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

  • Don Sayman

    this is a good one. my lovely wife and I discussed this one, at great length. she is the bleeding heart liberal (this is ok with me) I believe in more personal responsibility. sure give back anyone with a hangnail or hangover and soon be out of business. this is good. what the greedy Ba***rds deserve. the 3 or 4 thousand people out of work means nothing, at least the cruise got what they deserve. blame it on someone else the American way, for now thanks Don

  • tinikini

    I can see both sides to this argument. This couple should of bought trip insurance, especially since they are elderly…..on the flip side, when they asked if their trip could be donated to the Make A Wish Foundation, for someone with cancer, and their request was denied, I thought was pretty shameful. The trip was already paid for. Maybe the cruise line thought that they wouldn’t make as much money off of a person with cancer than they would a healthy passenger, thus denying the request, and rebooking the cabin and making double. How sad.

  • Here was my response to that story…

    Cruise Insurance is Your Responsibility
    by Paul Motter | Friday, 15 Nov 2013

    The L.A. Times writes a stinker article about a “canceled for medical emergency” cruise

    The Los Angeles Times today has an article about a couple who needed to cancel a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line at the last minute due to a medical emergency. The author of the article, David Lazarus, writes:

    You probably aren’t entitled to much flexibility from a cruise line if you cancel a trip several days before the ship sails. Unless, that is, you or a loved one has just been diagnosed with cancer, in which case you’d think a cruise line or any business would try to show a little compassion — particularly toward a steady customer.

    Mr. Lazarus then goes on to tell the tale of a “loyal” customer of NCL whose wife needed emergency gallbladder surgery just before the cruise started – and so they missed their cruise. According to Lazarus, “David Warlick was told to pound sand when he recently informed Norwegian cruise line that he and his wife would have to miss a trip to the Bahamas because his wife had been diagnosed with gallbladder cancer and was undergoing emergency surgery”.

    Many times Lazarus mentioned the fact that the Warlicks were “loyal” customers of Norwegian cruise line, because they belonged to the “Latitude Rewards Club,” but in fact all that is required to become a member is one previous cruise. He does not mention how many cruises the Warlick’s have actually taken with Norwegian. He only says that Norwegian refers to their rewards club as, “our most loyal customers.”

    Mr. Lazarus then ponders the legal notion of “corporate personhood” for which, he notes, businesses have fought all the way to the US Supreme Court to enjoy the same constitutional rights and privileges as human beings. Naturally he then suggests that in light of this ruling the cruise line should have behaved like a “person” and forgiven the Warlicks for their last-minute cancellation by refunding their money, or at least giving them a free cruise later.

    He only makes one brief comment about cruise insurance, in another typical media dig at the cruise industry. He says, “I’ve never been on a cruise but considering all the horror stories I’ve heard about missed trips, I wouldn’t hesitate to splurge a little for insurance and an additional $60 seems cheap when protecting a $4500 investment.”

    Yes! That is exactly correct. It does make sense to buy insurance. But your dig at the cruise industry makes NO sense if you look at the industry’s safety records.

    In fact, here is the thing you need to know about cruise insurance – it is always recommended to the customer to protect the travel purchase. In fact, many online booking engines for cruises show the customer the cost of the cruise with insurance included in the final purchase price, meaning it is up to the customer to make the decision to decline the cruise insurance.

    One can easily purchase a policy that covers cover all kinds of medical conditions including pre-existing conditions, a feature that has been available in cruise insurance for decades, and not just since ObamaCare was enacted.

    But let’s get back to exactly how far out of line this article went towards singling out and bullying Norwegian Cruise Line. Do we really live in a world where corporations are ever expected to forgive people for illnesses? For example, what if the Warlicks also decided to stop making their car payments or paying the mortgage on their house because of the necessary gallbladder surgery? Would he expect that they would not lose their car or house?

    And yes, it is possible that cruise companies could forgive everyone who needs to make a last-minute cancellation but we would need to raise the price of cruises to cover the cost of cruise insurance for everyone because this added feature would need to be underwritten by a guarantor. That is how all insurance works.

    When you rent a car you are always given the option of taking out extra insurance. If you don’t take the insurance and you cause an accident is there any possibility that you will be forgiven? Does it depend on the circumstances, such as maybe you had a last-minute medical condition? You know the answer.

    This is a long article, where Lazarus interviews UCLA law professors and Norwegian specifically about the case of the Warlicks. But predictably, the entire article becomes just another excuse for a “news” reporter to go on his soapbox about the Supreme Court decision that corporations have the same rights as people including the rights to use the court system to sue for financial damages and the right to make political donations. In other words, it’s just another example of a reporter using his venue to air his political bias.

    If he really cares as much as he says, maybe David Lazarus will pay for the next cruise for the Warlicks. Or maybe the Los Angeles times, a company belonging to the Tribune Corporation which also owns six other major newspapers, 23 television stations and several cable news channels, will pick up the tab? After all, they are a corporation which always means “deep pockets,” um, except that the Tribune Company just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last January. Maybe it has something to do with the quality of their reporting?

  • By the way – NCL DOES give to charitable organizations. The criteria for eligibility for these programs is listed here:


    How much pro-bono legal work do you do every year, out of curiosity, Jim? (I have no idea, but I think it is a fair question). Can you match the $5,000,000 charitable gift Norwegian made to Camillus House in Miami in 2011?

  • Skeeter

    No sympathy from me whatsoever. They should have bought the insurance. The rules for one should be the rules for all.

  • Laura

    Always, always buy insurance!

  • Ronald Anderson

    I feel bad for the passengers, however, this is why the cruiselines offer low cost travel insurance. All cruise lines do this even if they can sell the cabin. If they start caving in they would be giving free cruises to everyone. BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE!

  • Don Sayman

    One final word from us. (in case anyone cares).
    we think the amount makes the difference for us
    $700.00 no insurance $5000.00 get it.
    we do a lot of 3 day Florida residence no insurance
    no big loss. We booked a panama canal 16 days
    $7000.00 get insurance. like use your head.
    too much trouble let the govermunt care for u
    if you got this far THANK YOU

  • Betty

    We are frequent cruisers on several different cruiselines. While I have great sympathy for the couple you wrote about, I know that NCL’s policy is the same as all the others. They all encourage travel insurance to cover unforeseen emergencies. It is unfortunate that this couple chose not to purchase the optional insurance but it would have been clearly stated in their cruise contract.

    And yes, NCL could have shown some heart in this situation but then where would they draw the line? Must it be a life threatening emergency or death? What if you broke a bone? What if you just changed your mind? The list is endless and if they make one exception, everyone would believe they were entitled to a refund, also.

    We had to cancel an NCL cruise a few years ago when our grandson was hospitalized. As expected, NCL refused to offer us a refund. Thankfully, we had insurance that refunded all of our expenses that were non-refundable, including airfare.

    Again, I wish this couple the very best and they are in my thoughts and prayers. I do hope the wife has a complete recovery so they can enjoy a celebration cruise in the near future.

  • Jack Sparrow

    I understand how you feel about this one. But seriously, how is this fair to EVERYONE ELSE who paid for their insurance, in some cases, for the entire family? I used to feel sorry for people like this, but they way I feel about it is, if you have money for a cruise BUY THE INSURANCE. If you can’t afford the insurance, you’re probably gonna stiff the crew out of tips also. For that, stay home instead. I have no respect for people who nickel and dime their way while other people pay their fair share AND bust their humps working on these cruise ships. BTW i love your website.

  • Eileen Flynn
  • Mary

    Ahem. I ran across this site when considering a cruise- it would be my first- and after reading about all of the OBLIGATIONS a customer must assume, it made me curious just what OBLIGATION a cruise-line has towards it’s customers. From my investigations- it appears that they HAVE NO OBLIGATIONS. WHATSOEVER. Their ABYSMAL track record indicates that they aren’t even REQUIRED to provide germ/disease-free FOOD, much less adhere to a policy of returning guests to their home-port ALIVE. Seems they’re free and clear no matter what befalls a guest, most especially AT THEIR HANDS. AND THAT MY FRIENDS IS WHAT YOU CALL BAD BUSINESS. The free publicity about on-ship food-poisoning and accidents at sea should have been enough warning for me, yet I persisted in satiating my curiosity, thank God! THANK YOU for enlightening me to the fact that I don’t NEED an unescapable floating platform to enjoy a meal and a hotel stay with a cool pool, unendangerous to my very LIFE, lolol! Thanks for helping me to JUST NOT GO THERE, for in comparison- the rewards seem very small, indeed! It’s just a floating hotel with bad management, apparently. I can do BETTER with my money!

  • Herb

    from one who takes a lot of cruises ncl showed lack of compassion this one will never take a NCL cruise