They want a full refund from Celebration — but do they deserve it?


The Radisson Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort looks like the ideal place for a four-night land portion of a cruise vacation — at least it did to Martin Lambert when he booked a Celebration cruise to the Bahamas recently.

“Think of your stay as instant therapy,” the resort promises on its slick website. “Because the moment you arrive, a feeling of serenity will wash over you like a gentle wave, stripping away the world’s woes, and leaving you ready to get your Lucayan on.”

But the wave that washed over Lambert felt like anything but serenity, and he didn’t feel like getting his Lucayan on, either.

In fact, his entire cruise package was a disaster from start to finish. Since he booked the vacation through Celebration, he asked it for a refund. Its answer left something to be desired, so he wants me to get involved.

I’m not sure if Lambert’s case merits a full refund. Maybe you can tell me if their experience was par for the course with this Radisson resort and Celebration and if it should be mediated.

Lambert paid $1,923 for the two-day cruise and four-day land portion. Let’s start with his problems on land.

• The check-in process was a disaster. “Upon arrival, at around noon, we had to wait over 45 minutes in a pre-check-in line to register and get a beeper because our rooms would not be ready until 3 p.m.,” he says. “Our luggage was put in storage and as we were unable to change, we had to either sit in the lobby for several hours or by the pool in our clothes.”

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• His reservation was temporarily lost, and when it was recovered, the assigned room was unacceptable. One member of his party was given a smoking room and Lambert’s accommodations had no hot water. Both of them were eventually given new rooms.

• The hotel advertised two golf courses, and Lambert, an avid golfer, planned to play both of them during his visit. “Please be aware that only one of the two courses was opened and that it can only be described as a cow pasture with unmowed burned out fairways, unplayable traps and top dressed sandy greens,” he wrote to Celebration.


The return to the ship was marked by the same chaos as their trip to Grand Bahama. “Long lines, no porters, lack of air conditioning and general confusion and congestion,” he says.

The response from Celebration: An apology and an $862 refund, which he says represents the resort portion of the journey.

But how about the cruise? Here’s what went wrong on the Celebration ship, in Lambert’s words:

Your website represents your ship as “dazzling” after being sent to Freeport for a multi-million dollar makeover into a tropical cruise ship.

Having sailed on RCCL, Celebrity, Regent, Silversea and many other cruise lines, we can only relate our extreme disappointment at the condition of your ship, its public areas, cabins (we had the largest ‘suites’) lack of working elevators, smelly hallways, below standard buffet, check-in and debark lines that were over one hour long and premium vodka that was ordered but not served.

If it were not for the kind staff and the Cove restaurant, it would have been a total nightmare.

OK, I had to roll my eyes when I saw the “premium” vodka comment. But it sounds as if the cruise matched his hotel stay, in terms of quality.

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Lambert wants a full refund of the $1,923, and has joined with another couple traveling with him to request one.

It’s highly unusual for a cruise line to offer a full refund, and I would be hesitant to ask for one. Rather, I’d view the $862 credit as a partial refund for the entire vacation, not just the hotel.

Should I mediate this case?

Update: Well, this one sure is confusing. An early version of this story identified the cruise line as “Celebrity.” The correct name of the cruise line is Celebration. (And yes, there is a difference.)

Lambert also says the refund he received was for the hotel portion of his vacation, but not the cruise. I’ve updated the story to reflect that. The new information also answers my question about mediation, but if you see a compelling reason for me to ask for the cruise portion to be refunded, do tell.

(A little housekeeping note: I always recommend that consumers send a brief, polite email to a company when they have a problem. When complaint letters run several pages long, it is easy to get lost in the details.)


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • Adam1222

    1) 3pm check in time is standard. Why would he get a refund for having to wait til checkin time? The hotel did not force him to put his luggage in storage. He should have had forethought if he would want to swim to hold on to a bag. And if he asked a bellboy I’m sure they would have brought his bag.
    2) the site shows one golf course. maybe there was a change, but the way he describes the other course makes clear the problem is with him, not the hotel. This is a hotel that goes for under $200 a night. If he was expecting the Ritz Carlton, he was sadly mistaken.

  • sirwired

    Just because you did not have the world’s most wonderful time is rarely, if ever, grounds for a 100% refund.

    You, customer, are more than welcome to vote with your wallet for future vacations, but is he seriously going to stay at the Bahamas Radisson or cruise with Celebrity again enough to make up for the cost of the refund? Where’s the incentive of the line or the hotel to offer up such generous compensation?

    And as Adam pointed out, why is he complaining about the 3PM check-in? That’s not an unusual check-in time anywhere.

  • I can’t believe Celebrity refunded his cruise portion. Why would they do that and what would the other pax say when they hear this? After all, they were on the same ship… OMG. General confusion and congestion on leaving a cruise ship? Has he NEVER sailed before? That’s what happens when thousands of people all want to leave at the same time. Don’t like it? Do 100 cruises and become a VIP when you’ll get your own line. The OP is nothing less than a whiner. Hunger Games is too good for him. What was that pit that Jabba the Hut threw people in? THAT’s where the OP needs to go.

  • Dutchess

    He’s got about a 50% refund for his stay, that seems more than sufficient especially since I hardly consider a less than stellar golf course and having to switch rooms after waiting several hours **gasp** in the same clothes!!! too much of an inconvenience.

    I think they were more than generous with their refund offer and quite frankly I think your complaints are overblown. Be happy with what they give you and Chris move along to the next more deserving case!

  • Raven_Altosk

    So, Mr. Whinypants didn’t realize that standard hotel check-in is in the afternoon and had to *gasp* entertain himself until said room was ready? And they gave him a beeper!?! Oh, heavens to Betsy! Sound like they were handling that right.

    Why didn’t he take advantage of the few hours and go for a walk? Play a round of golf? Go into town? Oh, he CHOSE to sit by the pool.

    If one golf course was closed, and the other sucked, maybe he deserves some money back, assuming round of golf were included in the room price. (I highly doubt it, but I don’t golf, so what do I know)

    I would like to see the rest of this laundry list. I think it would make an excellent Elliott column on “How Not to Effectively Complain.”

    The vodka thing…really, bro? C’mon. ~__~

  • Raven_Altosk

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Like X100

  • backprop

    The fact that he got any refund is staggering. Eight hundred bucks for some confusion and a hotel not quite meeting expectations? Guess what folks – if you cruise on Celebrity, you are paying for this guy’s cruise. In fact, if I were to actually enjoy cruises, Celebrity would be knocked down a notch on my list for not standing up to whiners.

  • $16635417

    Three bullet points in the hotel complaint. They arrived at the hotel and were advised the room would not be ready until the 3pm check in time. (It makes no mention of when they actually GOT to the room.) 3pm is standard check in. Move on from this point.

    Second bullet point is that they had difficulty locating his reservation, but still found it. The initial rooms were unacceptable so the hotel changed them. Not sure what the continuing complaint is here, sounds like they solved it at the hotel.

    Third bullet point is the condition of the golf course and one was closed. I don’t golf and don’t know if it’s standard practice to advise or compensate for a closed golf course. I’ve not received compensation when a hotel pool was closed for a day during our honeymoon, didn’t occur to me to even ask.

    Sounds like he got overcompensated for the cruise and now, seeing $ signs, wants to push for more. So how much is a closed golf course and having to play a “sub-standard” one worth?

    Travel industry must really be shaping up if this is all we got today! ;)

  • emanon256

    The Sarlacc Pit.

  • john4868

    Lottery ticket time!

  • Nica

    I am actually surprised that he received that much back for a list that is just a bunch of minor inconveniences.

  • john4868

    Sorry but what he describes seems to be pretty standard for the brands he used. He arrived before check in and couldn’t check in… SHOCKING
    They had an issue with his reservation but fixed it … Where’s the trouble here?
    The golf course didn’t meet his standards … Ok but I hate to point out what he describes is a golf course. Just a beat up resort course but still a course.
    What’s next a letter to Red Roof Inn that no one was available to take his bag?
    This is definately a person that needs a TA to tell him which brands to avoid.

  • Blanker001

    Chris, I have to ask…are you sure that the company involved is Celebrity Cruises? This sounds much more like it involves the Bahamas Celebration cruise, which is a two night cruise from Florida to Freeport, Bahamas that is often sold with Grand Bahamas hotel packages. Similar names, but completely separate companies.

  • Michelle Norton

    Seems to me he received an adequate refund. I agree to consider this a refund on the total of his trip and not just the cruise portion. Move along, nothing to see here.

  • Cathy_Disqus

    If I’m reading this right, they took the ship to the Bahamas; the cruise line transported them to the hotel; they stayed there for 3 or 4 nights; were transported back to the ship by bus and then sailed back to Florida. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, because I don’t know what the ship did while the passengers were on the land vacation, but it is the way the post reads. (edit: I see it’s actually Celebration Cruises, not Celebrity, at http://www.bahamascelebration.com, and they do sail every other day, dropping off resort guests an picking them up.)

    Given that the cruise line sold the package, and they were the ones who delivered them to the hotel before 3:00, I do think they should have gotten early check-in and the process should have been organized better. It’s the responsibility of the cruise line and hotel to coordinate arrival times with room cleaning times. It’s not the responsibility of the passenger to know that the cruise line is going to dump him in the lobby at noon instead of letting him stay on the ship, and he will not have access to his luggage for 3 hours (probably longer). Usually in these cases the luggage is put in the bottom of the bus or in a separate truck by porters on the ship and it’s delivered straight to the passenger’s room after being sorted at the hotel, so the passenger does not have access to his luggage and he can’t just ask a bellboy to bring his bag. Usually the cruise lines make it pretty clear how long you’ll be without your bags and they tell you to keep items you’ll need with you.

    I’ve done land/sea tours with Princess and Paul Gauguin, and every time I’ve arrived at a hotel on one of these tours, the hotel staff was standing at a table with a pile of check-in packets. They hand you your pre-assembled packet, take an impression of your card, and off you go. The wait is brief, and the room is ready no matter what time you get there. Radisson needs to follow that type of procedure if they’re going to be part of land/cruise tours.

  • Jennifer Minchau

    I agree with Raven… Like X 100.

  • Nikki

    Oh yeah. Lee Anne said everything I wanted to say, except I’d have been a lot less nicer about it.

    (Editing to add another x100 here!!)

  • Nikki

    Somebody needs to offer some cheese to go with that whine.

  • Nica

    LOL!

  • disqus_A6K3VBf8Zn

    He is an arrogant pompous ass.

  • $16635417

    I was thinking that earlier, but the point slipped my mind until after the coffee kicked in. I’ve been on the “ferries” to Grand Bahama Island.

    If that was the case…and he expected Celebrity… WOW!

  • john4868

    Chris .. I second this one. I checked and couldn’t find a Cove Restaurant on a Celebrity ship but there is on on the Bahamas Celebration. This really is the Red Roof Inn of the cruise industry and little more than a glorified booze cruise.
    This resort is an option on a cruise and stay package they offer.

  • Blanker001
  • Harry Baxter

    There is such a thing as a “Vacation from Hell”, but Mr. Lambert siunds like a “Vacationer from Hell”. There are no guarantees that things will be perfect on your vacation, and I’ve found that any Restaurant, Hotel, Cruiseline, Airline, etc. will conform to the old Bell Curve in the Customer’s ratings, with some rating their experience as Poor, and others rating the same trip as excellent.
    In my opinion, Mr. Lambert should be happy with the refund that he got, and chill out.

  • You are correct. I’ve fixed the post. Celebration vs. Celebrity. That’s a lot of celebrating. Thanks for pointing out the slip.

  • john4868

    No worries!

  • Edward Boston

    I agree with everything you’re saying, but do think the check-in time issue is valid. If you have booked a package, personally I would expect the cruise line and hotel to have worked out the logistics so when I debarked the ship, I would have been able to go check-in at the hotel and immediately start to enjoy the services. The fact they had to wait 3+ hours is inexcusable. If the ship arrived in port early, they should have been notified there would be a wait to check-in and given the opportunity to wait on-board the ship until check-in time. If the ship arrived early, the hotel should have had the rooms ready and waiting.

  • charliebgolf

    They weren’t cruising on Celebrity Cruise Line, they were on Celebration Cruises, which is a far inferior product to Celebrity.

  • charliebgolf

    P.S. I do totally agree with the rest of your comments.

  • Life Lessons Military Wife

    Look, he didn’t pay top dollar, so why was he expecting such? And if he had been such an avid cruiser, he would’ve known to bring a carry on bag with a change of clothing and at least a bathing suit! AC? I travel all over the world and A C is typically not reliable. He needs to stay at home next time!

  • john4868

    I’ve stayed at the Ritz… that doesn’t mean that I expect Ritz service when stay at a Red Roof Inn… Celebration is a glorified booze cruise / passenger ferry and little else. I’m not sure why you would expect Silversea, Regent or Princess level service at a tenth of their cost.

  • BillCCC

    He booked with a discount cruise line. He received a discount experience. I think that he was fortunate to obtain any refund at all. There is nothing in his complaints about the hotel that merit your services.

  • JenniferFinger

    It sounds like he was lucky to get anything back. I’d drop it at this point. I have to admit though that I’m less and less anxious to ever go on a cruise with every story I read about them.

  • Lindabator

    Trying to compare Celebration cruise line to Regent or Silversea? PLEASE!!! This is a very old ship (refurbished, but NONE of the bells and whistles he’s used to), and hardly upscale by anyone’s standards. Sounds like he wants caviar for McNugget pricing. Walk away Chris!

  • Sharon C.

    Just a point of order – He sailed on the Celebration, as in Celebration cruise lines, NOT Celebrity. The website is bahamascelebration.com if you wish to take a look. It’s a far cry from Celebrity cruises, for sure.

  • Lindabator

    Ridiculous! No hotel can guarantee that – they DO have to actually CLEAN the rooms between guests, after all. It is extremely short-sited to expect them to have done so for all these people.

  • Sharon C.

    Hadn’t read the correction before posting above, sorry Chris. Agree with John Baker … the Celebration cruise line compared to any Celebrity ship is like comparing Motel 6 to Marriott.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Oops, typo on my part. I’ve cruised Celebrity and while they are a mass-market line, they are pretty good. Celebration is several rungs below Carnival. I fixed the typo.

  • Bill___A

    I don’t expect much from Radisson, which is why I generally don’t stay there. I have a particular issue with hotels that give people smoking rooms when they ask for non-smoking, so my answer would be biased in this case.
    The smoking room issue aside, I think they got a reasonable refund and should leave it at that.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yup, you’re right…see above, someone else pointed out my typo as well. I fixed it – thanks.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I agree with Linda Bator. I was just on a cruise myself in French Polynesia, and this was the Paul Gauguin – WAY higher-end than Celebration. We were brought to our post-cruise hotel by 1:00, and the rooms weren’t ready until 3. Nor did we have access to our luggage, which was in transit. No big deal – we travel enough to actually be conscious of the fact that hotels generally don’t allow check-in until then, so we had bathing suits and sun screen with us, and we relaxed at the pool for 2 hours. That’s “travel 101”.

  • SoBeSparky

    Mr. Lambert says he has cruised on Regent and Silversea, and yet he buys a cruise-hotel package from Celebration? This is not a middle-of-the-road line, but a budget line with old cruise ships. There are virtually no balconies, the clear giveaway these are old ships, recycled into short cruises across the Gulfstream current from Palm Beach.

    His complaints would be entirely valid if he had booked on Regent Seven Seas to the Ritz Carlton’s Abaco Club at Marsh Harbor. However, he was on a budget package in a budget boat to a value-priced middling resort. His wanted five-star service on an at-best three-star package.

  • DavidYoung2

    If it’s a constant problem, do something about it. We stayed at the Aulani Disney resort on O’ahu and, although the rooms weren’t ready for hours, they had fully-equipped guest lounges, baggage storage / service, changing rooms and showers. So ‘no room’ was ‘no problem.’

  • emanon256

    Sounds like he already has too much whine ;)

  • emanon256

    I had the same problem with a Radisson. They refused to provide anything but a smoking room on a non-smoking reservation. I have not stayed at one since.

  • LeeAnneClark

    This is only a small part of the Radisson resort’s business. What you are suggesting would mean they’d have to up their check-out times to be able to clean up the rooms in time to accommodate the throngs of cruisers that occasionally arrive on a cruise-arrival date. Not exactly fair to the resort customers who suddenly find themselves kicked out of their rooms at 8:00 am!

    And the ship can’t keep them on longer either – it’s gotta load up another passenger load and head on back to Florida.

    The simple solution would be for the cruise line to include information about the check-in times in their cruise docs, with suggestions for the pax to bring bathing suits, change-of-clothes, walking shoes to walk to town or whatever.

    And I would be willing to bet some pretty big money that somewhere in their cruise docs is just that information! If not, then they sure got a nice fat refund for a 3-hour wait. Sure wish I could make over $800 every time *i* had to wait 3 hours for something while traveling!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Don’t be. I’ve had some of my best vacations on cruises. I just got back from a Paul Gauguin cruise to French Polynesia – my second time on that ship, and once again it was an absolute dream, paradise, unbelievably fantastic.

    But it wasn’t cheap.

    Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. If you want tiny cabins, crappy food, lackluster service, long lines and a tired old ship, cruise Celebration. If you want a gorgeous spic-and-span ship, large spiffy cabins, gourmet dining, no lines, and friendly crew who treat you like royalty, go on Paul Gauguin, Crystal or Regent.

  • Bill___A

    I had an issue where the airline had to provide rooms and it was in a Radisson. I thanked the airline but went next door and paid for a room. The airline representative told me the next morning that he did find the Radission bed quite hard.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Yes, but that’s not a fair comparison. Disney Aulani is a far posher resort than what the OP was complaining about. The OP’s entire list of complaints about both the cruise and the hotel boils down to him wanting premier service for bargain-bin pricing. That’s simply not realistic.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    There isn’t much more that can be added to this so… ‘Nuff said.

    As @Raven_Altosk:disqus said, Like x100

  • Joe_D_Messina

    The golf section was him just being a golf snob. There’s a (thankfully small) percentage of golfers who delight in griping about courses that don’t measure up to their standards. Note that the one that was open got nothing but scorn. Yet he wanted the one that was apparently in even worse shape to also to have been open…so he could have griped about what horrible condition it was in, as well!

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Am I the only one who thinks Chris sticks columns like this up there from time to time so he can see the snark? I’m sure we have him laughing, sometimes, with the comments. He’s looking for a Monday laugh…

    (And as a side note to Chris: I have to say, I’m really not too fond of the popups now appearing on your site. Really?)

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Yeah, I thought the beeper complaint was bizarre. He griped about having to wait in the pre-check-in line, yet when he gets a beeper allowing him to skip further waiting in line, he complains about that, as well. Classic case of no outcome beyond absolute perfection being unacceptable.

  • I love the discussion, but this is the first I’ve heard of the pop ups. If you tell me where you see them, and who the advertiser is, I can try to disable it. (I have AdSense and Travora ads, but they should be standard ads, not pop-ups.)

  • chaos530

    A small (or med) tote with a simple change of clothes would solve the problem. I’ve done it.

  • Carchar

    I always pack what I need for the first day of any vacation in case my luggage doesn’t arrive with me. And I am greatly, but pleasantly, surprised when I arrive early and my hotel room is ready.

    To me, the only possible annoyances were the smoking room and lack of hot water, and they were addressed pretty quickly. They made out like bandits!

  • ExplorationTravMag

    They happen when I visit the page for the first time each day. As soon as I click on the site to post or scroll down, a popup comes up. This just started last week, for me.

    I can’t tell you who the ads are for since I close them down the moment they come up. Is it possible this is something on my computer and it’s time I run my Spy Aware? I keep Norton going all the time but Spy Aware is something I only do about once a month.

  • chaos530

    Not Celebrity. It’s Celebration. Celebrity is a much higher caliber company.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I’ve never gotten a pop-up on Chris’s site. It’s likely malware on your own computer – that’s a very common problem. Do a google search on “malware causing pop-ups” and you’ll get all kinds of information about how this happens, and what to do about it.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I’m running a scan right now. It’s got my computer crawling (It’s a Dell, it sucks, I hate it, never owning another Dell again)

  • flutiefan

    mine isn’t a pop-up, but when my cursor goes over a certain ad banner, it opens up to fill the whole page, even though i haven’t clicked on anything. it’s quite obnoxious. i believe it was a destination-type ad, something along the lines of Martha’s Vineyard or the like. it takes several seconds for the “Close” box to appear, and then if my mouse goes near that part of the screen again, there it opens again. just FYI. hasn’t been there in the past week or so, though.

  • emanon256

    I have not had any pop-ups on your site.

  • IGoEverywhere

    This sounds to me like the you just won a fantastic cruise “like” a Carnival, Celebrity, or RCCL ship. Call right now so we can get your ID correct with your credit card. All you have to pay is….. This should be taken to the state attorney general. Do not pass go, do not….These 2 day ship promos are total con-jobs.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Good luck! Hope it all works out. Yeah, not too fond of Dell myself. ;-)

  • IGoEverywhere

    sign up for 5000.00 per week for the rest of your life. Pub Clearing House popped up. Better chance to win than Lambert to have had any value for his trip.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Scan done and it came up with “something” serious enough it wanted a reboot to completely clean it out. Otherwise, tracking cookies… I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well then, I guess you have this blog to thank for bringing it to your attention, right? ;-) I hope it all works out and your computer is saved.

  • TonyA_says

    BRAVO!

  • Edward Boston

    No, it’s not ridiculous. If the hotel cannot have rooms ready when the ship arrives, the cruise company needs to adjust their sailing time to arrive closer to the check-in time. It’s ridiculous for tour package arrangers not to coordinate all aspects of the trip to work together.

  • Wrona

    No pop ups for me but I can no longer reply from work because the site claims that Disqus isn’t compatible with my browser (works with other websites it’s just this site I get that message) – and I can’t change the browser.

  • pauletteb

    Check-in for most hotels/resorts is 3 p.m. The OP’s complaint about something that’s an industry standard is simple whinging and made me look askance at the rest of his laundry list. I’ve never been to a resort where we weren’t provided a place where we could change out of our travel clothes until we could check in.

  • pauletteb

    I wonder what color the sun is on your planet.

  • pauletteb

    Even better, put his name on a list for TAs to avoid!

  • Lindabator

    And here we ARE talking luxury – hope you had a fab time, LeeAnne! (And yes, that’s why I always carry a small bag with a change of clothes)

  • Lindabator

    NOT Celebrity – Celebration

  • Lindabator

    Actually – Celebration doesn’t really qualify as a cruise – they merely ferry you back and forth to Grand Bahamas island. They use VERY old ships, and are not on par with ANY cruise line out there.

  • Lindabator

    Amen – am a huge fan of Crystal myself. But you are right – you DO have to pay for what you want, you don’t get it for free. (And my clients understand that, which is why they prefer those cruise lines as well)

  • backprop

    Yes, that was changed after I posted. The original said Celebrity which several posters later questioned.

  • Edward Boston

    Mine is yellow. Probably not the same color as the one on yours.

  • This guy seemed to be looking on having a bad trip. He just wants a free trip. Tell him to go to Hell, cruise ships and hotels aren’t the same as welfare benefits.

  • Kevin fake email

    Hi all, stay tunned for a website I’m building. It’s going to be a one stop shop to prove that this is a scam. I’ve identified all the key players, highlighted all of the government action taken against this company (well hidden) and found their associates and Aka’s and Dba’s. I have their home addresses too so you can personally thank them on your way out of town for a wonderful vacation. Let me say one thing, this is the seediest operation imaginable. I do believe once this information goes viral the company and (s) are finished for good. I hope it was worth stealing my 600 bucks guys! I’m on a mission.

  • backprop

    See the story; the name was changed after the comment was made.

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