Is this enough compensation? Get off the ship now — or cruise to nowhere

Jason Plott was scheduled to sail from Galveston, Tex., to the Western Caribbean earlier this month on Carnival’s Ecstasy. But his cruise wasn’t exactly filled with delight.

“We didn’t depart the next day because of fog,” he says. “The next day it was still foggy, but Carnival decided to bring the Conquest ahead of the Ecstasy. I guess they figured they’d rather have one ship with a ruined itinerary instead of two.”

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Then the Conquest was struck by a fuel barge, which delayed it further. Here are a few details from a TV report.

Finally, more than a day after Plott was supposed to depart from Galveston, he and his family was allowed to board. It was 1 a.m. on a Sunday. “We had already paid for a hotel and meals for a day-and-a-half,” he remembers.

He continues,

Initially we were told we would skip Cozumel and go to Progresso. This made zero sense, because the four-day itinerary still goes to Cozumel.

Cozumel is the much nicer port. Progresso is really a hole — nice Mayan ruins, but no beaches. Many felt that Carnival was doing this to monopolize the excursion possibilities. Cozumel is also closer.

Well we ended up not leaving until Monday morning.

Hardly the right way to start a cruise, wouldn’t you say?

Carnival offered two options to the stranded passengers, according to Plott:

• They were given the option of “getting off now” and receiving a full refund.

• They could “go on a three-day cruise to nowhere” and get 50 percent refund, $45 onboard credit, and 50 percent off a future cruise.

“We thought about leaving,” he says. “But changing our flight would have been $200 each. Plus, we had flown in a niece to babysit and paid her $300.”

Plott is disappointed by Carnival’s offer.

I do not feel that 50 percent is enough.

We paid for five nights with stops in Cozumel and Progresso. We figured out based on the posted distance to Cozumel, we still could have made it.

It appears they didn’t want to pay the port fees for a semi-empty ship (port fees were all refunded). We also spent money on a hotel for one night and meals for 1 1/2 days.

This is an interesting case. Certainly, the fog and the barge weren’t Carnival’s fault. But could it have handled the situation better?

“Definitely,” says Plott. “If you follow the tweets between myself and four others with @CCLSupport you will see the lack of information. We went two or three hours on Sunday with no updates. Conquest is still in port, rumors of it being hit — but nobody would confirm it — crying, cold kids, the vending machines were empty. Carnival could have ordered pizza and handed out water. But they did nothing. They just treated us like cattle.”

OK, ticket contract notwithstanding, maybe Carnival could have done a little better in the customer service department — at least in Plott’s case.

I mean, what about his hotel and food bills while he was stuck in Galveston? Did Carnival think the 50 percent discount off a future cruise would cover that?

Still, I’ve seen cruise lines do much worse when faced with similar circumstances, so these offers are not bad. Under Carnival’s terms, it could have kept its passengers waiting and then sent them packing when the barge struck, without any meaningful compensation.

A poll of more than 1,000 readers suggests Plott is right.

(Photo: 118/Flickr Creative Commons)

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