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Cruise cabin was so noisy we didn't sleep but Shearings won't help

Sleepless nights: Our reader says his wife barely slept the whole trip because of the noise

In September last year my wife and I went on an 11 day Danube river cruise, booked through UK based travel company Shearings.

We were to travel on the MS Arena cruise ship, operated by a company called Arena Travel, and paid to upgrade to a ‘superior’ cabin on the upper deck.

Two weeks before the cruise, Shearings told us that due to low water levels, the MS Arena would not be able to reach Budapest. He said another ship, the MS Bolero, operated by cruise line Nicko, would be the replacement. We were told it was a better ship and we were getting the same cabin level in the forward section. It was where we wanted to be and so we agreed.

To our surprise and horror, we embarked in Passau, Germany to find that we had been assigned the aft cabin on the main deck, adjacent to the engine room.

My wife said it was the worst vacation she had ever had. Most of the cruise was at night, so she got, at most, about an hour of sleep the first night and virtually no sleep the other nights when the ship was sailing. In addition to the noise, we also had to put up with engine vibrations.

Sleepless nights: Our reader says his wife barely slept the whole trip because of the noise

Sleepless nights: Our reader says his wife barely slept the whole trip because of the noise

We made a complaint at the time but were told there were no spare cabins to move us around.

Looking at other cruises on the Nicko line, aft cabins are always offered at a discounted rate and it is stated at time of booking that there will be noise.

When we got back, I complained to Shearings, saying it was not what we were promised.

If we had known we would be in an aft cabin, we would have canceled. He has so far refused to acknowledge our complaint or offer any compensation or refund. DP, Norfolk

Helen Crane of This is Money responds: Where the best rooms are on a cruise ship is hotly debated among cruise passengers. Vacationers who want a balcony will seek an outside side cabin, while those prone to seasickness tend to avoid the forward section and prefer an inside cabin to minimize movement.

Light sleepers generally avoid cabins near noisy areas such as the ship’s engine room and generators – usually at the stern – as well as those next to busy common areas such as the pool deck, bars or elevators.


In our weekly column, This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane tackles readers’ pain points and shines a light on companies doing good and bad.

Do you want them to investigate a problem or do you want to commend a company for going the extra mile? Enter into a contract:

You and your wife are experienced cruisers, so you were careful to research the ship and book a forward cabin on the upper deck, which would be the quietest area.

Unfortunately, when Shearings – part of the Leger group – had to swap you to another ship at the last minute, you had the exact opposite – ending up with a cabin on the middle deck, aft of the ship just next to the engine room.

You were hoping to explore the beautiful stretch of the river that runs from Vienna to Budapest, but left Hungary for an explanation of why your room wasn’t up to scratch.

You told me you avoided spending time in your cabin during the day because the noise was so loud and the vibrations so uncomfortable – but unless you slept on deck you didn’t have many options afterwards nightfall.

you had paid full price – a total of £3,240 – including an additional £258 for an upgrade to a “superior” cabin

Sleeping to the sound of an engine isn’t many people’s idea of ​​a relaxing vacation, which is why many cruise lines offer cabins next to them at a discount.

But you had paid full price – a total of £3,240 – including an additional £258 for an upgrade to a ‘superior’ cabin.

When you got home you did some research and found your cabin much cheaper than the others on the same ship on Nicko’s website.

You contacted the company to ask why, and were told that there would be a loud noise from the engine and if it would bother you, they recommended that you book another room.

Engine room: DP and his wife slept next to one of the noisiest areas of a ship (stock image)

Engine room: DP and his wife slept next to one of the noisiest areas of a ship (stock image)

When you asked Shearings if the cabin you ended up with was worth the same as the one you originally booked, she told you that she “couldn’t comment on the rates quoted by a vendor not affiliated with her company. “.

This struck me as shady behavior so I contacted Shearings to ask what the actual price of your vacation was and if it would refund some of your money.

First, the customer service representative I contacted told me that Shearings had “no prior warning or involvement in cabin allocation” and that it was up to the ship’s crew to decide rooms assigned to people.

Customers planning a holiday with Shearings this summer may be interested to know this when they pay the company thousands of pounds to organize their trip.

This conflicts with the email Shearings sent you informing you of the ship change, which promised you would get the “same cabin standard as originally booked”.

How can Shearings promise that if it has nothing to do with where you are placed?

He told you the room was the same standard on paper, but your experience was clearly not what you expected.

The Shearings employee went on to share her feelings with me about how noise could impact someone’s sleep.

“I think noise levels and the impact they can have on people is very subjective,” she replied.

‘While I do not neglect [the customer’s] concerns, people tend to be much more sensitive to noise at night when trying to sleep.

“Some people are considered light sleepers and usually wake up with the slightest noise.”

If anything, this bizarre statement of the obvious seemed to prove your point about how your vacation was ruined by the noisy engine. However, she remained adamant that Shearings would not refund any of your money.

I tried to escalate the issue up the chain of command, but this member of staff refused to give me the contact details of a manager, saying that management had already been “informed” of your concerns and that he there was “very little that we could productively add”.

I didn’t think it was good enough, so I kept digging. Eventually I managed to track down the email address of Shearings Managing Director Liam Race and sent him a lengthy email explaining what had happened.

I’m sorry to say that he didn’t even take the time to respond.

Danube: They had been set up to travel around the river that runs through Budpest

Danube: They had been set up to travel around the river that runs through Budpest

Working for This is Money, I’m in a privileged position in that when I make contact, companies usually sit up and listen.

If I can’t get a proper response from Shearings, what hope do their customers have of having their issues resolved?

As for your options going forward, I would generally suggest that cruise customers contact Abta, the trade association that operates similarly to Atol for inflight holidays.

However, Shearings is no longer a member of Abta. Since 2021, it has instead held customer payments in a separate ‘secure trust account’ until their holiday has taken place, meaning the money is – in theory – available for faster refunds in problem case.

Although Shearings claims the account is independently run, that means you’ll have to go through the company to get any money back – and given his previous answers, that seems unlikely to be successful.

I don’t know if you had travel insurance for the trip, but this kind of incident wouldn’t be covered by most policies.

So you told me that you plan to pursue this through small claims court. I’m sorry I couldn’t persuade Shearings to change his mind on this occasion, but I congratulate you on your determination and wish you well.

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