This is an NCL cruise bait and switch — or is it?

Is this really an NCL cruise bait and switch?

Eugenia Dupre is the victim of a Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) cruise bait and switch. She’s sure of it.

I’m not so sure. A closer look at her problem suggests this might be a case of old-fashioned user error.

Who’s right? Scroll down for the poll, please.

Either way, Dupre’s story is a learning opportunity for anyone booking a cruise — or buying any complicated consumer product. For some reason, we’ve experienced a surge of interest from the cruising community about our cases. My fellow advocates and I love to help, but our site is here for everyone. And at the end of the day, the same rules apply on the sea as they do on land.

Her NCL cruise included “everything” — until it didn’t

Dupre recently phoned her AAA travel agent to book an NCL cruise. The agent informed her that her cruise was “all-inclusive,” as most cruises claim to be. Less than a half-hour after making the reservation, the agent phoned back to say that the beverage package would cost her extra.

A look at NCL’s site suggests a possible source of the confusion. The packages cost extra, with an asterisk.

Enjoy a wide selection of soft drinks, beers, spirits, cocktails, wines by the glass and bottled or draft beer up to and including $15 USD during your entire cruise.

But then later,

*Effective for Norwegian Sky sailings booked on or after 4/22/15: FREE Ultimate Beverage Package for sailings on or after 1/1/16. See full Terms & Conditions.

A 20% gratuity and beverage service charge will be added at checkout.

Perhaps she also read the terms and conditions of these beverage packages, which are pretty interesting. My least favorite part is the 20 percent gratuity. Why don’t they just raise their prices by 20 percent and then make the package “all-inclusive” instead of playing price games with their passengers? (Then again, maybe they will be too intoxicated to notice?)

At any rate, Dupre canceled the moment she found out her NCL cruise was not “all inclusive” as promised. And that’s when the trouble started.

Is this an NCL cruise bait and switch?

“I said no to the transaction right then and there,” says Dupre.

But NCL told her agent they could work something out and urged her to keep her booking.

“So over the next couple of days, which included a weekend day, we tried to work things out with NCL through our AAA travel agent,” she says. “But we didn’t succeed. On the following Wednesday, we bailed out of the original transaction which I had rejected in the first place.”

No problem, NCL said. That’ll cost you $340 per person.

That’s right, Dupre was within the 90-day cancellation window, so according to its cancellation fee schedule, she owed $340. Her travel companion did, too.

“We would like a $340 credit on the books towards a future cruise good for a minimum of one year,” she says.

I reviewed the paper trail between Dupre, her agent, and NCL. There was something fishy going on here. Her original fare was $539, but when she asked about the beverage package, her agent or NCL (it’s not entirely clear who) raised her fare to $689.

“Now what do you think these opportunists did?” asked Dupre.”They said we didn’t have to take the beverage package, but then they still tried to charge us the $689 per person fare, saying the $539 per person fare was no longer available, when in fact it was still posted on their own website for several more weeks.”

That’s ridiculous. No wonder Dupre canceled. And no wonder that NCL still tried to charge her.

Can our advocates negotiate a credit for this NCL cruise bait and switch?

Here’s the problem with Dupre’s case. Although my advocates and I can certainly sympathize with her case — it felt as if either NCL or her travel agent were trying to pull a fast one — she doesn’t have a case.

That’s because the fine print protects NCL, but not her. Which is to say, NCL can demand $340 from her and her companion, but under the terms, she has little recourse to deal with her cruise bait and switch issue. Sure, she may have a case in court (probably small claims), but it’s probably not worth it.

Our team did, however, reach out to her AAA travel agent about this alleged NCL cruise bait and switch. A short while later, we heard back from her:

I received a telephone call from AAA where I originally booked the cruise. They came through for us! We are getting a credit of $340 towards a future cruise good for one year.

The manager, Jennifer, isn’t sure if the credit is coming from NCL or AAA, but this is being taken care of. She said they have a new arrangement with NCL. Thank you a million times for your help.

I’m happy we could throw Dupre a life preserver on this one. But there are a few lessons for the rest of us. The first is the old “trust-but-verify” rule. Dupre’s travel agent dealt with her over the phone, mostly. She needed to get everything in writing and check it against NCL’s terms and conditions on its site. In this day and age, that’s easy and takes almost no time.

Also, check your definitions. “All-inclusive” may mean something different to you than it does to a cruise line. Typically, premium restaurants and alcoholic beverages or soft drinks aren’t included, except on some high-end luxury cruises.

I’m pretty sure the fare increase was just a pricing glitch, not a deliberate NCL cruise bait and switch. So what? In the end, the only experience that matters is Dupre’s, and hers was negative. I hope she can use the cruise credit for a vacation that truly is all-inclusive and meets all of her expectations.

Whose fault is this?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

This site is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

This site is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

This site is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

This site is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

This site is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

This site is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

This site is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

This site is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

This site is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

This site is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

This site is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

This site is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

This site is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

This site is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

This site is underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

This site is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

This site is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

This site is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.