Norwegian Cruise Line reneges on its refund offer

When Ross Horrocks’ cruise goes bad, Norwegian offers him a full refund. Then the company withdraws the offer. Can it do that?

Question: My wife and I recently took an 11-day Southeast Asia cruise onboard the Norwegian Star departing from Singapore. Shortly before our vacation, we were advised that the cruise itinerary had changed due to a technical issue with the ship. This was an extreme disappointment, since we had made plans for my wife’s 50th birthday in Thailand as the main part of our vacation.

Since our new itinerary allowed us an extra two days in Singapore, we planned our time carefully. We made arrangements for activities on the days that had been added to our itinerary and confirmed to us by Norwegian. We also changed extra currency to Singapore dollars on the evening prior to embarking on the ship in order to cover the cost of our extra time in Singapore.

When we embarked, we were informed that there was another change to our itinerary and that we would not be spending the extra time in Singapore as previously advised by Norwegian. Instead, we were setting sail on that day. This was a complete surprise to us, although other passengers had been informed of this change in itinerary.

Norwegian had offered a 20 percent refund on the cruise prior to boarding because of problems it was experiencing before we even set off. We rejected this, as it was not acceptable or appropriate. After the cruise, we were offered a full refund for the cruise only, not including hotel and flights, to be taken as a voucher for a future cruise with Norwegian plus a $1,000 credit that could have been taken as either cash or onboard credit. We accepted this in writing.

Norwegian subsequently retracted this offer, after acceptance, returning to a standard 20 percent, cruise-only refund.

I have tried contacting Norwegian, but nobody is returning my emails or assisting in any way. This has been going on since December 2016. I do not understand how Norwegian can retract its offer. Can you help? — Ross Horrocks, Denholm, Scotland

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your schedule changes. It’s a little-known fact that when you’re rerouted, the cruise line owes you virtually nothing. You may get a refund for the port tax, but that’s about it.

Don’t believe me? Check out Norwegian Cruise Line’s Guest Ticket Contract , the agreement between you and the cruise line. Scroll down to Section 6 for the details. Told you!

In your case, Norwegian offered a vague reason for the change, noting that “there are malfunctions that affect the vessel’s speed and, therefore, our ability to deliver the itinerary as scheduled.” It probably shouldn’t have said anything; it didn’t have to.

But this isn’t really a case about ticket contracts. No, this is about Norwegian extending an offer and rescinding it — and I can’t think of a good reason for that. If a business offers you something and you accept it in writing, it’s case closed.

You could have appealed to a Norwegian executive. I list their names, numbers and email addresses on my consumer-advocacy site. When I checked with you, I learned that you already had, but to no avail.

I contacted Norwegian on your behalf, and it agreed to honor its offer.

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

  • Rebecca

    I’m really curious why they rescinded something they offered in writing. That’s totally unacceptable, especially considering the OP was accepting a voucher and on-board credit. I can only assume a well meaning rep offered it based on some communication, and later it was discovered as an error (maybe they only offered this to folks with status on the cruise line?). But they offered it, and it’s not outside the bounds of a reasonable solution, especially considering the OP was polite but persistent. I hope he doesn’t discover restrictions when he tries to use it.

  • Alan Gore

    Yet another case of “Screw this little guy, he’ll go away if we rescind our offer and then ignore him.” But oopsie, the case went social media. Time to backtrack.

  • The Original Joe S

    and the Chris Elliott blog prods the Norsemen to stick to the deal.

    Remember the Cunard line boat ride where they waited until 2-3 hours out of US port to tell people they weren’t going to follow the original itinerary? Captain threatened people with mutiny; They threatened to toss him over the side. Court in US, court of public opinion; the Brits refunded the folks.
    Some jealous dirtbags in UK said “Good on those rich people.” When posited as “Guy saves all his life for a boat ride with wife and the boat company screws a little guy over, THEN what do you think?” Now it’s different, hah?

  • Alan Gore

    Interesting story! And Cunard is supposedly defending a long and glorious history.

  • David Youngquist

    Good to know they continued to sail the Star through at least June of 2016. Our Baltic crusie was disrupted when the Star broke down in Stockholm. Amazing that NCL continued to sell cruises on a ship that needed to be repaired. That’s borderline fraud.

  • Altosk

    Good on the OP for getting the offer in writing and for Chris to make Norwegian honor its word.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    This is basic contract law. Offer and acceptance, with clear consideration. NCL would have been on the hook no matter what, and I think OP could probably have gotten attorney’s fees, as this case appears “exceptional” to me, where the cruise line expressly reneges on a written contract.

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