She said yes, but Carnival Cruise Line said no

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By Christopher Elliott

A Carnival cruise to Mexico’s scenic Yucatán Peninsula seemed like the perfect occasion for Jordan Brungardt to propose to his girlfriend. But before he popped the question, he consulted with an onboard photographer about capturing the moment when he hoped she would say “yes.”

“I was verbally quoted a price around $200,” says Brungardt.

The good news? His girlfriend said “yes.” The not-so-good-news? The onboard photographer charged him $998 for seven pictures and a two-minute video. And, despite protesting the surprise bill, no one has offered to fix it for him.

“This is absolutely outrageous,” he says. “Not only is that price taking advantage of customers trying to capture special moments, but I was forced to pay it if I wanted any type of photo that captured my engagement. Had I known the true cost of these items, I would have certainly asked another guest on the ship for their assistance in capturing this special moment.”

Now Brungardt wants our help recovering his $798. His case is a reminder of the importance of paperwork, particularly with wedding season just around the corner. Get everything in writing.

“Regrettably there is no refund or compensation”

The paper trail for Brungardt’s case is short and disappointing. It shows that he reached out to Carnival after his cruise and asked for a refund. The response was predictable.

We want you to know that we did not take your feedback lightly when you called us. On the contrary, we take guests’ concerns very seriously. This is why we shared your comments with the relevant department managers for their internal review, as part of our drive for continuous improvement.

While we too share your disappointment regarding the photographs’ cost, regrettably there is no refund or compensation. We know this is not the answer you were looking for, but trust you understand Carnival’s position regarding the matter.

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.

Once again, we sincerely apologize for your disappointment and thank you for your feedback. We hope we have the opportunity to win back your confidence on a future Carnival cruise.

My advocacy team had hoped he might be able to show correspondence between him and the photographer, Dalibor Petkovski. But he couldn’t.

No evidence of the $200 rate

Here’s the problem with Brungardt’s case. With no screenshot, email, or handwritten note, it’s his word against Carnival’s — or more specifically, Petkovski’s.

Let’s take a step back from this case. Is $998 too much to pay for a few pictures and a short video clip? Oh, absolutely. If Carnival or this photographer think the charge is reasonable, they’ve been smoking too much seaweed. (Related: Norwegian Cruise Line reneges on its refund offer.)

In fact, the prices he paid differ dramatically from the ones quoted on Carnival’s site:

Fun Shots (5×7): $11.99 to $14.99 USD each

Cruise Collectibles (6×9): $14.99 to $17.99 USD each (embarkation photos, dining room photos and gangway photos)

Pro Portraits (8×10): $21.99 USD each

Excluding the video, Brungardt could have gotten 45 professional photographs — enough for a whole album — at those prices. Even though this was a private photo shoot, something about his bill is fishy. (Here’s what you need to know before booking your next cruise.)

Still, without written proof, it’s impossible to advocate this case. My advocacy team would pursue Carnival to the ends of the Earth if we had evidence that the cruise line quoted him $200 and then charged him almost a grande. But we don’t.

Three rules for a successful resolution

This might be a good time to mention my three rules for successfully advocating your next case:

1. Get it in writing.
2. Get it in writing.
3. Get it in writing.

Seriously, this case would have been a slam-dunk with a written price quote. In fairness to Brungardt, he probably had other things on his mind, like, “Will she say yes?” That’s understandable. But it just cost him $798.

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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.

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