A travel advisor is there when things go sideways.
This past weekend I had a client booked on a Caribbean cruise for a much needed getaway after a very busy summer. This particular client has some special needs which we had communicated to the cruise company.
He is a blind solo traveller and has sailed on other cruises previously so is familiar with what is expected on a cruise. He is also a Paralympic Athlete who is fearless and eager to prove he is able to navigate a sight intensive world and highlight where we as an industry can do better. Some of his recent accomplishments include backcountry skiing in British Columbia and can be found regularly carving up the double black diamonds on Whistler Blackcomb.
It came to a big surprise when just after thirty minutes of getting a text message that he was enjoying the ship and the crew were taking great care of him, I get a frantic call from him saying he is being escorted off due to safety concerns.
As a Travel Advisor I was able to listen to my client and start trouble shooting as to how this voyage was starting to go off course. I was able to call my contact at the cruise company and express my concern and advocate on my client's behalf. It is only through these carefully nurtured relationships we (Travel Advisors) make that help our clients when it is needed most.
By keeping calm and reassuring the client that I am working on a solution I was able to work with the cruise company to better understand what went wrong. By being an active partner and working closely with the cruise company we were able to escalate the incident to the senior leadership where we are able to help evoke positive change and learn from this unfortunate incident.
I am happy to say that Virgin Voyages acknowledges that a mistake was made and the passenger should not have been removed. My client was well taken care of while in Miami and had an opportunity to meet with the Virgin's Senior Vice President of Fleet Operations. There they were able to exchange ideas and learn how Virgin can do better in the future. Have a better understanding of some of the special needs of differently abled people and the sensitivities front line crew need to be aware of.
The following day, my client was flown out of Miami to catch up with the ship and enjoy the remainder of the cruise complimentary as well as an opportunity to come back as their guest for a future voyage.
Though this trip did not go totally as planned, and the client had a travel advisor to be able to advocate on his behalf the vacation was put back on track. Thank you to Virgin Voyages for being an amazing partner and being willing to listen and do better. This just solidifies why Virgin being the new kid on the cruise circuit is winning the hearts and minds of their "Sailors."
→ Update (Aug. 30, 2023): Donovan was back on Virgin Voyages sailing the Adriatic on the brand new Resilient Lady with Sir Richard Branson. Donovan has been working with Virgin helping them navigate more accessible and inclusive voyages with sensitivity and awareness meetings and workshop. Richard wrote:
And sometimes when we make mistakes, it’s good to recognise what went wrong and use it as a lesson. I also bumped into Donovan Tildesley on board, a blind man who was wrongly removed from a ship a few months back because the crew were worried they couldn’t support him. We realised our mistake straight away, flew him back on the ship and did all we could to turn the experience around. It was great to hear that he is now consulting with Virgin Voyages and working with them to make sure accessibility is always front of mind and it’s a positive experience for all our sailors.
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