A flight cancellation sinks a Princess cruise

When Joan Judice’s flight to her cruise was canceled, it created a domino effect. Every supplier involved — her airline, cruise line and travel agent — took a half-step back during the resolution.

Question is: Did they step too far back?

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First, let’s set the scene. Judice and her husband made reservations through an American Automobile Club (AAA) agency for a Princess Alaska cruise this summer. They took every possible precaution to make sure they arrived on time, including booking their flights a day early.

But when their 6:15 a.m. Air Canada flight to Vancouver was canceled, it threw their schedule into disarray. They ended up missing their departure. Catching up to the ship proved to be problematic.

“We had been told to get ourselves to and from the hotel and airport in Vancouver to catch up with the ship at whatever port could be arranged,” she says. “Princess agents had given us conflicting information as to how that may or may not happen.”

Eventually, they gave up.

“Given our total inexperience with cruises and the lack of faith our agent had in Princess employees whom she had spoken to, we decided to cancel our trip,” she says.

Now, a cruise can be a complicated thing. There’s ground transportation, air transportation and hotel arrangements. And the inevitable questions from the commenters. Was this an air-inclusive cruise? Did they have insurance, which would have covered a trip interruption?

Her agency secured a partial refund for the canceled cruise, consisting of a $908 refund, two cruise vouchers for $2,865 and a 20 percent off coupon for Air Canada.

Her reimbursement of $6,640 leaves her with a loss of $2,409, she says.

Is that enough?

To find out, we asked her travel agency for its take on what happened.

Here’s its response:

AAA researched this matter and Princess Cruises verified that Ms. Judice was refunded according to the Standard Princess Vacation Protection plan she had purchased.

Mr. and Ms. Judice experienced a weather-related flight cancellation at the start of their 11-day cruise tour. During the members’ communication with Princess …, Mr. and Ms. Judice chose to cancel their booking.

Princess Cruises is not able to provide the same cruise in 2017 for the rate the member paid in 2016. However, Ms. Judice was refunded 75% of her fare and received a future cruise credit, in accordance with the Standard Princess Vacation Protection plan.

Princess Cruises has asked to be notified when Mr. and Ms. Judice book again so the cruise line can enhance their experience in some way. AAA appreciates the opportunity to review this matter and assist our members with this and future travels.

So now we have the answer to several questions. She had trip “protection” and the air inclusive thing didn’t really matter, because the couple received a full refund after the weather cancellation plus a 20 percent coupon.

Not bad. But they still lost money.

Should they have? One look at the (PDF) policy, with its assurances that you can “put your mind at ease,” would leave you with the impression that someone like Judice is fully covered. But no, she wasn’t.

Both her agent and cruise line are right, and her request for a $2,409 refund is not in line with the terms of the policy.

So what’s the right move here? Should AAA step up and make her whole? Should Princess? Or did Judice receive enough compensation for her canceled cruise?

Did Joan Judice receive enough compensation for her canceled cruise?

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63 thoughts on “A flight cancellation sinks a Princess cruise

  1. I guess I’m having trouble figuring out why, if they booked flights arriving a day early, a cancellation on a flight more than 24 hours before the cruise departed would have caused them to miss their sailing.

    1. Yes, this passenger did everything right: a real travel agent, padding day before the cruise, and insurance. The biggest problem in this case seems to be the time it took to fly in. If they started in the US, this schedule allowed time to fly into Seattle and then drive (I have done this) if necessary. What in hell happened?

      1. Either
        A: The agent is completely incompetent and thinks his/her job is just answering the phone and filling out forms on the web.
        B: The passengers just took the first rebooking the airline offered and didn’t try to get their airline or the agent come up with a better solution.

        1. or
          C: The agent’s hands were tied because there were no available seats on the ticketing carrier arriving in Vancouver on time and Princess’s plan only covers $500 in total expenses and last-minute peak-season seats to subsequent ports were few in number and very costly.

          1. Sounds like that would have been cheaper than missing the cruise entirely. Now if they want to go next year, it will be more expensive and if they don’t use the vouchers they lost 5K.

          2. The idea that there were zero seats available into either Vancouver or Seattle (or even Portland; BoltBus offers several buses from there to Vancouver) for over 24 hours is unlikely.

            It might have taken having AC route them down to the US and up to Seattle on United, it might have taken a bus ride, it might have taken creative routing (AC to Toronto, UA to SFO, and then SEA, and then a bus), it might have taken a bit of work on the part of the agent, but with 24 hours to play with, there were almost certainly options.

            Heck, they were about to lose nearly $2,500… that’d probably be more than enough for a pair of last-minute tickets from any one of the airports Alaska Airlines serves, plus tickets for a bus from Seatac to Vancouver.

            (It would have been really nice to know where they were flying from; that would have answered a LOT of questions… there might truly have been zero options if they were flying in from Nowheresville, Canada.)

            This is why I think that by far the most likely explanation is that the late arrival was almost certainly just the first thing the airline came up with, and either the agent didn’t work to get it fixed, or the passenger didn’t ask.

            And on your edit: This is minor, but you are referring to the Passenger Vessel Services Act; the Jones Act has a catchier name, but only covers cargo.

          3. but they COULD have flown into Seattle and taken the transfer up to Vancouver – would have been able to get there in plenty of time!

          4. Air Canada doesn’t have many options to get to Seattle without going through Vancouver.

            So you mean pay out of pocket to buy last minute tickets on some other carrier — without knowing where they originated and which carriers serve their market…

          5. The ONLY situation I can conceive of where they’d be unable to get to Vancouver in time would be if they were originating in some backwater Canadian town whose only flights are direct to Vancouver.

            If their flight into Vancouver was coming from an AC hub, they could take a flight to literally ANY UA hub and take a non-stop into Vancouver. In the unlikely event that zero seats were available on THAT route, fly to Seattle. If, somehow, THAT is booked too, fly to SFO and take any one of the over two-dozen flights on several different carriers that run to SEA from there.

  2. Important information is missing. No mention is made of alternative flight schedules being offered. Were no flights available? Did they not like the schedule offered? Since they planned to arrive the day prior I am surprised there is no mention of efforts made to accommodate them on other flights–even if it is noted that all flights were sold out.

    1. I was confused by that, too. Especially since the original flight was so early in the day the day before… seems unless they were in the middle of a hurricane, they should have been able to get there. But, the refund and vouchers seemed pretty generous(?) to me.

    2. Also, missing is from where they are flying. They could have been lucky and had a non-stop flight, but there are many ways to get to Vancouver with connections. And as others have said, Seattle is the alternative. They were smart and planned to arrive a day early, that should have been enough time to come up with a creative solution — something AAA should have done for them.

  3. I looked up the Princess cruise protection plan, expecting a refund would only come in the form of a voucher. It doesn’t. A covered reason gets you a cash refund. The CFAR portion allows a 75% voucher, with an upgrade available for 100% voucher. Apparently the OP could have joined the ship and received a prorated refund. Because she chose to cancel, it went as CFAR. It would have been a trip interruption claim if she attempted to join the ship late.

    Here’s the language:

    Vacation Protection “Any Reason”
    Cruise Credits……………….Up to 75% of the non-refundable
    prepaid cruise vacation cost
    Platinum Vacation Protection “Any Reason”
    Cruise Credits……………….Up to 100% of the non-refundable
    prepaid cruise vacation cost
    Provided by Princess Cruises and/or
    Princess Tours*
    In the event that you choose to cancel for a reason
    not authorized above or for a reason that is otherwise
    restricted, at any time up until departure, and you have
    purchased Cruise Vacation Protection, Princess Cruises
    and/or Princess Tours will provide you a cruise credit
    equal to 75% (100% if Platinum Vacation Protection was
    purchased) of the non-refundable value of your cruise
    vacation prepaid to Princess Cruises and/or Princess
    Tours, for your use toward a future cruise.
    This additional enhancement is offered exclusively by
    Princess Cruises and/or Princess Tours as a special
    service to guests that purchase this passage contract
    Cancellation Fee Waiver Addendum. Certain restrictions
    on the use of these cruise credits (such as blackout
    periods) may apply. To be eligible for credits, notification of
    cancellation must be given to Princess Cruises and/or
    Princess Tours prior to the ship’s departure. Once you’ve
    cancelled with Princess Cruises and/or Princess Tours,
    please contact the Program Administrator at
    1-877-846-8833 regarding cruise credits.


    1. The coverage for catching up to the ship (inclusive of hotels and meals) is capped at $500. It would be hardly surprising if the last minute travel costs for two adults headed to Alaska during peak-summer travel period were prohibitively beyond that figure.

      1. I completely agree. However, I would think that would be included in the OP’s narrative. The agent offered us an option where we had to pay $1000 out of pocket; or some other similar information. Which is why I said we need to know what options the OP was offered before I could vote.

        1. They lost 5k to avoid spending another 1k. Meanwhile it would’ve been much easier to recoup that 1k, through princess insurance, credit card trip delay, airline credits for the canceled flight, than where they are now. They lost 5k or must spend well over 1k to use the vouchers for a trip next year. It sounds like they were in over their heads and called it a day. Someone should’ve helped them.

        2. My first thought was the options could have been so pricey/convoluted/inconvenient that the agent was embarrassed to offer them and tried (unsuccessfully) to enlist help/favors from Princess.

          But on second thought — the more obvious explanation is that there may have been no viable options that complied with the Jones Act.

          1. When you are about to lose $2,500 and miss vacation, most people’s definition of “pricey/convoluted/inconvenient” changes quite a bit.

            I might defer my long-weekend with Aunt Flo if the alternative is an entire day in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, but not an expensive cruise.

            And with over 30 hours to play with, they should have been able to make departure, making the PVSA moot.

          2. They could easily be looking at beyond $2,500 in out of pocket costs (if seats were available at all).

            And where do you get the idea they had 30 hours to play with? I read that 6:15am was their *departure* time.

          3. they were flying in the day BEFORE – so they still had PLENTY of time to get on another flight, and not look for that SAME flight the next day.

          4. They were flying in the day before the cruise, giving them at least 24 hours, and no cruise departs early in the morning because they have to turn around the ship. Most cruises depart mid-afternoon to evening, depending on the distance to the first port. (I picked a Princess cruise at random for next summer departing from Vancouver, and it didn’t leave until 4:30PM) Even if their flight wasn’t leaving FOR Vancouver until 7:15, unless they were flying in from Asia or Europe, they’d still have plenty of time to fix things. (Which makes the article leaving out that little tidbit of information even more frustrating.)

            And while we certainly can’t know exactly what fares were on that particular day, I have a hard time believing they could not get two one-way seats into SeaTac (which has bus service to Vancouver) for $1,250 or less from somewhere on the West coast.

            One-way walk-up fares are expensive, but they aren’t THAT expensive. Planes are kinda crowded, but when there are literally dozens of flights in a single day running the same route, they aren’t THAT full.

            For reference, SFO->SEA, departing today (and Friday one of the more expensive days to travel), is less than $300. And if I’m reading Google Flight results correctly, there are no less than 28 non-stop flights to choose from. LAX->SEA: 31 non-stop flights, only two of which are more than $300. If you don’t want to take the bus from Seattle? SFO to Vancouver, six non-stops, all under $500, and a bazillion connecting choices (only a handful of which are over $500.)

          5. You are assuming they originated in the US, and not, say, Canada. Otherwise, getting to the US-West coast is probably the hardest part… You’re also assuming that the initial cancellation occurred promptly, as opposed to occurring after a long delay. And don’t forget the 90 minute arrival deadline at the cruise terminal…

            And I wouldn’t use November prices and availability as a gauge for June/July prices and availability.

          6. Even originating in Canada, getting to the the West Coast is not difficult if there is any air service at all. And with well over 24 hours to get there (even if the cancellation took a while, and even accounting for the check-in deadline), there are lots of options.

            And yeah, November might be cheaper than the Summer, but not THAT much.

          7. We don’t even know if the OP is a US citizen. For all we know, they’re Canadian. Yet another reason we need more information. As several others have suggested, how they couldn’t have found a flight to Seattle or Vancouver with more than 24 hours to spare simply doesn’t make sense.

            The other possible explanation I can come up with is (wherever it may be) there was a significant weather event at their home airport and all flights were canceled. If there was a hurricane right where they live, for example, they’re probably not getting out in a day. But, again, why wouldn’t that be relevant enough to include. There simply isn’t enough information.

            Per their protection plan, they’re due trip interruption benefits. I find it hard to believe the agent didn’t go over everything. It just makes no sense that there’s no info about alternate flights. Which leads me to believe it would have been relatively easy.

          8. I’m pretty sure PVSA/Jones applies to the vessel. The citizenship of the passenger is irrelevant.

            I’m also pretty sure they wouldn’t be due any Trip Interruption benefits if the Delay did not correspond to a specific Covered Reason. Which it apparently did not since they only got back 75%.

  4. If they were to fly in a day early, there should have been enough options to get her, if not to Vancouver, then to Seattle at least, and the agent could have arranged transportation from there to Vancouver. The AAA agent doesn’t sound like she did anything for this client at all!

    1. I get the impression that she tried, but the OP was having none of it. Maybe I’m wrong, but this statement seems odd to me:

      “Given our total inexperience with cruises and the lack of faith our agent had in Princess employees whom she had spoken to, we decided to cancel our trip.”

      The agent had to know they’d only get a 75% voucher. What I need to know is whether the agent told her she’d likely not be insured for a refund. I can’t figure out this statement, it stood out to me when I was reading.

    2. Not just any options — they would have needed options on Air Canada or options on some other carrier priced near or below the $500 insurance plan cap for 2 people to buy last minute peak-season tickets (and interim hotels if necessary) to reach a port on the itinerary in time…

      1. they wer going in the day before – PLENTY of time to reroute to Seattle or even Portland, and transfer them up — they weren’t flying in the same day.

        1. Regardless of where they were originating, and how many other distressed passengers on weather-cancelled flights were competing for the same seats?

          1. But if the cancelations were significant due to something like a hurricane, why would that not be pointed out? And, for sake of argument, if an option where the OP is spending money out of pocket were presented, I would think that would be pointed out too. We just don’t know.

            I quoted the statement earlier that I thought stood out. It seemed odd. I honestly get the impression they agent tried and the OP just decided to quit and stay home. Maybe I’m wrong. But we really need the missing information, on that I think we all agree.

          2. Well, when your alternatives encompass being able to connect through literally any US or Canadian hub airport, there’s pretty much always a seat somewhere.

          3. If they were coming from SFO — which is the only origin for which I can find a non-stop flight on AC metal which would have departed at exactly 6:15am — then I agree it should have been workable.

            If they were departing at exactly 6:15am but connecting, then the likely possibilities are YQM or YSJ, and I challenge you to find last minute seats ‘somewhere’ in the midst of weather cancellations…

          4. The article specifically said their “Air Canada flight to Vancouver”. But if we assume that was a typo, and they were originating in Nowheresville, NB…

            If YQM and/or YSJ was a disaster-zone of weather, they could have driven to Portland, ME, which has service to every hub East of the Mississippi. (It has more service than you’d expect for a city of it’s size because Canadians drive there to save on plane tickets vs. AC puddle-jumpers.)

          5. Now you’re talking about a 6+ hour drive to an airport that in the best possible scenario has an 8+ hour itinerary to YVR…

          6. As I just mentioned in an edit to another reply, the likelihood they are Canadians is low, because if they were from Canada, the booking would have been through CAA, not AAA.

            But even if they were in Nowhere, NB… well if you are about to lose $2,500 and a vacation, a long day traveling doesn’t seem like the worst thing ever.

          7. Not saying they did originate in Nowhwere, NB (regardless of their citizenship/residence), but if they did, there could easily be no viable itineraries available, let alone the best case scenarios.

            If they needed to do this today (nevermind in the summer) I can’t even find a single car rental company that would sell a one-way rental from YQM->PWM.

          8. Who said anything about a rental? If you are going to fly from Portland, why not return there and drive back home? (AC could connect them from Portland to/from Vancouver through a UA codeshare to ORD, IAD, or EWR. Or even just write the whole ticket over to UA and go on even more plentiful service to SeaTac.)

            Really, this is all a lot of silly speculation, simply because it’s so unlikely they are from Nowhere, Canada anyway.

          9. You’re suggesting either way beyond $2,500 in costs in all likelihood, and/or AC granting favors it has no obligation to. I agree we’re getting into a lot of far-fetched speculation.

  5. I noticed that the voting on their compensation amount was very close. I, too, feel like there was incomplete information, but I voted yes, then realised that I, like many consumers, may have become willing to accept any ‘reasonable’ settlement, rather than get nothing, instead of what may be rightfully due. Travel can sometimes be very, very tricky.

    1. I did not vote because of all the missing information regarding alternative flights. If no options were offered or none were available puts a completely different slant on the compensation than if they turned down any alternates that were offered.

    1. I agree. An important part of the story is why they didn’t make it to the cruise sailing when they had an extra day to get there. I would prefer that an article not be published than to have an incomplete one.

  6. I agree with several other posters. Many KEY pieces of information are missing. What month was this cruise/tour? What was the departure city of the 6:15 a.m. Air Canada flight to Vancouver? Was this a non-stop flight? This was a weather-related cancellation – for Air Canada or ALL other flights? Were there any other flights that same day or early the next day on Air Canada or any other airline? Did the OP immediately call her AAA agent and have her agent try to re-book a flight? AAA said this was an 11-day cruise/tour. Was the cruise first and land second? “Princess agents had given us conflicting information as to how that may or may not happen.” What was the conflicting information? “Given our total inexperience with cruises and the lack of faith our agent had in Princess employees whom she had spoken to, we decided to cancel our trip,” she says. What lack of faith did the AAA agent have? What else did the AAA agent do to help the clients? Did the AAA agent advise them what would happen if the OP cancelled? Can vote without more info.

  7. This agent sounds terrible. See, even using AAA you can get a travel agent that doesn’t know what they are doing. The agent should have also explained that she could have bought the Platinum insurance that would have covered 100% of the cancellation penalty.
    Why didn’t they see if they could get her out from Seattle? Either there is a lot of information missing, or AAA was incompetent. Many time there is missing info from these stories which confuses us when you ask for a response.

    1. I agree – the agent here was useless — could easily have rerouted to Seattle (or even Portland) and shuttled them to Vancouver – they had the padding of the extra day, so no excuse!

  8. We haven’t been told where the Judice’s cancelled flight originated (key piece of information). If we knew where they were coming from we might be better able to see how they could have gotten from there to Vancouver in time to catch their cruise. Further, we do not know what the AAA policy they purchased allowed for what they encountered.
    Finally, it is obvious the travel agent did not perform as he/she should have on their behalf.

  9. More detail on the travel to the cruise would be useful to me. We always travel to a cruise port at least a day in advance, even when driving to a nearby port. To-date, we have not had a problem but I have thought that the one-day buffer would allow a resolution to most any travel problem. It would be quite interesting to know how the day-ahead strategy could fail as it apparently did in this unfortunate situation.

    1. it didn’t – the agent did — I would have already called our sales desk and had them rerouted, on another carrier, or to Seattle or even Portland, and transferred them in from there. she failed miserably here

    1. You’d do well to:
      A: Lay off the CAPS LOCK
      B: Read the article; it was made pretty clear they had insurance, which they used. It just did not cover the whole trip.

  10. I agree that there is not enough information to vote. As has been pointed out, why couldn’t she book another flight to a close location, she had a whole day. Also, at least with Princess, if they book your flight at the time you make your reservation they will go out of their way to make arrangements to get you to the ship, or at least the next port of call. I had a flight to Fairbanks as part of an Alaska sea/land cruise and my flight was cancelled for mechanical problems (in San Jose, CA). Princess rented a vehicle and driver, drove us to SFO where they had a flight arranged for us and flew us to Fairbanks. All of this was arranged by my AAA travel agent.

  11. Had they booked air through the cruise line, it would have been Princess’ obligation to get them to the ship. That said, they did take reasonable precautions by using a travel agent and booking arrival a day early. I can’t understand why they had such difficulty completing the trip to Vancouver. Their TA should have found a way. Seems like the agent threw up her hands and claimed difficulty dealing with Princess. Princess was not the problem, the travel agent was.

    1. Had they booked air through the cruise line, it would have been Princess’ obligation to get them to the ship.

      Not really. If it’s not possible on the original air carrier and complying with the Jones Act then on what basis do they have any obligations, beyond the $500 Trip Delay coverage in their trip protection plan (if purchased)?

      1. Joyce is correct. Princess EZAir program guarantees they will get you to your ship, no matter what.
        Text from their site here:
        “Ensures you’ll get your cruise if flights are delayed or cancelled, and we’ll get you home if for any reason the cruise or Princess transfer cause you to miss your return flight.”

        1. It says they will “work with the airlines to find a reasonable alternative.”

          I don’t see where it says they will pay government fines to violate cabotage laws to accommodate you.

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