Cunard Changes Mind, Ups Refund Offer

After a week of complaints by disgruntled luxury guests onboard Queen Mary 2, Cunard acknowledged that the 12-day voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Rio—slowed by a pod propulsion problem forcing the line to eliminate many ports of call—had not been the experience Cunard guests expect. Irate passengers had told the media that the Fort Lauderdale to Rio voyage had turned into a voyage at sea rather than a cruise with port calls. On Wednesday, the luxury line shelved its original 50 percent refund offer, which passengers felt was inadequate. Some passengers slated to get off in Rio had threatened to stage a "sit-in" and remain onboard when the ship arrived in that city on Jan. 27. On Jan. 26, however, Cunard issued a statement saying it would revise its offer, giving guests who were slated to leave the ship in Rio a full refund of their cruise fare including airfare, and it would even reimburse the air costs incurred by guests who made their own flight arrangements. Guests scheduled to stay onboard and disembark in Valparaiso or Los Angeles will receive a full refund of the Rio segment of their cruise fare, or they can take that amount as a 50 percent cash refund and an additional 75 percent refund as a future cruise credit on any QM2 voyage through December 2007. "We had initially hoped that all our guests would have found much to enjoy during this liner voyage and we are sorry that, despite the efforts of the officers and crew, this has not proved to be the case for a significant number of people," Cunard's statement said, noting that the mood [of some passengers] onboard may have further contributed adversely to the guest experience. Carol Marlow, the line's president, was en route to Rio for the ship's arrival, and Cunard said she planned to meet with as many guests as possible and personally express the company's apologies. Despite the slightly reduced speed of the ship, Cunard says it expects to preserve the scheduled ports of call on the journey around Cape Horn to Los Angeles, but will shorten port calls in Montevideo and Acapulco.

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