Judging by our sales of travel insurance for America thousands of you have, like me, decided on a holiday there.
Having travelled America in hotels, motels, hostels and camping; I thought that this time I would use drive a motorhome – or an RV as they call them in America. It would make an excellent way of taking in the magnificent scenery of Monument Valley, Zion, Yosemite and Death Valley.
We took a number of months investigating the places we could see in the three weeks that we had available. There is so much to see – so many delightful places simply had to left out of our itinerary.
I wish that we had spent more time deciding on who rent our RV from. We had chosen Cruise America – a large RV rental franchise covering the whole of America and Canada.
On the face of it the RV itself was good and the people were friendly however the service was incompetent.
Things did not begin well when the taxi driver sent by Cruise America to bring us to the RV depot forgot what hotel we were staying in – wasting an hour of our time.
Given that we were already late, one would think that the RV would be ready but no – it was still being prepared. Finally they said the RV was ready but when we got in it we found that electrical wires were sticking out of a cupboard. So it had to go back into the service bay. They had forgotten to fit the heating control. California might be warm in April but it was snowing in Colorado. I was set to drive off only to find that the gear lever was broken and the indictors did not work – back again to the service bay.
Finally, three hours late, we set off for the desert of the Joshua Tree National Park. We arrived after dark in a small, self-service campsite. The facilities were basic -one stand pipe, one bin and one whole in the ground for a loo but we had no need for facilities of any kind. We had a shower and a loo in our RV – we could camp anywhere. As there were no lights for miles, the Milky Way hung majestically in the cloudless sky.
The smell of our dinner wafted over the desert as a roadrunner hove into view. We were ready for our first meal in America – unfortunately there were no plates. Cruise America had failed to stock them. When we called the energy helpline they said that we should go and buy some and they would reimburse us. Of course! We should have thought of that – buy plates in the middle of a desert.
The night silence was wonderful – even the air was still. Bright eyed next morning we stepped into water on the floor – the loo was leaking. The helpline told us to go to the nearest Cruise America depot which was two days away.
Changing our plans we arrived at the Las Vegas depot. We asked for another RV but they said they could not do that (car rental places do it all the time – I could see why they couldn’t). They said they would get it mended instead. Two hours later our RV was given back. Apparently they had taken it all apart and put it back together. The water inlet pipe still leaked but not much (talking with other Cruise America customers we noted that ours was the only one that leaked) but the loo was dry.
The leak in the loo appeared at the end of the next day’s travelling – we were now in Death Valley. When we called Cruise America Assistance from Bishop we were told again that facilities were not locally available to fix it so we decided that we would have to have the vehicle replaced at the Oakland depot.
After visiting San Francisco and on our way to Yosemite we called in at the Oakland depot as soon as they were ready for us. The mechanic checked the loo leak and found that the repair was major and it would take too long for us to wiat while they fixed it (strange that the Las Vegas depot claimed that they had fixed it).
They were willing to give us a different vehicle but we would have to wait for one. This was despite the fact that they had plenty of slightly larger RVs waiting and ready. Ours was 25’ unit but they would not give us a 27’ unit. This was even though we had specially driven to their depot on the day they specified and that we had to get to Yosemite by nightfall.
We unpacked our belongings ready for transfer. Hours later a 25’ vehicle was ready. When I say ready –they had checked it of course but, by now, we knew their checks were next to useless. So we checked it as best we could. The fridge did not work and the air vents were sealed closed. A mechanic came out to fix them. For the third time we set off late from a Cruise America depot.
Because of this inconvenience we arrived so late at Yosemite National Park that there were no spaces left in the valley campsites (at that time of year it is first come first served). We had to drive back outside the park (Yosemite is not like Hyde Park – it’s the sixth of Wales’ size) on the mountain road in the frost and the dark – not knowing whether we would find a space elsewhere. We got the last one.
The day after we discovered that the fridge was not working. We telephoned Cruise America Assistance. We followed their instructions to the letter and were told it was now working. Finding that the fridge was not getting cooler we called for assistance yet again and this time got different instructions to successfully get the fridge working. In the meantime all our food had gone off.
Whilst I fully appreciate that accidents or breakages can happen on any long journey – these problems were simply caused by negligence and total lack of care. They should not have happened.
When we got to our journey’s end the manager of the last depot offered us £95 and waived the deposit on our gas. If we wanted any more we would have to go to head office. Head office said you’re lucky you got that much.
We said to the head office surely this is not good business – treating us so badly and not offering recompense? We said think again – do you not care about your company’s reputation? Well apparently they do not.
Now they have already lost far more than they would have gained by not being reasonable. I know of four people who have changed their booking from Cruise America to a rival. I would recommend you think of doing the same.
I have been traveling to America for thirty years and have received good friendly service – as one would expect from Americans. It is one thing to be sloppy like Cruise America quite another is to not make amends when things go wrong.
From our experience, as Americans say, Cruise America sucks.