Our Alaska vacation-bound Crown Princess ship docked in Juneau on June 27, where we had planned two shore excursions for the day - one through Princess, and one which we had booked on our own through Juneau Whale Watch. The former came off fine, but the latter left a very bad taste in the mouth of myself and my companion; read on:
Before leaving for Alaska, we booked an evening whale watch tour with Juneau Whale Watch, from 5 - 7:30 pm. We wanted the late whale watch so that we could have time to stroll around Juneau between the time our earlier excursion ended at 1 pm, and the whale watch began at 5 pm. The ship's all-aboard time was 8:30 pm, so this late whale watch fit in perfectly with that plan, promising to get us safely aboard well in advance of the ship's departure time of 9 pm.
We were instructed to meet the Juneau Whale Watch representative in front of the Mt. Roberts Tramway at 5 pm, and were there well in advance, and easily found the rep milling about among the hundreds of other tourists, where we then identified ourselves and told her that we were there for the 5 pm tour that we had booked.
We were then told that the bus was "on its way" and would be there in fifteen minutes, so we were told to hang out for the time being. Having no other choices, that is what we did. Somewhere around that time, a bus pulled up and we saw the same representative walk over to it, followed by several people; thinking this was our bus, we followed and boarded the bus, handing our booking voucher to the same representative as we boarded. We then sat on the bus for several minutes while it apparently waited for more passengers; while we were sitting there, I happened to overhear another passenger say something about a "glacier tour" in such a way that raised doubts as to whether we were in fact on the bus that went to Auke Bay for whale-watching. I immediately "grabbed" the driver abd asked whether this was the whale watch bus, and he said "no". We immediately dis-embarked and went directly to the representative who said that she had put us on the wrong bus, and profusely apologized. She said that the whale watch bus would be here "shortly" and to continue waiting.
Well, we waited, and waited, and waited. At least once we queried the young woman and asked, "When is the bus coming?" and were assured that it was on its way. Finally, a shuttle bus arrived and we were told that it was the correct bus - it was now at least 5:35 pm, and we were getting nervous about the time. The young woman said that the bus would depart as soon as we boarded, but that in fact was not the case - as the bus sat there for several minutes, with furtive conversations taking place between the driver and the representative who took our booking voucher and who continually put us off. The endless delays, of course, began to erode our sense of trust. Despite being told that the van would depart immediately, it was clear that they were waiting for more passengers (customers) to show up in spite of assuring us that the bus would depart immediately upon our boarding. When we finally departed, it was probably 5:40 pm.
We had also been told by this same representative (whose credibility was being increasingly questioned) that it was also only a "15 minute" ride to Auke Bay, but that was another not-quite-true statement by your folks: It was easily 20 minutes, so by the time we got to the dock, it was after 6 pm. When we arrived at the dock we were met by two red-shirted young men who apparently conduct the tour and pilot the boat. They "chatted us up" for a couple of minutes trying to assure us that the tour would start imminently, and that we would ABSOLUTELY, IN-NO-UNCERTAIN-TERMS, be back by 8:15 pm. In the meantime, several more minutes went by, until another shuttle bus or van pulled up and disgorged half-a-dozen additional passengers who you just KNEW they were holding up the tour for (at our expense), and now seriously jeopardizing the terms of the agreement under which we booked this tour - that it would be a two and a half hour tour departing at 5 pm and returning at 7:30 pm.
It was now well past 6 pm and I once again expressed my concern as to whether a two hour whale watch could happen and get us back to the ship by 8:30 pm. One of Juneau Whale Watch's brash and confident "red shirts" again ADAMANTLY assured us that we would be back to the ship by 8:15 pm, and in the UNPRECEDENTED event that we were not, that Juneau Whale Watch would pay for our air fare and hotel to get us back on the ship. Faint assurance, indeed: It was now pressing 6:15 pm and all such assurances seemed to ring hollow, as we finally boarded the boat for departure.
Just as it seemed we would finally be getting underway, one of the smug "red shirts" came over to us, and, shamelessly 'fessed up that it appeared (despite all assurances to the contrary a few minutes ago) that we would probably NOT get back to the ship by 8:30 pm and that that it would likely be 8:35 pm - "Would that be okay?" he asked?
The answer, of course, was that it would NOT be "okay". - it was the last straw. I had had enough of the prevaricating, stalling jerking-us-around games that this company seemed all so well-trained to dispense to customers, and I said we were DONE and wanted a ride back to Juneau. They said okay and told us to walk back up the ramp where another driver would be waiting for us to take us back to the ship. We disembarked and walked up the dock to the ramp, but as we came off the dock we saw no one or nothing there that looked like a Juneau Whale Watch van or shuttle or bus waiting to take us back to Juneau - no one.. What gives??
As the boat was just pulling away from the dock at this point (probably at least 6:20 pm), I ran back down on to the dock and waved and shouted and asked, "Where is our RIDE??" Mr. Smug Red Shirt yelled at us to walk up the ramp - that it was there waiting for us ("he's right there waiting for you"). Funny, we stilll saw no one "waiting for us" - so we walked up the long drive to the main road and only then saw an unattended Juneau Whale Watch shuttle and another bus with a driver in it. We asked that driver if he was our ride back to Juneau, and he said "No." We explained our situation and then he pointed out where the JWW driver was, who had suddenly appeared out of nowhere. and seemed oblivious to our situation. Now why hadn't he come down the ramp and said, "I'm here to take you back to Juneau"? Instead, he seemed completely oblivious. After a brief exchange between the two drivers, the NON-Juneau Whale Watch bus driver said he would take us back to the ship, which he did.
We arrived back at the ship around 6:45 pm, sans whale watch, and sans two hours of our precious limited off-shore time in Juneau which could have been spent in a much more productive way than being, for lack of a better word, jerked around and subjected to the endless white lies instead of open honesty and respect. They could have said, right from the start, "This tour is not going to work for you and will not get you back to your ship on time; we apologize and will refund your money immediately." Instead, we got bull****, because greed is apparently a far more important factor than treating people with dignity, respect, and honesty.
The last prevaricating white lie that Juneau Whale Watch told me was that a refund would be processed for us immediately; that did not happen until I contacted them and asked, "Where's the refund?" They finally made the refund, but as far as I am concerned they owed us DOUBLE-our-money-back for the bulll**** and inconvenience that they put us through.
Reputation is the most important thing that maintains your business and customer service is the foundation of your reputation. As far as I am concerned, Juneau Whale Watch is a company to avoid for that very reason, until they learn that customers are not "profit centers" but human beings that need to be treated with dignity, respect, and honesty.