An all-inclusive hotel that wasn’t

san juanQuestion: I hope you can help me with an issue that came up with our recent cruise on Celebrity that included a hotel the night before. When I scheduled the cruise, I added one night prior in San Juan at the Gran Melia Puerto Rico, because the hotel was offering an all-inclusive option, according to the cruise line.

I paid $634 for this property, believing I would receive not only a pre-night hotel with my meals and drinks, but also transportation to the pier the very next day to begin the cruise with my husband.

When I presented the voucher at the hotel on the scheduled date the front desk representative informed me that there was no reservation under my name. I quickly contacted my travel agent and the cruise line directly and over an hour later I was called back to the front desk and they checked us in. But they didn’t offer an all-inclusive option.

I called Celebrity back after settling into our room to find out why there was a mix-up, and they said there was nothing they could do about it. Since I had no other choice, I paid for my meals at the hotel — a total of $188 for dinner, breakfast and beverages. I also had to pay for a taxi to the port the next day.

I have called Celebrity since our return, sent e-mails and written a letter with copies of the vouchers and receipt, and the only answer we get is that we were refunded the $80 for the taxi and they are unable to grant our request for additional compensation. Can you help? — Vanessa Thompson, Toms River, N.J.

Answer: You should have been offered an all-inclusive — and hassle-free — room at the Gran Melia. Instead, you spent more than an hour of your hard-earned vacation arguing with your cruise line about a reservation. That’s not good.

You really handled this one by the book. You confirmed your reservation and checked the terms of your all-inclusive visit. Once you checked in, you asked the hotel, your cruise line and your travel agent to fix the problem. Even when you returned home, you handled this like a pro, applying polite but firm pressure on Celebrity to make this right.

Related story:   We booked a cruise and then learned how long it would take to get to the port

So where did you go wrong?

As far as I can tell, you didn’t. Sometimes you can do everything right and still fail to get the company to respond correctly. It’s what I call the “other one percent” because there’s a small portion of cases where even insider knowledge of the system can’t help you.

It’s unclear if a credit card dispute or a small claims court action would have worked. After all, you stayed in the hotel but just didn’t get some of the promised amenities. It’s difficult to persuade a credit card company or court to help in that kind of situation (but not impossible).

I contacted Celebrity, and it turns out the hotel stopped offering an all-inclusive option three years ago, which was replaced with a meal plan. You had paid for that option, but because of an “internal miscommunication” it didn’t show up in your reservation. Celebrity refunded $188 for the meals and beverages and 50 percent of the cost of the hotel pre-night package — a total of $505 — as an apology.

(Photo: James Willamor/Flickr Creative Commons)

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.

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