Travel Solutions: Circumstances should've prompted cruise line to treat her better

2013-02-03T00:00:00Z Travel Solutions: Circumstances should've prompted cruise line to treat her betterChristopher Elliott Tribune Media Services Arizona Daily Star
February 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Q: We booked a cruise to Alaska on Norwegian Cruise Line last summer. NCL notified us that we would be sailing a day after our scheduled departure because they had to fix a propeller on the ship. This meant that the ship would not be stopping in Juneau for an originally scheduled excursion.

Then we had to cancel the cruise because of a hurricane that made it impossible to fly. All the airlines canceled their flights, and we had no way of reaching Seattle. We had purchased a travel insurance policy through the cruise line.

Our airline gave us a full refund on our tickets, but NCL said we were only entitled to a 75 percent insurance credit that could be used for a future cruise. That isn't in line with what other cruise lines did. For example, Princess offered a 75 percent credit for passengers who had insurance and an additional 25 percent credit that could be used for a future cruise.

NCL says I should have taken the 90 percent insurance plan. But the representative never offered a choice of insurance plans when I originally booked the cruise. If I had known about the 90 percent plan, I would have bought it. I would so appreciate anything you could do to help me with this situation. - Debra Weissman, Hartford, Conn.

A: If you booked your vacation directly through the cruise line, I don't see any reason why it shouldn't offer a full credit.

But that's not how it works; cruise lines sell expensive, and often highly restrictive, insurance policies as add-ons that give you a credit if you have to cancel a cruise - and only under certain circumstances.

I think special conditions applied to your cruise. First of all, NCL already inconvenienced you by changing the date of your sailing. And you were very understanding of that and didn't ask for any consideration in return.

Second, you booked this cruise directly with NCL. You bought the only insurance it offered. (For future reference, I would recommend shopping around instead of buying the first policy you're offered. You could have found insurance that covered your entire cruise through another company.)

Finally, this event had nothing to do with you - it was a natural disaster that affected a lot of NCL passengers. While it may be true that NCL had to offer you only a 75 percent credit, I think they could have done a little better.

Your case shows how careful you have to be when you're shopping for cruise insurance, but it also shows how vigilantly cruise lines are protecting their revenues. If it had been my cruise, I would have asked for a full refund, since I booked my vacation directly.

I contacted NCL on your behalf. As a "special courtesy," it extended an additional 25 percent of your cruise fare as a credit.

Christopher Elliott is the author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" (Wiley). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org

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