Can NCL increase the price of the cruise after it’s over?

Yuriy Guzman received a special deal from Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for a cruise for himself and his family. Then Guzman himself couldn’t go. When Guzman failed to pay the NCL price increase in his relatives’ cruise fares, NCL blocked him from its cruises.

“It does not make sense to have Norwegian stipulate that I, as a booked passenger who didn’t complete travel, owe them more money for a trip I didn’t take,” says Guzman.

It may not make sense to Guzman. But our advocates aren’t sure we can help him, as you’re about to read.

A casino certificate for a high roller

Guzman is a gamer who received a casino certificate for an NCL cruise. The certificate allowed Guzman to book a cruise on the Norwegian Epic at a special low rate. He made reservations for himself, his father and his sister for an NCL cruise at the special rate of $1,353. In addition, he purchased a travel insurance policy from a third-party carrier. We don’t know his itinerary or insurance carrier.

He then suffered a back injury that prevented him from joining his family on the cruise. The travel insurance company reimbursed Guzman for his share of the cruise fare.

An unexpected NCL price increase

Guzman called NCL two days before the Norwegian Epic’s scheduled departure date to ask about cancellation penalties. But he apparently failed to cancel his reservation, because NCL treated him as a no-show. Guzman’s father and sister sailed on the cruise without him. He was gambling that NCL would allow them to cruise at the special low rate without him — but he lost. NCL treated their reservation as a “tariff booking” and billed Guzman an additional $1,441.

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Neither Guzman nor his father has paid the extra fare cost. This resulted in NCL placing a hold on Guzman’s account, which prevents him from booking any future cruises until he pays the additional fare.

An unfair account hold?

Guzman acknowledges that the terms of his certificate allow NCL to reprice the cruise costs. But he doesn’t believe NCL should have blocked his account. He wrote to NCL to request that the hold be lifted, but NCL declined to do so:

While I feel it is unfair and unjust (in spite of the certificate policies), I also would like to point out that a hold/block on my account for a fare which I paid for myself despite not boarding the ship (and losing out on my fare as well as port taxes and administrative fees) somewhat defies common sense and basic logic.

An NCL coordinator of guest relations responded:

Our records show that you were the primary casino certificate holder and when you didn’t show up for your cruise aboard Epic … your reservations [were] changed from a complimentary status to a tariff booking for the remaining guests.

According to the terms and conditions of this offer, you would have had to sail for the previously mentioned fare to be valid.

NCL’s employee also pointed out that Guzman was aware that the price of his relatives’ reservation was going up:

[You] called in … and were advised that if you did not sail the certificate would not be valid and the price on the reservation would revert to a tariff booking.

A “tariff booking” is presumably an undiscounted cruise fare for a non-revenue passenger, to be paid after the cruise concludes. The employee suggested that Guzman make a claim on his travel insurance policy for the balance of the NCL price increase. We don’t know if he filed a reimbursement claim on his policy.

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Next port of call: our advocates

Guzman asked us to help him get the hold removed from his account: “My position is that it is devoid of any sense whatsoever that NCL is punishing me by putting a hold on my account, since I already forfeited the fare I paid for and didn’t travel.”

Our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman, pointed out to Guzman that his father and sister only qualified for the lower fare because of him. And the fare depended on Guzman attending the cruise as well (and visiting the onboard casino). Michelle asked Guzman why neither he nor his father paid the NCL price increase when he was unable to cruise. Guzman didn’t answer this question.

NCL’s guest ticket contract allows the cruise line to prohibit passengers with unpaid balances from sailing:

Carrier reserves the right, prior to sailing, to collect the correct fare or cancel the booking and refund any payment made by Guest. Carrier reserves the right to cancel any booking and/or deny boarding to any Guest that maintains an outstanding balance in any amount owed to Carrier.

So Guzman doesn’t appear to have a case we can advocate. But we’ll put it to our readers:

Should Guzman be responsible to pay the additional fee for this NCL cruise?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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