Last year I published a couple of articles entitled And the Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has an Image Problem. One of the stories we covered involved a NCL passenger who had to cancel his cruise because his brother died and was being buried on the day of the cruise. NCL refused to permit him to cancel without paying the entire fare. He then suggested that he be permitted to donate the cruise to a child with cancer. NCL said no, and then sold the cabin to other passengers. That's right, the cruise line made a double profit off of the death of a customer's brother. Really sick.
But after I published the article, a number of readers emailed me and said that the passenger should have protected himself by buying travel insurance. Although they seemed to be rather heartless about the matter, the readers were probably right. Cruise lines have carefully drafted their passenger tickets over the years to protect themselves against claims arising out of all last minute cancellations, so its prudent to always buy insurance for your cruise.
But what happens when the insurance companies try to weasel out from paying a claim for a missed cruise?
You can hire a lawyer, but insurance companies aren't scared of lawyers. Insurance companies have lots and lots of lawyers who sole purpose is to screw the policyholders out of their claims.
The best bet is to contact your Congressman or Congresswoman and go to the press. Insurance companies hate bad press and government scrutiny, which brings us to this story.
A soldier in war zone Afghanistan, Jeremy Radtke, and his wife Jamie purchased a cruise with Princess Cruises. Jamie's mom is a travel agent who convinced them to buy insurance, which was a smart move because a rocket attack caused soldier Radtke's flight home to be canceled.
Jamie them made a claim for the missed cruise with the insurance company, which advertises specifically to active duty military. In response, she received a voice mail message for her husband (then back in the war zone) stating:
"Hi this message is for Jeremy. Jeremy, this is Shane and I'm calling in regards to travel insurance claim that was filed and we were finally able to do a review of that claim. Unfortunately we were not able to extend benefits on the claim."
Understandably upset, Jamie had the foresight to complain to her Senator in Florida, Mike Fasano, who wrote a letter to the insurance company, stating in part:
"It is important for you to know that Mr. Radtke is active-duty military and is stationed in Afghanistan. This soldier, whose life is on the line each and every day to protect the freedoms that you and I enjoy, planned the cruise during a scheduled two week leave period. This leave is the only time he was able to come home and spend time with his wife.
I find it unconscionable that your company would deny a claim by anyone with a legitimate claim, especially active duty service members who frequently have to deal with changes in leave time . . ."
Jamie also took her story to Channel 10 Investigators in Tampa who contacted Travel Guard. The insurance company claimed that it never denied the claim and was allegedly just waiting on some paperwork. It offered no explanation for the voice message. Once confronted by the Senator and the TV crew, Travel Guard said that it would go ahead and cover the claim. Jamie then received a check for $3,600.
If a travel insurance company will play games with a member of the U.S. military who puts his life on the line fighting the Taliban, do you think that it will treat your family any better?
If you have been taken advantage by a cruise line or cruise insurance company, don't get mad. Get even. Lawyers can't always help. Call your elected officials. Call a team of action investigators at a local television station. Tell the company that's trying to steal your money to explain themselves to a TV camera.
Video and photo credit: News 10 Tampa Bay / WTSP