Friday, August 17

Inspiration Cruises: A Word of Caution

I was blessed to be raised by parents who modeled positive life behaviors for me long before I understood what they were or why they were important. As a teenager, I rolled my eyes when my mother listened to teachings aired on Christian radio while she cleaned or did dishes. I mean, how boring can you get, right? (It wasn't until years later that I realized she was employing the principle of keeping your head full of good things and wise teaching.)

These days, she's more likely to listen to Dr. David Jeremiah than Focus on the Family, but the good habit persists. Imagine my parents' surprise when, after patiently saving up for and scheduling their first Alaskan cruise, they heard that Dr. Jeremiah (from Turning Point, I believe) and company were going to be on the exact same cruise ship they were booked on two weeks later! Seeing a once in a lifetime opportunity, they called their travel agent and asked if it was possible to just swap their bookings for that week. Everyone was wonderful and in no time they were all set.

Then they called Inspiration Cruises (the company who runs almost all major Christian cruise programs) and the headaches began. The customer service agents were uniformly rude and unhelpful. My parents were informed they had to completely cancel their current plans (thereby cheating their very sweet and helpful travel agent out of any commission, despite all the work she'd already done for them) and rebook with Inspiration – paying hundreds of dollars more for the exact same thing!

Turning Point staff, when contacted, were extremely concerned and apologetic, but ultimately helpless. Inspiration controlled all decisions and refused to budge. My parents ultimately decided not to deal with the nonsense and stopped pursuing it. They were able to attend one Sunday chapel service on the ship at which Dr. Jeremiah spoke, but that was it.

As someone who has spent years in business, I was appalled.

First of all, there is never any excuse for customer service reps to be rude. Ever.

Secondly, this company handles cruises for Christian organizations. Whether or not they are Christian themselves, their behavior directly reflects on the Christian companies they represent. Bad press can be devastating to any company; being held to higher than average standards, faith-based companies should be particularly conscious of and conscientious about their image and the choices that shape it.

Third, the entire situation could have been avoided with proper management in the first place. No mention is made on the website or in literature for the cruise about the restrictions of booking only through Inspiration at higher prices. Travel agents are unaware of the restrictions, making them unable to offer relevant counsel. Every company gets to set its own rules, but if yours don't uniformly align with common sense then the onus is on you to make sure they're consistently and clearly stated to prevent confusion, frustration and waste.

I close with two words of caution. To potential cruise-goers: tread carefully with Inspiration. To Christian companies: choose your partners carefully – their conduct reflects on you! In the world of Twitter and Facebook, you will never catch up with or smooth over all the bad publicity a poorly chosen partner can churn up.

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