This is what happens when a cruise line forgets your amenity

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By Christopher Elliott

What happens when a cruise line forgets your amenity? That’s the question facing Carol McHale, who ordered a birthday gift for her father from MSC Cruises, who was on his first solo trip since his wife’s death.

His present got lost at sea.

For MSC Cruises, the answer is not much. And that’s what brought McHale to our world headquarters. She thought that was the wrong answer, and my intrepid team of consumer advocates agreed. When a cruise line forgets your amenity, it can’t just sail off into the sunset, free of all responsibility.

There’s also a broader issue of cruise line amenities that is worth exploring here. What kind of special services do companies offer? Are they worth it? What if they’re not delivered as promised?

McHale’s case has a resolution, though it’s not as swell as she’d hoped. I’ll get to that in just a second.

What to do when a cruise line forgets your amenity

Here’s what happened to McHale’s father, Ralph Duttweiler. He and his late wife had been on 62 cruises together, but this was his first cruise since her death.

“His birthday was during that cruise,” McHale explains. “I ordered a bottle of Prosecco and canapes for $32 to be delivered to his room during the cruise. I have a copy of my American Express bill showing the charge. He never received that gift.”

For McHale, this was about more than a cruise line forgetting an amenity. It had let her — and her father — down during a difficult time. “This is inexcusable,” she told me.

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McHale followed the appropriate steps to resolve her problem. She contacted the cruise line but received no response. Then she appealed to Adam Snitzer, MSC’s senior vice president of guest relations, by email. (We publish all the MSC executive contacts on this site.)

“I have not received any replies,” she says. (Related: Don’t let this cruise insurance problem torpedo your vacation.)

Cruise amenities: here’s what you need to know

MSC’s cruise amenities, described in its service packages offerings, range from shore excursions to spa treatment. The one McHale had chosen was called the “romantic package”:

A sparkling way to indulge your loved one

Nothing says ‘amore’ like an MSC cruise, especially when you add one of our romantic packages to pamper the one you love. From sparkling wine and canapés to champagne and strawberries dipped in chocolate, choose from a sumptuous selection of tempting treats to share in the comfort of your stateroom. When you awake, before you go to bed, or anytime you like, they’ll make a special moment even more magical.

Interestingly, there are no provisions in MSC’s terms and conditions for a refund, if the cruise line fails to deliver the items as promised. So MSC could have kept the $32 it took from her if it wanted to. And that’s precisely what it looked like it was doing.

There’s a bigger issue here, which is that the cruise contract doesn’t specifically address which cruise amenities must be refunded — and when. Sure, there are provisions for a ticket refund and there’s an industry-friendly cruise line passenger’s bill of rights.

But amenities? Not so much.

One other note on cruise packages and amenities. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making money, amenities sold on a cruise ship are incredibly profitable. For example, shore excursions have 50 percent profit margins for a cruise line. At wholesale prices, a bottle of Prosecco costs less than $10. Even if you pay another $10 for the canapes and labor, there’s still a 30 percent profit. A quick refund wouldn’t hurt MSC Cruises. (Here’s what you need to know before booking your next cruise.)

What happened to his canapes?

This we know for sure: The sparkling wine and canapes never made it to Ralph Duttweiler’s cabin. MSC ignored several requests for a refund. Had our proven resolution tactics not worked, then McHale should have initiated a credit card dispute. She would have easily won.

Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary.

My advocacy team suggested McHale send a brief, polite email to Lisa Auguste, MSC’s senior operations leader. She’s listed as the primary contact on this site, but McHale had skipped her and taken her case straight to Auguste’s boss. You want to start at the bottom and work your way up the chain — not the other way around.

In response, MSC sent McHale a $50 Visa gift card, which MSC claimed was her compensation “as promised.” McHale had received no previous promises from the cruise line, so this was probably just a form letter.

The takeaway? When a cruise line forgets your amenity, you may not have any promises in writing, but you have options. Contact the executives in writing, remembering to work your way up the chain, and if that doesn’t work, initiate a credit card dispute.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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