Carnival Refuses Refund for Slain Police Officer's Family

Carnival Cruise Refund PolicyOne issue we write about often is the cruise industry's refusal to refund cruise fares when tragedy strikes their customers. 

We have seen cruise lines refuse to accommodate their guests when family members die unexpectedly, natural disasters destroy their customers' homes, and even when children develop cancer. The cruise lines pocket the fares and then often sell the ship cabins for what turns out to be a double profit for the cruise line.

Seems heartless to me. Some people think its okay because the customers didn't buy insurance (which the cruise lines also sell for additional profit). But there are exceptions to every rule. It's bad karma to obtain a double profit when your customers face the heartbreak of losing a child, especially if he's a slain police officer.   

As WKMG explains, the Carnival representative not only denied a refund to the father of slain Ocala police officer Jared Forsyth, she rubbed salt into the wound. "Well, if you want to play the dead son angle," she told the dad of the dead son.

Carnival eventually refunded most of the cruise expenses (except $1,500) only after the grieving father complained to the local news station which contacted the cruise line's public relations spokesman.

Have a thought? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

April 17, 2015 UpdateCruise Line Refunds Vacation to Family of Police Officer Killed at Training. It looks like Carnival was shamed into apologizing to the family and finally giving them a full refund. 

April 18, 2015 Update: The Ocala Post interviewed me regarding the story, which you can read here

Video and photo credit: WKMG

 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

Oceania Cruises Pockets Cancer Victim's Refunded Airfare

National Geographic Traveler magazine ombudsman Christopher Elliott is often asked to try and recover canceled cruise fares when passengers suffer serious illness, a death in the family or other misfortune.

All cruise passenger tickets contain draconian terms and conditions, drafted by the cruise line attorneys, which address what happens when a passenger is forced to cancel a cruise because of sickness or death. Depending on when the cruise is canceled, the cruise line will keep all or a Oceania MS Marina substantial portion of the passenger's money.   

Mr. Elliott writes about the plight of a couple from Canada who booked what they described as a cruise of a lifetime with Oceania Cruises aboard the Oceania Marina in the South Pacific for $43,000 ($29,000 for the cruise fare and $14,000 for the airfare). But the wife was diagnosed with lung cancer and they had to cancel the vacation. The couple did not buy insurance.

Oceania pocketed the entire $43,000 even though the cruise line sold the couple's cabin to another couple and even though the airline refunded the $14,000 airfare to Oceania.

A cruise line keeping a refunded airfare is clearly illegal "unjust enrichment." I find it outrageous and unconscionable.  It seems no different than theft to me, and a theft by a large rich corporation while the victim is in a weak and vulnerable position.  

Mr. Elliott was successful in convincing the cruise line to return the couple's airfare. The fact that Mr.Elliott writes a widely-read consumer blog no doubt helped.

Oceania refused to refund the cruise fare. Yes, the couple should have purchased insurance. But I find this scenario repugnant. It may be technically legal but it is still unconscionable and immoral. Oceania promptly sold the cabin to other passengers, remember. Oceania didn't lose a penny. In fact, it obtained a double profit. Cruise corporations should not be permitted to make double profits because of the death and personal suffering of their guests. 

Oceania's parent company, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), likes to do this too. NCL kept the cruise fare of a passenger whose brother died and the funeral was on the day of the cruise. NCL said "sorry, no refund." The passenger also tried to donate his cabin to a child with cancer, but the cruise line refused that too. NCL then sold the cabin on the Norwegian Sky for a double profit.

Speaking of children with cancer, NCL also refused to return the cruise fare after a family learned that their five year old child was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo emergency medical treatment. NCL pocketed the family's money and sold their cabin for more profit.

NCL also refused to either refund or credit the cruise fare to a 66 year old passenger and his wife after she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and underwent emergency surgery.

It's cruel, greedy, heartless and outrageous conduct by Oceania and NCL.  Yes, it's technically legal. All cruise lines have their lawyers write their tickets to protect only the cruise line's interests. But it's unfair and unjust.

If cruise lines can't apply compassion to situations where their guests are stricken with cancer, and companies like NCL and Oceania are motivated only by money, legislation should be passed to protect consumers when they are in a time of crisis. Cancer victims shouldn't be victimized a second time by a greedy cruise line. They should be entitled to a full refund so they can pay their medical bills and try and beat cancer.   

Have a comment? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: M/S Marina - Jordandkatz - licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Consumer Reports: Don't Get Sick on a Cruise

Cruise Ship Medical FacilitiesA news station in California KFSN (ABC) channel 30 reports that being ill with norovirus or in a medical emergency presents challenges when you are "days from the nearest port, on a ship without diagnostic equipment like an MRI machine, a blood bank or even specialty doctors."

According to a Consumer affairs medical doctor, although many passengers may believe that they are boarding a "floating hospital," a cruise ship is more like a "floating hotel with a doctor at hand."  

She says "think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition.

The Coast Guard can't always launch a rescue, if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land. Next, know that most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship. Always travel with an extra supply of all medications."

The Consumer Affairs medical team also warns that medical care aboard a cruise ship costs a premium.

Cruise ships don't accept medical insurance so consider purchasing travel insurance from an independent company. .

Consumer Reports: Getting Sick at Sea on Cruise Ships

Consumer Reports published a good article about some of the issues cruise passengers will encounter (like norovirus) and has some advice for the traveling public. According to Consumer Reports medical adviser, Dr. Orly Avitzur: 

  • A cruise ship is more like a "floating hotel with a doctor at hand", than a floating hospital. 
  • Think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition. The Coast Guard can't always launch a rescue, if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land.
  • Know that most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship. Always travel with an extra supply of all medications.
  • Cruise ships don't accept insurance. Get ready to pay a premium, out of pocket, for any on-board care.
  • Buy travel insurance. Avoid policies that are sold by tour operators, travel agents and cruise-lines.

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Cruise Ship Bathrooms, Norovirus and Medical Care.

November 11, 2014 Update: Breaking News! Cruise passengers are now permitted to sue the cruise lines for medical negligence. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that cruise lines are no longer permitted to assert an "immunity defense" when their ship doctors and nurses commit medical malpractice. Read: 11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines' Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims. Contact us for further information.

And The Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has An Image Problem: NCL Screws Another Customer in Distress

David Lazarus of the LA Times writes about how Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) refused to either refund or credit the cruise fare to 66 year old David Warlick and his wife after she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and underwent emergency surgery.

In his article "Cruise Line Unmoved By Customer's Cancer Emergency," Lazarus points out that although cruise corporations are considered to be a person under the U.S. Constitution, "when called upon to demonstrate a little human decency, they almost unfailingly respond with profound corporate indifference."

NCL defended itself by saying that it has a strict cancellation policy. Moreover, NCL pointed out the Norwegian Cruise Line - Kevin Sheehancouple should have purchased insurance. But NCL had no legal obligation to screw its cancer stricken guest. From a moral perspective, it could and should have done the right thing and let the couple reschedule their cruise until a later date.

This is not the first time NCL has acted like a bad corporate citizen.

NCL refused to refund the cruise fare of a passenger whose brother died and the funeral was on the same day as the cruise. The guest notified NCL, asking for a credit on a future cruise. NCL said no. He asked for their cruise to be donated to charity (Make-A-Wish) so a child with cancer could enjoy a once in a lifetime cruise. NCL said no. Then NCL re-sold the cabin to another couple.

NCL got a double profit due to the death of a guest. Ugh.

NCL also demonstrated a lack of humanity when a grandmother, whose home was destroyed last year after being submerged by Superstorm Sandy, tried to reschedule a $4,000 cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel for her family and grand kids. She appealed to NCL for help.

She even wrote the CEO Kevin Sheehan (above right) asking to refund the cruise or reschedule it, but the cruise line and its CEO wouldn't make an exception. NCL said absolutely no refund or rescheduling, even though the grandmother works driving special needs kids to school. This trip was going to be her first vacation ever, in 70 years.

But NCL refused to help the family and took their money. A news station says that when it approached NCL about the terrible situation, the cruise line erected a "stone wall of silence."

 

Photo Credit: prhub.com

"Dumped in the Caribbean" - Washington Post Takes a Look at What Happens When You Have a Heart Attack on a Cruise Ship

The Travel section of the Washington Post has an article today about what happens if you are unfortunate enough to have a heart attack while sailing on a cruise in the Caribbean.  Things often get worse when the cruise ship wants to limit its liability and dumps you off in a Caribbean port.

No offense to the wonderful people in the Caribbean, but its not the place to be while trying to manage a heart attack.

I'm quoted in the article. I'm sure the cruise line PR people and tourism officials in the islands may have a heart attack reading my quotes.

If so, here's the same advice I give to a sick cruise passenger.  Call the first available medical jet and get your sick heart to see a board certified cardiologist in Miami.  And I hope that you purchased lots of insurance before going on the cruise.

Here is the article, written by consumer advocate Christopher Elliott - The Navigator: When You’re Sick at Sea.     

Cruise Insurance Scam: Travel Guard Denies Claim of U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan for Missed Cruise

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.

Travel Insurance Scam - Cruise Insurance 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

Carnival Changes Course, Offers Cruise Credit After Customer Stabbed in the Head

Carnival Cruise Line - Cruise Credit - InsuranceA family in Kentucky is going to enjoy a family vacation after Carnival reconsidered its cancellation penalty following a vicious attack on young Troy Walter.  The teenage was coming to the defense of his friend who was attacked by a knife yielding man now in jail on attempted murder charges.

The family was scheduled to take a Caribbean cruise vacation but Troy was stabbed in the head and neck two weeks earlier.  Troy's mother called Carnival and informed customer service representatives of the attack which resulted in her son's hospitalization for two months.  She says that the Carnival customer representative promised her over the telephone that her family would receive a cruise credit of $2,000 so that they could take a cruise later.  

But when she later contacted Carnival to re-book the cruise, Carnival informed her that it had no record that anyone at Carnival promised a future cruise credit.  This was significant because the family had not purchased insurance and would forfeit the entire cruise fare.  Carnival would not reconsider its cancellation penalty which Carnival explained was a "standard industry practice."  

The Walter family contacted a local television station and spoke to the "troubleshooter" department who contacted Carnival and, eventually obtained a cruise credit good for the next year.

The local newspaper ran the story (see video below) which sparked a debate about whether the family should have been penalized for not buying insurance.  We recommend to everyone to always buy insurance because you never know what will happen right before or during a cruise.    

Cruise lines have received a lot of bad press recently.  Read this article about another cruise line, NCL, which would not alter its cancellation after one of its customer's brother died right before the cruise. The customer had to attend his brother's funeral and asked NCL to refund the cruise fare or provide a credit.  NCL refused. The customer asked NCL at least to let the aggrieved passenger donate his cruise vacation to a sick child as part of the Make-A-Wish charity. NCL would not budge.  Then came the sick part.  NCL sold the cabin to another customer.

Yes, NCL received a double profit due to a death in the customer's family.  Talk about bad karma. I wrote an article And You Wonder Why the Cruise Industry Has an Image Problem.    

Unlike NCL, in this case Carnival did the right thing.  Yes passengers should always buy insurance, but its nice to see cruise lines act human once in a while.