A broken kneecap, a denied insurance claim — and a missed cruise

I know what you’re thinking. Did Debby Russo fall behind on her interest payments and get roughed up by a loan shark?

No, almost as bad. She broke her kneecap, but she thought she was covered by her travel insurance. She wasn’t.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Insured International -- Travel Insured International is a leading travel insurance provider. For over 25 years, their goal has been to help each individual travel confidently. Some of the major travel insurance benefits provided by in their plans include Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Accident and Sickness Medical Expense, and Baggage and Personal Effects coverage. Plans also include other non-insurance assistance services. In 2015, Travel Insured was acquired by Crum & Forster, whose parent company is Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. The financial strength and core values of the companies give Travel Insured the best position in the market to continue its commitment of helping individuals protect their travel plans. Travel Relaxed…Travel Secure…When you have Travel Insured.

Russo’s experience is an important reminder about the limits of insurance. Simply put, when a company says you’re “covered” you have to check the fine print.

Just before Russo was scheduled to leave for a Royal Caribbean cruise to Bermuda this spring, she says she fell and injured her knee. The damage: a broken kneecap and fractured tibia.

“I had my first surgery to repair my knee,” she says. “My doctor said I could not go on the cruise, he did not believe it would be safe, inasmuch as my right leg would be non-weight bearing due to the tibia fracture.”

Good thing she’d purchased the optional Royal Caribbean Travel Protection, which many of our commenters are quick to recommend. She phoned the company to file a claim.

“I explained my situation. They were very sympathetic and said I had a valid reason to cancel my trip and they would send the forms for me to fill out,” she says.

Now here’s where things get a little complicated. Russo says she canceled her reservation. But she wasn’t traveling alone. Her roommate decided to stick to her plans. We could get into a discussion about single supplements here, but I’m staying on course.

“In June, I received a letter from Aon, the travel insurance company for Royal Caribbean, stating that my insurance claim was denied. I called right away and discussed the situation with them and they said that although I had a valid claim, Royal Caribbean was denying it,” she says.

Why? Royal Caribbean claims she did not actually cancel her vacation, but let someone else go on the cruise in her place.

“Which is untrue,” she says.

Single supplement conspiracy theorists — feel free to speculate here.

Russo appealed, to no avail. She disputed the $839 cruise fare on her credit card — nothing. Finally, she contacted us.

Our advocacy team reached out to Royal Caribbean. And we were hopeful when the company reviewed her case and assured us that it had been resolved. So we checked back with Russo to see how it was “resolved.”

Short answer: It wasn’t.

Royal Caribbean claims she never actually canceled her cruise. By its accounting, there was a guest in the cabin, so if she wants a refund, she should ask her traveling companion for the money, since the cost of her cruise had been subsidized by Russo.

Russo says the phone call from Royal Caribbean informing her of this “resolution” quickly devolved into an argument, but the company representative would not be moved.

“It was a very expensive lesson learned,” she adds.

The takeaway? When you call off a cruise, make sure you get a cancellation number from the company. A review of Russo’s records shows she didn’t, so she was technically a “no show.”

Also, she adds, “never buy travel insurance from the company supplying the trip.” She discovered that her policy came with restrictions that proved to be too restrictive to file a successful claim.

Those were all important lessons. Russo says she’ll never cruise with Royal Caribbean again, and can you blame her?

17 thoughts on “A broken kneecap, a denied insurance claim — and a missed cruise

  1. This is not considered a cancellation, as the cabin was still used (and her friend paid the full price, as is the norm). Unfortunately, you can’t ask for 1/2 your hotel room back when someone still goes, and you can’t do it on a ship or on a resort trip, either. Too bad she never gave them all the details, and then they could have explained it all better for her.

    1. Actually her friend didn’t pay the full price – the friend traveled on the letter writers dime. The friend owes her half of the money. The friend also should have bought travel insurance because most have coverage for if your companion cancels so you don’t have to pay the full price of the cruise yourself.

  2. RCI did nothing wrong, but the insurance company SHOULD have refunded her money IF she truly cancelled. It sounds like there’s some discrepancy there.

    1. Shouldn’t the companion taking the cabin be charged the single rate plus single supplement, meaning that the cancelling pax gets back the difference? I’ve heard of funny math, but this is ridiculous.

      1. Yes. That’s why she is the one who owes the letter writer the money. The cabin was fully paid for between the two of them. It sounds more like the letter writer simply didn’t go instead of calling RCCL and canceling her portion of the cabin. Then Royal would have gone back to the companion for the rest of the single supplement.

    2. Agreed. But, since there was no cancellation number available to be presented by Debby Russo, what proof did she have that it really was cancelled? How did she cancel it? Did she has a date and time she did that and to whom she spoke (assuming she canceled it via phone). If she cancelled online, did she keep a copy of the reply she would get from her cancellation email? No, she presented no proof that it was cancelled.
      Also, when her friend went anyway, I assume the cabin was one meant for two and since only one was now cruising, a single supplement would be added which probably ate up most of what Debby should or would have gotten back. I only mention this because since the cruise line claims she never cancelled, it would most likely charge that because she was a “no show” according to its records and therefore when the insurance company called it, it did not want the claim paid.
      So, I see issues on Debby’s side. One, no proof she cancelled and two, she bought the cruise line’s insurance package which obviously did not provide her the coverage she most likely would have gotten (one with more liberal terms and less strings attached) had she purchased one from reputable companies outside the cruise line.
      Sorry this happened to her, but I do not know how she could get compensated with no proof of cancellation.

      1. I don’t think she canceled her name off the res. – it sounds like she simply didn’t go thus being called a no show. She needed to get her name removed from the reservation so Royal could do after her companion for the single supplement she would be charged for sailing solo.

  3. I am not a frequent cruiser, but was $839 the total price of the cruise or her portion of the fare? I know the single supplement complicates the math, but just want to know if she was asking for the proper refund amount.

    1. yes – but when she did not actually cancel the cabin, just let her friend sail alone – and I think because was so close to sailing, her friend would have had to cancel and rebook at higher rate, so they decided she should travel along in old booking, but then she is just a no-show. but would like more details!

  4. I can see from thr PAX POV how this was a cancelation, she wasn’t a no show, she called, received assurances, and then canceled. She didn’t ask how the weather was with the CSR agent.

  5. Both people in the room needed to have Travel a Insurance. One to protect the writer who broken her knee and leg and one to cover the party traveling with her and cover the single supplement. Being a “No Show” of course never works if you are not in this situation. Bottom line Never buy TI from the cruise line!

  6. What is wrong with getting the insurance from the cruise line? The problem was the cruise was not canceled. My daughter had to cancel a cruise because she was having a miscarriage. If her husband had gone anyway, she would probably not have gotten the refund. My daughter canceled and there was no issue.

  7. I’m such a cynical suspicous sort. I have to wonder if she waited to file the claim without actually cancelling thinking that this way her companion could have the room to herself, for whatever she paid without the single supplement, and hopefully allowing the OP to get reimbursed afterward by TI for HER cruise fare.

  8. If the cruise line got a cancellation, they should have “approved” the insurance claim. If she didn’t cancel, she can’t get reimbursed. Which is it?

  9. Haven’t others in similar circumstances been told their travel partner had to now pay more, and if they try to substitute another traveler that gets denied as well? Funny how they get to play it whatever way keeps them from getting a refund. I’m not big on buying trip insurance through the cruise line.

    1. correct the cost of the cabin is split between two people, but if only one travels, they assume the total cost of the cabin – no refund

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