We recently came back from Cebu City, and it was a group travel of more or less 40 adults and children. Going to Cebu, some of us went via Cebu Pacific and some via Trans Asia, and it can well be said that we had a smooth travel going to Cebu.
Our stay in Cebu was awesome! We accomplished our tasks almost perfectly, and it was one trip worth repeating over and over again.
However, our joy was not complete, or should I say … was short-lived. Why? Here’s what happened …
We purchased our return trip tickets from Negros Navigation (for many who are not still aware of this, NN has bought Superferry in a merger). We were offered a corporate discount and were given a discounted rate for tourist in the Tatami section/accommodation. The understanding was that we waive the free linen/bedding feature so we can get a discount; and we were happy with the agreement since the discount was substantial. But, a few things went wrong!
Our boat back to Cagayan de Oro was NN’s St. Michael the Archangel, and its route was Manila-Iloilo-Cebu-Cagayan de Oro.
Our Time of Departure as reflected on our tickets was at 11:59 Friday evening, so all 40 of us, adults and very young children, went to the port of Cebu at exactly 9 in the evening. When we arrived, however, in a near-empty terminal (aside from our group there were less than 10 other passengers) we were told that the boat is delayed and that we have to wait for the boat to dock at around 1 am. The staff in the Port Terminal asked if we received a text message informing us of the delay, and we said we did not!
Now imagine this: what would you do in an uncomfortable sea port terminal for 6 hours while you wait for the boat to dock? Look at the pictures and look at the chairs – they are not designed for people to sleep on. They had two television sets turned on – one in front and one at the back. The one in front had a lousy reception, but the one at the back was a little better. But who would want to watch TV in a very hot hall? Only one air conditioning unit was turned on! Here’s more: all the stores in the port terminal were closed, so no food available for purchase!
At first the kids played … then they sang songs … then they were told stories just so they will not be bored. Finally, some went to sleep, and their mothers had to carry them in their arms for there was nowhere to put them down. Some adults tried to sleep by lying on top of the hard chairs …
The boat finally docked at around 2 am and we were finally brought by the bus to the boat at around 3:30 am. The boat left Cebu port at around 6 am; 6 hours after the designated time of departure.
Our dilemma did not end there. The boat was huge and we had to climb steep stairs without much help and assistance as we carried our luggage. When we finally reached the lobby, after climbing three floors aside from the plank ladder, we were guided into very narrow hallways/passageways towards the front part of the boat. We were then ushered into a small airconditioned room with more or less 20 double deck bunks. The attendant, for some reason, was so ill-mannered, and she ordered us around telling men to occupy the upper bunks and the women with children the lower bunks. Because we traveled as a group and was told that our accommodation was tourist, some of us began asking her if were in the correct accommodation because the sign in the room said “Mega Value”.
Now for those people who are frequent travelers, Mega Value is actually Economy Aircon. An older lady asked her if we can get beddings or linens, and she answered very sarcastically that if we want beddings or linens, we should have gotten tourist accommodation. That triggered an avalanche of emotion! Little did she realize she was in a lion’s den: men and women tired after having waited for 6 hours in a very uncomfortable sea port terminal…
In a nutshell, we did not really get a discount; we paid for a lower accommodation – Mega Value instead of Tourist.
Then there’s another problem. Normally, when you take a boat to Cebu or from Cebu to Cagayan de Oro, it’s a “no meal” travel simply because under normal conditions, the boats arrive very early in the morning … so passengers are expected to take their breakfast at home. So we asked … will there be free meals? The boat is said to arrive at 2 pm, so we expected free breakfast and lunch. We went to the reception area and asked the lady in charge, who then called the Hotel Manager, who told us they will only give us free lunch. So for breakfast? Nada!
As we took our free lunch (in fairness food was delicious – a cup of rice, a small serving of beef with young corn, and a plastic cup of mango juice), I noticed some other passengers paying for their food, and I made a conclusion that those who paid for their food did not know that shipping lines are supposed to provide free meal when their boats are delayed. Tsk tsk tsk … On our part, we insisted because we knew!
And here’s one more observation: on board the ship were Maritime students having their OJT; in my estimate more than a hundred of them from three (3) maritime schools in the country. They occupied most rooms and were in the lobbies playing video games and charging mobile phones and peddling snack foods. When the boat finally docked in Cagayan de Oro City, they were the first ones to form their lines on their way out. The passengers, including us, had to wait for them to finally disembark before we could go down ourselves. That was wrong; they were there as OJT’s and not as passengers so ideally, the passengers were supposed to be the priority.
We arrived in Cagayan de Oro at past 1 in the afternoon, more than 7 hours from our supposed Estimated Time to Arrival.
Many of us commented that we will never, if it can be helped, ride with NN ever again.
I sincerely hope someone from NN will get to read this … Or maybe someone who knows someone from NN will forward this to them … So they can improve their services.