Dad passed away — is his cruise refund sunk?

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By Christopher Elliott

Sandy Perozeni’s father was scheduled to take a two-week cruise on Celebrity’s Constellation last year.

He knew it would probably be his last vacation. He’d just undergone cancer surgery, but it was also his 55th wedding anniversary and he wanted to go, despite his pre-existing medical condition.

I use the term “pre-existing” medical condition because, unfortunately, her father died before he could set sail.

“A few days prior to sailing, he experienced complications from a previous cancer surgery and was advised by his physician not to go on the cruise,” says Perozeni. “The doctor felt it was possible that my dad’s symptoms would require a blood transfusion that would not be available on the ship.”

Celebrity’s response to a bereaved family

Her parents were “devastated” that they couldn’t take the cruise, but when they filed a claim with their insurance company, they were pleased that they could get a 75 percent voucher, which could be used for a future Celebrity cruise.

When they brought the circumstances to Celebrity’s attention, it upped the offer, giving them a full credit. That was a classy thing to do, and Celebrity has a well-deserved reputation of going above and beyond what’s required. Perozeni says her parents were “elated.”

But they couldn’t take advantage of the offer.

“Unfortunately, my dad then suffered further complications and passed away from liver cancer this past Christmas Eve,” she says.

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Perozeni asked the cruise line if it would consider refunding the cruise. After all, airlines almost always refund nonrefundable airline tickets when a passenger dies. Why not a cruise line?

Celebrity turned down her first request. So she wrote back and asked for a refund for just one certificate.

Denied again.

Refusal to refund

Perozeni doesn’t understand why Celebrity refuses to offer a cash refund. She thinks it might have something to do with her father’s pre-existing medical condition.

I don’t think so.

If his insurance offered a 75 percent voucher, and was aware of his medical condition (which it was, since it was the reason for his cancellation), then it covered pre-existing conditions. Celebrity made an exception by offering a full voucher; it didn’t have to. (Here’s our guide to finding the best travel insurance.)

But the death of a passenger is another matter, and I thought Celebrity would refund the cruise since Perozeni’s parents had also purchased insurance. (Related: Can I get my money back for a bad cruise?)

My advocacy team and I contacted Celebrity on her mother’s behalf. It didn’t respond.

A few months later, I contacted Celebrity. Again, it didn’t respond or offer Perozeni anything beyond a form denial.

Of course, I can’t force Celebrity to offer this widow a refund on her anniversary cruise. Is it the right thing to do? Of course. Does it have to? No.

But the next time someone tells you that a cruise is an all-inclusive, family-friendly activity, maybe you should think of Sandy Perozeni.

I will.

Was Celebrity right to deny Perozeni's refund?

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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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