Help! Carnival changed my cruise itinerary and I want a full refund

Carnival cruise itinerary change

Several days before Thuan Bui’s Carnival cruise, most of his scheduled ports of call are canceled by the cruise line. So he cancels his trip. Now he wants a full reimbursement for the cost of the cruise, travel insurance and airline change fees. You might think you know how this one ends — but you might be wrong.

Question: 

We booked a cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines to sail on Nov. 19, 2016, from Galveston to Puerto Rico, Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Mexico. We had to fly from Sacramento to board the ship.

On Nov. 11 we received an email from Carnival stating that they had experienced technical difficulties, and the ship would not be able to go as fast or as far. So the destinations were now only in Mexico. They gave us an option to cancel with a full refund plus any fees for canceling the airplane tickets.

We received the refund for the cruise, minus the insurance that we bought. We feel that the insurance should have been refunded as well, since we only canceled the trip because of their troubles.

On Nov. 15, I sent a certified letter with all the documents required for the refund.

On Dec. 29, I contacted Carnival because I had not heard from them. I was told they did not receive any correspondence from us. I was transferred to a guy named Enrique. He told me to email him the same packet and that he would call me back the next day.

I called him on Dec. 30 because he hadn’t called. I was told to call back after the holidays since the Guest Administration department was closed.

I called back on Jan. 5, 2017. He said he’d get back to me in a little while because he was in the middle of a reservation. He still has not called.

We feel that they are only stalling to “wear us out.” They’ve refunded the cost of the cruise, but can you help me get a refund of the $400 “reissue fee” imposed by United Airlines for canceling the flights and $190 for the insurance that we had purchased? — Thuan Bui, Orangevale, Calif.

Answer:

I’m not sure if Carnival was trying to wear you out, or just focused more on the holidays than their customers. But it’s clear that the response to your request should have been faster and less complicated.

I found it interesting that you sent in your documentation for the refund by certified mail, and they still had no record of receipt. Someone must have signed for that letter, and you shouldn’t have needed to go through the extra hassle of resubmitting everything by email.

An unusual promise from Carnival

Fortunately, you had a letter from Carnival stating that you were entitled to a full refund of the cruise plus all associated airline fees. This is a little unusual because we have seen many cases where the cruise lines change the itinerary and passengers are not offered a refund. This case was unique because Carnival knew far in advance the ship would not be able to make the full cruise due to circumstances that were “within Carnival’s exclusive control.”

If the itinerary change is for reasons within Carnival’s exclusive control, guests will have the opportunity to cancel their booking without penalty prior to sailing and within 24 hours of the guest notification, and in such an instance, guests will have the option to receive either a cash refund or a future cruise credit.

Lucky for you, because that same legal notice from Carnival points out the many circumstances where passengers will not receive a refund:

Due to the nature of a cruise vacation, itinerary changes sometimes become necessary for safety, weather or other reasons beyond the control of Carnival. If the itinerary change is for reasons beyond Carnival’s exclusive control, including but not limited to safety, security, weather, strikes, tides, hostilities, civil unrest, port closings, emergency debarkations of guests or crew, late air, sea, car or motor coach departures or arrivals, mechanical breakdowns or problems not known to Carnival, itinerary changes consistent with U.S. State Department travel warnings / advisories or other applicable US or foreign governmental advisories, guests will not be provided any compensation. Guests electing to cancel will be subject to the standard cancellation terms.

So where is the refund?

Nor in many cases, will the cruise line offer refunds for related costs:

Carnival shall not be liable to guests for any charges, fees or expenses paid or owed to third parties by guests (such as air travel booked by a guest directly with an airline) in connection with a cancelled cruise or an itinerary change for any reason.

So what can other travelers learn from your case?

First, it’s important to know your rights. Members of the Cruise Line Industry International organization, have voluntarily adopted a Passenger Bill of Rights, which spells out the cruise line’s responsibility to passengers when various things go wrong.

Itinerary cruise changes? Tough luck (usually)

Itinerary changes sometimes happen, for reasons that are beyond the control of the cruise lines. I recently had a port canceled on a Mediterranean sailing, because a crew member was killed in an accident during a training drill. The ship was held in port an extra day while French authorities investigated the accident. As happens in many such cases, we were offered an onboard credit as an apology. But the cruise line is under no legal obligation in these cases.

If you book your connecting flight through the cruise line, getting a refund may be easier, but this also can be covered by travel insurance.

If you do run into a snag, like a changed itinerary, it can’t hurt to ask for some sort of compensation. Even if the cruise line isn’t legally obligated, they may do something in the interest of customer relations. You’ll find executive contact information for cruise lines on our advocacy site.

We’re pleased to report that Carnival did respond to our advocate, Dwayne Coward and has issued refunds both for the travel insurance and airline change fee.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.