Is this enough compensation for my canceled cruise?

Oh no, my ship has sailed! / Photo by Liam - FlickrIn a world of conglomerates and conflicts of interest, sometimes you have to report on yourself. So when Franz Schneider asked me about his ill-fated National Geographic cruise, my first reaction was to cringe. After all, I’m National Geographic Traveler’s ombudsman.

But then I listened to his story. Last October, he’d seen an ad in National Geographic for a Sea of Cortez cruise via Linblad Expeditions. It looked like an adventure, so he made a deposit.

Early this year, he went online to book seats on Linblad’s recommended flight from Los Angeles to La Paz in Baja California, where he would start the tour.

Oops. The flight was fully booked, and had been for some time.

“It seems our tour coincided with Spring Break for a number of schools,” he says. “I suspect we would have had the same problem if we’d booked the cruise for one, two, or even three weeks later, but who knows?”

With only a few weeks before his departure, Schneider was getting nervous.

I called an AAA travel agent. After a lot of work she found us a route via Guadalajara, Mexico.

It involved a midnight flight to Guadalajara, a four-hour layover, and a six-hour wait in the La Paz airport, but it was the only option.

We showered the agent with thanks, made the reservations, bought the tickets, and made the final payment on the cruise itself.

He also made sure he bought travel insurance, just in case something went wrong. That’s always a good idea when you’re booking a cruise, which can have extremely restrictive terms.

And you can probably guess what happened next, right?

For a variety of reasons, including a some codeshare confusion, delays, immigration problems and other logistical snafus, he missed his connecting flight.

A United agent gave him more bad news: There was absolutely no way he could reach the ship before it sailed.

Linblad was “very sympathetic” and told Schneider he could file a claim for with his trip insurance carrier when he got back to California.

“When we got home we notified TripMate, the travel insurance carrier. We submitted the necessary forms and copies of our flight itineraries,” he says.

TripMate denied his claim. His loss: $14,468.

I suggested he appeal the denial, and he did. He also mentioned that he was in touch with the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler, which he says may have affected the outcome.

(I hope he means that in a good way.)

Although TripMate’s denial stuck, the cruise line offered him a voucher for the full amount of the cruise. So he’s only out $1,584 in airfare.

Is that enough?

Schneider’s insurance turned him down because he missed his cruise for a reason that wasn’t covered in his policy. Lindblad’s actions are exceptionally generous, considering the fact that other cruise lines routinely adopt the “too bad, so sad” approach to refunds or credit — by which I mean, if you miss a cruise, you’re just out of luck.

Then again, Schneider took the precaution of insuring his cruise. Shouldn’t he get all of his money back?

I don’t know. Maybe in this case, I’m the wrong guy to ask.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Mel65

    This may be a stupid question, but how do you not check bags for a cruise? WE were told to bring coats and warm clothes and stuff… no way can I fit a parka and a formal dress and sweaters and hiking boots in a carry on…or wear it in August… Or do you mail your trunk or whatever ahead of you? I’m REALLY looking forward to this.  This has been our dream cruise for a long long time! Thanks for the words of wisdom to everyone!

  • jet2x2

    I go on informal small ship cruises where we don’t have to dress for dinner. This limits the amount of clothes needed.  I have not found the Inside Passage of Alaska to be that cold and I’ve been there in May and June.  (I even went snorkling in Ketchikan on this last trip, with a wetsuit of course!)  Glacier Bay will be about 10 degrees cooler than nearby locations, and it can get much colder in Fairbanks and farther north even in the summer.  Unless you are going on a glacier hike or dog sledding outing, I don’t know that you need a parka, and if you are doing that you may want to ask if they provide cold weather gear.  If you are going kayaking or white water rafting they should provide the outer wear.  I never bring sweaters or coats – I dress in layers.  Usually that’s a long sleeve shirt (moisture wicking fabric is good for this), a t shirt, a windbreaker with a hood and pockets, and jeans or khakis.  I’ve never packed long underwear.  I do bring gloves.  I also recommend a good rain hat, and a watch cap to keep your head and ears warm.  On shore I’ve had times where I wished I had shorts, even in late May or early June.  On one of the longer trips I did send some clothes to the cleaners between the land and cruise parts of the trip to reduce what I had to pack, and I also used space bags to get more clothes into the carry on.  I almost always mail purchases home if they are bulky and last time I mailed some clothes to myself when we stopped in Juneau.  I take a backpack onboard as well but that is all camera equipment and other electronics – if I didn’t take the cameras I would put clothes in it as well.  Caveat to this – I don’t get that cold, as evidenced by a photo I have where I’m in shirtsleeves on the deck of the ship one night when it was about 40 degrees and everyone else was inside complaining that it was cold.  (The wine helped lol).  So please consider that when you weigh this advice – everyone has a different tolerance for weather.  I personally would rather be a little cold than too warm.     

  • Mel65

    Great advice! Thanks.  I’m always cold, hubby is always sweating.  Somehow, we’ll make the packing work :)