We booked a 3 day Cruise (W964) on the Pacific Dawn for our 30 year Wedding Anniversary, which became our worst holiday experience ever.
My wife and I were really looking forward to this.
My Wife has a number of health issues which have become increasingly worse in recent years, in particular - she suffers from chronic and debilitating anxiety and depression issues. She also has chronic asthma which has now progressed to a decline in her lung function, and her extreme anxiety attacks have sometimes caused her to stop breathing - with her airways completely closing up on her. It does not take too much to stress her out to reach this state, and I am extremely concerned about her. She carries a portable nebuliser at all times to address her lung function problem, and is seeing a specialist for this condition. This is in addition to upcoming therapy to address her anxiety issues.
We were looking forward to this Cruise for our 30 year anniversary, however we ended up having a very bad P&O experience – mostly due to an over zealous Spa and Wellness company (Elemis) on Board – who totally ruined our holiday. Their hard sell routine caused my wife to have a total anxiety meltdown where she nearly stopped breathing all together, after being ripped off by signing her up to approx. $830 of Spa, acupuncture and other alternative treatments - that we really couldn’t afford. The charges were not transparent, very vaguely explained, confusing and kept changing throughout the consultations.
It started when she won a Spa treatment for free at the Wellness seminar on the first night. A $150 voucher for spa treatments. She decided on a particular $169 dollar Manager’s special massage package. So that would have only left a $19 balance to pay. My wife was overwhelmed with happiness at winning this prize and cried when she won.
The first doctor (one of the P&O Wellness Professionals at Elemis) initially saw my wife for an additional (unplanned) free consultation session the following morning – where he tried to hard sell her a non-surgical facial procedure (like Botox) that she wasn't interested in. He offered her this 5 minute treatment / procedure to her for almost $1000. Then when she said there was no way that we could afford all this, and that she needed to go and speak to her husband (me) about it - he immediately pulled out a calculator and said "I can do a special price just for you today - don’t tell anyone" (yes really) , and changed the price 3 times!
' I can do this procedure right now” he said. He kept pushing , pulling out the calculator and finally offered her a special price of just over $600 !!! So he was originally happy to try and rip her off for approximately 40% above the real price - which was probably still way over the top. I am a professional R&D Manager for a major Global Chemical company, and have been involved in business for 33 years – and in my business, this type of selling tactic is regarded as dishonest and unprofessional.
Then during the subsequent consultation, the other doctor also recommended a larger package of treatments – including acupuncture , herbal and other treatments aimed at reducing her stress and anxiety. I decided to purchase that for her as a gift, as she seemed very happy with the treatments promised (even though we had not budgeted for this, and couldn’t really afford it) ,however we were willing to try this as another possible remedy for her chronic anxiety and neck and back pain problems.It was our anniversary and I wanted to make her happy. I got the doctor to confirm the total price - several times, and then reluctantly agreed on the total final price of $598. It was still more than we were originally intending to spend.
Before leaving the spa I confirmed at least twice - that the total charge would not exceed this $598 total . She confirmed -yes, although there would be a maximum of 5% in the final figure. I then left, and my wife was going to return to our room after her session. The total included 2 acupuncture treatments - over 2 short sessions and were extremely expensive compared to similar services on land.
My wife then did the 1st acupuncture session, (20 minutes), received 2 bottles of herbal pills and the massage. She was told that she will also need to purchase some additional herbal pills online, when we get home to be able to complete the herbal treatment course (only 2 months worth). She advised that the additional pills would also be expensive. Immediately after the massage the therapist then tried to sell my wife another $428 worth of cream products that she didn’t want, and she was feeling pressured – so she felt obliged to purchase one of the products for another $69.
However at the end of this first session my wife was also handed an additional surprise bill for the massage - and was told that that was $323 in total, not the $169 that she expected. She was charged an additional $181.65 dollars above the $150 voucher that she won. This additional charge also included $8.65 in gratuitites – that Elemis added themselves – basically a compulsory tip that we did not offer. We also copped additional ‘autogratuities’ added to other charges and receipts we received from Elemis. They even list the charge as ‘autogratuities’. So we basically had to pay a compulsory tip for the pleasure of being ripped off.
By now the entire charges racked up were up to approx $830 , and this was charged to my card by the second day.
My wife tried to get them to make sense of these additional costs and charges, but it overwhelmed her to the point that she then had a massive anxiety attack in the reception area, crying - and then ran out of the Spa. She ran up the stairs crying , an absolute mess - and this triggered a severe asthma attack and breathing issue - her lung function issues kicked in, her airways started closing as she ran up the stairs , and by the time she got back to our room where I was waiting for her, unaware of what had happened - she collapsed outside our cabin door. I opened the door to her when I heard her outside trying to knock on the door. She was on the ground struggling to breathe - having a full blown Panic attack like I have never seen before. She was an unconsolable mess - and her anxieties had risen to the point that she later told me that she felt so depressed that she felt like jumping overboard on a few occasions. We got her nebuliser activated to try and get her breathing sorted. She nearly stopped breathing, and we just managed to get her nebuliser on in time to get oxygen in to her to try and open her airways. I was very worried about her because she had a similar panic attack in recent weeks at home where she had completely stopped breathing - and only managed to pull out of that life and death situation with the help of her electronic nebuliser at the very last minute.
When I finally pieced together what had happened, I was angry. After I settled her down, I went down to the Elemis centre to have this out with them. This was meant to be our happy 30th Wedding Anniversary - and it was now ruined by P&O’s Elemis Wellness selling routine. She never recovered from this episode during the trip, and I struggled to even get her to leave the room after that.
I went down and confronted the People at Elemis to ask them what the hell they did to my wife! She came out of the session 10 times worse than when she went in! A free 150 massage voucher had now turned into $830 of other things she never originally wanted. I reminded the doctor and manager on several occasions that my wife has a mental health issue - extreme anxiety problems, and related low lung function problems - she is prone to dangerous panic attacks - that can become medical emergencies.
While they were very apologetic - they failed to see that they had totally misread this persons situation - and instead of the feigned caring act that they displayed throughout this whole episode - they pushed her to the brink , by trying to sell as much as possible at every opportunity to a vulnerable person with mental issues. A person who doesnt have the will power to say no when she needs to. If she had of taken the additional facial session (nearly $1000 ) , and the other bag of cream products that the massage therapist was pushing - then we could have been facing a total bill of $2190 (and rising) . That’s almost double the entire cost of the Cruise tickets!
After I finished telling them that this was totally unacceptable, and they had ruined our Wedding Anniversary - and my wife was almost suicidal - after a so called relaxing spa session where she came out worse than when she came in - it was also clear that the whole Wellness thing that they sold her - did not work for her condition - and I wanted to know what they were going to do about it.
The manager at Reception then said that as a Manager she was authorised to and would refund us the amounts for the second day session to come - and that we basically wouldn’t be charged for the first acupuncture session which clearly didn’t work. The massage didn’t work either as she still had chronic neck pains that night. So that would have taken approx $300 dollars back off the bill, bringing it back to the $598 approx that I originally agreed to. She told me that the final session on the second day would be free of charge by way of an apology.
My wife relunctantly agreed to come back the next day for the final ‘totally free’ treatment session - thinking that it would actually be totally free. It wasn’t. The second day treatment was even changed – to substitute a totally different (Reflexology) – 10 minute treatment. It seemed like they couldn’t wait to get this uncomfortable issue behind them – and rushed this half hour session (acupuncture , reflexology) through to try and complete their obligations. The whole process was vague, with charges being not transparent at all , and the pricing and description of the services to be provided were confusing and misleading.
The rest of the Cruise was not enjoyable - she just couldnt escape the mental state that had Elemis put her in, and our entire Wedding Anniverssary was ruined by this P&O nightmare.
To make matters worse, on the second day after the end of this Elemis fiasco - I checked our room bill and found that the $830 (approx) Elemis charges were unaltered - we had not been discounted as promised. I rang the Spa, spoke to the manager again - and alerted her to this, and she said she would fix it right away.
By the time we disembarked the next day - the bill had still not been rectified as promised, however a small amount was refunded the next day.
On a positive note, Dinner at Luke Mangin's Salt Grill Restaurant was excellent, and that experience is recommended.However elsewhere we did experience some rude bar service on the top deck, with a couple of bar staff members in particular being very unfriendly, and reprimanding my wife for briefly placing 1 basket of chips on the bar while waiting for service.She has another anxiety attack over that issue and I had to take her back to the cabin where she stayed for the rest of the afternoon. Room service was also ordinary - we ordered Soup of the Day - advised as Pumpkin - but turned out to be some inedible cauliflower swill that resembled and tasted like dishwater. Sent it back.
This is our formal complaint to P&O, and we are now about to also log our whole experience on other review sites including Reviews.com - to warn others about this situation. This was easily the worst holiday experience of our life. We left the boat more stressed than when we boarded. My wife was stressed to the point that she felt suicidal - and this is no joke P&O. When you have so called health professionals on board that fail to acknowledge the risks involved in financially pressuring people with debilitating anxiety and mental health issues -after being advised of these facts , several times – then I question their real professional objectives . When these health professionals then instead proceed with a hard sell routine in pursuit of profits above the real needs of the patient - then I fail to see the ‘Wellness’ part of any of this. My wife is not well, and Elemis made her feel 10 times worse.
Thanks P&O for a 30 year wedding anniversary that we will never forget – for all the wrong reasons.
Cabin housekeeping services were good. Friendly and efficient service.