Where’s my “full and proper” refund from Norwegian Cruise Line?

When Phillip Casey’s multi-leg cruise gets messed up, he asks our advocacy team for a rescue. But can we fix this vacation?

Question:I am contacting you with the hope that you might be able to assist us in our attempt to get at least a proper response from Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).

In March 2015, we booked a 45-day cruise on the NCL Star. The cruise itinerary as advertised on their website was being sold as a single 45-day cruise, but in actual fact comprised four cruises which were also being sold individually: Los Angeles-Miami (15 days), an Atlantic crossing (15 days), a Baltic itinerary (8 days); and Norway (7 days), disembarking in Copenhagen.

By booking one year in advance, we received the cheapest and best prices for a balcony stateroom.

In April, we received an email from NCL one day before our son and daughter in-law were flying out of Australia to the USA and three days before we were to fly out, advising that the 15-day Los Angeles-Miami leg was canceled because of a mechanical problem with the ship.

The email offered two options:

  • First, we could sail on the transatlantic and Northern Europe portion of the itinerary from Miami to Copenhagen departing on April 27 and receive a refund in the amount of 15 days of the cruise fare paid, as well as future cruise credit for 50 percent of the 15 days refunded of the cruise fare. Norwegian would also cover air and hotel change fees associated with this cancellation.
  • Second, we could cancel the reservation and receive a full refund of the cruise, as well as a future cruise credit for 50 percent of 15 days refunded of the cruise fare. Norwegian would also cover air and hotel change fees associated with this cancellation.
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Because of the time difference between the USA and Australia and the office hours given as 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., we had to wait to call until after midnight our time [in Australia], which was approximately 5 hours before our son’s flight departure from Melbourne.

Of course, we had to wait in a call queue for about 90 minutes or so before we could speak to anyone and we needed to call more than once that night for various reasons, taking us to at least 3:30 a.m. our time, two hours or so before departure to the airport.

Once we did get through to the appropriate department, we told them that the four of us wished to take the first option offered in the email, not to cancel but to continue from Miami on the original booking, since we had ongoing travel planned and prepaid.

To my dismay, they said that the entire booking had already been cancelled and that they would need to rebook the entire itinerary along with confirming the staterooms and port-of-call tours previously booked.

We did not realize at the time, and we were not advised, that they were rebooking at the current rate, and not the “early bird” rate that we received by booking almost 13 months in advance.

One anomaly here is that our son and daughter-in-law at the same time received a refund of just over twice the amount we received (approximately $3,640, and we received $1,806). We can’t get any clarification or answers from NCL.

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NCL should not have canceled the balance of our cruise without our knowledge and contrary to the email information sent out, nor should they have subsequently rebooked the 30-day continuation of the cruise at the inflated price. In my opinion, this is extremely bad business practice.

We would like NCL to pay us a proper refund for the canceled leg, given that we did not authorize our cruise to be canceled in its entirety and rebooked at a higher price, plus compensation for air fares and transportation costs. It must be noted that we all traveled first class, using frequent flier points, but we would only expect compensation for the economy air fare.

Phillip Casey, Doncaster, Australia

Answer: This is a highly complex case, involving multiple cruises and passengers. I’ve done my best to condense it into a readable format, but I’m sure we’ll have readers with a deep knowledge of cruising who will ask for particulars — details that are beyond the scope of this story.

The bottom line, at least for our advocacy team, is: NCL could have done better. Much better.

First, the cruise line could have notified you earlier of the potential problem, as opposed to waiting just a few hours from your son’s departure. It could have made more of an effort to reach you (they have your phone number, don’t they?). It shouldn’t have arbitrarily canceled your itinerary when it didn’t hear from you, and it needed to give you, in your words, the proper refund.

You sent our advocacy team an extensive paper trail, but you might have also appealed to one of these executives at NCL.

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I reached out to NCL on your behalf.

“His is certainly unique,” a representative told me. “He was traveling to the U.S. from Australia and booked on multiple back-to-back sailings that were impacted by this cancellation.”

As a “longtime, loyal” NCL cruiser, the representative added, “we believe that Mr. Casey is indeed entitled to further compensation, and we appreciate his patience while we investigated his concerns.”

NCL will add an additional $1,700 beyond the $1,393 you originally received. Since you are booked to sail with NCL again this fall, the cruise line will be applying that credit toward your future reservation, as well as offering you an additional onboard credit as a gesture of goodwill.

“We will be reimbursing him $428 for the cost of the rental car,” the representative added. “We thank Mr. Casey for his continued support of Norwegian and look forwarding to welcoming him onboard once again.”

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.

  • Alan Gore

    This trip absolutely have been arranged through a travel agent, who would be uniquely qualified to deal with messes like this. Australia is somewhat more of a traditional culture than the US, so it still have them

  • DChamp56

    Am I right that I saw no mention of trip insurance in that story?

  • Tom McShane

    It looks like to me that Norwegian Cruise line, other than maybe offering some cruise to Norway, has little connexion to that fine Nordic nation. Ought to be call Bermuda-Maimi Cruise Lines, I reckon.
    Now I’m beginning to wonder about Swiss Steak.

  • Nathan Witt

    I reluctantly accept that the travel industry has put the entire burden of cost onto customers and insurance companies when something happens on the customer’s end, resulting in a change or cancellation. But the notion that a traveler should have to purchase insurance to cover a problem on the provider’s end is beyond ludicrous. There was no possible action this customer could have taken to stop NCL from cancelling a leg of his cruise, and even if NCL somehow had no control over the matter of a mechanical failure, it’s ultimately NCL’s ship and NCL’s liability. I don’t know whether an insurance policy exists that would have covered what Mr. Casey needed here, which falls under the heading of “additional compensation,” particularly when NCL *cancelled* his entire itinerary without being asked to do so.

  • Michael__K

    Why would the insurance company be involved? Non-performance by a tour operator is normally not a Covered Reason.

  • Rebecca

    You made me remember the Swedish meatballs recipe my grandma used to make, that weren’t really Swedish meatballs at all. I just got the email from my mom with the recipe and I’m having them tomorrow. Thank you!

  • Tom McShane

    You are welcome.
    And do not even get me started on The San Francisco Treat. I bet, even if you used Trip Advisor, you could not find a Rice-A-Roni shop in San Fran.

  • KarlaKatz

    Lol x 10k

  • AAGK

    You are so right. The fact that the cruise told them the night before is mind boggling. This is a major trip booked a year in adv. The cruise line should have bent over backwards reworking the itinerary to help these folks.

  • Lee

    This is the sort of problem that I think is really well worth the time of the folks on this website (Elliott, et al). It was complex and I don’t think their travel insurance should have had to cover for the lack of proper service, etc provided by the cruise liner. Yay! for this one’s outcome.

  • JewelEyed

    Well, they call it that because that’s where the company was based. :P

  • Tom McShane

    So it wasn’t a local delicacy that had been beloved for decades like the Philly Cheese Steak or the French Fry?

  • JewelEyed

    Not so much.

  • Tom McShane

    Thank you for introducing me to the :P. I’d never seen that. Goes to show that a guy can learn something new every day that he is living.

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