Holidays should be great. You save up for them, look forward to them for ages and see them as a chance to relax and forget all your normal daily stresses.
Or that’s what they should be. But holiday companies seem intent on ensuring that when things go wrong, they go really wrong.
I’ve reported in recent months on readers’ problems with Jet2 and Thomas Cook and this month it’s the turn of Tui, formerly known as Thomson.
Since it changed its name, the German-based tour operator has done well. Profits climbed last year to just under £1 billion.
It’s a big and growing business, so you’d expect it to be well run.
Reader GC of Kirkcaldy, Fife, has a different view of the firm after he splashed out just under £5,000 for a cruise with Tui.
He was encouraged to sign up at a cruise event where Tui staff told him he would save around £450 if he signed there and then.
That’s a high-pressure sales tactic that should always make people wary. But having a fair amount of experiences with cruises at other holiday firms, GC decided to take advantage of the saving.
He says now: “I wish we had not signed, as what we got was not what we were told we would get, nor was it of the standard we expected for that special once-in-a-lifetime holiday.”
He paid for a two-week Caribbean cruise for him and his wife. The couple were really looking forward to it, but sadly encountered a series of disappointments.
One was the fact that the ‘all-inclusive’ cruise didn’t include bottles of water, bottles of beer or speciality coffees. He was also surprised to discover that ice cream was only served between 1pm and 3pm.
“He asked for a refund and the response he got was grim”
And then their first excursion – which they had paid extra for – was cancelled and replaced by what he was told would be “a cruise on a yacht”. That didn’t sound too bad until the couple turned up to discover it was a large catamaran – basically a commercial ferry – which housed more than 100 people.
The next excursion, a trolley train, had no seats, which meant uncomfortable standing for the whole journey, while their third excursion lasted just an hour and a half rather than the two and a half hours advertised.
It’s no surprise that GC felt he wasn’t getting value for money for these extras.
He asked the company for a refund of the £970 he had paid to be ‘all-inclusive’, as he said he had to pay out for coffee and water on several occasions.
He also requested a refund of the £108 paid out for the ‘yacht cruise’.
The response he got was grim. When it came to the disappointing excursion, he was told: “We do mention under our A-Z guide that all shore excursions are subject to change.”
As for the fairly limited all-inclusive package, it said: “All-inclusive options change for each hotel, so we say on the brochure page what’s included within the package.”
Tui added: “It’s the customer’s responsibility to ensure that they’re happy with all aspects of their holiday prior to booking.”
That seems unfair to me, especially when it had used pushy sales tactics to flog the cruise.
I contacted Tui with the list of complaints, but it told me: “Our customer service team has been in direct contact with the customer to investigate and attempt to resolve the issues raised.
“Unfortunately, we had no opportunity to resolve any issues while the customer was on board as we were not made aware that he had any concerns during his holiday. We would always encourage our customers to speak to our team on board, who are always on hand should anyone have any concerns while on holiday.”
And that was it. I asked them for a goodwill gesture for GC – to be met with silence.
GC told me: “We’ve been with lots of different cruise companies and they’ve been excellent. I’m not a complaining type of person, but it was so disappointing and the reaction to my complaint was to dismiss it out of hand, which made me feel even worse.
“I hope my story may act as a warning for other people and hopefully save them from making the same mistake.” Let’s hope that’s the case.
The lesson is: don’t sign for anything that seems a good deal without checking the terms and conditions first. That’s the only way to avoid disappointment later.
OUTCOME: Disappointing response from Tui