The Travel Troubleshooter: Can this cruise be salvaged?

Question: We need your help with a Carnival cruise that went nowhere. Earlier this year, we booked a Western Caribbean cruise directly through Carnival, including airfare and shore excursions.

On the day we were supposed to travel, our nightmare began. Our plane was delayed because of mechanical problems. So was the next flight. We missed the boat in Miami.

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We wanted to reschedule the cruise, but Carnival suggested that we catch up with the ship in the Cayman Islands. We had to pay for new tickets to the Caymans. But when we arrived in Miami, a Carnival representative asked us for passports — and we only had passport cards.

We had to turn back to Cleveland. There were more mechanical delays. We made a claim with our travel insurance, but were only reimbursed $500 per person. Carnival says they should be able to give us something for the missed cruise but said we first had to fill out the insurance claim.

We booked the cruise, shore excursions, balcony upgrade and the missed flight all through Carnival. We want a vacation and we don’t have the money because Carnival is holding us hostage. Could you help us? — Denise Frantz, Cleveland

Answer: This cruise just wasn’t meant to be. But it might have been — if you’d gotten a passport instead of a passport card.

Carnival doesn’t mince words when it comes to your paperwork requirements.

“Carnival highly recommends all guests travel with a passport (valid for at least six months beyond completion of travel),” it says on its website. “Passports make it easier for you to fly from the U.S. to a foreign port should you miss your scheduled port of embarkation, or need to fly back to the U.S. for emergency reasons.”

Your passport cards would have been fine if you’d boarded the ship in Miami. But you need a passport to fly to the Cayman Islands.

You would think that by booking your cruise directly through Carnival, as well as buying its recommended insurance, you’d be fully covered. Not so. Check out the fine print on the cruise line’s website:

“We assume no liability for any acts or omissions of any airline, including, without limitation, those involving cancellation of flights, schedule changes, re-routings, damage to or delay or loss of baggage, flight delays, equipment failures, accidents, pilot or other staff shortages, overbooking or computer errors,” it says.

So why book your plane tickets through Carnival? I have no idea.

You might have considered buying your cruise through a travel agent. An agent wouldn’t have let you board a plane for Miami without proper paperwork, and might have been able to get you on a flight that ensured you didn’t miss the ship in Miami. Also, a competent travel professional would have helped choose travel insurance that would have fully covered you.

I contacted Carnival on your behalf. It initially offered you two $1,000 vouchers, but then also agreed to cover the $489 in shore excursions and $444 for your extra flights to Grand Cayman. Looks as if your cruise has been salvaged.