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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Maybe I had something to do with it ,and maybe I did not, but Seabourn finally sent a notice to all passengers that the satellite or some other mechanism was broken. That is the “good” news because I think passengers are entitled to to know what is going on. Many were checking their television sets every 30 minutes, or at least regularly, and getting more and more frustrated. The “bad” news is that the problem cannot even be addressed until the 15th so it will be quite some time before the problem is resolved. Even mild mannered guests are growing increasingly disgruntled.


If I were in a position of running things, I would now issue a shipboard credit somewhere in the range of $300 to $500 per passenger, and if the problem continued beyond, say the 16th, issue another credit.


Here is the thing about shipboard credits: It is not cash that one can put in his or her pockets. It is something that can only be used for services or goods furnished by the cruise line. It is kind of like a captive currency.


The best example is in the casino industry. There is a concept of “hard” and “soft” money. Illustration: if the casino pays your airfare by reimbursing you the $3000 you paid for your airline ticket. That is hard money: $3000 out of their pocket. True it is deductible by the casino as business promotion, but $3000 was paid out.


On the other hand, if the casino comps food and beverage in the amount of $3000, that is soft money. That food and beverage may cost the casino 50% or $1500, but from the customer’s perspective, $3000 in benefits was received.


So, what should happen here is that Seabourn should do more than just say “I am sorry”. They should do something for their passengers. Remember, we are not talking about no service for a day or two or three. By the time this problem is resolved, assuming it ever is, this relatively major glitch will have lasted about ten days, maybe more.


It is one thing, to use another illustration, for an airline to sit on the runway for an hour or even two. It is another thing if it sits on the runway for 10 hours.


It is anyone’s guess whether Seabourn does anything but apologize, but not treating the customer smartly is hardly unique. You may not believe this, but I swear it is true. I was on a plane from some city in Arizona to Portland when the flight attendant announced that unfortunately, the bathroom facilities were not functioning on the flight. However, to compensate the passengers for any inconvenience, all alcoholic and soft drink beverages were free. I remember thinking to myself,”Wonder how many paper cups are on board?”. I am not good enough to make this stuff up.

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We almost feel like Rumpelstiltskin, who could spin straw into gold. Yesterday, we docked in Santo Tomas De Castilla, Guatemala. Many passengers did not even get off the ship and many who did returned in less than an hour saying it was a barren wasteland and that there was absolutely nothing to see or do. Barbara and I figured we might as well get off the ship, and, if nothing else, get some exercise in by taking a walk.


There was a trolley as we disembarked that, for $49 per person, would drive us around town for about an hour and a half. Since we were repeatedly advised that there was nothing to see, I thought more than $100, if I tipped anything at all, was a total waste of money. Keep in mind that I regard myself as an expert in wasting money, but even I have some limits.


Consistent with the principle that it is better to be lucky then smart, as we left the port terminal, which involved over 2000 steps, we ran into a taxi driver who spoke perfect English. He had lived in the United States for many years and was a profession football player for 15 having played on the national team of Guatemala. Manuelo had a very clean, air-conditioned taxi that he rented for $16 a day. He offered to drive us around for an hour and a half for $25. We figured, “What the hell", the cost was half that of the trolley and we liked the guy right away.


An hour and a half turned into almost 4 hours. We saw two cities, one of the nicest churches I have ever been in (and I have been in a lot of damn churches), went to a really nice open market, and then to a local grocery story where Barbara bought two pounds of what is supposed to be great Guatemalan coffee for $6. We were the only gringos that probably ever walked into the market


Over half a million people live in this area. It is far from some “podunk town”. The only disappointment was that we tried to find a good restaurant with fresh fish, but after three tries gave up. One was closed, one was waiting for their daily delivery that was late, and another really turned out to be a fried chicken and fried shrimp place. So, we went back to the ship after about four hours of having a really nice experience learning a great deal.

I gave Manuelo $50. He was thrilled and the whole day cost less than a bad/ripoff trolley ride.


After resting, we spent most of the balance of our time listening to music.


Experience has taught us that, other than in a few exceptions, excursions through the cruise line are at least twice as expensive and half as nice. Today is a sea day and we are going back to Thomas Keller’s for dinner. I also resolved the issue of where we would sit and provided 18 dates throughout the cruise, all on sea days, when we would return to eat dinner at the place which clearly suits us the best.


Today is a sea day. Tomorrow, we will dock in San Andres, Columbia. I have no idea as yet what we will be doing. We were supposed to be going to a port in Honduras, but the cruise line cancelled for a reason I either do not recall or was never told.

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I wish my good friend Ed Snyder a speedy recovery from Covid and pneumonia. He is back in the hospital and I am not happy.

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See you tomorrow. At least that is my plan.

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Go Ukraine

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