediately on 2 December 2013, they sent an email reply as follows:

 Without Prejudice

 

 

Dear Ms Chua,

This is in reference to your e-mail dated 30 November, 2013 regarding various issues raised onboard SuperStar Virgo under booking no. 8369277.

Your feedback is highly appreciated, and we are currently looking into the issue.

Please rest assured that a thorough investigation will be conducted in order to resolve the issue you have reported. We will revert to you within 10 working days with the conclusion of our findings and recommendations of our next course of action.

Please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused. Your concern is being attended to with utmost consideration and urgency.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Sincerely,

Customer Service Department (Hong Kong Team)

Honestly, after receiving this reply, I feel extremely offended that they hadn’t respect my deadline AND most importantly, the lack of accountability due to the lousy sign-off. So, I have to send a reply:

Dear Customer Service Department (Sorry I can’t give a proper salutation as no particular person signed off in the reply),

Thank you for your prompt reply. Hope your weekend went well.

I would very much prefer to receive a reasonable explanation and course of action from you today by 5pm. However, since more time is needed at your end, I think it’s only fair enough to give you 10 days from the date of my first email to conduct a thorough investigation.

Hence, I look forward to your conclusion of findings and reasonable course of actions by 9 December 2013.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Warmest Regards

Chua Yee Tien (Mdm)

9 December came and went, we  still received nothing from them, so, another email I dropped on 10 December:

Dear Star Cruise,
Hope this email find you very well.
It has been 7 days since my first email. As mentioned in my previous email, we are looking forward to a satisfactory explanation and actions from Star Cruise with regards to our unpleasant experience from 24 to 27 November 2013 on Star Cruise Virgo. Since you required some time to investigate the issue, we have extended the deadline to 9 December 2013 which was yesterday.
I am somewhat doubting Star Cruises’ interest in this matter. Hope to hear from you by the end of today. We reserve the rights to any further actions with regards to the whole issue, including your disinterest (from what we feel through our email correspondences) in looking into the matter.
Warmest Regards
Yee Tien
The last bit of the email probably caught their attention and this reply I received on the same day:

Without Prejudice

Dear Ms. Chua,

We hope this email finds you well.

We would like to ask for more time to look into your concern, and rest assured that we will get back to you the soonest time for updates and developments.  Kindly note that the 10 business working days we commit to you is excluded the non-working days (Sat and Sun) and holidays.

 We ask for your patience and understanding for this matter and have a great day!

Best Regards,

 Shalom Dumaraos (Ms)

Customer Service

I was pretty convinced that Star Cruise and this particular CSO is thinking that I am a dimwit. So, I got to give it to them:

Dear Ms Shalom
Thank you very much for your email.
Yes, I understand that the 10 business working days that you had asked for excludes weekends and public holiday. Obviously, it was not acceptable to me but to be fair to you, I extended to 10 days instead to 9 December 2013. Since your company is working hard to look into the matter, I look forward to your response on 16 December 2013 (11 business working days since my email on 30 November 2013).
Once again thank you for your kind attention and your company’s effort to spend so much time and effort to look into the matter.
Warmest Regards
Yee Tien
Finally, on 17 December, hearing no response form them, I have decided that facebook was the way to go to get some attention (as my sister managed to)
Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 3.41.23 PM

And boy, how fast the response was. And I received the following email within an hour from my fb post.

Without Prejudice

Dear Ms. Chua,

SuperStar Virgo

Departure: 24 November 2013

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your patience and understanding of the overall procedure of our investigation.

We are sorry to learn of your disappointment with regard to your cruise holiday as you have highlighted in your email. We view the matter highlighted in your email below most seriously indeed and the department head concerned has also been made aware of your comments.  For your reference, please be informed that we had conducted an immediate examination of the concerns and the incidents you had raised to us; and through this email, we hope to provide you an explanation based on the accounts and the information that were provided to us by our onboard Management and Cruise Centre.

Embarkation in Singapore

Please be informed that we are continuously evaluating existing Star Cruise procedure to check on possible areas where we can improve. Most of the delay caused during embarkation is partly due to Immigration and Customs policy and practice more than the current embarkation standards that Star Cruises follows. We have highlighted this to the officials at the Customs for their attention hoping for future service improvement on their part for the convenience of Star Cruises Guests.  We had also raised a report to the management about your general feedback on the crowd management and the wheels are turning when it comes to the review of embarkation procedure.

To your concern on the ground staff who assisted your group, we wish to inform you the mentioned staff is extending help to hasten your queue.  They were advising you that Singaporean families with young children need to split only 1 parent bringing the kids through the manual bypass lane while requesting the other Singaporean parent to clear using eIACS to reduce the congestion at the manual bypass lane.  They are doing this procedure to expedite Immigration clearance. Have you relayed to the ground staff that you find this arrangement  uncomfortable he would have ushered your whole family to the manual lane all together.

Photo Ops

We are saddened to note of your dismay with our staff on the gangway.  We assure you that no disrespect was intended and we do sincerely apologize for any lack of tact and strong approach during the photo souvenir incident.  Consequently, all our staff onboard including embarkation and disembarkation department have been briefed to remind them to be subtle as always when dealing with passengers.

Referring to incident where you were unable to take a snapshot of Hello Kitty mascot using own camera as much as we want to accommodate guest request due to our usual procedure to avoid congestion and as part of our crowd management we do not encourage passenger to use their own camera.

Welcome drink 

Lobby is usually packed with guests upon boarding hence; we need to cordon off a portion with which the cocktails are dispensed. Cocktail is intended for Balcony Class as such, cordoning the area would allow us to distinguish the Red Card holders from the Blue Card Holders. Moreover, as the area is small, guests are directed outside that cordoned area once they have taken their drink to accommodate incoming guests. This would also minimize breakages of glasses which usually happens when there is no crowd control.

We regret to note that you had experienced an unpleasant encounter with our staff. We have identified the crews assigned and had been issued with disciplinary warning 

Hello Kitty sail away party

The Sail Away party was named “Hello Kitty” as it is the cruise theme. During the event, we introduce the Hello Kitty Hosts.  Rest of the Sail Away event is a collaboration of other entertainments i.e. Live Band, Star Cruise Dancers, Charlie Mascot welcoming the Junior Cruisers and other fun entertainment. We acknowledged the confusion it created by tagging the ”Hello Kitty” words and therefore; have removed it with immediate effect.

Cruise Programme

All other activities advertised by Sales as part of the Hello Kitty @ Sea Theme were conducted.  Herewith are the list for your reference :

ü  Hello Kitty Breakfast

ü  Hello Kitty’s Karaoke TV Musical Show

ü  Meet and Greet the Hello Kitty Cast

ü  Hello Kitty Story Telling

ü  Hello Kitty Family Funtime

ü  Hello Kitty Tea Time

All these are advertised on Star Navigator, the daily newspaper cruiser guide which is delivered to cabin in the evening.

Activity Centre

Activity Centre did receive some queries from the guests with regards to which of the activities must pre-book and which ones are for free. They also encountered few guests who were confused and they have explained to them which ones require pre-booking.

However, all Activity Centre Staff were still reminded to be more cautious and attentive to guests’ queries and take time to explain everything until the guests are satisfied.

Cabin Amenities

We have checked with our house keeping team onboard and they have advised us that a  complete set up of amenities upon embarkation on 24th Nov 2013. The complimentary fruit set up was arranged on the same day of embarkation during evening’ s Turndown service in cabins 9130 and 9132,except cabin 9136 due to a DND signage.

The next day 25th Nov, make up room service to all 3 cabins were carried out as well as replenished the amenities upon consumption.  Cabin 9130 called the Reception on the same day at 1752hrs requesting for toiletries  (including tooth brush) which was delivered by  Housekeeping Attendant Ram while cabin 9136 requested to open the sofa bed last 24th November 2013.  On the same day,  Turndown service was completed for cabins  9130 and 9136, EXCEPT 9132. According to the crew, guest declined the Turn down service.

The following day, 26th Nov, Make up room service was completed in all 3 cabins while guests were out of the cabin and amenities were replenished as per consumption. In the evening,  Turndown service were declined by all 3 cabins.

Phuket Embarkation/Disembarkation

For disembarkation, all guests are required to assemble at the Lido. As they enter the Theatre, they will be given a queuing sticker with numbers on it. Guests will be asked to settle down until their numbers are called and boat is ready for the tender process then they will be directed to the route from Deck 7 all the way down to the tendering platform. As people course through the route, there might be incidents wherein guests may cut in which is unavoidable. Nevertheless, we have debriefed our staffs to be more active observer and remind guests to follow the queues accordingly. Frequent announcement will also be made at the theatre before guests leave as a gentle reminder. 

Disembarkation

Due to the number of Guest that needs to check out for disembarkation, it is unavoidable to experience some minor inconvenience, to which we ask for your understanding. We are doing evaluation on how to improve the process, and for Guests who are on the move, we always propose to avail Express Check Out. You can settle your balance the night before the disembarkation by completing forms to ensure a hassle free settlement. We publish a disembarkation notice which we provide cruisers, indicating this service and the actual disembarkation procedure.

Aside to this, we wish to advised that we do extend special assistance and priority for elderly guests, and to those who are travelling with their children and they can queue on the Admiral lane for fast and trouble-free procedure.  Further, priority disembarkation is also extended to those guest who haveconnecting flights, shuttles and buses to catch.  Guests are advised to approach our Front Office Deck for such arrangement.

We greatly appreciate the information you have shared with us. The shortcomings you have mentioned together with the others who might have escalated the same feedback are being taken seriously and have been brought up to all concerned to further improve our services. Management is already working on to address issue highlighted and work to their best of ability to provide good memorable cruising experience to all.

Ms. Chua, in those areas where we did not meet your expectation of a cruise holiday with Star Cruises, we do sincerely apologize. We assure you this was definitely not indicative of the very high standards of service and care that we all strive for at Star Cruises. We are grateful to you for taking the time to write and share your thoughts and comments.

We look forward to having the opportunity of welcoming you aboard again and provide you a better experience.

Best Regards,

Shalom Dumaraos (Ms)

Customer Service

After reading the reply, Hubby and I figured that it was pointless to even continue conversation with this Ms Shalom. So, since facebook is the only way to get someone sit up and for goodness sake, listen, I gave them my final post and my closure on their facebook page, which was removed within 24 hours by Star Cruise.

Dear Star Cruise

Thank you for looking into the matter (CSML/0999/13/SD). I have received an almost immediate reply after my post here. However, I am deeply disappointed with the explanations given by your customer service officer , Ms Shalom Dumaraos as well as the investigation conclusions. While I am happy to see the your effort to implement changes to make Star Cruise a more enjoyable holiday choice for your future passengers, there was no obvious effort and actions to placate us for the enjoyment that was already lost during our holiday on Star Cruise.

As I no longer wish to communicate with Ms Shalom, who, in my opinion, is unable to empathize with what we went through and is not in the position to be able to commit any actions to compensate our miserable holiday, I would like to reply to some of the explanations given in the long reply to my first email.

Embarkation in Singapore

While I am happy that there will be an ongoing review regarding embarkment in Singapore, I felt very unfairly judged by the statement made by your CSO, ‘ Have you relayed to the ground staff that you find this arrangement uncomfortable he would have ushered your whole family to the manual lane all together’. As mentioned in my email, there was quite a commotion during the embarkment, before I was able to relay to the ground staff, I was already being frantically ushered to the line. Hence, as mentioned, it was obvious that there was lack of empathy and care in the response.

Welcome drink

I doubt issuing a issuing a disciplinary warning to your crew would help. It had always been a problem (refer to http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=108513). Maybe having a bigger area for the balcony class passengers might help? Bringing drinks to your passengers might help too. Giving designated areas to the different class passengers would be helpful as well. For example, balcony class passengers in a restaurant or something. I am just appalled that the management of Star Cruise had failed to review this after every sail.

Hello Kitty sail away party

Well, thank you for removing the ‘Hello Kitty’ from the ‘Hello Kitty Sail away party after we have already disappointed our kids. I am glad that our complaint had made you realize the importance of terms and wordings.

Cruise Programme

I do not understand why Ms Shalom provided me with the list of the Hello Kitty programme which we already knew. And yes, we understood the daily newspaper cruise guide. In fact we went to 3 of the programmes. We skipped the teatime because this was not complimentary despite it being a themed cruise and we had gone to the breakfast. What I was referring to in my initial complaint was ‘during the entire cruise experience, our children had to be disappointed many times due to the lack of appearance of the Hello Kitty mascots until the very last day.’ The programme was not spread out enough especially since this is a themed cruise. This is a feedback, don’t be defensive about it.

Cabin Amenities

I did not ask about whether the rooms were make-up or turn down. I do not understand why Ms Shalom went on about what time were the rooms make up and turn down and how we declined turn-down service etc. I must say that I am impressed that your company went through the trouble to look at the records. We merely commented that some amenities were not replenished and we had to call for refills. And these are after the rooms were made-up in the mornings.

And I find it extremely disturbing that this was mentioned when I wrote about the complimentary fruit basket ‘The complimentary fruit set up was arranged on the same day of embarkation during evening’ s Turndown service in cabins 9130 and 9132,except cabin 9136 due to a DND signage.
‘ So, are you trying to say that for room 9136, since we have put up a DND signage, we would no longer be eligible to having some fruits? How about day 2, day 3 and day 4? We are not hard up for the fruits which are plentiful in your buffet restaurant. We are just disappointed with this lack of care and sincerity from the ‘Leading Cruise Line in Asia Pacific’.

Phuket Embarkation/Disembarkation

For the above issue, I was given this explanation by Ms Shalom. ‘For disembarkation, all guests are required to assemble at the Lido. As they enter the Theatre, they will be given a queuing sticker with numbers on it. Guests will be asked to settle down until their numbers are called and boat is ready for the tender process then they will be directed to the route from Deck 7 all the way down to the tendering platform. As people course through the route, there might be incidents wherein guests may cut in which is unavoidable. Nevertheless, we have debriefed our staffs to be more active observer and remind guests to follow the queues accordingly. Frequent announcement will also be made at the theatre before guests leave as a gentle reminder.’

My question, how about the guests who have kids who preferred to disembark later. It was obvious that we did not go to Lido to get any number. We were merely directed by your crew.

Most importantly, the dangerous situation we faced at embarkment at Phuket was obviously ignored by Ms Shalom.

To refresh, this was what happened ‘The embarkment at Phuket was worse. There was no obvious attempt by your ground crew to maintain order and as a result, there were a lot of jostling and pushing. Both my husband and I were carrying our sleeping children at that time and I nearly fell off the steps due to the pushing. My mother has some walking difficulties and my sister had a difficult time to ensure her safety. By sheer good luck, nothing happened to us. It was obvious that many elderly passengers as well as young families were struggling with the disorderly crowd. Your staff only reacted after some scuffle happened. Even so, it was just a feeble attempt to create some unobvious queuing line. This embarkment experience made us feel extremely unsafe and once again, we could see obvious lack of organization on the part of Star Cruise. Not forgetting how this episode made us feel like refugees scrambling to board some life-saving ship. This definitely did not feel like a holiday to us.’

Disembarkation

I do not see how waiting for 2 hours in a restaurant not serving food and drinks and carrying kids can be defined as ‘some minor inconvenience’ by Ms Shalom. Please check your records, if you have the time, we checked out early and checking out has nothing to do with the long wait in our case. It’s about treating your passengers like guests not refugees.

And I realized that Star Cruise seems to like to put everything on passengers’ responsibility as indicated by this point brought up by Ms Shalom, ‘we wish to advised that we do extend special assistance and priority for elderly guests, and to those who are travelling withtheir children and they can queue on the Admiral lane for fast and trouble-free procedure. Further, priority disembarkation is also extended to those guest who have connecting flights, shuttles and buses to catch. Guests are advised to approach our Front Office Deck for such arrangement.’ OBVIOUSLY, I got to know this NOW, after I had the worst holiday onboard Star Cruise. Apparently, your crew members were not advised to lookout for such cases and we are talking about service and tourism.

Finally, our horrible experience during baggage collection was ignored as well.

In closure, all I can say is I am deeply disappointed by the explanations given by Star Cruise and the lack of effort to compensate our unhappy experience during our Star Cruise experience after 12 working days of investigation. Your customer service and management certainly has quite a bit to look into.

So, here it is, our sad sad misadventure with Star Cruise. And I may be a small fry, I believe that our experience has discourage many to even consider them as an option for holiday. I am still looking into filing claims and CASE but I realised things got to be filed within a certain time frame. Star Cruise is smart. They drag the timeline. Oh well, goodwill is certainly lost, since they know nuts about goodwill.

I really kinda wonder who runs this company anyway.

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