Our cruise sailed away without us — 3 hours early!

Donna Klemond’s Celebrity Cruises ship departs three hours early – just as she arrives at the port of embarkation. Neither Celebrity, her travel insurance company nor her travel agent will help compensate her for the cost of the cruise. Can our advocates get them to weigh anchor on issuing her a refund?

Question: My husband and I purchased a cruise vacation on Celebrity Cruises through AAA Travel, as well as a Celebrity CruiseCare travel insurance policy from Aon, for $8,637. We were told to arrive at the embarkation port at Cape Liberty, N.J., at 2 p.m. on the day of departure last Labor Day weekend.

We arrived at the port at 2 p.m. on that day and found that the ship already had set sail. An agent of Celebrity Cruises met our taxi at the port and told us that the ship had left early because of Tropical Storm Hermione. The agent told us that our travel agent at AAA Travel had been notified of the schedule change, but our AAA Travel agent never notified us because she was away that weekend and did not check her messages until her return.

The Celebrity agent advised us to travel to Boston, the next port of call, and board the ship there, but U.S. maritime law would require us to disembark in Nova Scotia. She told us that Celebrity would not be responsible for transportation to Boston or from Nova Scotia if we did this.

After spending two hours on the phone with Celebrity, we had no choice but to return home to Minnesota. Celebrity’s customer service agents assured us that our travel insurance should compensate us for our cruise fares.

Related story:   Take my van -- please!

But when we filed a claim for the fares, both Aon and Celebrity denied the claim. AAA Travel has not been helpful either; our agent there has not responded to any communications from us.

I tried disputing the cruise fares through my credit card company, but Celebrity responded that we were being charged a $4,443 penalty with no explanation. Celebrity offered us a $1,973 credit for a future cruise, but I rejected it because it doesn’t come anywhere near close to making us whole.

I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau about Celebrity’s offer. We eventually received $1,000 from Aon and $2,765 from Celebrity in response to my complaint, but we shouldn’t have to forfeit $4,443 because of Celebrity’s failure to notify us of their schedule change. My husband and I are in our eighties and may never travel again. Can you help us get the remainder of our cruise fares back? — Donna Klemond, Perham, Minn.

Answer: What a sad cruise vacation story. You should have been notified of the schedule change to arrive at the port in time to board your ship.

Cruise changes such as departure times, ships assigned to cruises and itinerary changes are often available on cruise line websites. You told us that you don’t know much about computers or websites, so this wasn’t an option for you, but we strongly advise cruise passengers to regularly check them up to the departure time.

But all three of these companies could have helped you out instead of brushing you off with silence and denials of responsibility.

Related story:   The check is not in the mail

Celebrity could have been more helpful since your travel agent didn’t notify you of the schedule change. Telling you to go to the next port of call to board the ship, but leaving you to fend for yourself in getting there and returning to the U.S., was not a passenger-friendly course of action.

Unfortunately, Celebrity’s cruise ticket contract indicates that

Carrier may for any reason at any time and without prior notice, cancel, advance, postpone or deviate from any scheduled sailing, port of call, destination, lodging or any activity on or off the Vessel, or substitute another vessel or port of call, destination, lodging or activity. … Carrier shall not be liable for any claim whatsoever by Passenger, including but not limited to loss, compensation or refund, by reason of such cancellation, advancement, postponement, substitution or deviation.

So Celebrity had the right to reschedule the cruise departure and treated your failure to be on board the ship when it departed as a cancellation. Celebrity’s cancellation policy indicates (buried in small print) that for holiday sailings, cancellations made less than 21 days in advance of the ship’s departure are subject to penalties of 50 percent of the cruise fares.

“Cancel for any reason” insurance coverage, which you apparently didn’t have, would have covered the 50 percent penalty. Aon ultimately paid you $1,000 after initially denying your claim based on Celebrity’s position that you canceled your cruise by not being on board when the ship sailed.

Celebrity and Aon might have backed down with advocacy from your agent at AAA Travel, who should have designated someone to take her messages and work with you if she was not going to be available to help you at the time of your cruise. Her failure to do that, and AAA’s subsequent silence when you contacted it for help in recovering your cruise fares, is inexcusable.

Related story:   A quicker complaint fixer: How to speed up the resolution process

You might have appealed your case to higher-ranking executives at Celebrity, Aon, and AAA Travel using the contact information on our website, but you asked our advocates for assistance.

We reached out to Celebrity and AAA Travel on your behalf. Both companies told us they were “investigating” while pointing their fingers at each other. For months, Celebrity maintained that it owed you no more than $2,765 in cash and refused to budge from its position.

But your story has a happy ending. After months of waiting for Celebrity and AAA Travel to conclude their “investigations,” we were ready to give up hope that Celebrity would do more for you. But AAA Travel notified us that it persuaded Celebrity to refund you the balance of your cruise fares. And you notified us that the refunds have appeared on your credit card statement.

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.

  • Steve Rabin

    So Celebrity had no way of contacting the pax? No phone numbers? Only the agents? Sounds a bit fishy, unless Celebrity didn’t bother to call them.

  • LDVinVA

    Or email for that matter? There should have been multiple attempts to inform passengers of the change.

  • Alan Gore

    LW should have planned a previous day arrival for safety, but she did fulfill her part of the contract by arriving on time. Celebrity had no business not compensating her after departing before the contracted time, and Ann had no business denying her insurance. Nothing much can be done for this person, but once we get a real populist in office, in a situation like this both of those companies should be fined into oblivion.

  • Kristiana Lee

    AAA really dropped the ball. They were her travel agent. They were paid to make sure everything went smoothly.

    On another note, it’s so refreshing to see a case where the advocates were able to help people who did everything right (worked with a brick and mortar travel agent, bought trip insurance) but got screwed anyway.

  • SierraRose 49

    Truly a sad story, but at least there is a happy ending. This couple is in their 80’s and not computer savvy, and probably not text savvy either. They arrived at the port at the assigned time. I bet they were not the ONLY passengers to show up on time and learn the ship set sail early. Celebrity, AON, and especially their AAA Travel agent failed them – until the Elliott advocates came to the rescue. What a great story, which reminded me to check weather, check email, check texts for any possible disruptions prior to our next cruise.

  • Annie M

    And some people think AAA is the be all and end all of travel agencies. This is sometimes why smaller agencies can be better to use than large agencies such as American Express Travel – anyone can look at your reservation with Amex but finding one who has service like that is not easy to do. I got into the travel business specifically because of this reason – I used to book groups of friends and relatives and found it extremely frustrating that if my particular agent was not in the office, no one could help me. That went for not only agencies like AAA but large OTA cruise agencies. When we opened we swore that would not happen and if one of our owners are away, our agents working with us know about all clients that are traveling and can help in a situation like this.

    I find this the most troubling: “AAA Travel has not been helpful either; our agent there has not responded to any communications from us.”

    That is absolutely wrong and if it were me, I’d be using Elliotts contacts for the Executives at AAA and make sure they know that until Elliott got involved, the AAA office and her agent refused to help.

  • Monica Lynn Kennedy

    But they didn’t arrive on time. Celebrity was within their rights to change departure time. New schedule is still part of the contract. So the LW did not “fulfill her part of the contract.” They were late.
    I understand they aren’t tech savvy, but that’s not an excuse to not check itinerary multiple times leading up to departure, regardless of having a TA or not. Unfortunately websites and emails are the way of conducting business today. We all need to adapt.

  • John Baker

    When you book through an agent, that’s where the communication goes. After all, that’s what the cruise line is paying them for.

  • y_p_w

    I’d be surprised if they couldn’t call them to check the status.

    They were able to send an email to Elliott.org and presumably have seen this website, so I’m not buying that they couldn’t verify it online.

  • y_p_w

    Does anyone understand why they would need to disembark if boarding in Boston? I was thinking closed loop cruise where they only brought birth certificates and ID, but then wouldn’t they be denied boarding completely?

  • Alan Gore

    In cruising, nothing is more sacred than the scheduled initial departure time. Passengers who miss this by minutes lose everything they have invested. If it’s a real contract, the cruise operator should be held to the same standard. The language cited above is what allows the operator to skip or switch ports during the cruise. It does not allow an earlier initial departure at will.

    Let’s assume that the reason for the early departure was valid under the circumstances. The line is still obligated to fully refund any unnotified pax who arrive on time, especially given that so many cruise passengers are oldsters who grew up an era when instant communications meant sending a telegram and a telephone was a big black thing that plugged into the wall.

    And for the pax who did get prior notice, what happens to the air schedules that have to be changed to accommodate the new time? Is everyone just supposed to eat the new ticket that you now have to buy whenever someone sneezes?

  • Michael__K

    A foreign flagged ship could take take them from the same US port (Port Liberty, NJ) and eventually back but not from one US port (Boston) to another US port (Port Liberty). http://www.cruiselawnews.com/2011/09/articles/flags-of-convenience-1/why-cant-you-cruise-from-one-us-port-to-another-us-port/

  • y_p_w

    So it has to be closed loop to be able to be able to complete the trip through consecutive US ports.

  • Michael__K

    Sure, if you believe their contract is enforceable as written, then Celebrity is within their rights to leave early without any notice whatsoever to anyone.
    How many times and how close to the scheduled departure time should passengers be obligated to re-confirm before it is safe to assume the departure time won’t change?

  • Don Spilky

    In reading this, it seems as if all the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of AAA Travel. So why was Celebrity pressured to refund $?

  • AJPeabody

    AAA screwed up. They should have paid. Whatever happened to errors and omissions insurance?

    And the travelers were only made whole for the cruise cost. They traveled from and back to Minnesota, in vain and uncompensated. And they didn’t get the cruise. At 80 years old, they may never get the chance to make that up.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Celebrity is really going above and beyond refunding the cost of the cruise here, since I don’t see that they did anything wrong. It was the TRAVEL AGENT who screwed up here, and AAA should have made their customer whole for their agent’s failure to do his/her job.

  • Chris_In_NC

    My first thought when reading this article was that the OP was late arriving for the cruise. But, 2PM departure times aren’t standard for the industry and this article doesn’t specify. So what was the original departure time for the cruise? I suspect that it was 4PM.

    Granted, I believe the OP arrived on the late side, but if the departure time was 4PM, then they technically aren’t late for the cruise. A 2PM arrival is within the legal window of check in for a 4PM or 5PM departure time. If this were the case, then my opinion on the case changes significantly.

    Since the OP used a travel agent (AAA vacations), then AAA vacations would be responsible for the notification. If the travel agent was “on vacation” and failed to notify the OP, that is negligence on the agent’s part. Frankly, this should have come out of the TAs pocket, not Celebrity.

    If the departure time were 4PM or 5PM, even if the OP had arrived 4 hours early, I’m not sure they would have been allowed to board. This case is frustrating, because I don’t believe the OP is at any fault here.

    Of course, all of the above assumes that the cruise departure time was 4PM or 5PM, and not 2PM.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Perhaps Celebrity will issue a charge back against the agency?

  • Lindabator

    several problems here — NEVER arrive at the pier two hours before departure time – even if all went well, you could have had issues. 2nd — AAA should have had a way to check any messages, and knowing there was a storm coming in, she should have been following the situation closely anyway.

  • Bill___A

    I’d say that in the case of a changed departure time, the cruise line should have some leeway to accommodate those who don’t get notified. What a lot of stress and grief to put people through who didn’t really do anything wrong. What is the point of that? They already missed their trip.

  • Lindabator

    The port authorities all had ships leave the dock early due to incoming tropical storms, so she had NO window and missed the cruise

  • Lindabator

    and celebrity does ask for an email and phone at online checkin, so people DO need to ensure they fill this out instead of skipping

  • Lindabator

    When the Coast Guard tells them to depart early – THEY ARE REQUIRED BY LAW to do so – and they would not have had an issue with air schedules, as the return was not impacted here

  • Lindabator

    The LAW requires they leave the port when the Coast Guard orders it so — ALL the cruises departed early to avoid the storms/hurricanes

  • Lindabator

    I take home my files when weather is an issue, to track any changes – this agent was pathetic

  • Lindabator

    same embarkation/disembarkation city

  • BubbaJoe123

    You managed to not mention the person actually responsible for this situation, the AGENT, who failed completely in a core element of his/her job. The pax were due reimbursement, I agree, but from AAA, not Celebrity.

    We already have a populist demagogue in office – the last thing we need is someone with less respect for contracts and the rule of law.

  • BubbaJoe123

    They shouldn’t have to reconfirm, it’s on Celebrity to notify them. Which Celebrity did. The failure here wasn’t at Celebrity or the passengers, it was at the agent.

  • Michael__K

    Show us the Coast Guard order then. News reports said the cruise company was ‘erring on the side of caution.’ https://cruiseradio.net/tropical-storm-reroutes-cruise-ships/
    Which is fine, except passengers apparently got less than 24 hours notice.

  • Michael__K

    Ok, so then you and I agree that the “without prior notice” clause is unenforceable.
    One of the challenges in this case is that, per media reports, it looks like the change was determined on Labor Day, less than 24 hours before departure. Is it realistic for Celebrity to assume that all travel agencies have the coverage to actively monitor this and immediately transmit this to their clients on a federal holiday?

  • BubbaJoe123

    No idea whether the “without prior notice” clause is enforceable. I don’t think it should be, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t.

    As for travel agents having coverage, there’s no excuse for travel agents not having 24/7 availability if they want to stay in business.

    The final aspect here, which goes to the first point of enforceability, is to what extent the early departure was discretionary. Lindabator has said that the Coast Guard ordered them to put to sea early b/c of the storm. If that’s the case, then that reduces Celebrity’s obligation, in my view.

  • SirWIred

    I understand that it’s the agent’s job to inform their clients of the change, but if I was the cruise line, I’d be using every means possible to contact the passenger. Surely they at least had the passenger’s phone number.

  • Michael__K

    Lindabator frequently makes these types of assertions with no factual support (she has falsely claimed that the FAA reviews all passenger ejections; she has falsely claimed that the DOT still regulates GDS’s and reviews fares prior to release; she has falsely claimed that change fee increases are linked to passengers increasingly ‘flaking’ and changing their minds; she consistently refuses to respond to requests for factual support for any of these assertions).

    Per news reports I already cited, the early departure in this case was “to err on the side of the caution.” https://cruiseradio.net/tropical-storm-reroutes-cruise-ships/

  • Michael__K

    BTW, it’s not just about 24/7 availability. Some of the individual travel agents who comment here have promoted that they have 24/7 hotline numbers to resolve off-hour issues while a client is traveling. But that wouldn’t have helped here. It would take someone who is actively monitoring the agent’s email account 24/7 and immediately ready to react to new emails 24/7.

  • pmtmia

    These travel companies still have toll-free phone numbers! But AAA dropped the ball.

  • Michael__K

    When did the Coast Guard tell anyone to depart early? What is your source for this information?
    And why would news reports say that the companies were ‘erring on the side of caution’ if they were leaving because of an “order”?

  • Alan Gore

    I’m a strong advocate here of using flesh-and-blood agents when travel plans get complicated- and cruises always are, because of their weighty contracts – but I wouldn’t pick one who invariably sides against the customer in a dispute.

    What I have against Celebrity in this case is not that they left early. In the absence of specific information we can only assume that the approaching hurricane was a valid reason. But this situation puts the line in the same position as an airline which has incurred a delay that pushes the flight time outside the DOT window: it has to offer the passenger a reschedule or a refund. Is the claim being made here that Celebrity is not subject to US contract law because it’s registered in Godknowswhatistan?

  • Michael__K

    PS- The DOT has the authority, but hasn’t declared any window as to when an air carrier must issue a refund. [See: https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.dev/files/docs/eo_2012-11-4.pdf%5D But air carriers are obligated to notify customers within 30 minutes of a flight status change (delay, cancellation, or diversion) within 7 days of departure. If it’s some other schedule change (e.g. leaving early), it’s supposed to be announced 7+ days before departure.

  • Annie M

    Many times the agent will not put the travelers information or phone numbers into reservations so that the cruise line won’t start direct e-mailing or calling the customer.

  • Annie M

    If she lived nearby there is no reason for that. I live an hour from a port – there is no reason for me to get to the port the day before.

  • Annie M

    When you make your final payment, you get a paid itinerary that tells you the time to be at the port. There really isn’t a place for the consumer to see that the time was changed except if they received an email. If the agent didn’t add the consumers phone number or email address to the booking (and many don’t) the consumer won’t be notified unless the agency lets them know.

    An email goes to the agent who booked the cruise or to their agency. So someone at AAA blew it.

  • Annie M

    Large agencies that pay their agents by the hour do not require the agents to be available 24/7. If they did then they’d have to pay overtime. Home based agents are the ones that have coverage for more hours than the large brick and mortar agencies.

  • Annie M

    Unless they can’t prove they emailed the agent. Sometimes that falls through the cracks too.

  • Annie M

    The travel agent should have contacted them. No excuse that they were on vacation. This is the problem with large agencies -most agents go home and turn everything off.

  • Annie M

    I disagree with you. Some cruise lines advise the clients what time to arrive at the pier when they do their online check in and stagger the arrival times so that there aren’t 3,000 people getting to the port at the same time. These people did what they had on their documents. They did nothing wrong. The agent was the one who erred in not having coverage if she was away for emergency notifications. IF the cruise line even notified the agent.

  • C Schwartz

    I am not sure that Cancel for Any Reason insurance would have helped the travelers. When I looked at the insurance all the policies I saw required the traveler to cancel 48 hours before departure. Even if the passengers could cancel up to a minute before departure, would the insurance have covered the trip when the travelers literally missed the boat?

    I remember that weekend well as I was also traveling on Labor day, leaving NYC by air. I remember that the airlines were giving flight change waivers for 2-3 days before Labor Day but I do not remember how extensive the delays were on Sept 2-3; on the holiday Monday the 4th, the weather was not bad where I was and my flight was on time. But the airport was fairly empty as a lot of people clearly had changed their flight. I guess I am surprised that the travelers did not contact the cruise line about schedule as the news had constant Hurricane Hermine heading to East Coast — Easy Coast Beaches Closed on Sunday, buy batteries, have enough pet food so your pet does not eat the couch, etc. the general weather station panic; The travelers came in from Minnesota did they come by plane? How did they get back? That being said the response of AAA has been terrible and the fault is with them more than the cruise line.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    The problem isn’t just that Celebrity left, it is that they failed to properly help a customer who, for good reason, was unaware of the issue. If they have to leave early, they need to ensure customers are notified, period. If they can’t reach a customer with a very late schedule change, they need to make the customer whole.

  • Chriscfrn

    I am so happy that things worked out because that happens so rarely when it comes to cruise lines – they seem to have a teflon coating a foot thick. I cannot imagine how these two poor seniors must have felt, having done everything right and yet getting a major runaround PLUS missing what was probably a much anticipated vacation. I have always trusted AAA but I will certainly give them the side eye in any future bookings. This disaster was squarely on their shoulders.

  • jim6555

    There was no mention of the Coast Guard ordering the ship to depart early. Most likely, Celebrity unilaterally decided to leave early to avoid the effects of the storm.

  • jim6555

    The posting tells us that she lives in Minnesota, the ship was sailing from New Jersey

  • Hmmm…what if there had been ADA issues involved. Now, there wasn’t any here, but let’s say 80 year old hubby had some limited mobility issues where he couldn’t be sitting around waiting for a day or two — like a COPD condition that requires oxygen — or he had a heart condition that required continual monitoring. Something serious which would burden travel, but not preclude it. What would that have meant for the contract of carriage?

    The reason I mention this is because in this text/email world, conditions like this do exist for their clients.

    MAYBE they should decline the booking if text/email communication is not an option, if it’s such an important consideration that they include it in their contract.

  • cscasi

    We do not know if the AAA agent did that or not since it was not mentioned in the above narrative.

  • cscasi

    We were not told how far in advance Celebrity changed the departure time. Was it days in advance or hours?
    And, how many agents tell their clients to be certain to check their itinerary multiple times leading up to the departure? After all, one would expect the agent to keep up with that. But, as has been mentioned before, people have to be responsible for themselves in many cases and not always rely on others.

  • cscasi

    Did the Coast Guard tell Celebrity to leave early, or was it a decision made by Celebrity? We do not know that here.

  • Noah Kimmel

    slightly unrelated, but interesting info here — “The Celebrity agent advised us to travel to Boston, the next port of call, and board the ship there, but U.S. maritime law would require us to disembark in Nova Scotia” If you ever wondered, this is due to the Jones Act – something that has hampered PR hurricane recovery as well.

    Read or listen to Planet Money on NPR’s episode on the Jones Act remembering that most cruise ships are foreign flagged

  • The Original Joe S

    Oh, you’ve been watching her also? She almost ALWAYS sides with the dirtbags against the customer….. I wonder why that is……

  • The Original Joe S

    Yeah, don’t do business with someone like that……

  • The Original Joe S

    yeah, but if they aren’t home when the notice comes in, then you are out of luck.

  • The Original Joe S

    And i dropped them. Not because of anything bad they did, but because towing is provided by my car insurance company, and maps by GPS…..

  • The Original Joe S

    Do you mean Der Führer?

  • C Schwartz

    My late MIL had COPD — I am not sure that a long wait sitting around for a day or two would be such a burden — she always traveled with extra oxygen — and had a wheelchair so not to stand too long. The ADA requires reasonable accommodations . So I am not quite sure what you are getting at. The traveler needs to alert the carrier to the disability.

    What I find problematic is that the AAA agent just seemed to go MIA — did not respond with “I sent the passengers an email, call, text” or something.

  • The Original Joe S

    AAA toad was trying to wish away the mess-up. ignore it and it’ll go away? doesn’t look like it did….

  • The Original Joe S

    why don’t I believe that to be true?

  • The Original Joe S

    Cruise line not only doesn’t care, but are happy to keep the money paid w/o having the customer take up space on the barf boat.

  • The Original Joe S

    They didn’t miss the boat; the boat left early.

  • The Original Joe S

    Remember the Brit boat which changed the stops 3 hours after leaving port? The captain threatened the pax with mutiny. They threatened him back. Boat line paid up, because it was going to American court.

    Many people said [ in effect ] Scroo those rich people. They got it good. BUT, Suppose someone of not great means saved all his life for that boat ride, and got scrood. Sounds different then, hah?

  • C Schwartz

    The change was announced at least one day prior. They missed the boat.

    Airlines were giving waivers. There were numerous traveler advisories for that weekend. That does not absolve the travel agent from the responsibility of contacting the passengers.

  • Alan Gore

    Celebrity made the change only on the very weekend of sailing, after some passengers would have already left home. Such passengers would have to have already planned to arrive early and/or be contactable on the road. People in their eighties are not used to doing that.

  • I was going to respond long-windedly, but I’ll keep it short. My Dad has a similar lung condition. The difference between on “E” canisters for 1 hour vs 3 hours is often multiple canisters, which is no small logistical effort, let alone then flying to another port.

    The point of my post is that travel purveyors are great about ingesting the money, but woefully remiss in delivering a standard of care in executing the contract. If someone gave me multiple thousands in cash, I would ensure I had a process – through a reseller’s service level agreement – that mandated timely contact, or strict liability attached to that reseller.

    The ADA angle relates to the fact that the ADA obligations attach to the cruise line, irrespective of the contract of carriage. These are 80 year olds. While they may have been able to plan the A to B part of a trip without an ADA consideration, the A to C to B portion MAY have included an ADA consideration (like a change in oxygen needs). Given this, the cruise line should have the obligation to ensure that critical, last-minute changes are communicated (and verified).

    This is just a case of everyone pointing fingers like a code-share agreement.

  • Alan Gore

    The AAA agent not being contactable over the long weekend would have been a good instance of malfeasance all by itself and would normally have been the focus of the complaint, but in this case it was overshadowed by the outrageous behavior of Celebrity and Aon. These passengers had a contract, and they had insurance. They were subjected to a royal screwing until the power of Chris and the threat of social media exposure shamed them into doing the right thing.

    And if anyone was exhibiting lack of respect for contract law here, it was Celebrity.

  • Alan Gore

    The Jones Act prevents a foreign-flagged ship from transporting people between two different points in the US, so getting on at the next port was not an option in this case.

  • C Schwartz

    Thank you now I understand. COPD is horrible but I agree that those suffering should be able to travel and there should be reasonable accommodations — but also the traveler has to be prepared. I was stranded in Europe during Hurricane Sandy as the NE airports were closed. Another passenger at the airport was in a panic because they only brought the exact amount of blood pressure medication for the trip– did not bring even an extra days worth. Luckily one of the airport pharmacies was willing to help — pharmacists in some European countries are licensed to do that.

    Traveling during hurricane season has its risks.

    That being said the passengers in this case certainly should have been notified and it was not professional for the travel agent to ignore the passengers after the debacle.

  • y_p_w

    I’ve heard of the Jones Act in regards to hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.

    I’m not saying it’s not an issue, but in this case they say they were told that they could basically only be transported from Boston to Nova Scotia, but no context for what’s in between. I can’t find the previous schedule, but they have a similar sailing for next September that shows NJ-Boston MA-Portland ME-Bal Harbor ME-Quebec City-Saguenay QC-Sydney NS-Halifax NS-NJ. There could be variations of course, but it sounds like they were offered maybe 9 days, although they would be responsible for getting to Boston and returning from Nova Scotia. Getting to Boston would be easy and relatively cheap on Amtrak. Depending on the sailing time, a bus might even be cheaper.


    I’m still not sure if it’s a Jones Act issue if the final leg would be Nova Scotia to New Jersey.

  • y_p_w

    I still don’t get quite what the deal would be. At least the itinerary for a similar cruise next year shows Boston to two ports in Maine before continuing on to Quebec and then Nova Scotia. I can’t find the itinerary though. The seems have itineraries that have gone in different orders.

  • I agree with the fact that one should prepare to be derailed. However, hurricanes don’t just magically appear, as if deposited by aliens. They are weeks in the making. I often think they deliberately let folks know inside the lock-down window (if at all) so that the detriment is only on the consumer’s side.

  • James

    By arrive a day early, I assume you mean to camp out for the night at the embarkation gate? We don’t know when they flew from Minnesota to New Jersey — they may have flown in sometime before.

  • Alan Gore

    It is an issue because the Jones Act would see this couple as being transported from Boston around the loop to New Jersey. Under it a foreign carrier can only take passengers on this cruise from New Jersey to New Jersey, or from one of the foreign stops to New Jersey.

  • Alan Gore

    I’m saying that I always arrive in the vicinity of a hard-scheduled event a day early, largely to allow for airline delays. There is always a hotel in the vicinity where I can stay if I plan ahead. If nothing goes wrong, I use the extra time to explore a new place and just to unwind from the flight.

  • KennyG

    The level of disrespect you show to millions of human beings of many races and religions, killed in one of the most horrific genocides in human history, by one of the horrific people in history knows no bounds.

  • C Schwartz

    I can only tell you what I saw on the news here — there was non stop coverage here on the East Coast about the coming hurricane — ever since the flooding from Sandy the news overdoes the warnings. I had a flight that weekend so I was watching it. And you are correct, as soon as there is a storm heading to the area the news and weather channel is all over it, Some stores near me ran out of D batteries as people stocked up expecting a power outage and the need for flashlights. As the travelers were coming from MN, perhaps they did not have the same coverage and they may not have realized that a cruise ship would change departure time.

  • y_p_w

    Again – I can’t find research all the stops, but it does sound like (short of a closed loop) they could be transported between US/Canadian ports and between Canadian ports. I would have thought that they would allowed to go between the last Canadian port and the last American port in the itinerary.

  • jsn55

    This is one of the most disgusting stories I’ve ever read. It really takes torturing your customers to a new high. It’s not as tho they booked with someone’s brother-in-law who runs a travel agency in his garage … AAA is a travel AGENT. The agent takes care of the customer. If the dopey TA didn’t set up ‘coverage’ the weekend before sailing while she was unreachable, AAA should have cut these people a check immediately. Now that they’ve been made whole by Celebrity, AAA should send them a check for the entire amount of their commission. This is a shameful way to do business.

  • Yeah, I lived in NY/NJ in the late 80s. The Tri-State area acts like the entire world is bounded by Greenwich, Albany, Morristown, Trenton, Atlantic City, and The Hamptons. It’s so bad, I heard Queen Isabella is actually thinking about funding an expedition to an exotic, mythical location called The Poconos to prove that the Tri-State is not actually flat and seek new trading routes to a far off land called Chicago.

    We actually have our own news out here in the hinterlands. We have our own weather issues. We have our own State Legislatures, crime, human interest stories, and sports. Here in Denver, our weather is so volatile that most hurricane coverage is literally about 15 seconds in a 22 minute newscast. Hurricane Irma was a little more covered because of the flooding, and Hurricane Harvey because of the proximity and mutual assistance aid coming from Colorado, but even Sandy didn’t get a lot of attention — except for the Romney/Obama implications in 2012. So, no, the world is not always aware of the weather goings-on for the East Coast. I am not saying that resentfully to East Coasters, because I am one, but even friends who left NJ for Arizona said the same thing: You never hear about this part of the country back in NJ, and since they left, they only hear about NJ through family.

    Outside of the WCBS, WNBC, WABC broadcast footprints, most people really don’t much care about NY news. Most of us wouldn’t live there, and many dread visiting it. (As I said, I lived there three years after being born, and another three after college. I wouldn’t live on the East Coast if forced to at gun point.)

    Relating that to your point: It is arrogant for the cruise line to expect people living nearly 1,000 miles away to be tuned into the port weather for their cruise.

  • C Schwartz

    I pay attention to the weather when I am flying some place. So it is not unreasonable to think that other people would–even a 20 second blurb about hurricanes/snow storms/rain register with me if I am traveling– it is sort of normal to do that. I do not think it is that unreasonable to expect travelers to do that. On my local tv station where I watch the weather and local news they still give a brief nationwide weather for traveling — takes all of 45 seconds.

    And with the hub system of airline travel bad weather in one area can cause a ripple effect — the storms last April in Atlanta caused a big mess for Delta passengers throughout the country. I was flying Delta that week cross country from NY and was on one was the few flights to leave on time. I have been to Atlanta only once but the storms and travel mess were on the news and I took note of it. That news made me arrive to the airport even earlier as I knew it would be crowded and filled with stressed passengers. And it was.

    It is believable that the passengers never thought that the cruise would leave early as the storm changed path and the airports were ok on that Monday — as they were not thinking of the waves and expected that their travel agent would alert them — which is normal.

    I am originally from the west coast and the weather out there is only a topic from friends and family and when I fly.

  • Remember, these are 80 year olds. They are also (likely) casual travelers. MOREOVER, this was a Coast Guard/NOAA mandated departure, not the Doppler 4000 SkyScan Action Weather Alert with Storm Field and Jackson Hale at the Action Weather News Desk. EVEN IF they tuned into the Doppler 4000 SkyScan Action Weather Alert with Storm Field and Jackson Hale at the Action Weather News Desk, it’s unlikely they would air such industry-specific information.

    But in the end, it is not their job to keep an eye out on the Weather Channel, they paid over $8,000 for a company to keep them aware of itinerary changes — ultimately falling on Celebrity.

    They probably spent more time counting their pills for the trip than watching any weather.

    Listen, I have friends who are in the local and national media. Two of them are weather casters – one in Denver, the other in the NE – as nerdy as they are about weather, they would have no reason to broadcast anything like a mandatory cruise line departure warning.

    I will also share this: I have been considering moving to Jacksonville. I watch their First Coast News (channel 12) regularly on ROKU, and during Hurricane Irma specifically, They talked about swells, local flooding, and storm surge…nothing that I recalled seeing about cruise departure warnings (and they do have cruises from JAXPORT).

    In the end, the cruise line and AAA dropped the ball. They had the money. They had the obligation of notification.

  • DChamp56

    Celebrity has contact information for cruise passengers, and should have utilized that, PLUS contacting AAA.
    All in all, this was AAA’s fault, they should have paid, not Celebrity.

  • C Schwartz

    I absolutely agree with you that the travelers should have been notified and am glad that they got the money back — not just a credit.

  • jdsonice

    Question is when did the cruise line decide to make the change. From what I read it was at least 24-48 hours before the sailing. When I travel, I routinely check the departure time 48hours, 24hours and 4 hours before departure. While Celebrity had an obligation to inform the passengers, the passengers had an obligation to check the departure time. The only reason why Celebrity is responsible for this mess is because they did not contact the passengers directly,

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.