My husband has six weeks to live. Will Princess refund my cruise?

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By Christopher Elliott

Marla Osgood cancels her Princess cruise under the worst of circumstances: Her husband is dying of cancer. But the cruise line refuses to refund her vacation, citing its refund policy. Can I help?


My husband and I planned to go on a Princess cruise this fall. He has esophageal cancer, but his last chemo was at the end of last year, and his doctor deemed him medically stable to take the trip.

Unfortunately, at the end of October, right after we paid in full for the trip, he had what we thought was a stroke. It turned out to be Bell’s Palsy, and at the same time they checked a tumor under his arm that turned out to be cancer and now we have found out he has brain cancer.

We canceled the trip. Neither of these symptoms was pre-existing, but our insurance company is deeming it a pre-existing condition. Our insurance company claims my husband’s regular check-ups are “treatment.” Princess has offered us vouchers for a future cruise. Unfortunately, he has been given six weeks to live.

Keep in mind that we had a cruise agent with Princess that we were very upfront with and did exactly as she advised. She knew about the previous cancer. Now our emails are being returned either blocked or she is no longer there. My husband will be gone long before that and unable to use a voucher. We could use this money for burial instead. Can you help us get our $7,626 back? — Marla Osgood, Castle Rock, Wash.


I am so sorry this is happening to you. Your travel agent should have helped you, your insurance company should have processed your claim, and if it didn’t, then Princess should have refunded your cruise as a compassionate goodwill gesture. Instead, your agent left, your insurance company squirmed out of its obligation and the cruise line offered you a voucher it knew you couldn’t use.

On a personal level, I’m saddened by your circumstances. For you and your husband, this was literally a bucket list cruise, a final vacation together. To have it end like this is really heartbreaking.

You did everything you could to protect yourself. You worked with someone you believed to be a reputable travel consultant, bought insurance that you thought would cover you and booked a cruise through a company with an excellent reputation.

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Will Princess refund this cruise?

But let’s break down each of those failures. It’s not clear what happened to your travel agent, but you were obviously not dealing with a competent one.

If you were, then the insurance you purchased would have covered your husband’s pre-existing medical condition. Also, the agent wouldn’t have left you high and dry. To avoid connecting with a bad agent, consider working with an accredited travel advisor. Here’s my guide to finding the best travel advisor.

When it looked as if you would lose your cruise, you could have also reached out to one of the executive contacts at Princess. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Princess customer service managers on my consumer advocacy website.

A compassionate response from Princess

Although Princess was under no obligation to refund your cruise, my advocates and I asked it to review your case one more time. The cruise line agreed to refund the full amount of your vacation on compassionate grounds and in the interest of good customer service. I’m grateful for the company’s reversal and hope this will bring you some peace during a difficult time. (Related: Help! My trip insurance company won’t pay to bring my husband’s body home.)

About this story

I advocated this case in 2018. Since then, cruise lines have taken a harder line on refunds, even when a passenger has a terminal diagnosis or has died. I decided to feature this story from our archives in 2023 as a reminder to always work with a competent travel advisor and to remember travel insurance. I believe if I had advocated this case in 2023, the cruise line might have said “no.” This article was researched, written and fact-checked by Christopher Elliott and edited by Andy Smith and his team. Dustin Elliott is the illustrator.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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