We lost $1,500 when Princess rebooked us on a cruise we didn’t want

It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime for Marion Aymie and her husband. But their plans ran aground when Princess changed the cruise schedule.

The Aymies had booked a Scandinavia Russia Collection Cruise through the travel agency Our Vacation Center. The cruise was to travel to Riga, Latvia (Aymie’s husband’s birthplace), and St. Petersburg, Russia. They also bought tickets for an AMA Danube River cruise, departing from Budapest, Hungary. These were places they were particularly excited to see.

Then Princess rescheduled the cruise and rebooked the Aymies on a different cruise, upending their vacation plans.

“It seems that cruise lines can change whatever they want and get away with it,” says Aymie. Unfortunately, she’s right.

The Aymies used frequent flyer miles to book business class flights on United from Boston to London and from Munich to Boston. In order to take the AMA cruise, they booked nonrefundable flights from London to Budapest. They also purchased travel insurance.

Then they received an email from Princess informing them that they had been rebooked on the Norwegian Fjords Cruise. The Scandinavia Russia Collection Cruise had been rescheduled and would depart during the time they were booked on the Danube River cruise.

In order to adjust their plans to take the Scandinavia Russia Collection Cruise, they canceled the Danube River cruise and incurred exorbitant change fees to rebook their flights. In order to have enough miles to sit in business class on the new flights, they had to book Princess’ British Isles Cruise and pay for two nights at a hotel. These changes cost the Aymies $1,500.

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Once they were on the Scandinavia Russia Collection Cruise, they heard from other passengers whose plans had been changed that they were reimbursed by Princess for extra charges they incurred.

When the Aymies returned home, they wrote and called Princess several times. Princess’ representatives told the Aymies to send receipts for their incidental expenses for reimbursement. But after the Aymies sent Princess the receipts, they were told that Princess would not pay them anything. Princess’ representatives further explained that had the Aymies canceled their cruise, Princess would have refunded their money.

The Aymies then asked Our Vacation Center for help in recovering their incidental expenses, but Our Vacation Center’s agents told them to “read the fine print.”

Sadly for the Aymies, Our Vacation Center is correct that Princess can legally get away with changing whatever it wants with regard to its cruises and owes the Aymies nothing. That’s because its passage contract provides that

Carrier reserves the right to refuse booking of passage on a Cruise to any person or to cancel Your existing Cruise reservation for any lawful reason and regardless of a guest’s Captain’s Circle loyalty level or existing benefits. …
Except as otherwise provided, Carrier may, for any reason, without prior notice, cancel the cruise; deviate from the scheduled ports of call, route and timetable; call or omit to call at any port or place or cancel or modify any activity on or off the ship; … or change the date or time of sailing or arrival, change the port of embarkation or disembarkation, shorten the Cruise or substitute ships, aircraft or other transportation or lodging. …
All travel facilities, tours, activities, products or services, other than aboard Carrier’s vessels and tenders, provided in connection with, before, after or during Your Cruise, including but not limited to … transportation of any kind by any vessel, aircraft, or other conveyance, including, but not limited to, air travel to and from the ship, are provided, owned and/or operated by independent contractors whose employees, facilities, conveyances, products and services are not subject to Carrier’s supervision or control. … Carrier accepts no liability for any loss … or disappointment for any cancellations of any excursion, service or transportation including but not limited to air flight cancellation(s), errors in seat reservation, upgrade, overbooking or ticketing.

And although the Aymies purchased travel insurance, it won’t cover losses resulting from an itinerary change by the cruise line unless they had “cancel for any reason” coverage and had actually canceled their trip, which they didn’t.

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The Aymies might have escalated their complaint to Princess by contacting the executives in our contacts section, but after both Princess and Our Vacation Center brushed them off, they asked our advocates for assistance.

We reached out to Princess and Our Vacation Center on the Aymies’ behalf. Initially, Our Vacation Center offered the Aymies $279 as a gesture of goodwill but indicated that Princess would do nothing. Our Vacation Center later increased its offer to $679, which Aymie is happy with.

However, Princess never responded to our contacts. Even though it had no legal obligation to reimburse the Aymies’ expenses, they would have appreciated an apology from the cruise line, which would have helped keep the Aymies’ goodwill afloat. Princess threw good customer service overboard by giving them the silent treatment.

Should Princess have reimbursed the Aymies for all of their incidental expenses and lost prepayments?

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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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