They want a full refund from Celebration — but do they deserve it?

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By Christopher Elliott

The Radisson Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort looks like the ideal place for a four-night land portion of a cruise vacation — at least it did to Martin Lambert when he booked a Celebration cruise to the Bahamas recently.

“Think of your stay as instant therapy,” the resort promises on its slick website. “Because the moment you arrive, a feeling of serenity will wash over you like a gentle wave, stripping away the world’s woes, and leaving you ready to get your Lucayan on.”

But the wave that washed over Lambert felt like anything but serenity, and he didn’t feel like getting his Lucayan on, either.

In fact, his entire cruise package was a disaster from start to finish. Since he booked the vacation through Celebration, he asked it for a refund. Its answer left something to be desired, so he wants me to get involved.

Cruise and stay nightmare

I’m not sure if Lambert’s case merits a full refund. Maybe you can tell me if their experience was par for the course with this Radisson resort and Celebration and if it should be mediated.

Lambert paid $1,923 for the two-day cruise and four-day land portion. Let’s start with his problems on land.

• The check-in process was a disaster. “Upon arrival, at around noon, we had to wait over 45 minutes in a pre-check-in line to register and get a beeper because our rooms would not be ready until 3 p.m.,” he says. “Our luggage was put in storage and as we were unable to change, we had to either sit in the lobby for several hours or by the pool in our clothes.”

• His reservation was temporarily lost, and when it was recovered, the assigned room was unacceptable. One member of his party was given a smoking room and Lambert’s accommodations had no hot water. Both of them were eventually given new rooms.

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• The hotel advertised two golf courses, and Lambert, an avid golfer, planned to play both of them during his visit. “Please be aware that only one of the two courses was opened and that it can only be described as a cow pasture with unmowed burned out fairways, unplayable traps and top dressed sandy greens,” he wrote to Celebration.

Cruising chaos

The return to the ship was marked by the same chaos as their trip to Grand Bahama. “Long lines, no porters, lack of air conditioning and general confusion and congestion,” he says. (Related: This cruise mistake could really cost you.)

The response from Celebration: An apology and an $862 refund, which he says represents the resort portion of the journey.

But how about the cruise? Here’s what went wrong on the Celebration ship, in Lambert’s words:

Your website represents your ship as “dazzling” after being sent to Freeport for a multi-million dollar makeover into a tropical cruise ship.

Having sailed on RCCL, Celebrity, Regent, Silversea and many other cruise lines, we can only relate our extreme disappointment at the condition of your ship, its public areas, cabins (we had the largest ‘suites’) lack of working elevators, smelly hallways, below standard buffet, check-in and debark lines that were over one hour long and premium vodka that was ordered but not served.

If it were not for the kind staff and the Cove restaurant, it would have been a total nightmare.

Cruise and stay

OK, I had to roll my eyes when I saw the “premium” vodka comment. But it sounds as if the cruise matched his hotel stay, in terms of quality.

Lambert wants a full refund of the $1,923, and has joined with another couple traveling with him to request one.

It’s highly unusual for a cruise line to offer a full refund. I would be hesitant to ask for one. Rather, I’d view the $862 credit as a partial refund for the entire vacation, not just the hotel.

Should my advocacy team and I mediate this case?

Update: Well, this one sure is confusing. An early version of this story identified the cruise line as “Celebrity.” The correct name of the cruise line is Celebration. (And yes, there is a difference.)

Lambert also says the refund he received was for the hotel portion of his vacation, but not the cruise. I’ve updated the story to reflect that. The new information also answers my question about mediation, but if you see a compelling reason for me to ask for the cruise portion to be refunded, do tell.

(A little housekeeping note: I always recommend that consumers send a brief, polite email to a company when they have a problem. When complaint letters run several pages long, it is easy to get lost in the details.)

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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. He is based in Panamá City.

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