This is what happens when you’re kicked off your cruise

Kicked off your cruise? You're not getting a refund from Holland America. Michelle Couch-Friedman, author.

Could you be accused of a crime, convicted and kicked off your cruise without any supporting evidence?

Halfway around the world, Elaine Chan discovered the answer to that question is yes. She and her husband were recently summarily ejected from their Holland America cruise in Helsinki. The captain accused Chan’s 65-year-old husband of assaulting a crew member. He then ordered the shocked couple to gather their belongings and get off his ship.

Now Chan wants to clear her husband’s name and get a refund from Holland America.

I promise this story will make you angry. It’s yet another troubling case of a company leveling a wild accusation at a customer and refusing to provide even a shred of evidence to support it. And it’s the consumer who pays the price — financially and emotionally.

Kicked off your cruise? With Holland America, it can happen

With much anticipation, Chan and her husband booked a 24-day cruise on Holland America’s Zuiderdam. But on day five, things went terribly wrong.

“We did not expect our highly anticipated vacation to end as a nightmare in complete humiliation,” Chan explained. “We were kicked off the cruise by the Holland America captain in Helsinki.”

Chan said that at 8 a.m., the captain called the couple into his office. He explained that there had been an incident during disembarkation two days earlier in St. Petersburg.

The captain said that during that incident, several passengers had become verbally abusive to crew members. While leaving the ship, one passenger had escalated the situation by pushing an employee. Another crew member identified Chan’s husband as the person who did the shoving. As a result, they were no longer welcome on his ship.

The shocked couple told the captain that they hadn’t been involved in any incident. The captain was unmoved and told them his decision was final. He ordered them to leave the cruise immediately.

Chan explained what happened next:

Then the captain gave us an envelope with tickets back to San Francisco. He forced us to leave the cruise by 10 a.m. to catch our flight. If we did not leave on time, he said we would miss our flight. So we had no time to plead our case and get more information.

Can you really get kicked off your cruise like this with no evidence or even chance to respond? We’re devastated. My husband didn’t do this. Someone made a mistake and misidentified him. This false accusation has really taken a toll on him. What can we do?

Where is the proof of this cruise ship mayhem?

Since the moment the embarrassed couple arrived home from their aborted cruise, they have been on a mission to prove their innocence.

Initially, Chan felt confident that video cameras on board the Zuiderdam would conclusively prove that they had been booted from the cruise in error. She begged the executives of Holland America to pull those videotapes. Instead, she received a written explanation of the accusations.

Your husband participated in a scene where staff members were verbally abused. This abuse became physical when he and another guest attempted to push their way off the ship in port at St. Petersburg. As a result, a staff member required medical attention. As stated by the Captain in your verbal interview and in our previous correspondence, this is a violation of Section 4 of the Cruise Contract, and so the decision was made to remove both parties from the ship at the next port of call (Helsinki).

Chan and her husband again asked that Holland America review the videotapes. The couple offered to provide photos of themselves on the day of the incident. They hoped that company executives could compare those photos with any videos or photos the cruise line might have of the true perpetrator. Additionally, they agreed to take lie detector tests at their own cost.

Get kicked off your cruise – -you’re not getting a refund from Holland America

Holland America declined to provide any evidence to support its claim, but instead concluded its investigation of the case with this email:

While we regret that this final response could not be more favorable, we do hope you will continue to include Holland America Line in your travel plans.

Thank you again for your inquiry. I appreciate this opportunity to assist and hope you will sail with us again soon.

This final email stirred up a lot of questions for me.

If Holland America believes that Chan’s husband injured a crew member so severely that he needed medical treatment, why would the cruise line hope this assaultive passenger would set sail with Holland America ever again?

Something wasn’t adding up.

Can this couple get a refund from Holland America?

Coincidentally, Chan’s request for help landed on my desk at the same time that a somewhat similar plea arrived. Another wife needed help vindicating her husband against a company’s wacky accusations. Lois Kendall reported that her 76-year-old husband had been accused of stealing two pillows from a Choice Hotels franchised Quality Inn. She was outraged that the hotel had targeted her husband with accusations of theft. But even more outrageous was Choice Hotels refusal to investigate and help its loyal customer.

Kendall’s case ended on a positive note once the court of public opinion weighed in under the article that we published. Choice Hotels quickly corrected its error and provided a refund and an apology.

In Chan’s case, I hoped that I could get a favorable resolution on a more timely basis. She wished for an apology and a refund from Holland America.

I contacted Holland America and asked for clarification. I pointed out that the couple offered to take a lie detector test. And I asked about the videotape and the curious final email hoping to see the couple soon on another Holland America cruise. I can’t vouch for whether this couple participated in any brawl, but it seems if they did they probably wouldn’t take a lie detector test or beg for the video review.

Can a cruise line kick a passenger off the cruise and keep their money too?

Most cruise lines have terms written into their contracts allowing for the removal of passengers under a variety of conditions. And no refund is provided in most circumstances. Holland America already referred Chan to Section 4 of their HAL cruise contract which says:

Carrier may without liability for refund, payment, compensation or credit, except as provided herein, disembark or refuse to embark You, confine You in a stateroom, quarantine You, restrain You, change Your accommodations or disembark You at any time if, in the sole opinion of Carrier, the Captain or any doctor, You or any minor or other person in Your care during the Cruise, Land + Sea Journey, and/or Land Trip(s), are unfit for any reason for the Cruise, Land + Sea Journey, and/or Land Trip(s), or Your presence might be detrimental to Your health, comfort or safety or that of any other person, or in the judgment of the Captain is advisable for any reason.

But the unusual nature of this accusation is that it came days after the event. The captain blindsided Chan and her husband with charges the couple could not defend themselves against.

It seems questionable that a passenger assaulted a crew member and the employees made no accusations at the time of the incident. And since almost everyone has cell phones with the capability to take photos and videos, there should be some documentation of this event. What about a photo of the perpetrator making his getaway down the gangplank?

The bottom line

Holland America refused to respond to any of my requests for a statement about this case. It’s likely that Holland America executives are aware that this may end up in small claims court. As our publisher, Christopher Elliott points out in his article about fixing your consumer problem, often once a lawyer is mentioned, company executives refer all future correspondence to their legal department. And that legal department typically will not respond to a consumer advocate. Chan did allude to a lawyer in one of her later emails to Holland America.

Unfortunately, it appears that neither a refund from Holland America nor an apology will be heading this couple’s way. Chan says this experience has been like a bad movie from which they can’t escape. She hopes by telling her story she might find some solace in the court of public opinion.

Update from Elaine Chan: July 26

Chan has read through many of the comments under this story and would like to clarify a few details.

The couple was together during disembarkation in St. Petersburg. They did see a small group of angry passengers in front of them waiting to leave the ship. These passengers wanted to get off the boat to begin their privately planned shore excursions. A Holland America protocol of first disembarking passengers who purchased their shore excursion from the cruise line prevented these travelers from leaving the ship at that moment. The couple was not part of the disruptive group.

Chan saw an Australian (or possibly British) man and an Asian man being most vocal. Chan says the man in front of her husband did push past crew members when the crowd was allowed to leave. In his meeting with the couple, the captain said: “you and your friends injured my crew members.” The couple was not traveling with any friends. They believe the eye-witness made an error in identifying them as part of the group of rowdy travelers.

And lastly, Chan points out that some commenters missed the sequence of the couple’s correspondence with Holland America. She and her husband did not threaten legal action initially. They were attempting to prove that they were innocent and misidentified — that an error had occurred. Later when Holland America did not allow them to prove their case, they mentioned they might need a lawyer to help them if the cruise line would not.

Author’s note(12/31/18):

I caught up with Ms. Chan recently and asked her for an update:

No, Hal never contacted us. We did not proceed with legal action either due to the fact that the legal cost most likely would exceed any refund we could get. Having our story shared on your website helped us a great deal in terms of finding peace in our mind and finally being able to move on with our life.

Are Chan and her husband owed a refund from Holland America?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy 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

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy 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

Elliott Advocacy 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

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy 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

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy 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

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by 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

Elliott Advocacy 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 to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy 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,, 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Send this to a friend