Our ship sailed, but we weren’t on it. Are we out of luck?

Jo Peckinpaugh and her husband were looking forward to a relaxing Caribbean cruise. Then their flight was canceled and they couldn’t make it to the ship on time. Can we help save their vacation?

Question: We booked a seven-day Royal Caribbean cruise to the Western Caribbean through Costco. Costco contacted Royal Caribbean to book the round-trip airfare. The ship was departing from Tampa at 4 p.m. We were confirmed on a Delta Airlines flight that arrived in Tampa an hour before the ship began boarding.

The day before our departure, we searched online and discovered that our flight was canceled because of severe weather. Delta had rescheduled us on a flight that would arrive in Tampa three hours after the ship had sailed. We immediately notified Costco that the new flight arrangements were unacceptable.

We were then scheduled on an American flight that arrived in Tampa in time for us to board the ship. But, that flight also was canceled due to the same severe weather. We contacted Costco again and were rescheduled on another American flight that would, once again, arrive in Tampa after the ship sailed.

Costco told us that Royal Caribbean would contact us directly and find a way to get us there. Royal Caribbean never called us, so we called them. Without fail, every time we called we were told that the representative we were talking to couldn’t help. We would be transferred to another representative who would tell us to call Costco. Costco told us to call Royal Caribbean.

Over the course of the day and after numerous calls to Royal Caribbean and Costco, Costco told us we could be booked on a later cruise. But, Royal Caribbean refused to book us on another cruise. Royal Caribbean told Costco that we should take the last flight, assuming it too wouldn’t be canceled, and arrive in Tampa after the ship had sailed. Royal Caribbean agreed to pay for a hotel for one night. But, not food or hotel for the following night. Royal Caribbean also wouldn’t pay for us to fly to Honduras, two days later, to meet up with the ship. Royal Caribbean wouldn’t give us any credit on our cruise cost and told us we were “on our own” after one night in the hotel.

We used Royal Caribbean’s Air2Sea program and understood that Royal Caribbean had to schedule our flight because that was the only way it would guarantee that we would make it to the ship on time.

Royal Caribbean could not get us to the ship prior to sailing and said it wasn’t responsible for the two lost vacation days and extra costs associated with meeting the ship in Honduras. We asked to cancel and were told we couldn’t cancel because it was less than 24 hours prior to sailing. But, when we first contacted Royal Caribbean, we were more than 24 hours away from sailing.

After six hours on the phone with Costco and Royal Caribbean, we were beyond frustrated. We are losing $4,000, plus an onboard credit our daughter bought us for this cruise. We have tried everything to work this out. Sadly we are unable to do so. Can you help?– Jo Peckinpaugh, Hixson, Tenn.

Answer:If Royal Caribbean guaranteed that it would get you to your ship on time, it should have done so. And, if it couldn’t because of reasons beyond its control, it should have rebooked you on another cruise. Royal Caribbean should absolutely not have left you to find your way to the ship, at your own expense.

Royal Caribbean’s Air2Sea guarantee promises that

[w]hen your vacation comes around, you don’t want to miss the ship because of flight delays or cancellations. Book airfare through us and we guarantee our travel experts will get you to your cruise. Plus you get all the peace of mind of assured arrival to your ship and 24/7 support from our air specialists.

Every promise Royal Caribbean made to you, it didn’t keep. It didn’t get you to your cruise and it didn’t give you 24/7 support from an air specialist. It left you “on your own” and it kept your money.

And, Costco, your travel agent, did nothing to help you, either. Costco merely referred you back to Royal Caribbean. Costco travel advertises its vacation service as the “vacations you want at the value you expect, with the highest level of quality and service.” You didn’t receive anything resembling service from Costco. And when our advocates tried to contact Costco on your behalf, it never responded.

On the advice of our advocates, you posted your dilemma to our help forum. Our forums are staffed by volunteer travel industry experts and are read by many company executives. It can provide a wealth of helpful information.

Our forum advisers suggested that you politely email company executives about rebooking the cruise. We list executive contact information for Royal Caribbean on our website company contacts. Our forum advisers also suggested that you contact Costco about obtaining a flight credit for the canceled flights. You can also find Costco contacts on our website.

Our forum advocates also suggested that, in the future, you avoid flying into a port on the day the ship departs, and purchase insurance that covers trip interruptions and cancellations.

Our advocates contacted Royal Caribbean on your behalf. Its representative disputed that they refused to get you to the ship, and told our advocate that they had offered to fly you to Honduras to meet the ship. That included airfare, hotel and transportation. The Royal Caribbean representative told our advocate that Costco declined the offer and cancelled your cruise. Once the cruise was canceled, there was nothing Royal Caribbean could do to assist you.

Ultimately, Royal Caribbean gave you a full credit and an additional $50 onboard credit. We hope you enjoy your future cruise.

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