We lost $1,500 when Princess rebooked us on a cruise we didn’t want

It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime for Marion Aymie and her husband. But their plans ran aground when Princess changed the cruise schedule.

The Aymies had booked a Scandinavia Russia Collection Cruise through the travel agency Our Vacation Center. The cruise was to travel to Riga, Latvia (Aymie’s husband’s birthplace), and St. Petersburg, Russia. They also bought tickets for an AMA Danube River cruise, departing from Budapest, Hungary. These were places they were particularly excited to see.

Then Princess rescheduled the cruise and rebooked the Aymies on a different cruise, upending their vacation plans.

“It seems that cruise lines can change whatever they want and get away with it,” says Aymie. Unfortunately, she’s right.

The Aymies used frequent flyer miles to book business class flights on United from Boston to London and from Munich to Boston. In order to take the AMA cruise, they booked nonrefundable flights from London to Budapest. They also purchased travel insurance.

Then they received an email from Princess informing them that they had been rebooked on the Norwegian Fjords Cruise. The Scandinavia Russia Collection Cruise had been rescheduled and would depart during the time they were booked on the Danube River cruise.

In order to adjust their plans to take the Scandinavia Russia Collection Cruise, they canceled the Danube River cruise and incurred exorbitant change fees to rebook their flights. In order to have enough miles to sit in business class on the new flights, they had to book Princess’ British Isles Cruise and pay for two nights at a hotel. These changes cost the Aymies $1,500.

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Once they were on the Scandinavia Russia Collection Cruise, they heard from other passengers whose plans had been changed that they were reimbursed by Princess for extra charges they incurred.

When the Aymies returned home, they wrote and called Princess several times. Princess’ representatives told the Aymies to send receipts for their incidental expenses for reimbursement. But after the Aymies sent Princess the receipts, they were told that Princess would not pay them anything. Princess’ representatives further explained that had the Aymies canceled their cruise, Princess would have refunded their money.

The Aymies then asked Our Vacation Center for help in recovering their incidental expenses, but Our Vacation Center’s agents told them to “read the fine print.”

Sadly for the Aymies, Our Vacation Center is correct that Princess can legally get away with changing whatever it wants with regard to its cruises and owes the Aymies nothing. That’s because its passage contract provides that

Carrier reserves the right to refuse booking of passage on a Cruise to any person or to cancel Your existing Cruise reservation for any lawful reason and regardless of a guest’s Captain’s Circle loyalty level or existing benefits. …
Except as otherwise provided, Carrier may, for any reason, without prior notice, cancel the cruise; deviate from the scheduled ports of call, route and timetable; call or omit to call at any port or place or cancel or modify any activity on or off the ship; … or change the date or time of sailing or arrival, change the port of embarkation or disembarkation, shorten the Cruise or substitute ships, aircraft or other transportation or lodging. …
All travel facilities, tours, activities, products or services, other than aboard Carrier’s vessels and tenders, provided in connection with, before, after or during Your Cruise, including but not limited to … transportation of any kind by any vessel, aircraft, or other conveyance, including, but not limited to, air travel to and from the ship, are provided, owned and/or operated by independent contractors whose employees, facilities, conveyances, products and services are not subject to Carrier’s supervision or control. … Carrier accepts no liability for any loss … or disappointment for any cancellations of any excursion, service or transportation including but not limited to air flight cancellation(s), errors in seat reservation, upgrade, overbooking or ticketing.

And although the Aymies purchased travel insurance, it won’t cover losses resulting from an itinerary change by the cruise line unless they had “cancel for any reason” coverage and had actually canceled their trip, which they didn’t.

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The Aymies might have escalated their complaint to Princess by contacting the executives in our contacts section, but after both Princess and Our Vacation Center brushed them off, they asked our advocates for assistance.

We reached out to Princess and Our Vacation Center on the Aymies’ behalf. Initially, Our Vacation Center offered the Aymies $279 as a gesture of goodwill but indicated that Princess would do nothing. Our Vacation Center later increased its offer to $679, which Aymie is happy with.

However, Princess never responded to our contacts. Even though it had no legal obligation to reimburse the Aymies’ expenses, they would have appreciated an apology from the cruise line, which would have helped keep the Aymies’ goodwill afloat. Princess threw good customer service overboard by giving them the silent treatment.

Should Princess have reimbursed the Aymies for all of their incidental expenses and lost prepayments?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org.

  • Kristiana Lee

    I know it’s in the fine print but it’s not right that Princess caused all this chaos for the Aymies and left them holding the bag. This case leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  • The Original Joe S


  • Mel65

    These one-sided “we can screw you six ways from Sunday” contracts just make me so infuriated.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Princess did change the cruise and was not right in this situation.

    However, the entity that really failed in this situation was Our Vacation Center (OVC). They failed to advise the OPs about their options. If the OP canceled their cruise, Princess would have refunded their money plus if they had travel insurance with “cancel for any reason” coverage would have kicked in.

    I don’t know where the OPs are located but it seems like Our Vacation Center is OTA/telemarketing travel agency. The picture on their website shows ICE signage…they are owned by ICE – International Cruise & Excursions, Inc. They (OVC) appears on Mainsleaze (a site that report company that spams). They are on the Ripoff Report website.

    I think that OP would have been better served by dealing with a local brick & mortar travel agent.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Their ‘travel agent’ failed them worse than the fine print of the Princess contract. Did their travel agent sold them travel insurance with ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage? If ‘No’, they failed them. Did their travel agent advise them of their options (i.e. cancel the cruise and get a full refund from Princess…they could book another cruise that was more to their likely or etc.)? It seems like they didn’t. Their travel agent told them to ‘read the fine print’ of their contract. It seems like they want to keep their commissions from this transaction instead of truly working with them.

  • Inquirer1111

    I’m confused. Since the cruise did require them to rebook plane tickets, why didn’t travel insurance kick in?

    And this is why I stick with Royal Caribbean, because at least on this website and on the press, they seem to be more honorable.

  • Alan Gore

    LW is to be commended for being nimble enough to change their vacation plans at the last minute to accommodate a schedule change that was not their doing – and they bought insurance. Princess should pay the $1500 and consider itself lucky that that was all they would be liable for. Most people in this situation would just cancel and be pushing for a full refund.

    An insurance policy that won’t even cover a change initiated by the cruise line is fraudulent.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I am not aware of a travel insurance policy that covers a change initiated by the operator. Travel insurance covers the trip but not changes to the itinerary. For example, the skipping or swapping of a port is not covered.

    The OP did purchased travel insurance but we don’t know if they purchased travel insurance policy or plan from 1) Our Vacation Center; 2) Princess or 3) a third-party policy from a site such as InsureMyTrip, Squaremouth, etc. Nor do we know if the OP purchased a policy with ‘Cancel For Any Reason’ coverage.

    Yes…Princess changed the cruise schedule and they should make every passenger whole. This can be complicated when a passenger has other travel plans before or after the cruise that was not purchased through the cruise line. IF the OP cancelled their original cruise and had travel insurance with ‘cancel for any reason’ (CFAR) coverage, this story won’t have been published.

    To me, it was their ‘travel agent’ that failed them more than Princess…did their travel agent sold them travel insurance policy or plan with CFAR coverage? Since the OP was taking a river cruise and river cruises can be cancelled due to low or high water levels, a prudent travel agent should have pointed out this risk and how to cover it. Since the OP was buying cruises from two different vendors and using frequent flyer miles for airline tickets, again a prudent travel agent should have pointed out this risk and how to cover it. Did their travel agent informed them of their options (i.e. not accepting the new cruise and cancelling their original cruise for a full refund…they could have booked a new cruise with Princess or another cruise line AFTER they got a full refund). A good travel agent would have provided options to the OP.

  • Alan Gore

    My initial comment about the insurance failure came from the impression that it was from Princess itself. On second reading, this was not stated and so we have to assume it was a third party policy. In that case, such a policy would assume that a company change of cruise schedule would include the option of a refund, rather than generating an insurance claim. The fraud is all on Princess’ part.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    The hidden problem with this contract is that if Princess finds the cruise filled with lower fare passengers/the ship needs work/whatever, they just cancel that cruise, knowing that many passengers will give up and Princess will increase profits at their expense. This seems ripe for an EU style rule that requires a 10% or 20% penalty payment if the cruise line cancels for no good reason (so low water levels in the river would be a good reason, but optional refurbishing would not).

  • Annie M

    This was not Princess changing a port – this was Princess putting them on a TOTALLY different itinerary. They should have refunded them in full.

  • Annie M

    You don’t know that the agency didn’t offer them CFAR and they refused it. However- the fact the agency is repaying them when it isn’t their fault the cruise line totally changed the cruise- leads me to believe there is something else up.

    Most people don’t want to shell out a lot more money for CFAR insurance.

  • Hmmm…Princess Cruises… The Loathe Boat…

  • Doctor Now

    This is insurance the pays some benefit for itinerary changes: https://travel.nationwide.com/plans-cruise-luxury.html

  • James

    We cruise exclusively on Princess and have had great experiences. Twice we ran into issues and Princess resolved them to our satisfaction without much fuss. Princess offers its own travel insurance at a reasonable cost. I wonder if the outcome here would have differed had the LW purchased the Princess policy.

  • Mel65

    Maybe I need to reread it, but it appeared that they went ahead and rearranged their plans around the new cruise and never asked for a refund…

  • joycexyz

    The “travel agent” appears to be an online business, not brick-and-mortar. Haven’t people been warned enough? Apparently not. When things go wrong, the customer service is nonexistent. And did they do all the cancelling/rebooking themselves, or through this agency?

  • joycexyz

    So right!

  • joycexyz

    They could have cancelled outright. Cruise schedules are always subject to change. And with such complicated travel plans, they should have used a real travel agent, not some dubious website.

  • joycexyz

    You’re right. They complicated matters by booking a different cruise–probably with the same dubious online agency.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Thank you for making me aware of this nationwide policy. That policy covers “Ports of call changed prior to departure”.

    If information in the article was correct and I read it correctly, Princess changed the date of the cruise (i.e. moving the departure from 7/1 to 7/8); therefore, this Nationwide policy won’t cover this event.

  • Lindabator

    This is really strange – when the cruise line makes changes, the AGENCY gets them first, and is supposed to follow up with the client, and see what options can be offered. It sounds like they just accepted the change and left the client to deal with on their own, in which case the cruise line sees this as a secondary voluntary change, and the rules are very different. ANY time thy send out changes like this, there are considerations mad for the client to make it more palatable, and it does not look like this happened, so I am interested in seeing what the client had the agency take care of, and what thy decided to do on their own, because something fell thru the cracks her.

  • Lindabator

    Actually – this is NOT the norm — the other clients aboard the ship were correct — considerations are made, including a free cancellation and future credit, or rebooking with Princess picking up various costs. Not getting the full story here – like why the clients were dealing with this rather than their agent?

  • Lindabator

    I agree 100% – because on the RARE occasions this has occurred, my clients were more than compensated for, but I was the on who took care of all these issues, and it sounds like they were doing everything, so wonder if this is just a typical 3rd party “travel agency” with no service mentality (which is why I always wonder WHY people do not use a real agent instead)

  • Lindabator

    ALL the cruise lines work the same — Princess obviously took care of the other clients — I firmly believe the travel OTA was at fault, accepting the change without consulting the passenger, and leaving them out in the cold when they decided to change

  • Lindabator

    NOT if the OTA accepted the change on behalf of the client without consulting them — any further changs are then voluntary ones – PEOPLE – plz use a real agent, and you would have been reaccommodated like those other guests they spoke to on their 2nd cruise were.

  • Lindabator

    they made those other guests whole — if these clients’ OTA accepted the change without consulting them, and then they chose to make changes as it did not work for them, it becomes a voluntary change, and standard change fees apply – so ALL the blame is on the OTA

  • Lindabator

    IF the agency had done the right thing, they would have ended up on that 2nd cruise as happy as those other guests were — but the OTA did not bother — all the fault here is on them!

  • Lindabator

    NOT true – they either refund and give a hefty future cruise credit, or reaccommodate the client – as they did to all those she spoke with on the cruise they eventually took — however if the OTA did not bother to do their job properly, and advocate for their client, this happens instead

  • Lindabator

    I really would like to see a full timeline of who she spoke with when, etc

  • LeeAnneClark

    It does sound as if they took all of this into their own hands, and that’s where the problem lies. This is exactly why you should work with travel agents on such a complicated itinerary…and this WAS complicated. So they had a TA…why would they not have immediately turned to their TA and asked THEM to fix this mess?

    It’s good that their OTA is at least reimbursing them for part of their lost money. But they are the ones who should have stepped in from the beginning to fix it. I’m unclear why they didn’t…weren’t they informed? Did the clients jump the gun and try to fix it themselves without reaching out to their OTA? Or did they try to work with the OTA, but they wouldn’t help them?

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I know you are a travel agent, but do cruise lines discuss their inside business plans with you?

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