Charged even more after they canceled his $30,000 cruise

Can a cruise line cancel a sailing because of lack of interest? Can it rebook you on the next available cruise, but charge you more?

Walter Jacoby wants to know, because it happened to him.

I won’t keep you in suspense with the answer. Yes, a cruise line can do that because of its one-sided adhesion contract, which passengers like Jacoby agree to when they book a vacation. But just because it can doesn’t make it right.

So should our advocates step in and help him?

Jacoby paid $30,000 for four passengers on a Romance of the Rhine and Moselle itinerary on Grand Circle Cruise Line. It was a 14-day sailing, plus a 7-day land extension — a real adventure of a lifetime. “We also bought the insurance and airfare through them,” he says.

“Last week, I received a call that it was canceled by them,” he adds. “The reason given was not enough passengers on this trip date.”

Can Grand Circle do that? Absolutely. Check out section 9 of its terms and conditions.

b) Additionally, Company may, for any reason, without prior notice, cancel a 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 vessel; comply with all governmental laws and orders given by governmental authorities; render assistance to preserve life and property; or change the date or time of sailing or arrival, change the port of embarkation or disembarkation, shorten the cruise or substitute a vessel or other transportation or lodging. Company is not responsible for any losses you may incur as a result of such cancellations or deviations.

Company, at its option, may substitute accommodations of an equal or superior class or provide a full refund of the fare actually paid by you for such cruise, or substitute accommodations of a lower class and provide a refund of the difference, if any, between the booked class and the substitute class for such cruise, but Company shall not incur any other liability for failure to provide the reserved berth. Any partial refunds shall be calculated in accordance with the Company’s typical business practices.

If you want to see what an adhesion contract looks like, scroll up to see the terms that apply to your cancellation.

Come on.

“They said the next available same trip was in September,” he says. “We were agreeable to this until we were told we would have no price protection and would pay thousands more for the same trip previously booked.”

Jacoby protested. After all, he’d paid for the whole cruise and had even purchased insurance.

“They refused to do anything more for us except give our money back to us. This just seemed so wrong and also poor business relations,” he says.

Jacoby wants us to pressure Grand Circle to honor his original price. That would seem like a fair resolution, but is it? Remember, there are individual components over which the cruise line has no control, like airfare and hotel accommodations. He is effectively asking Grand Circle to cover those as a penalty for canceling his cruise.

The real problem, as I see it, is that Grand Circle accepted his money and then canceled the cruise. It did that because it couldn’t sell enough berths, which is not Jacoby’s problem.

So what’s a fair resolution? While Grand Circle issued a refund, I think it should have offered a future cruise at no additional cost. Consider that for nearly a year, the company had been holding Jacoby’s money, and he had blocked off an entire month for the trip. Now, because of its failed business initiatives, Grand Circle says he should uproot his life to travel at a different time, and pay the cost difference between the original cruise and the new one. The company should also refund the premiums for his travel insurance.

At this point, a discount off a future cruise might offset some of Jacoby’s anger, although there’s no telling. If I’d just had my dream vacation canceled, I wouldn’t be so understanding.

Should we advocate for Walter Jacoby?

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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 Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • Bob Davis

    Just take the refund and don’t book with them again.

  • Willliam Smith Jr

    I think this is another case of a company doing the right thing (refunding the money) when they should have done the “right” thing (book future cruise at same cost). Yes, the one-sided contract says they can do otherwise but that doesn’t mean that they should. My vote would be to advocate. He already got a refund so the worst that can happen is they say no to the request.

  • John Baker

    Sorry … The “right thing” is to run the scheduled cruise even at a loss.

  • Ben

    > like airfare and hotel accommodations

    That’s not a good excuse. Presumably they offer these packages because it’s profitable for them. When offering a service, companies need to accept the risk that comes with being unable to fulfill them, which in this case is the additional cost to rebook the consumer.

  • DChamp56

    I don’t agree that the future cruise should be given to them (dates and prices do change), but they definitely should have gotten a discount on the new date.


    Just curious as to why someone thinks a picture of a Royal Caribbean ship is appropriate for a cancelled river cruise on another company entirely?

  • There are various reasons why a particular cruise might be canceled by the company, but the passenger is definitely owed the option of a discounted replacement. It’s like being ‘walked’ by a hotel.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    So, how much more was it going to be? $30K seems like a healthy fee already.

  • jim6555

    I voted no. He’s got his refund. If it were me, I would never do business with this cruise line again. There are many other travel providers who can provide “an adventure of a lifetime” and deliver what they promise.

  • Lindabator

    not really — the problem is it is small ships and land portion — and when you do not have enough people, even some BIG guys cancel. As a travel agent I ONLY book guaranteed departures, or even more preferably, book private independant trips

  • Lindabator

    depends — like pricing to Munich in September and October are going to be MUCH higher – we can not just assume prices are the same in this case, either

  • pauletteb

    I say advocate . . . if only for the well-deserved bad press.

  • Michael__K

    guaranteed departures

    According to their terms and conditions, there is no such thing.

    Company may, for any reason, without prior notice, cancel a cruise…

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Another case of the company taking advantage of the consumer “legally”.

  • Altosk

    Grand Circle sounds like a shady operation. I say advocate.

  • Asiansm Dan

    He better get his refund and chose another Cruise Lines.
    I don’t want to risk my money on shady business operator.
    May be another disaster looms ahead. What guarantee no other cancellation in Sep.

  • Carchar

    I started getting a catalog from this company, which I have looked at with intent to take them if they have the right destination. No more. Catalog will no go immediately to the recycle bin.

  • AJPeabody

    There are tour companies that have two classes of tours, guaranteed departures and tours cancellable if a minimum number (which is stated) do not sign up. The former are more expensive. I suspect that if a tour is cancelled, the clients are moved to a guaranteed departure or to another cancellable tour that will then meet its minimum. If this policy is clearly stated up front, there is no problem.

  • Lee

    Unfortunately, no, they don’t “need to accept the risk that comes with being unable to fulfill them….” That is the reason they have that provision in their contract in the first place. All such contracts are nearly 100% written to provide escape clauses (for liability, responsibility, etc) and protect the business, not the consumer.

    It’s just a sad reality of the business (and, business generally); look at how many companies (even nursing homes!) are now having consumers sign a mandatory arbitration clause before doing business. It is all about THEM. Gee – wonder how that all happened….Regulations protecting consumers (of any kind)? For the most part: phooey. Little to none exist and we lose more all the time.

    If I were the OP, I’d take the refund and seek somewhere else to go, somewhere/something that doesn’t hold one’s money and holiday plans hostage according to their ability to sell their product.

  • donna gyland

    As a travel agent, I of course, try not to book anything other than guaranteed departures for my clients, as this can happen with any company. Or at lest have the company transfer them to another sailing within reason and without extra expense. But Grand Circle is notorious for this manuever. And they do not work with agents, as they like to try to discount their prices rather than pay a professional a measly 10% to assist the client with possible pitfalls just like this one. They count on not having to run trips at a loss, which other companies will do, or assign a certain amount of guaranteed departures so they can “condense”. yes, I would advocate, but buyer beware. Grand Circle has been reported to the Better business Bureau multiple time for this practice, as well as many others that they have that don’t meet “industry” standards…it’s the old. “you get what you pay for”…I sure hope he doesn’t also have non refundable air he arranged on his own…..

  • donna gyland

    But By the way, I would take the money and run, and look at a more reputable company

  • Joe Farrell

    If you read the contract, the cruise company does not even have to run a cruise. They could, after taking your money, run the cruise as a docked hotel – and say oh well.

    Which is why I’m not like to ever set foot on a cruise ship again. They thing has to literally turn into a crap cruise [where everything breaks down and if you’re not on the top deck you’re covered in crap spraying out of the drains for them to refund your money. . . . .

    Did the Costa Concordia folks get their money back? ALL of it?

  • Ben

    As I am not a lawyer or even slightly familiar with this type of law, I wasn’t speaking about the company’s contractual or legal obligations, but rather their moral and ethical obligations and their slimy excuse for why they couldn’t refund his entire booking.

    I think we’re on the same page.

  • Lee

    Most of their excuses are always “slimy” – morals? Not even sure when that existed (for the most part) in the corporate world. Greed and profit are their twin pillars of behavior with never-ending efforts to chisel away at the meager consumer protections we do have in certain sectors.

    Yes, we are on the same page.

  • Michael__K

    Which cruise companies offer any “guaranteed departures?” And what does the passenger get if the ‘guarantee’ is broken?

  • Peter Varhol

    Something similar happened to me, years ago. I was booked on one of the first Disney cruises, with the new Disney Magic. The problem was that the Magic wasn’t ready yet, and with a month to go, they pushed me farther back into the summer. Then it really wasn’t ready and they pushed the launch date back into the late fall. It did upset longstanding vacation plans (twice!), but I don’t remember them changing prices; I fact, I think we got some sort of minor credit.

    I was in a Delta Sky Club in ATL last night, and some man there spent an hour berating every Delta person he could find, live and on the phone, because they cancelled his flight into Louisville that night.

    You know, stuff happens. Sometimes it’s weather, sometimes mechanical, sometimes just one of those phase of the moon things. I want to get where I’m going as much as the next person, but you will be able to get much more accomplished if you work with them, rather than against them. Get it done with the people in front of you at the moment, then attempt compensation after the fact.

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