Last week I had a negative experience with Joy Lines, and I hope lessons can be drawn from it both for that company and for its future customers.
On Wednesday morning we purchased tickets for the Thursday morning (9:15) speedboat to Corfu in the Joy Lines office in the port of Sarande, Albania. We were told to come early for check in, so the next morning we passed the Albanian border control and got on the ferry terminal before nine. There were several other Joy Lines passengers waiting, and our boat “Ilida Dolphin” was there in the port.
As time passed, other companies boarded their passengers and all the boats left, except ours. Around 9:30, we were approached a fellow who told us that the boat had an engine problem and that we would be taking the next boat. He would not give additional detail, but we soon understood that we are to wait for Joy Lines’ other vessel, the car ferry “Sarande Express”, which was on its way from Corfu, and should be departing from Sarande back to Corfu at 10:15.
As more time passed, we realized that this other vessel would also be late, and, being a car ferry, much slower than the speedboat for which we bought the tickets. (At this point, around 11, a couple gave up on their day trip to Corfu, as they realized it would be cut so short by the delay it would be meaningless. We however intended to stay on Corfu, so we kept waiting.) The car ferry finally departed Sarande at 11:15 In total, we lost two hours waiting at the terminal, plus half an hour for travelling on the slower vessel.
My initial theory was that Joy Lines simply would not start the speedboat for just six or seven passengers, so upon arrival to Corfu, we went to their Corfiot office to complain.
There I was told that there was some kind of marine traffic website where I could see for myself how the speedboat was not running since Wednesday at noon. (But how was I supposed to know about it?)
I was also told I could have asked for a refund in Sarande. (What for? All other boats at comparable times had already left.)
I was also told that Joy Lines did not have my phone number or e-mail, so it could not contact me before I got to the terminal. I pointed out how they do not collect this information at all, to which I was told they daily had hundreds of passengers. (So there is actually no intention to contact the passengers.)
Finally for my lost hours and mounting frustration I got something like a condolence, and that was it. No compensation was offered: after all, they got me to Corfu, didn’t they?
While I am now ready to believe something had really been wrong with the speedboat and that Joy Lines stopped selling tickets for it on Wednesday at noon when they realized it (hence only several passengers for the 9:30 departure), here are just some things Joy Lines could do to improve their service:
1. Ask for an e-mail address while you enter the names and the passport info into your system.
2. Include the marine traffic website URL on the ticket and instruct customers to check it.
3. Update your own company website when half of your fleet breaks down.
4. Since people necessarily pass by your office on the way to the terminal: print an A3 paper with this information and paste it on the door. This is minimal effort.
5. Do not leave your customers *without any reasonable alternative* before you inform them. If you share the information early enough (even if it is just orally on the terminal), they can still re-plan, even when it includes two additional passport controls, a refund and a ticket purchase from another company.
What the travellers can do is to not believe not only this company, but also any other in the same business in Sarande. Inform yourselves and double-check everything a few hours before the trip, or the evening before.
TL;DR Last week half of Joy Lines’ vessels broke down, and zero effort was put into informing the ticket holders in advance. Maybe they don’t want to give you a chance to ask for a refund, or maybe it’s sheer incompetence.
Unfortunatelly I can not recommend their car rental. They rent OUT-OF-ORDER CARS. We had two unpleasent situtations. Once transsmision stopped working (suddenly we could not change gear when engine was working). We had to shorten our sightseeing and were comming back on a mountain road on a second gear scared as hell...When we came to the office to change car a woman with nonchalant voice told us that this model has this problem and we should "pump with pedal and it will start working".... They didn't change us car. Two days latter car stopped in the middle of the road. That time we had telephone of the company and called them. Someone came and after debating it appeared that the car has broken gasoline indicator and although it was showing 25% of tank it was empty. Guys from company put 2 bottles of benzine. Finally we could go but we lost 1 hour.
I wouldn't write this opinion. But when we returned car the wanted to charge us 20euro for this benzin. How could the do this|? And women was even arguing with us that "this model has this problem that 25% mean 0% and her colleague forgot to tell us this". After long discussion we had to pay 10 euro when in reallity we shouldn't pay anythIng and someone should say sorry to us for lost time and nerves.