Q – We will be departing for Asia in two weeks. We’ve just received our final documents and we spent the weekend reviewing them carefully. Everything checks out but we are really upset to see that our overnight call in Bangkok on the Regent Mariner puts us almost two hours away from the city. No one at Regent reservations discussed this with us. Had we known, we would have booked the extra-cost overnight in Bangkok sold by Regent. When we called, they referred us to the fine print instead of offering any kind of refund or credit. It seems to us that we are being “parked” way out of the city and then being offered, at the last minute, an overnight package at a very high cost. Last night, I started reading some of the cruise boards and I discover that the port Regent is using can be two hours away from Bangkok’s center meaning four hours of bus rides each of the two days – eight hours on a bus. Had we known this we never would have booked this cruise as my wife gets sick on buses. Anything we can/should do at this point and wish you would advise your readers about this scam.
A – This is not a scam. It is a decision by the Thai Port Authority to not allow passenger ships above a certain size to dock at Klong Toey, the pier within the city. Currently, only smaller ships, generally under 600 guests, are given authority to use this facility. Azamara, Oceania, Seabourn, Silversea, Ponant, and Windstar have been authorized to use Klong Toey. The vast majority of larger ships, including all of those of the mass market lines are assigned berths at Laem Chabang, a port about two hours away from Bangkok in an industrial area.
Regent’s documents make it clear that you will be docking at Laem Chabang and their pre-documents clearly indicate the offering of an overnight in Bangkok on your specific itinerary. This should have been discussed with your professional cruise consultant. Your special VIP Pre-Document Package would have outlined this. But you never received that package because you booked directly with the line, speaking to a commission-based representative in a call center. Your call – your problem.
You could have gone online to review your sailing months ago. You could have decided this trip was important enough and even complicated enough to warrant the involvement of a professional on a totally complimentary basis. You didn’t do that and now we see little recourse. But we still want to help you – if we can. Immediately draft a letter to Regent’s Customer Service department. See of they can still book you on the overnight in Bangkok – and don’t worry about the cost -it is well worth it. Get it to them via e-mail tonight. See if the person you worked with in the call center will provide pricing from for private sightseeing with a driver leaving from the pier. That will keep you off buses. If you don’t get anyone sympathetic to your handling of this on the phone, end the call, have a decaf, and call back.
You are trusting people on the phone to look out for your best interests. When it comes to travel, you just can’t assume they will. By the way, you are on an excellent itinerary, so you made at least one very important decision correctly.