No cruise, no insurance and no refund? Not so fast!

Frank Pirri asked us for help with not one but two Princess World Cruises that he and his wife needed to cancel because of a sudden, serious medical diagnosis. But without travel insurance we thought that they would be out of luck. Happily, in this case, we were wrong.

But should you expect the same results? The short answer is no.

I’ll explain why in a moment. But first, to Pirri’s story.

Pirri and his wife are avid cruisers. They love cruise-ship life so much that they had already booked three lengthy Carnival Cruises for 2017. (Carnival is the parent company of Princess Cruises.) In January, they were scheduled to enjoy two back-to-back Princess World Cruises (43 days in total).

Unfortunately, in December, because of that serious medical diagnosis, which requires immediate treatment, the Pirris had to cancel these two cruises.

Although they had failed to purchase travel insurance for their $25,000 cruise, they expected to receive a full refund because of the nature of their cancellation. They were flabbergasted when they were told that they would incur a $6,779 penalty. This cancellation fee is detailed in the Princess Cruises terms of booking. Because the first cruise was between 56 and 29 days away, it had entered the 50- percent cancellation period. The second cruise was still 74 to 57 days away, so Carnival would refund the entire cost of this cruise less the initial $200 deposit.

Pirri wrote a letter of complaint to Carnival. He asked them to show “humanity” and to give him and his wife a travel credit for the future. But he was referred back to the cancellation policies by both Carnival and his travel agency, Affordable, and his request was denied.

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Next, Perri contacted us to see if we could intervene and get him a full refund. We felt compassion for the Pirris, but from our experience, we predicted that without travel insurance, he was not going to get his $6,779 back.

When Perri described his dilemma to us, he clearly understood the mistake he had made by not insuring this expensive trip. In fact, he told us that he had purchased travel insurance two days after the first medical appointment where it appeared that a serious medical problem had been detected.

FYI: It is not possible to purchase and apply travel insurance after a problem has been discovered. Pirri quickly found this out. He says,

On Nov. 30, I purchased travel insurance through Affordable [his travel agency] for this trip. I received the policy and upon review found out that the policy would not cover a cancellation of the trip due to medical reasons because the issuer would have to go back 120 days prior to diagnosis and that would be considered an “existing condition.” This was confirmed with Affordable. We were within the 10-day grace period, so the policy was canceled.

As consumer advocates, we get our fair share of cruise ship travelers who neglect to buy travel insurance, are faced with an unexpected illness or accident that forces the cancellation of their trip and then want to invoke the benefits of a good travel insurance policy.

Except that a travel insurance policy was not purchased in these cases.

Many consumers cite the fact that “I have always been healthy so I didn’t think I needed travel insurance.” They are missing the important fact that the purpose of travel insurance is to protect the traveler against unexpected events. Each consumer who contacts us firmly believes that their situation is unique, and of course it is to them, but it isn’t to the cruise line. They hear these stories every day, and refunds without travel insurance almost never happen.

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So that is why we were so surprised by what happened next in this case. Before we even contacted Carnival on his behalf, Pirri used our company contact list and sent another letter to Carnival requesting a travel credit or refund. This time he was granted a full refund.

We went back to Pirri’s emails searching for what made his case different from all the others.

Then we found the information that we were looking for.

Pirri explains:

Presently, we are Carnival Shareholders, Princess Ruby level members and Captain’s Circle members. In addition to the subject cruise we are presently booked on your Fall 2017 – 23-night Grand European Explorer Cruise

Voilà! This is the reason that you should not expect these “results.” The Pirris are part of the highest level of the Carnival customer hierarchy. The typical Carnival Cruise passenger will not receive a refund for a cruise because of an illness or other event that would be covered by the appropriate travel insurance. Therefore, when you are making a major investment such as a $25,000 cruise, make sure that you purchase insurance to protect that investment. Remember to expect the unexpected — or at least prepare for it!

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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